Nobility and Royalty of the Kingdom of Hungary

From Academic Kids

This article deals with some titles of the nobility and royalty in the Kingdom of Hungary.

Two historical periods can be distinguished: the period before the 16th century, followed by the period after it.


Pre-Habsburg period (till 1526)

Before Hungary became part of the Habsburg Empire (in the 1500s), the titles (except for the titles of king, queen and royal prince) weren't really important, it was one's office and role in administration that counted. The most powerful nobles of the country were:

These officials were usually chosen from the most powerful landowners.

There was also a class of noblemen that arose from the royal servants called the servientes regis.

Habsburg period (after 1526)

The usage of titles like duke or count, although started earlier, became wide-spread only in the Habsburg era.

According to István Werbőczy (a Hungarian jurist and palatine of the 16th century; mostly known for his work Tripartitum, a summary of customary laws) the rights of noblemen were these:

  • they couldn't be arrested without legal procedure,
  • they owed obedience only to the king,
  • were free of taxes and customs,
  • could be compelled to perform military service only in defense of the country.

Most nobles either inherited the title or were promoted by the king. There were two additional ways to become a noble: either by being adopted into a noble family with special permission from the king, or, for a daughter of a nobleman who had no male heirs, by being granted special privileges by the king (thus the daughter was treated as if she were male, could inherit the title and the estates and could pass the title to her children even if she married below her status).

Noblemen were usually wealthy landowners. There were two kinds of estates: either they were donated by the king (usually together with the title) or they were acquired (bought). While acquired estates could be bought and sold freely, donated estates were inalienable and were always inherited by the eldest son (or sometimes, with the king's permission, the eldest daughter, see above). If the family became extinct, the estate reverted to the king.

Sometimes a nobleman gave noble title and estate to one of his loyal men. Officially this would have required the permission of the king, however, often the king's permission wasn't asked.

All hereditary titles were abolished in 1945.

Some titles

  • Duke (Latin: dux, Hungarian:herceg, Slovak: vojvoda, German: Herzog): The Hungarian word is derived from the German one. Initially, all dukes were from the royal family, so that the title can be (like in some other countries) also translated as royal prince, hereditary prince, crown prince. It was not until the Habsburg era that the rank of duke was given to noblemen. The female form of the Hungarian word is hercegnő if it is a duchess/princess by birth, and hercegné if it is the wife of a prince/duke.
  • Count and baron (Latin: comes/baro, Hungarian: gróf / báró, Slovak gróf / barón, German: Graf/ Baron ): These titles weren't really used till the Habsburg era, although the title of baron was granted by King Ladislaus II (1490–1516) for the first time.

Notable noble families


  • (Ruling) Prince (Latin: princeps or dux, Hungarian: fejedelem, Slovak: knieža, German: Fürst ): Fejedelem was the title of the ruler of the Hungarian principality before the first king, Stephen I was crowned in 1000. In later centuries a fejedelem was the ruler of Transylvania.
  • King (Latin: rex, Hungarian: király, Slovak: kráľ , German: König): The Magyar word király is derived from the Slavic word kral or kralj, which in turn is derived from the German name of Charlemagne. A reigning queen was called királynő, a queen consort was called királyné in Hungarian.
  • Emperor (Latin: imperator, Hungarian: császár, Slovak: cisár , German: Kaiser): After the Kingdom of Hungary became part of the Habsburg empire in 1526, the country was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor who also ruled Austria, although the Kingdom of Hungary itself was not part of the Holy Roman Empire.

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