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Countess Ana Katarina Zrinska (c. 1625–1673) was a Croatian noblewoman and poet, born into the House of Frankopan noble family. She married Count Petar Zrinski of the House of Zrinski in 1641 and later became known as Katarina Zrinska. She is remembered in Croatia as a patron of the arts, a writer and patriot. She died in obscurity in a monastery in Graz following the downfall of the Zrinski-Frankopan conspiracy in 1671 and the execution of both her husband Petar Zrinski and her brother Fran Krsto Frankopan. Her most notable literary work is Putni tovaruš, written 1660 at her estates in Ozalj.
Ana Katarina Zrinska
Bust of Katarina Zrinska in Čakovec
Bosiljevo, Kingdom of Croatia,
|Died||16 November 1673|
(aged 47 or 48)
Graz, Austrian Empire
|Noble family||House of Frankopan|
House of Zrinski
|Father||Vuk Krsto Frankopan|
Katarina Zrinski and the conspiracy were largely forgotten until the 1860s, when Croatian politician Ante Starčević began a campaign to rehabilitate the Zrinski and Frankopan nobility, and the story of her life and death was widely popularised following the publishing of Eugen Kumičić's historical novel Urota Zrinsko-Frankopanska (English: The Zrinski-Frankopan Conspiracy) in 1893.
In the early 20th century, and especially after World War I, numerous Croatian women's associations were founded bearing her name. In 1999 the Croatian National Bank issued a silver commemorative coin depicting Katarina Zrinski, in their Znamenite Hrvatice (English: Famous Croatian Women) series, along with children's writer Ivana Brlić-Mažuranić and painter Slava Raškaj.
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Katarina was born in Bosiljevo near the modern city of Karlovac in present-day Croatia to Vuk Krsto Frankopan of the House of Frankopan, a well-known commander (general) and nobleman in the Croatian Military Frontier (which was an autonomous region carved out of the Kingdom of Croatia within the Austrian Empire) and his second wife Uršula Inhofer. Fran Krsto Frankopan, also a notable nobleman, was her half brother, produced in Vuk Krsto's third marriage to Dora Haller.
She was homeschooled in her youth, and learned German during her childhood years (as it was her mother's first language) along with Hungarian, Latin and Italian which she was later taught. In 1641 she married the Croatian nobleman Petar Zrinski in Karlovac, who later went on to become Ban (viceroy) of Croatia following his brother Nikola Zrinski's death in 1664. After marrying Petar the pair spent most of their time at Ozalj Castle, the family residence.
In 1660 she wrote a prayer book titled Putni tovaruš, and had it printed in 1661 in the Republic of Venice before presenting it as a gift to the 17th century Croatian lexicographer Ivan Belostenec (the book was later re-printed in 1687 and 1715 in Ljubljana and then again in 2005 in Čakovec).
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Katarina and Petar had four children, born between 1643 and 1658:
- Jelena (1643 – 18 February 1703)
Known as Jelena Zrinska in Croatia and Ilona Zrínyi in Hungary, she married Hungarian nobleman Francis I Rákóczi in 1666. After his death in 1676, she married her second husband Imre Thököly, a Hungarian statesman and Prince of Transylvania, in 1682. She was also mother to Francis II Rákóczi, leader of the Hungarian uprising against the Habsburgs in the early 18th century.
In her later years she spent 7 years interned in an Ursuline convent in Austria before being exiled to Turkey in 1699 where she died four years later in 1703.
- Judita Petronela (1652–1699)
- Ivan IV Antun Baltazar (26 August 1654 – 11 November 1703)
In Croatia known as Ivan Antun Zrinski, he was the pair's only son. After a short military career demonstrating his loyalty to the State, he was later charged with high treason by the Austrian authorities. He was imprisoned first at Rattenberg in Tyrol and then at Grazer Schloßberg, where he spent the last 20 years of his life. He eventually went insane and died in 1703.
- Aurora Veronika (1658 – 19 January 1735)
The pair's youngest child and the last surviving member of the once powerful House of Zrinski. Following the crackdown on the Zrinski-Frankopan conspiracy (see below), she accompanied her mother during her internment at a Dominican convent in Graz. Aurora later spent her whole life as a nun and eventually died in an Ursuline convent in Klagenfurt.
Following the unpopular Peace of Vasvár treaty signed in 1664 by the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy and the Ottoman Empire which gave back parts of the territory which had been liberated from the Turks in the preceding Austro-Turkish War (1663–1664), a conspiracy involving members of the Croatian and Hungarian nobility was formed to overthrow the Habsburgs. The leaders of the conspiracy were Katarina's husband Petar Zrinski, her half brother Fran Krsto Frankopan and the Hungarian count Ferenc Wesselényi. The conspiracy was largely unsuccessful and in March 1670 a crackdown ordered by Leopold I ensued, in which all three men were arrested and imprisoned. On 30 April 1671 both Petar and Fran Krsto were executed in Wiener Neustadt.
On the eve of his execution, her husband wrote her a farewell letter:
My dear heart; Do not be too sorrowful and upset on account of this letter. God's will be done. Tomorrow at ten o'clock they will cut off my head and your brother's too. Today we pardoned each other with all our heart. Therefore I ponder this letter and ask you for everlasting forgiveness. If I have mistreated you in some way, or offended you, as well I know, forgive me. In the name of our Father I am quite prepared to die and am not afraid. I hope that the Almighty God who has humiliated me in this world will have mercy on me. I would pray to him and ask him to whom tomorrow I hope to come that we may meet each other in everlasting glory before the Lord. I know nothing else to write to you about, neither our son nor the rest of our poor possessions. I have left this to God's will. Do not be sorry, everything had to be so. In Wiener Neustadt, the day before the last day of my life, at seven o'clock in the evening, April 29th, 1671. May Almighty God bless you together with our daughter Aurora Veronika.— Count Petar Zrinski, farewell letter to his wife Katarina
The downfall of the conspiracy practically destroyed the House of Zrinski as their enormous property was either confiscated or plundered. Katarina was first arrested and imprisoned in Bruck an der Mur and then ordered into seclusion by the Vienna court. She spent the remaining years of her life in a Dominican convent in Graz with her daughter Aurora Veronika, where she died on 16 November 1673.
Croatian politician Ante Starčević is considered the first person who initiated a campaign to politically rehabilitate leaders of the conspiracy in the speech he gave on 26 July 1861 in the Croatian Parliament. The speech spurred renewed interest in the whole affair and anniversaries of Petar Zrinski and Fran Krsto Frankopan's deaths started to be commemorated publicly in growing numbers, with increasingly political overtones, as Croatian politicians became vocal in their calls for greater Croatian independence (which was at the time still part of Austria-Hungary). In the 1880s a committee was even founded with the purpose of transporting their remains from Wiener Neustadt to Croatia, and in 1893 writer and politician Eugen Kumičić published a historical novel titled Urota Zrinsko-Frankopanska (English: The Zrinski-Frankopan Conspiracy), which helped to further popularise the image of Zrinkis and Frankopans as Croatian patriots and martyrs for freedom.
The bones of conspiracy leaders were eventually transferred back to Croatia in 1919 by the Brethren of the Croatian Dragon and were greeted by masses upon their return to Zagreb. By that time Katarina Zrinski also came to be seen as the greatest Croatian woman of the past and a symbol of patriotism for women in Croatia. In the years before World War I many women's societies sprung up around the country as well as in the Croatian diaspora. The oldest such association bearing Katarina's name was founded in 1914 in Punta Arenas in Chile. It was originally called Hrvatska žena (English: Croatian Woman) and was primarily interested in keeping the Croatian language alive and helping Croatian women cope with life far from home. However, soon after WWI broke out, the society was actively engaged in helping the Pan-Slavic Yugoslav movement and was thus renamed JNO Katarina Zrinska. In North America the Kćeri Katarine Zrinjske (English: Daughters of Katarina Zrinski) society was formed in 1917 which even had a youth branch in Youngstown, Ohio.
In 1919 the Katarina Zrinjska women's association was formed in Karlovac, the first association bearing her name in Croatia. The society was designed as an organisation of middle class Croatian Catholic women in the area, and they claimed they chose to be named after Katarina because "strictly adhered to Christian principles throughout her life". The proclaimed goal of the society was to "encourage members to be good Catholics, honest citizens, women of significance, model mothers, advanced housekeepers and apostles of all things good", which they hoped to achieve by organising picnics, concerts, education classes, fundraisers, lectures, etc. In 1920 a similar Društvo Hrvatica Katarine grofice Zrinjski was established in Zagreb and in 1930 another one was founded in Petrinja. All these societies were active until the early 1940s, but were eventually disbanded in May 1943 by a decree issued by the fascist government of Independent State of Croatia.
The women's societies of the past and their work were largely forgotten during the SFR Yugoslavia period (1945–1990), until the modern-day Zajednica žena Katarina Zrinska (English: Community of Women Katarina Zrinska) was founded in 1999 in Split, as the centre-right Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party's women's branch. Other associations abroad carrying her name include Hrvatska žena – Katarina Zrinska in Adelaide, Australia (est. 1974), HŠKD Croatia Katarina Zrinski in Gothenburg, Sweden, and many others.
Many streets and squares around Croatia are named after her, including the Katarinin trg (English: Catherine's Square) in the Upper Town part of Zagreb, located next to the Jesuit church of St. Catherine's built between 1620 and 1632 in the baroque style. Many schools and institutions are also named after her.
In 1999 the Croatian National Bank issued a 200 kuna silver commemorative coin with Katarina Zrinski as part of their "Famous Croatian Women" series. In their press release the bank described Katarina as "a writer, ardent patriot and a martyr, as well as a spiritual initiator of the liberation movement against foreign rule".
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