Campaigns of Matthias Corvinus
After death of John Hunyadi, his enemies decided to use the opportunity. Ulrich of Celje saw an opportunity to become the most influential magnate of the kingdom, while vain and small-minded king Ladislaus saw disappearance of a moral vertical which overshadowed him. To Vienna arrived German crusaders, including Teutonic knights which had long abandoned their original purpose to instead become carriers of Germanic imperialism. King with assembled army went towards Budim, allegedly to prepare for a crusade but in reality to suppress Hunyadi brothers and their supporters.
Older son, Ladislaus Hunyadi, had taken over command of the troops expecting to be made captain of the kingdom. Suspecting king’s intentions, he refused to come to Futong until king gave him letter of safe passage. At council in Futong, Ulrich of Celje was given the honour of supreme captain of the kingdom while Ladislaus Hunyadi had to promise he will surrender royal cities he was governing – including the recently-refortified Belgrade. Prideful and haughty Ulrich could not show fear, and he went to Belgrade against his supporters’ advice. There Ladislaus let them into the citadel before beheading Ulrich and imprisoning the king. King was forced to return Ladislaus the honour of captain of the kingdom and to Szilagy theposition of captain of Belgrade. He acted as if he believes that Ulrich was guilty of everything, and swore an oath he will not harm Hunyadis. By 20th November he was in Kovin where he sent some letters from.
Despot Đurađ Branković decided to avenge his son-in-law Ulrich, and ambushed Szilagy brothers while they were inspecting border fortresses. Mihail managed to escape while his brother was killed. Soon after Mihail captured despot after scattering his escorts near Danube; despot was released at intercission of the king, but died of his wounds on 24th December 1456. When king returned to Buda where Hunyadi’s old enemies waited for him. They convinced the king that Hunyadis wanted to take the throne for themselves, and on 14th March 1457. Ladislaus called Hunyadis to his court at the other side of Budim. Brothers were arrested, and Ladislaus Hunyadi was executed on 16th of March. King however refused to execute his followers and younger brother, Matthias, despite persuasion of his own followers, but rather had them all thrown into dungeon. News of death of Ladislaus Hunyadi threw kingdom into a civil war, despite king’s two attempts to negotiate a peace settlement. King Ladislaus left for Prague on 19th September 1457. where he was to marry French princess Magdalene, but he died on 23rd November, without even getting married.
This immediately stopped conflicts, and governor of Czechia George of Podiebrad released then 18-year-old Matthias the same day. Knowing that Matthias might be made a king, he used the opportunity and had confused Matthias engaged with his nine-year-old daughter, as well as negotiating a significant gift for himself should Matthias become a king. Council was set in Pest for 1st January 1458., and Mihail Szilagy went there with an army 15 000 strong to give weight to his arguments. Old enemies of Hunyadis were afraid of possible revenge, but their overtures to German Kaiser und Konig Friedrich III. were fruitless for he was exhausted by the fighting around inheritance of Ulrich of Celje. King of Poland also had problems at home, while candidates within – Ladislav Gorjanski and Nikola of Ilok – as well as supporters of the dead king were frightened by the military power which Matthias’ uncle brought with him. People and minor nobility were also fed up with having foreign rulers, and called for Matthias’ election. Thus, when Mihail swore that there will be no revenge for murder of Ladislaus Hunyadi, Matthias was elected king on 24th January 1458. George of Pidiebrad brought Matthias to border city of Stražinac, where Matthias was surrendered to Hungarian delegates. Matthias Hunyadi took crown as Matthias Corvinus. He confirmed his agreement to marry Catherine of Podiebrad as he did not want to go againt his word, despite his uncle and mother being against it.
The 18-year-old king had his work cut out for him. State was surrounded by enemies from without and within, torn and tattered, in absolute chaos. At first king relied on Mihail Szilagy, but the governor was poor ruler despite his military accomplishments. In mid-March Mihail left Budim for Belgrade, and Matthias took direct rule. At first many nobles refused to submit. While Matthias managed to neogitiate with Nikola of Ilok, Ladislav Gorjanski refused to come to accord. Bosnia and Venice were both attempting to acquire cities in Dalmtia, including Klis and Sinj. Royal cities were also in danger from Croatian nobles (Kurjakovići, Frankapani). But prior of Vrana Thomas Szekely had a row with Jan Vitovec, ban of Croatia and had to be reconciled by king Matthias. Hungarian parliament refused king Matthias both money and troops he needed to secure peace within the kingdom and also to defend kingdom against the Ottomans; thus he decided to crush resistance of the nobility. He also fought numerous battles, but these are too numerous and accounts too lacking in detail to cover as done with John Hunyadi.
After fall of Bosnia, Matthias went to liberate it. Venetians, concerned about their rule in Dalmatia, offered to contribute 3 000 ducats each month for six months. Duke Stjepan II. Frankapan also went to Italy to secure support, and council decided that one cavalryman will be raised from each 10 houses. Jajce was taken in 1463. after a three-month siege. Most of Bosnia was liberated from Ottoman rule, as was much of Herzegovina by Stjepan Vukčić.
When pope attemped to organize resistance to Ottomans in 1464., Matthias managed to collect an army of 14 000 cavalry and 8 000 infantry. But nobody else reacted to Pope’s call, and sultan Muhammad sent a 40 000 strong army under Mahomet-pasha into Bosnia, followed by sultan himself. But Ottomans were defeated at siege of Jajce, and Matthias crossed Sava on 11th September 1464. with 17 000 cavalry, 6 000 infantry and 7 000 crusaders. Part of the army, 20 000 strong, he sent against Ottoman army in Bosnia, and led the rest towards Smederevo. Turks under Jajce were defeated heavily. Matthias received no help from the West, other than 40 000 golden florints which pope had collected for the Crusade. Sultan Muhammad, after defeat under Jajce and arrival of new Hungarian army into Bosnia, decided to go home.
Matthias decided to form a cohesive defensive line from Belgrade to Jajce, which required conquering city of Zvonik on Drina. He crossed Sava at Rača at 1st October 1464., and then marched through Drina valley to Zvonik, arriving at 18th October. During the siege, Matthias sent smaller parts of his army to take surrounding places, and he himself took Srebrnica and its rich mines, as well as Srebrnik and rest of Usora. But Zvonik still held out on 9th November. By that time autumn rains had flooded roads, so king’s army was suffering for lack of food. Lack of supplies, early winter, news about arrival of Ottoman troops as well as disconcert in Hungary led to Matthias lifting the siege. Many smaller cannons had to be left behind; only large pieces were transported back by ship. By 26th November king is in Vienna, and in 20th December he is in Segedin.
Due to lack of support – one could say betrayal – from the West, king Matthias failed to fulfill his goals. He managed to defend Jajce and also liberated part of northeastern Bosnia – Usora and areas around Srebrnica. But Vrhbosna (Sarajevo), Bobovac and other places in true Bosnia remained in Ottoman hands, and sultan had also conquered some parts of Herzegovina. During this time, ban of Croatia is Emerik Zapolja, also the governor of Bosnia; with him are Jan Vitovec and Nikola of Ilok, and they assist king Matthias in fixing various problems in the kingdoms. Kingdom of Croatia was particularly problematic due to devastation caused by Ottoman raids in 1464. Venice, despite being nominal ally of king Matthias, were trying to take cities and fortresses for themselves – especially Klis, as well as whole of Herzegovina.
Matthias himself still sought to create a defensive line from Jajce to Neretva and Dubrovnik, and possibly even to Herzeg Novi in Boka. Sultan Muhammad attempted first to convince Venice to abandon alliance with Matthias, and then Matthias himself to make peace. Of course, sultan’s offers of peace were wholly false: he was at the same time preparing army to retake Bosnia. By March 30., Ottoman army was near Smederevo and aiming to devastate southern Hungary and of possible besiege and take Belgrade. After that he was aiming to take Jajce. Pope Paul II. gifted Matthias’ delegation, which arrived to Rome in May 1465., 57 500 golden florints as well as younger brother of sultan Muhammad, so as to help Matthias cause disconcert in the Ottoman Empire. Not soon after sultan’s emissary, Jakov Bunić from Dubrovnik, appeared in Venice offering peace with Ottoman Empire. Venetians responded that they will take peace, but only such in which they would get Morea and Miltene, and king Matthias the rest of Bosnia.
Matthias meanwhile called a council to prepare for war. One known conclusion of the council was that all nobles have to raise one soldier from every 20 houses. In Venice information appeared that Matthias intended to raise an army 100 000 strong. This is possible; if Hungary had 5 000 000 inhabitants at that time (which is the upper estimate, but could be as low as 3 million), one soldier per 10 houses would allow 100 000 men, and as this was introduced in 1463., army of 100 000 is achievable. Further, Matthias did intend for herceg Vukčić and Skender-beg to join him, and rejected Sultan’s offer of whole Bosnia in exchange for peace. One army was to break into Bosnia from Drava and Danube area, while second army was to follow Neretva valley into Herzegovina. But Vukčić was still fighting with his son and also duke of Zeta; Venice used this to take his part of Neretva and Krajina.
In late September Matthias had arrived to Drava. He again complained to Pope about wholly inadequate support he was receiving from the rest of Europe (that is, none at all, excepting occasionally Pope). But on 18th October Matthias entered Bosnia with army. Yet sultan did not attack that year, and Matthias had neither money nor army for offensive warfare. On 2nd November 1465. he is back on Sava. Still, on 5th November he sends an army of 5 000, under Jan Vitovec and Ivan Rozgon on a raid through western Bosnia and towards Dubrovnik, with orders to protect Herzegovina from Venetian depredations and, if possible, recover some of the cities herzeg had lost to Ottomans. Captains captured cities from Croatian border towards Neretva, and then turned city of Počitelj on Neretva into basis for further operations. Citizens of Dubrovnik decided to raise a bridge near Počitelj to facilitate crossing by royal troops.
King himself left Sava for Slavonia, and only in late December 1465. did he return to Hungary. In early 1466. he called a council for 23rd February which was to determine future warfare against Ottomans. Meanwhile Muhammad had set up a puppet king in Bosnia, some noble from Bosnia who married a Turkish woman in Constantinople; but he failed to raise much popular support. He also worked to end the rule of herzeg Stjepan Vukčić, who had helped Matthias take Jajce but had received little help in exchange. Stjepan himself asked help from Venice; but Venetians were nominal allies of king Matthias, and further knew well that cities of Dalmatia it had taken, as well as Krajina, Neretva and Hum, had all belonged to kingdom of Croatia before Venice conquered them. Thus Venetians were wary of giving insult to king Matthias, even as they aimed to take over remainder of Stjepan’s state. Only Dubrovnik, friendly to both herceg Stjepan and king Matthias, attempted to help. Herceg asked 3 000 soldiers from king Matthias, but latter could not help as he himself was preparing for war against Ottomans. Herceg himself died on 21st of May 1466..
When sultan Muhammad attacked Albania to defeat Skenderbeg and Venetians, Matthias refused to assist as he remembered Venetian treachery of the past, and also learned from Dubrovnik about their schemes in southern Croatia. He did not sit idle however, but used the breather he had been given to sort out situation in Croatia. New viceroys (bans) were Ivan Tuz and Jan Vitovec. Ivan Tuz was given supreme authority in Bosnia, Croatia and Slavonia. Under him were ban Jan Vitovec in Slavonia, and viceban (vice-viceroy) Pavao Božiković in Croatia and Dalmatia. Around 14th September Tuz is near Klis, which banica Margarita Špirančić was continually offering to Venice, and which (along with Sinj) was illegaly in her rule anyway. Tuz’s arrival ended Venetian support for Margarita, who had to surrender Klis, Sinj and Petrovac to king’s captains. This happened before 5th November 1466.
Due to lack of money as well as threat from KuK Friedrich III. as well as Polish king Kazimir IV., Matthias could not focus on defense against Ottomans. But he himself also had designs on German, Czech and Polish lands, hoping perhaps to collect lands of Austrian and Czech crowns and so expand the resources available for defense against Ottoman threat. Friedrich III. himself was incompetent, and the only threat to his designs was Czech king George of Podiebrad. His marriage designs however failed. Matthias thus decided to attack his once-ally, especially as some Czech captains were attacking into Hungary – Ivan Švehla had captured Kostolan in 1466. For this however he required a standing army, yet his income of 200 000 ducats per year was barely half the sum required to raise 10 000 strong army.
On the next council Matthias requested, and received, new taxes. Old taxes were insufficient: there were two types of taxes, lucrium camerae regiae (income of royal chamber) which was collected from doors (porta), as well as tricesima collected from goods imported into the kingdom. These taxes could theoretically secure significant income; but since whole areas, tribes and cities were given tax exemptions and other privileges, real income was minimal. King Matthias decided to cancel the income of royal chamber as well as tricesima. Royal chamber’s income was replaced by chamber tax (tributum fisci regalis), and tricesima was replaced by royal custom duty. No person was exempted from these taxes, only nobles were given custom duty exemption.
New taxes, and especially various abuses, caused resistance by provinces and magnates both. Domestic magnates and foreign rulers alike encourage resistance to Matthias’ reforms, which led to rebellion in Transylvania in August 1467., declaring their leaders Emerik and Stephen Zapolja and others. In mid-September however Matthias is already in Transylvania, and defeated 50 000 strong rebel army. Matthias imposed a huge penalty of 400 000 golden forints. Matthias sent his captains to suppress minor rebellions elsewhere, and he himself invaded Moldavia to punish voivoda Stephen Bogdanović for supporting rebels and also allying with Ottomans. In late November Matthias invaded Moldavia, but got attacked in night of 15th December. While Matthias won this battle, he was wounded and had to return to Hungary.
Matthias had intended to avenge his defeat, but Czech king George of Podiebrad had declared war against Emperor Friedrich III. in early 1468. Pope and the Emperor decided to ask king Matthias for help. Friedrich offered to give Matthias subsidy, give up the claims on the crown of Hungary and return all cities and towns he is holding in Hungary, and also work for Matthias to be elected a king of Germany. This proved enough, and Matthias started preparing for the war, declaring it on 31st March 1468. Matthias sent some 5 000 men into Austria to chase away Czech prince Viktorin, while he took main part of the army – 16 000 men, 1 000 Serb cavalry, 50 cannons and 2 000 wagons – through Austria onto Moravia. By October almost entirety of Moravia was in his rule, but Matthias himself had returned to Hungary in September.
In 1469. Matthias went to Czechia with 10 000 men; but Czech king surrounded him near Vilimovo, and Matthias had to ask for peace. On 27th February two kings met near Auhrovo, and Matthias promised to work with pope so that Czech are allowed the holy communion under both practices. Matthias asked George to vote for him in elections for Holy Roman Emperor, and Matthias will return cities he had taken. But papal legate Rovarella as well as bishops of Ferrara, Vratislava, Olmunac, and leaders of Catholic league decided to elect Matthias Czech king. Matthias hesitated, but eventually accepted, and was elected on 3rd May 1469. When George saw he was deceived, he sought allies – specifically, Polish prince Casimir. As Matthias had released most of his army, he was lucky in it, and Matthias’ allies started seeking peace. There was also disconcert at home, and he barely convinced the council (parliament) in Budim to allow him an extraordinary tax of one florint per home.
Thus in early 1471. Matthias offered peace to his opponent. Polish prince Kazimir also worked in George’s favour at papal see, so Paul II was ready to talk about Czech question again. But George of Podiebrad died on 22nd March 1471. from sickness, and Czech nobles chose 15-year-old Polish prince Wladislaus as a new king. But since Matthias had neglected his own kingdoms in the process, Croatia and Slavonia suffered heavily from Ottoman raids. Many Croatian nobles – Vukčići, Vlatkovići – sought help, denied to them by their king, from Friedrich III. One of commanders of Vlatković family, Žarko, managed to take the royal city of Klis, from where he interfered with Venetian interests. In northern Croatia, Kurjaković and Frankapan families were in conflict, and Frankapans were in conflict with each other. Situation was also bad outside: Skenderbeg had died in 1468., and with Matthias busy in the central Europe, the entire burden of war against Ottomans was left to Republic of Venice. Ottoman raids penetrated not just into Venetian Dalmatia and Croatia, but also into Slavonia, southern Hungary as well as Kranjska, Štajerska and Koruška. These raids bypassed fortresses, and were focused on devastating countryside and capturing slaves.
Frankapan dukes however could not come to accord. Venice tried to solve their conflicts, as it was afraid that Ottoman forces could pass through disunited Croatia well into Italy. But even in early 1469., Senj stood with no garrison, while royal captains in southern Croatia could only continue defending their areas thanks to assistance from Republic of Dubrovnik and also Vlatko Vučić of Herzegovina. King Matthias cared little for this however, to the point that Venetians themselves, on 16th March 1469., sent a request for Pope to intervene and try to make Friedrich III and Matthias Corvinus reach peace accord. More and more Croatian nobles sought help from Venice, and Venice responded by sending 8 large and 24 small bombards, as well as other weapons and gunpowder, and 1 000 ducats for soldiers’ wages. Even so, Turkish pasha Ezebeg reached Senj with an army of 20 000, from where he went to Kranjska (Carniola). Turks only retreated when uprising organized in Kranjska, and news reached them that Croats were about to cut off their retreat. Having taken 60 000 slaves, Turks could not easily get them over Kupa and so killed them. Venice sent 100 infantry to Stjepan (Stephen) Frankapan to defend Modruš, but this apparently was not enough, and duke Stephen placed himself and his areas under protection of Emperor Friedrich III. He also sent his 16 year old son Bernardin to emperor’s court.
This finally got king Matthias to act, and he sent his captain Blasius Magyar to Croatia with 9 000 cavalry. Venetians attempted to intermediate between the captain and Frankapans, but unsuccessfully. Only Ottoman raid towards Zagreb on 29th September put a temporary halt to the operations, but as soon as they left, Blasius continued taking their cities. Venice immediately started plotting how to use the situation to take the remaining Croatian coast. Frankapans were again fighting among themselves, and in mid-November 1469. Blasius Magyar took Senj. Duke of Krk Ivan VII Frankapan also joined his cousins, having stood aside until now. Venice sent emissaries to Matthias Corvinus and Rome to work in Frankapan’s favour, and also started secretly helping them with supplies. But Blasius was not impeded, and continued taking cities, to the point that dukes Martin and Dujam Frankapan declared that they would rather surrender their cities and fortresses to Turks than to have them taken by the king.
In March 1470. however there is some kind of understanding between Frankapans and the king, who promised to return to them their possessions. But city of Senj was never returned to them. It appears that Stjepan II Frankapan did prove irresponsibility of previous viceroys, for new ban of Croatia was Blasius Magyar. Venice immediately comes to terms with him, and also helps new viceroy establish dialogue with emperor Friedrich III to discuss how best to prevent Ottoman raids. Ottomans themselves however were not sitting around: governor of Bosnia Ezebeg raided up to walls of Split, Zadar and Šibenik in May 1471., and in early June he raided through Croatia up to Ljubljana and Kranja. This raid alone caused some 30 000 casualties, what killed what enslaved. In August Turks are again raiding Slavonia, and in November to Gorica. Turks also took Zaslon on the right coast of Sava, to the west of Belgrade, and started building a fort of Šabac there; thus the defensive line stretching from Jajce to Belgrade was severed, and Turks free to raid Slavonia and Hungary.
Blasius did what he could for defense of Slavonia, but that was never quite enough. City of Počitelj on Neretva was also threatened by Ottomans, who took it by 20th September 1471. With this, the whole country between Cetina and Neretva came under Ottoman rule. Only Vlatko Vukčić remained in Novi (Herceg-Novi).
Matthias distraction with West led to disconcert in kingdom, as he could hardly justify wasting his strength on wars against Christian rulers when unbelievers were threatening the whole of Europe. His closest advisors thus started to plot to have him removed from the throne. In the end, from 75 provinces only 9 remained with the king; even Blasius Magyar defected. Main reason for this, as noted, was the fact that Matthias was wasting resources on fighting in Central Europe while main threat was in the south-east. Second reason was his behaviour towards magnates, including his closest advisors, and his attempts to introduce absolutistic rule in denial of old laws, rights and practices. Rebels sought support with emperor Friedrich as well as Polish king Casimir, who wanted revenge for Wladislaus as well as because he thought he had greater right to Hungarian throne than a descendant of peasants from Romania. Casimir also may have thought to stop Ottoman expansion after securing rule over two of the most powerful states in Europe at the time.
Even so, Matthias learned of the plot in early 1471. Instead of confronting conspirators directly, he pretended to know nothing while pampering various prelates and magnates, including those he knew were part of the plot. Emerik Zapolja, Petar Gereb and Nikola of Ilok were all won back in such a manner. Having secured loyalty of some of the most important conspirators, Matthias called a council (parliament) in Budim, knowing that conspirators will not come – which proved true. Blasius Magyar was among those who did not come. On the council, Matthias accepted nobles’ demands. Nobles were so mollified by his acceptance that they allowed him extraordinary tax, and even remained after the council to help their king against his enemies. King from his side continued to bribe them. Nikola of Ilok was named king of Bosnia, as a counter-king to sultan’s own king of Bosnia.
Polish king Casimir had already set up things to send his son Hungary. Prince sent letters calling Matthias illegal king, but Hungarian prelates and other nobles responded that Matthias has been legally elected and thus will have their support. Casimir invaded Hungary on 2nd October 1471. with 12 000 men, while another army of 50 000 men was to join him from Czechia after escorting his older brother there. But Casimir realized he had no support by the time he reached Hatvan, and so started retreating. Matthias meanwhile had neutralized Casimir’s few allies, some with force and some with diplomacy. On 24th December 1471. Matthias is under the walls of Neytra; while Casimir managed to escape, city had to surrender. Kazimir himself gave up the throne for covenant, and was declared saint after death.
In early 1472. Matthias again felt secure on the throne. Hungarian parliament did try to limit his authority – Matthias had to agree that he will not introduce new taxes without asking the classes, that he will respect freedoms of kingdoms of Hungary and Slavonia, that illegaly taken possessions he will return to their legal owners. Import of salt from abroad was forbidden; only Kingdom of Slavonia, which often experienced lack of salt from royal salt-works, was allowed to import salt from abroad. It was also confirmed its right to pay only half the tax rates of Hungary. Nobles for their part promised king Matthias help against his external enemies, and also an extraordinary tax of a million forints. Later on however king was still working to weaken nobility, at leats those he was in conflict with: he gave Gradec near Zagreb status of a free royal city, and freed it from paying all extraordinary taxes, as well as returning it possessions that had been taken from it
King Matthias was even more authoritarian after the rebellion than before it, and started relying on foreigners for filling important state functions (Beckenslauher was so given archbishope of Ostrogon, and Gabriel Rangoni from Verona became the chancellor of Erdelj and the court). This earned him enmity of the nobility at the same time that pope Sixto VI was attempting to organize the new crusade. But his attempts to make peace between Matthias and Kazimir, king of Poland, were unsuccessful as Matthias wanted payment of 1 500 000 ducats, to be declared stepfather of Kazimir’s son Wladislaus, and regent in Czechia; these terms were naturally completely unacceptable. In fact, Casimir and Wladislaus made pact with Emperor Friedrich III., declared on 11th March 1474. When war broke out, in September 1474. Polish king Casimir entered Hungary with an army of 60 000 men and 5 000 war wagons, while Wladislaus marched to join him with somr 15 000 – 20 000 men from lands of Czech crown. Matthias himself had 10 000 men and 900 war wagons, but his men were experienced at war. Due to previous devastation Poles could not procure supplies, while Matthias prevented supplies from being brought from Poland. Kazimir’s large army became an impediment, and in 8th December 1474. accepted a truce which was to last until 25th May 1477.
In Croatia, ban Pavao Tar has to fight against Venetians, as well as duke of Poljica Žarko Dražojević, who had taken fortress of Klis as a Venetian ally. Venetians helped him against ban Tar, hoping to (eventually) take town and fortress of Klis under their own rule. In summer 1472. ban Tar is shot outside Split. Turks use the situation well; there are three raids into Croatia in 1472. alone. In the second raid, in September 1472., 12 000 Turkish cavalry managed to reach St. Danil in Furlania, threatening Venice itself; thus Kingdom of Naples offered help. Nikola of Ilok decided to liberate parts of Bosnia still under Ottoman rule, partly in order to block these raids. In December 1472., Venice advises Nikola that time is right to strike, for Venice had raised Asia against the Ottomans, and is itself warring against them on the sea. There are also negotiations with despot Vuk Grgurević and herzeg Vlatko Vukčić to liberate their lands (Serbia and Herzegovina, respectively). Time was indeed right, as Muhammad II. was busy in war against Persia. But the planned campaign was stillborn; no promised help arrived from Italy and king Matthias was wary of allyng with Venice. The opportunity was thus lost, and Ottomans resumed raids into Croatia as soon as the war in the East ended. Croatia, Kranjska (Carniola), Koruška (Carinthia) and Štajerska (Styria) were devastated.
In January 1474. Dubrovnik notified king Matthias that sultan Muhammad II had managed to negotiate peace with Usun-hasan, courtesy of some Muhammadian pastor. This allowed Ottomans to concentrate on Europe. One large Ottoman army besieged Skadar in Venetian Albania. Venice asked both Matthias and Kazimir for help, but both Hungary and Poland were also attacked. An Ottoman army had penetrated into Croatia, where it devastated Zagorje for 14 days, taking 14 000 slaves. This army reached Slovenia, plundering around Ljubljana. Army itself numbered at least 8 000. Venetian captain of Skadar managed to repulse Ottoman attack, and this Ottoman army also continued on to Croatia. Chronicler reports that Slavonia was in this raid so devastated that in many areas there could not be seen neither man nor house for ten miles on end. Albania too was devastated; only fortified cities remained. Hungary also suffered heavily.
These raids finally forced king Matthias to arrange a truce with kings of Poland and Czechia, and turn his attention to his southern borders. Hungarian council / parliament allowed king Matthias extraordinary tax of 1 golden florint per household, but under condition that it is to be used only for war against Ottomans. Matthias received unexpected help from Persian ruler Usun-Hasan, who proposed a joint assault, from West and East, on the Ottoman Empire. Moldavian voivoda Stephen also proposed alliance with king Matthias, who accepted the alliance. Knowing that he cannot rely on help from rest of Europe, especially not from Western Europe which had shown itself completely blind to Ottoman threat, Matthias – abandoned by everybody (derelictus ab omnibus) as he wrote – prepared for war. He raised an army 60 000 – 70 000 strong (of which king of Bosnia, Nikola of Ilok, raised 4 000), and also navy on Danube and Sava numbering some 100 ships; supply train numbered 1 000 wagons, and king also had new cannons cast. Hearing of Matthias’ preparations, Muhammad II made a peace offer, which Matthias refused.
Matthias’ first target was fort Šabac, which served as major base for Ottoman raids into Slavonia and Hungary. This powerful fortress located near Belgrade was made of thick earthwork walls supported by shrubs, and nine towers of wood and earth, eight of which on the walls. Its 13 000 defenders were housed underground, and their barracks could not be reached by cannonballs. Fortress proved near-impervious to Matthias’ artillery and so could not be easily taken; but Ottoman relief force retreated when Matthias came out to confront it. But after scouting out the weakest part of the fortress, Matthias redeployed artillery, and fortress surrendered on 15th February after 33 days, with Matthias losing 200 men overall and capturing 700 defenders. Matthias intended to then personally lead an army towards Smederevo, but conditions in the kingdom called him back – he was in Budim by 1st March. Among these conditions was treason of John Beckenslauer, who went over to Emperor Friedrich. In response, Matthias arranged a marriage with daughter of Napolitanian king Ferdinand, Beatrice. Marriage was agreed in May 1475.
Meanwhile, war against Ottomans was left to Matthias’ commanders, such as Stephen Batory. King Matija Vojsalić also started to think about going over to king Matthias. He truly did so, upon which Ottoman army besieged him; but king Matthias ordered his commanders (Stephen Batory and archbishop Gabriel) to relieve him, and by 3rd July successful relief was already known in Buda. Ottoman army under Alibeg had attempted to exploit the situation, crossing Danube with 5 000 cavalry; but when he was returning, despot Vuk Grgurović descended on his army and scattered it, with 2 000 Turks left dead on the battlefield.
Muhammad himself had led an army of 90 000 into Moldavia, of which 9 000 were Wallachian troops. But upon news that duke of Erdelj Stephen Batory was coming to Moldavia, sultan retreated. Batory scattered Wallachian army of 18 000 men. Much of Wallachia, including Bucarest, was liberated, and Vlad Drakul was installed as ruler of Wallachia. While this was being done, Ottomans devastated Croatia, Slavonia and Slovenia in two raids (July and October). Some Croatian nobles had taken to negotiating with Ottomans, allowing them safe passage if Ottomans spared their lands the devastation.
In the west, emperor Friedrich worked to ally with Polish and Czech kings against king Matthias, especially after latter’s marriage to Beatrice. Czech king Wladislaus had sent army to help Friedrich against rebellious nobles, and in return Friedrich confirmed him as king of Czechia as well as elector of Germany. Two days later, on 6th June, king Matthias declared war against emperor. Just when war started, unpaid mercenaries deserted Wladislaus and went over to Matthias; Wladislaus returned to Praha. Pope attempted to negotiate a peace, but there could not be one as Matthias demanded massive indemnity of 754 000 ducats (ducat = 3,545 g of 24-carat gold; 754 000 ducats = 2 672,93 kg of gold; cca 140 million USD today). For comparison, Matthias Corvinus had 800 000 ducats of annual income, while Louis II. Jagellon had only 140 000 ducats of annual income after magnates had forced him to cut tax burden by 70 – 80% (mainly through giving tax exemptions to the magnates themselves).
Matthias invaded Austria in August 1477. Being unable to face him in the open field, Friedrich retreated to Krems, and then to Steyer and Gumden. Slovenian lands were invaded by Croatian troops in addition to Ottoman raids, and could not send help. Matthias took a number of cities in a short time, but Vienna resisted. Combined with Ottoman raids, this was enough for Matthias to accept papal mediation. Papal emissaries finally concluded peace between the emperor and the king on 10th November 1477. Emperor had to surrender Czech lands to Matthias, and pay him 100 000 forints, or else give Milan to Matthias’ brother-in-law Friedrich of Tarent, younger son of king of Napoli. Matthias himself wanted peace so he could focus on threat from Ottoman Empire and Venice.
Ottomans had taken in late 1476. three towers Matthias had built around Smederevo, and in early 1477. were regularly raiding Bosnia after death of Nikola of Ilok. They went as far as Slovenian lands and Venetian mainlaind. In 1477. Ottoman army of 32 000 spent over a month in Slovenia. Matthias’ viceroy, Ladislaus of Egervar, was only heeded in Slavonia; nobility in Croatia ignored him completely. Bosnia had been taken by Turks again, with exception of Jajce and some cities near Vrbas. Turkish raids in June 1477. devastated Croatia and Slavonia both, and nobility of Slavonia sent emissaries to king Matthias to request help. Matthias gave Slavonia freedom to command its armies at will, to choose captain of the kingdom, and was also freed from paying next four years’ taxes. This indeed helped; but Croatia, where nobility refused to obey viceroy while nobles fought among themselves, suffered harshly. An Ottoman force 10 000 strong raided as deep as Furlania in October 1477., and in April and June 1478. Turkish raids reached Carniola; June raid numbered 20 000 cavalry. When this army was returning, dukes of Croatia – having received help from Venice – damaged it significantly, and it was finally completely destroyed near Jajce by commander of the city.
King Matthias did not like Venetian interference in internal affairs of his kingdom, as Venice had helped duke John (Ivan, Anž) VIII of Brinj, a de-facto rebel. Venetians got scared of his possible intervention, and thus on 13th October 1478. denied John help they had been providing until then. They did keep trying to make peace between Francapans and Matthias. But it proved useless: royal forces had taken all cities held by duke John by 10th June 1479. This was made easier by peace with Turkey. By 18th May 1478. sultan Muhammad had sent Gel-beg to negotiate peace with king Matthias. However, there was no peace. First, and as was usual Ottoman practice, local commanders continued to devastate Hungarian and Croatian territory despite the peace. Then sultan himself did not care much for peace since he had by then negotiated peace with Venice. Matthias did manage to reache a settlement with Casimir IV of Poland, with final peace negotiated on 2nd April 1479. In July, Matthias met Czech king Wladislaus, and confirmed the settlement.
One reason for Matthias’ haste to make peace were events in the south, where Venice and Turks were both making mischief. Venice, while a nominal ally, always looked only to make profit for itself; and so it sought to take royal cities of Skradin, Klis and Ostrovica. They were also much less reliable allies after Matthias prevented them from taking Senj in 1469. When Matthias went to war with Friedrich III., Venetians supported the emperor and also denied Matthias any support against Ottomans. Already in early 1478. Matthias had thought about attacking Venice itself. When he received news that Venice had negotiated one-sided peace with Ottoman Empire on 26th January 1479. he clearly understood they were his enemies; indeed, Venetians had helped and guided Ottoman armies through lands of Holy Roman Empire so that Ottomans could strike such parts of Hungary which nobody expected were threatened by them. By mid-1479., war was a real possibility. Ivan VII of Brinj, who was master of Krk from 1471., attempted to prevent king Matthias from taking Vinodol under his direct rule. Matthias likely wanted to take entire coast from Trsat to Zadar under his rule, to then recover Dalmatia from Venice.
Relying on Venetian help, duke John VII collected an army and invaded the mainland late in 1479. or in early 1480. As duke refused Matthias’ order to abandon his attempts at conquest, Blasius Magyar arrived to Senj. When duke ignored king’s order, war broke out between him and the royal army. Finally John was forced to retreat to island of Krk. After negotiations broke down, Blasius started collecting ships to transport his army to the island. John called onto Venice for help; Venetians sent galleys. But Blasius had already transported 6 000 strong army to the island and besieged city of Omišalj. Venetians claimed that island was theirs; this plainly false claim Blasius rejected. Venetians already had army local and more reinforcements were coming, and secretary Vinciguerra convinced duke John to – allegedly temporarily – gift island to the Republic so that Venetians can legally intervene. This he did, and on news that island was under Venetian rule, inhabitants stopped supporting Blasius. As Venetian galleys prevented resupply from mainland, supply situation for Blasius Magyar was becoming precarious, and he was forced to negotiate. By late March, Blasius was back on the mainland. Venetians naturally refused to return the island to duke John, and so Krk remained in their hands. Matthias Corvinus was angry, but he could do nothing; he had no navy, and Friedrich was hostile to him so he could not reach Venice by land. But he achieved part of his aim: after Blasius Magyar took most of Vinodol, almost entire coast was under Matthias’ rule. Another reason for inaction was that Ottomans had intensified raids into Croatia after signing peace with Venice. In span of one year (st. Martin of 1479. to st. Martin of 1480.), there were eleven battles between Croatian and Ottoman forces. There is possibility that raids were done in accord with Venice.
Particularly notable was raid of August 1479. By 24th August, Ottoman force was already in Međimurje. From there they crossed to Styria, and then spread all over southwestern Hungary, for the first time ever. In autumn another army devastated Croatia and Slovenia, but was destroyed on trip back by duke Juraj, son of former viceroy Jan Vitovec. Similarly was destroyed, by Stephen Batory, on 13th October 1479., Ottoman army of 43 000 which had raided Transylvania (Erdely). Batory was losing initially, but arrival of Paul Kiniszy (leading Black Army contignent) who attacked Turks from the rear turned the battle around; Ottoman army was destroyed, losing 30 000 dead, while Matthias’ army lost 3 000. In spring of 1480., Batory and Kiniszy came to an arrangement with Moldavian voivoda Stephen, and on 2nd June entered Wallachia with an army of 60 000, destroying Ottoman-Wallachian army of 20 000 men. After conquering Wallachia, they crossed Danube and raided through Ottoman Bulgaria. This of course induced Ottoman begs to raid Croatia and even Slovenia, raiding through up to Rottenmann in Styria after first devastating Carniola and Carinthia. They however avoided western Hungary, where Matthias was preparing an army for war against them.
On 3rd September Matthias is in Međimurje with his army. On September 19th he is in Zagreb, where he remained for the next month preparing for major effort to liberate remainder of Bosnia. By 7th October he is on Sava. But Friedrich III., as usual, cared little for defending Europe against Ottoman threat, and so Matthias could only send light troops to raid Ottoman Bosnia. Only on 7th November 1480. did Matthias march towards Jajce with his main army. Light forces ranging ahead of his army clashed multiple times with Ottoman forces. Daut pasha attempted to destroy those, but was unsuccessful, even after managing to surround a part of this army in a pass. The attacks, there and near Travnik, were defeated. Over 10 000 Turks were killed in the main battle, and another 8 000 died after mounting an unsuccessful ambush. At the same time, Paul Kiniszy had sailed by Danube some 35 miles below Smederevo, and raided Serbia up to Kruševac. He returned leading 60 000 Serb civilians to Hungary. Soon he was below walls of Smederevo however, where he defeated Malkočević-beg, governor of Serbia. Kiniszy then returned to Hungary, defeating Ottoman navy on Danube. Turks however were preparing invasion of Italy, collecting infantry and cavalry near Apollonia.
After returning from Bosnia king Matthias remained in Zagreb for three months. This time he used to sort out problems in kingdom of Croatia, which was being raided by Ottomans and devastated by conflicts between its own nobles. Especially in Slavonia magnates and prelates took sway, caring not for laws or justice or interests of the kingdom. Thus king Matthias called for a parlaiment / council, where issues will be discussed and court of law held – latter was aimed particularly against high nobility and major landowners, who had caused massive damage to the kingdom with their criminal activities against common people and minor nobility alike. Some of these were accused of helping the Turks, such as Ivan Benjevud who was accused of supplying Ottoman garrison in Kamengrad as well as selling slaves to Turks.
Not one of the accused was present at the council, which might be the reason why they were accused to begin with. On fourth day, 2nd of February, they were convicted for refusing to appear. The punishment was death sentence and the loss of all possessions. Other problematic nobles were similarly judged, and city of Gradec was confirmed in its right to not pay taxes to any noble. At any rate, consequence of the council was that accused nobles massively hurried to ask forgiveness from king Matthias. King forgave the nobles, but at the condition that they pay an additional tax of half a forint. After the council, king Matthias sent help to his in-law, king of Napoli Ferdinand, as Turks had conquered city of Otranto, landing there an army of 20 000 men. Everybody in Italy, from Pope to dukes, called on king Matthias for help. Matthias sent help on 10th March of 1481., an army of infantry and cavalry commanded by Blasius Magyar. By August, Turkish army was forced to leave Italy, and in late 1481. Blasius Magyar was made viceroy of Croatia.
Despot of Serbia Zmaj Vuk Grgurević received rewards for his service. Having fled to Croatia from Ottomans, he received holdings there which he defended from Ottomans, and soon married Barbara Frankapan.
After death of Muhammad II., Ottoman Empire broke into fun times. Bayezid II., Muhammad’s successor, was not present in Constantinople, so janissaries massacred all the government officials they could locate. Bayezid was thus called back; but a faction within the Empire wanted to place his younger brother Cem on the throne. Cem was defeated and exiled, but still dreamt of the throne, placing his hopes in king Matthias. But Venetians, being close to Ottomans and afraid of Matthias, managed to have Cem sent to southern France.
These events did have consequences however, as states bordering the Ottoman Empire and the peoples the Empire had conquered all saw a good opportunity. Herzeg Vlatko raided into Bosnia already by 2nd June 1481., and Nikola Dukagin broke into Albania. There was hope for liberation of Bosnia and Albania, but only if Vlatko and Nikola received help. King Matthias negotiated a peace with emperor Friedrich, and prepared to go to Smederevo in person while at the same time sending troops to Bosnia. This caused significant concern in the Ottoman Empire, and pasha of Romania started collecting troops. Vlatko however was defeated by Daut-pasha and returned to Herzeg-Novi, where he was besieged. Thus Vlatko gave his cities to Matthias, who was preparing for war against Ottomans despite there being no help from Italy and Germany except for empty promises. Matthias’ letter of 7th August 1481. mentions a victory over Ottomans by his vassal, Moldavian voivoda Stephen, who defeated Ottoman vassal Basarab in Wallachia. He also sent his commanders Stephen Batory and Paul Kiniszy with 28 000 men through Serbia all the way to inner areas of Turkey; had he received promised 10 000 German cavalry, army could have reached Constantinople. In November, Kiniszy again raided into Serbia all the way to Kruševac. Smederevo, Golubac and Kruševac were also sites of fighting later on. Despot Vuk defeated Skender-pasha on Danube, while Kiniszy led 50 000 natives with their families back to Hungary and they entered king’s service.
King Matthias also decided to save Herzeg Novi and other cities of herzeg Vlatko, including Chos / Kos. He received help from herzeg, as well as from Croatian nobles of Krajina from Cetina to Neretva and from Dubrovnik. Soon after 2nd January of 1482., royal army left Dubrovnik to relieve herzeg Vlatko who was besieged in Novi. Despite this, Herzeg Novi fell by 26th January, and royal troops had to leave. Castellum of Chos however managed to repel Ottoman attacks; Matthias strenghtened it in 1488. and fortress remained in Christian hands even after king’s death.
There are several reasons why Herzegovina fell: it was too far away from Matthias’ center of power; king himself was distracted by war with emperor Friedrich III., and Venetians also did everything to interfere with Matthias, helping not only Friedrich but also Ottoman sultan Bayezid II. Pope Sixtus IV. also was close to Venetians, and did not care for a holy war ever since Ottoman forces left Otranto. King Matthias naturally did not like any of it, and went so far as to threaten to ally with Bayezid. But this proved an empty threat; still, Matthias had to abandon any thought of offensive war against Ottomans, and instead focus his attention on treacherous emperor Friedrich. This of course meant that Ottoman commanders in Bosnia had free reign to raid through Croatia all the way to Carniola and Styria. On 6th of September six Ottoman commanders with 10 000 troops between them raided Temesvar, but Paul Kiniszy intercepted them on their return trip and destroyed them near Bečej. Then he himself raided Turkey.
These raids forced king Matthias to give more attention to wars against Ottomans. He collected an army of 70 000 to put Cem on Ottoman throne, but king’s enemies prevented Cem’s release. King Matthias himself believed that emperor Friedrich and Venetians instructed the sultan to focus all his powers on war against Hungary. And indeed in late summer 1483. pashas of Bosnia and Serbia collected troops and entered Croatia over Una, and then divided into three groups. One army of 7 000 cavalry entered Carniola and then Carinthia, devastating the latter around 16th October. Armies reunited and started returning – or else just army raiding Carinthia returned – but Croatian viceroy Matthias Gereb intercepted and destroyed them in a two-day battle (on 29th and 30th of October). His tactics were typical anti-raiding tactics: cavalry had shadowed Ottoman forces for some days, preventing smaller groups from separating from main Ottoman force. Ottomans managed to draw viceroy from the crossing on Una, but he came back just as they were starting to cross the river. Fighting was interrupted by nightfall, but next day the Ottoman army was destroyed, with 2 000 captured. Remainder either fell in battle or drowned in the river. Captivers – numbering 10 000, women and children mostly – were freed to return to their homes. Size of Ottoman army in battle is variously given as 5 500 (by Jakov Unres) or 7 000 with 10 000 captives (by Antonio Bonfini). Victory was significant; sultan Bayezid II offered king Matthias a five-year peace, which latter accepted as he was alone in war – emperor Friedrich constantly pleaded with Ottomans for peace, while Venice was a de facto Ottoman ally.
Next problem was Friedrich III. Peace could not last: both rulers hated each other, Friedrich constantly interfered and prevented Matthias from focusing on Ottomans, while Matthias himself wanted to gain crown of Germany, and through it of Holy Roman Empire as well. The only thing missing was an excuse for war (cassus belli). This was duly provided by Emperor’s attempt at removing archbishop of Salzburg, Bernhard von Rohr, and replacing him by Beckenslaher – a traitor to Matthias. Matthias was also given lands of other bishops whom Emperor was trying to remove, and in late 1479. and early 1480. he established his authority over those. Even when situation was resolved in November 1481., Matthias kept up the attacks.
Real war started only in 1482. when in May Matthias’ commander Stephen Zapolya besieged Haimburg, “the key to Austria”. He was defeated, but Austrian forces were unable to withstand much stronger army led by king Matthias and surrendered, along with surrounding towns, on 5th October. Emperor Friedrich was forced to leave Vienna in April 1483. after Matthias took towns surrounding the city, while Matthias went to take Hungarian city Kisek which had been under Austrian rule for half a century.
After this, situation cooled down – the Emperor had no money for war, and Matthias finally decided to do something about the Ottoman threat. War renewed in 1484., when Matthias made truce with Ottomans. By 15th of April, Hungarian army had taken the Kahlenberg hill, which commands Vienna. Imperial relief force was defeated, and fortress of Korneuburg surrendered on 1st December 1484. As Danube froze, king’s troops easily took Prater and bridges. By 29th of January city was surrounded, Danube closed with chains, and on noon cannons opened fire on the city. On 14th of May delegation of the city arranged a truce, and agreed to surrender of 1st of June should relief force not arrive. This indeed happened, and city garrison was allowed to leave the city with weapons and baggage. Matthias entered the city on the same day with army 8 000 strong and took the rule of Austria, though it took some time before the entire country was properly under control.
Friedrich III., having abandoned his lands, went to Germany where electors allowed him help of 34 000 men in early 1486., and on February 16th elected his son, archduke Maximillian, as king of Germany. But Matthias kept taking cities in Austria: Stein, Zisterdorf, Feldsberg, Laa, Retz, Eggenburg, Zwetl. On 13th January 1487. king himself came with an army of 8 000 infantry and 20 000 cavalry to Wiener Neustadt, which Stephen Zapolya had been besieging for two years. City surrendered on 17th August 1487. Royal troops also conquered much of northern Styria.
By this time, nearly entire Lower Austria, much of Carniola, Carinthia and Styria, and even some places in Upper Austria, were under king Matthias’ rule. Only then did German state army appear in Austria, but at 5 000 men it was far too weak to dislodge or even seriously threaten King Matthias. Voivoda Albrecht met Matthias in Markersdorf on 16th December 1487. and arranged a truce that was to last until 2nd June 1488. But both rulers were more stubborn than mules, so the only thing negotiations produced were several extensions of the truce. Only in early 1489. did Emperor’s son, king Maximillian, make a serious attempt to make peace. But the old emperor Friedrich arrived to Linz and forbade his son any concessions; thus the only thing achieved was extension of the truce until 8th September 1490.
Matthias was also busy in Italy. In 1481. he had to defend king Ferdinand of Naples against Ottomans; between 1481. and 1484. he helped Ferdinand against Venetians, despite Pope’s protests, and on 8th March 1486. Matthias sent Ferdinand 800 cavalry, and later additional 200 cavalry and 700 infantry. With this, he completely parted ways with pope Innocent VIII and his allies Venetians. Venice itself was major thorn in king Matthias’ side, having held under occupation nearly entire Croatian coast since 1409. Matthias understandably held that these lands belonged to his crown, and were under illegal occupation. Venice had also, on multiple occasions, helped Matthias’ enemies such as Ottomans and emperor Friedrich. Thus Matthias immediately jumped at the opportunity provided to him by rebellion of city of Ancona against papal rule.
Ancona had suffered terribly from Venetian domination of maritime trade, and thus could not bear when Pope – nominally the protector and master of Ancona – allied with Venice. Their emissary arrived at king Matthias’ court in early 1487., and Matthias sent city the Hungarian flag. Flag was raised over Ancona in April 1488. Pope Innocent VIII and Venice were both angry at this act, but could do little, and Matthias himself cared not for their opinions. By autumn of 1488. pope himself made overtures in order to reconcile with king Matthias. King accepted this, and by mid-1489. relations were rather concilliary. This was definitely helped by the fact that king Matthias was growing sick, and had to think about matters of succession.
After 1481. king Matthias had not come to Croatia again. Country was thus de-facto ruled by viceroy Mathias Gereb, king’s cousin (son of John Gereb and Sophia Szylagy, sister of king’s mother Elizabeth). Mathias Gereb gained glory in king’s wars, particularly in 1463. siege of Jajce. Twenty years later, he is viceroy of Croatia. His victory over Ottomans at Una on 29th and 30th of October 1483. made him well-known. Mathias Gereb helped king in wars against Friedrich, but also took care to fortify kingdom of Croatia against Ottoman threat while also supporting raids by Croatians and Croatian Wallachians against Venetian-held cities on Croatian coast. Venetian forces also raided Croatian cities. Venice attempted to smooth things over, which was done by April 1488. Mathias Gereb had also assisted king Matthias against Emperor Friedrich, but this was without success, and Imperial forces captured Trsat.