John HunyadiJohn Hunyadi

Life: 1407-1456
Birth Place: Hunedoara, Romania?
Historical Role: General, Statesman, Regent, Noble
Titles: Voivode of Transylvania, Ban of Severin, Count of Beszterce, Captain-General of Hungary, Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary
Primary countries affected: Croatia, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia Secondary countries affected: Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Serbia, Slovenia, Turkey
Events: Hussite Wars (1420), Long Campaign (1443-1444), Battle of Varna (1444), Second Battle of Kosovo (1448), Siege of Belgrade (1455)


John Hunyadi is an Hungarian and Romanian national hero, he marked his era by his military campaigns, notably against the Ottoman Empire. His origins are disputed, he is the son of Vajk Hunyadi. John Hunyadi inherited of a vast fortune and estates from his father, he became a follower of King Sigismund, then went on to serve Albert II and Wladyslaw III. By supporting these kings he made enemies in the nobility, notably Ulrich II of Celje.

He started his military career in 1437 by driving the Ottomans from Semendria. In 1441 he delivered Serbia through another victory at Semendria. In 1442 he defeated an Ottoman army and liberated Wallachia. In 1443 he embarked on the Long Campaign with King Wladyslaw, where once again he defeated the Ottomans, in the process liberating Nis and Sofia. In 1444 he fought the Ottomans at the Battle of Varna the Hungarians were outnumbered 4 to 1, but thanks to John Hunyadi's military strategy and knowledge they almost beat the Ottomans, until the King Wladyslaw decided to charge into the elite Turkish Jannisaries. After this charge the King was killed along with his troops and the Battle of Varna was lost. John Hunyadi escaped and returned to Hungary.

John Hunyadi became regent of Hungary in 1445, while the king Ladislaus V was being held prisoner by the German king Frederick III. Unable to secure Ladislaus' release he had to face the Ottoman Empire once again, in 1448 at the Second Battle of Kosovo he was defeated due to treachery from his allies, notably Dan II of Wallachia and Durad Brankovic of Serbia. In 1453 the king Ladislaus V was released and returned to Hungary. After the fall of Constantinople in 1453 the Ottomans were now free to enter the Balkans. The Ottomans besieged Belgrade in 1455, John Hunyadi and Giovanni di Capistrano leading a large crusade, relieved the siege and captured the Ottoman camp. Sultan Mehmed II returned to Istanbul, and peace ensued for 70 years. John Hunyadi died shortly after this victory.

After his death John Hunyadi received tribute from friends and foes. Sultan Mehmed II said "Although he was my enemy I feel grief over his death, because the world has never seen such a man." Pope Callixtus III said "The light of the world has passed away."


Thoughts & Comments




Molnar, M. (1996). A concise history of Hungary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.