| Origin of the family
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Origin of the family

According to the traditions, the family?s origins trace back to the clan of Örs (one of the seven chieftains of Árpád). The family?s first lands were located on the northern shore of Lake Balaton, the family also got its original surname from the village of Kővágóörs. The land of Battyán in Fejér County became property of the family in 1398, in the time of (Kis) György I of Kővágóörs, the first ancestor with continuously traceable descent. From then on, the new land was the eponym of the family. The rise of the family started with him, the captain general of Esztergom. Dying in 1520, Boldizsár Batthyány I was the family?s first figure of national importance. Castellan of Kőszeg, lord-lieutenant of Vas County, master of treasury, ban of Jajce and Bosnia. He received the family?s famous crest, with the image of a pelican feeding its young of its own flesh on it. His son was Boldizsár Batthyány II whose brother, Ferenc Batthyány I is the first in the line of family members with a more detailed biography.

As the stronghold of Christianity ? drawn to the imperial city and the monarchy

The Ottoman Empire?s conquest inspired by the Islamic religion in the 16th century determines the history of the family, as well as of the whole nation. After losing its lands in the southern part of the Kingdom of Hungary and receiving estates in Vas County in the 1520s, the family moved to the Western border of the country. For two centuries, the family?s principal responsibility was the protection of the kingdoms remaining areas against the Turks. At this time, the ethnic composition of the Batthyány estates also changed. The inhabitants of Western Transdanubia, and so of the Batthyány estates too, started leaving already after the Ottoman campaign in 1529, ending with the unsuccessful siege of Vienna and the campaign of 1532, stopped at Kőszeg. A large number of Croatians migrated fleeing from the Turkish, thus increasing again the declining population. This is how the triple (Hungarian, German, Croatian) ethnic composition of Vas County and especially of the Batthyány lands has developed. From the Ottoman Empire?s perspective the Batthyány lands were extremely close to the imperial city of Vienna, thus they were of particular strategic importance. That is why the family could be an extremely important support of the Habsburg Monarchy. Especially Boldizsár Batthyány III and Ádám Batthyány I were great enemies of the Ottomans. However, during the time of the more fragile central power in the 16-17th century, the Batthyánys, as they were powerful magnates, caused much inconvenience to the emperor-king residing in Vienna. The family relationships of the Batthyánys developed in accordance with the evolving conditions. The family established relationships not only with the traditional, Transdanubian, largely Croatian aristocratic families of the Kingdom of Hungary (for instance the Zrínyi or the Illésházy family), but also with the Austrian, Czech and Italian aristocracy of the Habsburg Monarchy.

Culture, Reformation, Catholic faith

After the Ottoman conquest, especially after the capture of Buda in 1541, the country was left without a royal court. Thus, the magnates? courts had a special role, as they became the socio-cultural centre of contemporary life. The Batthyánys established their famous court in Németújvár. Life in the court had a positive influence not only on narrower life frames, but the learned and educated aristocrats (for instance Boldizsár Batthyány III) spread news of Hungary throughout Europe with their correspondences and travels, as well as they shared the experiences, examples of the foreign countries. In the life of the court, besides the men who often had to fight on the battlefields, women also played an important role. Of course, they did their share not only in the conversations about pleasant or vital issues, but also of the duties of a housewife (preparing medicine, making soap, repairing bags, etc.). The world, as always ? even if not always at the same pace ? has undergone changes at this time as well, both in technical and spiritual fields. The biggest change of the era was the Reformation. In the 16th century, the Batthyány family also converted to Protestantism. Initially, it is difficult to decide whether a member of the family followed the Lutheran or the Calvinist movement of the Reformation. The most convinced Protestant family member was Éva Lobkovicz Poppel who followed the Lutheran or evangelical movement. The battle between the Protestant denominations and the Catholic revival ? in this case, it was rather an intellectual struggle ? had been determined in favour of the latter by the arrival of the Society of Jesus, that is the Jesuits. Ádám Batthyány I was born a Calvinist, but converted to Catholicism because of the archbishop of Esztergom, Péter Pázmány. Thus, he introduced the family into the circle of the Catholic aristocratic families of Transdanubia. The family?s two main branches start with his sons, as the ?Prince? (or the elder) branch originates from Kristóf, while the ?Count? (or younger) branch from Pál.

Rebuilding a country ? the Baroque era

The Batthyánys contributed actively not only to the defence of the remaining homeland, but also to the expulsion of the Turks, although amid major shocks. In 1683, Kristóf Batthyány II joined the Turkish-Kuruc army that marched against Vienna. Nevertheless, his son Ádám Batthyány II rose to eminence during the battles for recapturing the country. Hence, it was not a coincidence that he chose his wife from the family of Theodor Strattmann who had played a key role in the military affairs of the Habsburg monarchy. As much as the advance of the Turks had defined the previous era, the national and family history of the 18th century was equally determined by the fact that after the expulsion of the Turks, practically the whole country had to be reconstructed. During the days that eventually enabled the future development and crossroads, and were of key importance from the nation?s point of view, the Batthyánys were the country?s outstanding figures. Lajos Ernő Batthyány bore the country?s most important titles, as he encouraged the cooperation between the dynasty and the nation both as chancellor and palatine. His brother Károly József Batthyány protected the borders of the monarchy that ensured the peaceful development, both on the Turkish and the western battlegrounds. After the expulsion of the Turks, the Batthyánys developed their lands, which were also increased with large-scale purchases, with such diligence that characterised them well. They constructed Baroque churches and palaces that served as examples, and to this day still define the country?s image. The palatine created the country?s archives, and the progress was steady in the management of the estates. The relation with the dynasty, adapting the European examples did not oppose patriotism in the case of the Batthyány family in the 18th century. As the archbishop of Esztergom, József Batthyány supported the Catholic Church and the Kingdom of Hungary against the extreme tendencies represented by Joseph II. He also expressed his support in collecting the relics of Hungarian history with great care.

The family?s ?Prince? branch ? general Károly József was awarded with the title of Prince for teaching the crown princes, the future Joseph II and Leopold II ?  received the fideicommissum from the Strattmann family. Fideicommissum is an institution of Spanish origin. Its foundation was bound to royal permission, the estates included are given reduction from indebtedness, and most importantly it can only be inherited by one person ? by the oldest male member of the family (in this case along with the Prince title and the Strattmann surname) ? thus it protected the majority of the family?s property from fragmentation. Fideicommissum was exposed to several attacks in later periods; however, the modern historical researches have shown its positive role as model farm, as intermediary of the technological innovations, and also as the basis of the socio-cultural patronage of the owners. The family?s ?Count? branch divided into three separate sub branches during the 18th century, namely the Pinkafő, Éleskő, and Zsigmond sub branches.

Accelerating times ? new conflicts

The events of the 18th century laid the foundation for the further development of the country?s history. The Enlightenment, the French Revolution, and the Napoleonic Wars shook Hungary, as well as the whole of Europe. However, a more important factor in the country?s development were the technological and economic changes. The tools of mass communication that have emerged, in particular the newspapers, daily papers, as well as the technological innovations, such as the steam engine and the trains evolved from it were indicating not only the development, but also its conflicts. That is how nationalism became the guiding idea of the 19th century. The different national aspirations lead to the great conflict that made the Habsburg monarchy fall apart in 1848 (there were revolutions in Vienna and Prague, while Italy and Hungary experienced war of independence and civil war). At this rather critical time, the members of the Batthyány family took different sides. While Prince Fülöp Batthyány insisted on supporting the monarchy as before, Kázmér Batthyány believed that even after a break with the dynasty, the country?s progression and maintaining the Hungarian hegemony in the Carpathian basin can be ensured at the same time., The political view of  Lajos Batthyány, the country?s first Prime Minister, was between these two, and he fell victim to the punishments after the revolution had failed. The fact that Lajos Batthyány was considered a rebel as a member of a family that supported the Habsburg monarchy until then probably played a big role in his severe verdict.

The 20th century and the present

Great crises and working, happy, conflictual days of the national, nation-state life defined the history of the family. During the time of dualism, the family?s politician of national importance was Tivadar Batthyány (1859-1931). With the death of Ödön Batthyány-Strattmann in 1914, the family?s original main branch died out, thus László Batthyány-Strattmann, the sainted eye doctor of Pinkafő who was beatified in 2003, inherited the title of Prince, the fideicommissum and the name related to it. László Batthyány-Strattmann was key figure, as besides his exceptional life, the family today consists of his descendants. The tragedy of the Great War also affected the Batthyánys. Tamás Batthyány (1875-1915) sacrificed his life for the country on the front, and because of the Treaty of Trianon, the family?s earliest lands, including the family nest Németújvár were detached of Hungary. During the Second World War, and at the latest after the Revolution of 1956, all the members of the family had left for the West. The family members that have dispersed in the course of the emigration ? most of them lived in South America and Austria ? formed a solidary family. The collapse of the socialist countries held together by the Soviet Union and the end of communism in Hungary in 1989 created the chance for a fresh start. Today the Batthyánys again have the opportunity to carry on the centuries-old legacy in the service of their country, and in accordance with the family?s traditions.


Getting to know the history of the Batthyány family may also be worth because it explores important aspects of the entire history of Hungary. Although the study of history is less appreciated than it should be, thanks to its development over the past two centuries, today the scientific works utilizing the work of generations of researchers, but lacking the obligatory positive or negative bias, prejudice of the earlier times are the basis of obtaining information. The history of the 18th century was known until recently rather from the works of the Austrian historiography. Despite being a cause for national pride, this shows the clear one-sidedness of the inherited approach. There are more and more reliable and informative websites of high standards on the Internet, not even necessarily created by professional historians. The informations may be complemented by works that are not necessarily about the history of the Batthyány family, but about one (or more) period connected to the family?s history in several ways. For instance documents of the period that offer us a glimpse into the inner world of a historical person, such as Széchenyi?s diary (István Széchenyi: Napló, Budapest, 1982.). Of the works about the country?s history it is worth mentioning the book series History of Hungary that was published from 1976. Originally, it was planned to have ten parts, but eventually only eight parts, each of them consisting of two volumes came out. The latest series of this kind was the History of Hungary, consisting of 24 volumes and published in 2009-2010. Another special work is The History of the Hungarian Nation, written by a Roman Catholic priest, Antal Pezenhoffer (1893-1973). After being B-listed in 1949 (after the Second World War many public servant were dismissed, the so-called B-lists contained the names of these persons), he worked as a librarian in the Cathedral Library of Esztergom that was further developed by archbishop József Batthány. The 13-volume work was considered the greatest samizdat (illegal publications in the Eastern Bloc) of the Communist dictatorship in Hungary. Antal Pezenhoffer analysed the country?s past 500 years, the period in which the Batthyány family had played a key role. It was deliberately not written with the impartiality of a scientific work; hence, it is important to read it with criticism. However, its special value is that it was written by knowing and using almost all significant Hungarian historical works of the earlier times. There are many data, interesting additions in this work that were forgotten, or appeared only in scientific works of the recent years. Provocative, however written with great knowledge and reasoning power, Pezenhoffer?s work may be a fascinating reading for those who are interested in Hungary?s history. The literature related to the history of the Batthyány family is also listed separately by topic, in thematic categories.