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About the Faces on the Cutting Room Floor Number Eight: Authenticity, Site Surveys, and Blind Serendipity

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I have been asked a number of times how much research I did in order to invoke the sense of place that often pervades 1635: The Papal Stakes. The answer is, “Lots.” And there are two parts to that answer.

The first part is the frank admission that strong reliance upon good libraries, wary utilization of Wikipedia, and—above all—deep forays via Google Earth were indispensable in acquiring a good sense of the land and architecture of the various locales depicted in Papal Stakes. That being said, those sources often came close to leading me into error, as well. For instance: there is a scene early in the book where Estuban Miro is leading the Wrecking Crew over the alps in a dirigible and they come across a “duck pond” called the Marmelsee.  Harry Lefferts is surprised that it is not a larger expanse of waters, given how vast it looked on their Fodors maps. Well, in the E-arc, I believe you’ll find that it is shown to be just that large—because the small duck pond was turned into a vast alpine lake by a damming project in (I believe) the early twentieth century. But that was not flagged in any of the references I had and was, I believe, pointed out by a reader familiar with the region’s history. Google Earth doesn’t lie, but we do occasionally change the planet (and sometimes it changes all by itself, as I learned when trying to locate the seventeenth-century shoreline of Louisiana versus the modern one as I commenced writing 1636: Commander Cantrell in the West Indies).

The second part of the answer is that I have actually visited a number of key sites in Papal Stakes. Certainly Rome, but more especially Mallorca, where, over the years, I’ve probably spent a cumulative total of about four months. During some of my final visits there, I was fortunately under contract for Papal Stakes and so had the opportunity to go armed with a camera and conduct what, in the film business, we call “site surveys.” What I found, and its value to enriching the narrative, are for you to judge. However, not all of these photos were snapped by your humble narrator, and for every one that you see here, there were twenty passed over for one reason or another.

So to end this series on the same cinematic theme with which we began –”faces on the cutting room floor”—here are some of the site survey (and other helpful graphics) that went into the making and visualizations of 1635: The Papal Stakes.

01 Monte Cristo resized

#1 The Island of Monte Cristo. This is the view entering the bay into which Miro and Harry Lefferts led the pirate xebec beneath the ambushing guns of North’s Hibernians and then the boarders under Owen Roe O’Neill’s Wild Geese. You will note the scrub cover, the crags that provide stony foxholes and the murderous downward angle of fire and commanding view of the battlespace. A narrow inlet any other day, at that point in the book, it was nothing less than a kill zone.

02 Bay of Canyamel

#2  The Bay of Canyamel. The view here is from the crest of the Cap des Pins looking across the bay at Cap Vermell. If you look closely, you will see a triangle of shadow approximately one third of the way in from the extreme right hand of the image, set in the face of the stony spur of land and relatively close to the water. This is the entrance to the Caves of Arta, known as a pirate lair since Roman times and a tourist attraction today. But trust me, a firefight in there would be not merely a gothic horror show, but deafening. This was, of course, the site of the second attack Miro’s band made upon pirates, grabbing another hull (a llaut, a Balearic boat still used today) and much-needed supplies with which to begin their covert stay upon Mallorca.

03 Palma map

#3 A period map of Palma de Mallorca, first city of the entire Balearic Island chain. Although the map was drafted approximately one hundred years after the events in Papal Stakes, it is inspired by the layout of the city as it was in 1644 (hence the strangely anachronistic mix of ship types). Even as an “epochal fusion” map, it still offers an excellent sense of the layout and scope of this picturesque and strategically important provincial capitol. Long a point of contact between Moors and Spanish, as well as Carthaginians and Romans, trade and piracy are integral parts of the island’s heritage. The Castell de Bellver, the site of Frank and Giovanna Stone’s final imprisonment and one of the two pitched, final battles in the novel, is located well to the west/left of the map edge.

04 1895

#4 Convincing description must extend to artifacts as well as architecture. In the case of all the boats depicted, considerable examination of deckplans and accounts (unofficial as well as official) was exhaustive. Weapons and equipment were handled similarly; if you are going to convincingly depict any device, one must have a sense of its physical properties.

In the case of the hallmark weapons of this combat-intensive novel, the signature rifle of the Hibernian Mercenary Battalion was the Winchester Model 1895 lever action in .40-72. A black powder weapon (in 1635), it was an excellent compromise between simplicity of design, portability, rate of fire, and stopping power (it was used with reasonable success as a big game rifle). Nowhere near as affordable or easy to manufacture as the standard shoulder arms of the USE, having a model of the weapon from which to build copies allowed it to become a practical “special equipage” model for small, elite formations such as the Hibernians.

05 sks

#5 The other shoulder weapon used by some of the elite forces in the second half of The Papal Stakes—an “equalizer” to make up for the heavy losses suffered in Rome—was the Russian SKS. As shown here, most models (like the top one) are loaded via ten-round stripper clips. However, as shown below, certain variants are able to use an AK-47 magazine (it fires the same 7.62 x 39 mm cartridge). However, the SKS arguably enjoys greater accuracy due to superior ergonomic design (my personal experience aligns with this opinion). Remember this gun when we get to the pictures of the lazarette/tower at the Castell de Bellver…


07 Hibernian helmet

#6 and #7 A few more pieces of standard Hibernian Mercenary equipment: the top revolver (shown for comparison with a modern model) is a close approximation of the Hockenjoss & Klott .44 cap and ball pistol, and the “lobstertail” helmet, which offers good protection and excellent field of vision. (Made famous by Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads, but it was in broad use on the continent as well.)

08 Castell de Bellver

09 Castell de Bellver

#8 and #9  The Castell de Bellver. A singular architectural wonder and largely held to be impregnable prior to the advent of seventeenth-century artillery, the layout reflected the mathematical metaphysics of Ramon Llull. As is visible in the photo with the Bay of Palma (and city) in the background, it is a tight, circular structure, with one attached outlying tower (the “lazarette,” although this was usually used for visiting dignitaries requiring high security) and a single drawbridge access over an empty moat. The perfect geometric symmetries of the structure are more evident in the other image, as are the outlying revetments that guard the approaches to the fort, and by the seventeenth century, were its primary artillery stations.

10 lazarette

#10 The Lazarette. Accessible only by a very narrow walkway (accessed by single file) suspended high above the moat, this was an extraordinarily defensive position even if only defended from the ground. However, with marksmen on the roof . . .

11 overlook

#11 The approach to the lazarette and its commanding presence. This narrow spire of a tower (with fifteen-foot-wide round rooms and a single tight staircase) was clearly designed to provide a clear field of fire for either musketeers or crossbowmen not only across the broad expanse of the top level of the castell, but also of the opposite galleries and a good part of the arms court. As can be seen from . . .

12 snipers view

#12 The overlook from the top of the lazarette. To coin a phrase, this was obviously designed quite intentionally to provide “a view to a kill.” With marksmen on either side of the stone cupola protecting the roof access point of the lazarette’s staircase, this view, in stereo, provides complete coverage of the entirety of the upper level of the castell, and is designed to enable murderous crossfire concentration upon the approaches to the single-stone bridge linking it to the lazarette. If anyone ever wondered if Harry Lefferts and his Hibernian partner could rip apart two dozen Spanish soldiers with their extended-magazine SKSs (thirty rounds, no waiting) . . . think again.

13 upper level view

#13 View from the upper level. In addition to offering a commanding view of (and artillery trajectory toward) the Bay of Palma to the east, the other points of the compass allowed direct, uncovered fields of fire upon the artillery revetments that were the forts’ outer works.  Another scene of (in this case, implied) carnage from the pages of Papal Stakes.

14 arms court

#14  The interior of Castell de Bellver. Comprised of an “arms court” and two circular vaulted galleries, any conventional intruders would find themselves in one of the world’s most striking crucibles of defensive small arms fire.  The taller upper gallery affords defenders waist-high stone cover in a 360-degree encirclement of the court. Access is by two staircases accessible directly from the lower gallery.

15 lower gallery

15a room

#15 and #15a  The lower gallery. Devoted mostly to the practical, day-to-day needs of the fort, these rooms were somewhat more rude in construction, but also quite sturdy, with heavy door and iron hardware. The site of housing, kitchen, storerooms, and privies, it was the working level of Castell de Bellver. One of the nicer rooms on this level (a commander’s office and marshalling area, apparently) recalls the more refined features and architectural interest (groined vaulting) of the chambers that ring the more airy and bright upper gallery.

16 stairway

#16 The ascending stairway to the upper gallery. Narrow and steep, with stout doors, an upwards assault against well-prepared defenders was sure to be a costly matter. Even with the superior firepower, surprise, speed, and training of the Wild Geese and Hibernians, reaching and breaking out into the second level was a difficult task and ultimately, where the majority of casualties were inflicted upon them.

17 upper gallery

#17 The upper gallery. With taller doorways, more windows, and graceful stonework throughout, the ceiling of the second level soars and also receives some cooling sea breezes scalloping down and in through the circular opening to the roof and the sky beyond. Despite its refinements, the upper gallery is also designed for murderously effective defense against any intruders who might fight through the single, double-portcullised entrance into the arms court. And for any attackers who might (improbably) get this far, access to the roof level was only to be had through three stairways protected within rooms lining the promenade.

18 Fort Carlos

#18 Fort Carlos. Not seen in the narrative per se, but a location of grave concern to the attackers who escaped by boat, Fort Carlos is a bastion of a later age. Built specifically both to house and resist the fire of cannons, it shows the squat, “star fort” walls with raked glacis outer surfaces and wider and more functional interior marshalling areas for mustering troops and repositioning heavy equipment. In the final stages of construction at the time of the novel, it had already become the “serious” harbor defense, with Castell de Bellver being relegated to the equivalent of a second governor’s residence, garrison, and maximum security prison—a role in which it continued for almost another two centuries.

19 Tramontera

#19 The Tramontera. These scrub-covered mountains predominate along the northern fringes of Mallorca, becoming more steep and inhospitable as one progresses from these western slopes to the towering easternmost extent of Formentor.  These are the low peaks between which the rescuers’ dirigible fled at the end of the extraction mission—and which, navigating on a dark night, were objects that posed their own dangers.

20 secret tunnel

21 secret tunnel

22 secret tunnel

#20, #21, #22   The secret tunnel up into Castell de Bellver. These three pictures warrant a story that goes a long way to illustrate how persistence and blind luck can often combine to be an author’s best friend.

As I evolved the story of the rescue of Frank and Giovanna Stone, I saw a variety of ways for the strike team to get into Castell de Bellver, but an exit was less clear. Any number of ruses could have inserted a team within its walls—and indeed, Owen Roe O’Neill and one of his Wild Geese employ one such trick to sneak inside. However, once there, even opening a door for a larger waiting force was problematic: how would so large a force be waiting close enough, undetected, and then not become hopelessly bogged down engaging the troops whose duties and billets were outside the walls in service of the batteries in the artillery revetments? I thought about postulating the existence of a secret tunnel, but, while many such fortifications often had these hidden escape routes, it seemed unfair and just a bit too authorially convenient to invent one.

Except, as it turns out, I didn’t have to.

I visited Castell de Bellver three times. On the last and final occasion, I called ahead and made an appointment with a curator to get a guided tour. We walked nearly every linear foot of the place and I learned many things about it I had not before. However, I was no closer to finding my answer to a reasonable method of mass attack—and certainly, mass escape. On our way to the exit, as we passed by the storeroom immediately to the left of the entrance (from the internal perspective), I noticed that it had a light barricade in front of it, proclaiming it temporarily closed to visitors. What was going on there, I asked.

“Oh, that’s where we found a hidden tunnel,” exclaimed my guide. Stunned, I asked if I could see what they had unearthed.

Buried beneath two courses of stone flooring, what you see in the first picture is the claustrophobic descending cleft, from the perspective of someone about to head down into it. The other two images are taken from the side of the aperture and show the staircase, which was fashioned from stone risers laid across grooves cut into stepped ramps carved from the limestone that predominates beneath the fort’s foundations.

At the time of my last visit, the history of the tunnel was still a mystery. It had been explored enough to determine that it connected with subterranean galleries from which much of the finer-grained stone of the castell itself had been quarried. However, time and water had eroded some of the limestone chambers and passages and it was unclear when (or even if) the other end of the tunnel would ever be found. However, given its unswerving eastward course and steady if gentle declination, all conjectures pointed to an egress point well down the slope and probably halfway to the shore: a logical escape route for a party of besieged personages of high station. Which is just how the passage is depicted in Papal Stakes.

So, truly, the third time was the charm in my three visits to Castell de Bellver—and if you find yourself in Mallorca, I urge you to take a tour and explore this piece of living history yourself.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse behind the scenes, and among the faces on the cutting room floor, that went into the making of 1635: The Papal Stakes. Although science fiction, and more specifically alternate history, I hope this imparts some of the effort and diligence with which authors in the series pursue authenticity and factual details of locales, organizations, objects, and individuals which were the living (and often breathing) realities of that epoch. We might not get everything right—who could?—but it’s never for lack of trying.

Thanks for coming along for the trip—and for having read 1635: The Papal Stakes.


Art Director’s Note: With the exception of the title banner, all of the images in this article are courtesy of the author, Charles E. Gannon. I tried to stay as close to the author’s original concept of presentation throughout the piece as I could, within the limitations of our software. If the reader wishes to, they can click on any image here in the Gazette’s online version for a larger view.

Hungary and Transylvania, Part 4: High Politics of Hungary at the Ring of Fire

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Here is the list of persons either living in the Ring of Fire period or who directly impacted the political scene leading up to the Ring of Fire:


HT4bksstvnIstván Bocskay, Prince of Transylvania (1557-1606)

He was a very important figure leading up to this period: learning about his person and his achievements is essential to understand the situation in 1630. Many people, active at the time of the Ring of Fire, had fought under Bocskay and Bethlen, two heroes of Protestantism. You can see his statue on the Reformation Wall in Geneva, Switzerland, next to Luther’s.

Bocskay was an extremely wealthy nobleman of Royal Hungary and Transylvania. He had played important roles in previous Transylvanian politics and eventually gained more lands and power. He was also a skilled general and in 1595, the Transylvanian army under his command advanced into Wallachia and together with the Wallachian voivode defeated the Ottoman army nearby. The young Gábor Bethlen, the next prince of Transylvania, served in his army and was his advisor.

Later the Habsburgs cast their eyes on his vast lands and accused him of treason in order to confiscate his possessions. He had no choice but to lead a revolt against the Holy Roman Empire.  He established an alliance with the Ottoman Empire and, supported by the Hajdus (emancipated peasant warriors or armed herders), compelled the Viennese court to reaffirm and guarantee the religious freedoms of and his right to his lands.

Bocskay also succeeded in gaining the support of the middle and partially the upper classes of the Hungarian nobility for his struggles. More and more rebels flocked to his forces, and as a result of this, Bocskay’s army won two critical battles against the Habsburg armies. In 1605, István Bocskay was elected to be the ruling prince of Hungary and Transylvania and by the end of the year, Bocskay gained supremacy over Transylvania and the entire part of the Kingdom of Hungary which was not under Ottoman control and eventually forced Archduke Matthias to open negotiations on recognition.

Prince Bocskay granted titles of nobility to 9,254 Hajdus and settled them on the northern part of River Tisza. He allowed tax benefits for their towns which provided them the economic ability to serve militarily. They had the personal obligation to defend the country, thereby becoming the principality’s favored social class.

At the same time, the Ottoman sultan sent a magnificent jeweled crown to Bocskay to make him king for Transylvania and Hungary. It is important to know that the Turks never gave anyone a crown and it was not their intent at this time, either. It was Bocskay’s diplomatic success to achieve it and as it turned out, it was just part of a magnificent political show.

The Turks received Bocskay in Pest and under great celebrations he was belted with a decorative saber and dressed in a cloak embroidered richly with gold and silver. Then, the second mightiest man of the Ottoman Empire placed the Turkish crown, sent from the Sultan, onto Bocskay’s head. This crown was said to have belonged to the last Byzantine Caesar, a masterpiece of a Persian goldsmith, it had been highly esteemed in the Sultan’s treasury.

At this point, the coronation took an unexpected turn: Bocskay profusely thanked them for the gift and suddenly took it off his head, saying that he could not accept this crown’s authority above the Holy Crown of Hungary. “As the Holy Crown is on Emperor Rudolf’s head, I cannot be the crowned king of Hungary, according to the Hungarian laws,” he declared and handed the Turkish crown over to one of his men, Homonnai Drugeth, to guard it. The Turks and the assembled people were astonished but it may have been possible that the present Great Vizier and Pasha Lalla Mohamed of Buda had known what would happen. The Turkish crown remained with Bálint Homonnai Drugeth and later it was confiscated from his heirs by the Court of Vienna where you can see it in the museum.

We can see how Bocskay refused the royal dignity, but made skillful use of the Turkish alliance.

The Habsburgs, who wanted to save the Hungarian provinces and set aside the unstable Rudolf II, entered into negotiations with Bocskay and concluded the Peace of Vienna in 1606. The peace guaranteed all the constitutional and religious rights and privileges of the Hungarians both in Transylvania and Royal Hungary. Bocskay was acknowledged as Prince of Transylvania by the Austrian court, and the right of the Transylvanians to elect their own independent princes in the future was officially recognized. Simultaneously, the Peace of Zsitvatorok was concluded with the Ottomans, which confirmed the Peace of Vienna: it ended the Fifteen Year War between the Habsburgs and the Ottomans. It is worth noting that at the time of the Ring of Fire many Hungarians in their forties or fifties had military experience from either this long war against the Turks or from Bocskay’s campaigns.

Bocskay survived this diplomatic triumph for only a few months—on 29 December 1606 he was allegedly poisoned by his chancellor, who was then hacked to bits by Bocskay’s adherents (or enemies?) in the town’s marketplace. It was never learned which empire had been responsible.



HT4gbrbthlnGábor (Gabriel) Bethlen (1580-1629)

He was a Protestant uncrowned King of Hungary (1620-21) and a Prince of Transylvania (1613-29) and Duke of Opole (1622-25) who led an insurrection against the House of Habsburg in Royal Hungary. He was the one who turned Transylvania into the famous “Fairy Garden” as it was called at that time.

Bethlen was born in Transylvania and served in the court of Zsigmond (Sigismund) Bathory, a Transylvanian prince, and accompanied him on his campaign to Wallachia. Although he was a Calvinist, he helped György Káldy, a Jesuit, translate and print the Bible. He also composed hymns and from 1625, employed Johannes Thesselius from Erfurt, as kapellmeister (composer).

As many Ring of Fire stories deal with musicians, some facts about musicians in Bethlen’s court seem worth mentioning. Bethlen loved music and in addition to eight previously-hired German musicians he had six harpists and violinists and invited more from Silesia. He also had Italian and Polish musicians as well as eleven Turkish players. There were additionally twelve trumpeters and when Catherine of Brandenburg, his second wife, arrived, she brought along the organ player Michael Hermann who later became the city judge in Brassó (Kornstadt). Bethlen also invited organ builder masters from Germany in 1629. The last group of ten musicians arrived in January, 1628, led by the dance master called Diego del Estrada.

As previously stated, in 1605 Bethlen supported Prince István (Stephen) Bocskay and his successor Gabriel Bathory (1608-1613). Bethlen later fell out with Báthory and fled to the Ottoman Empire where he made excellent connections.

In 1613, after Báthory was murdered, the Ottomans installed Bethlen as prince of Transylvania and this was also endorsed by the Transylvanian Diet at Kolozsvár (Cluj, Klausenburg). Taking advantage of the chaotic situation after the previous prince’s murder, Bethlen was able to get into power by relying on his diplomacy at the Sublime Porte. After using the Turks’ military assistance so openly, he tried hard to improve his reputation because he was accused of “Turk friendship,” and Transylvanians in general were mockingly called “Turks with hair on” by other Hungarians.

The Transylvanian-Turkish relations were far from peaceful; it was an alliance born under pressure and the parties didn’t trust each other at all. Bethlen tried to manipulate and use his Turk “allies” as much as he could. Transylvania was still too far from both Vienna and Istanbul and Bethlen had to pay the Turks only symbolical taxes to keep them out of his country. The Turks said about Bethlen that “. . . even those who show friendship toward us, do not wish the victory of the Muslims.” Nevertheless, in 1615, after the Peace of Tyrnau, Bethlen was also recognized by Matthias, Holy Roman Emperor.

Bethlen’s rule was one of patriarchal enlightened absolutism. He developed mines and industry and nationalized many branches of Transylvania’s foreign trade. His agents bought goods at fixed prices and sold them abroad at profit. In his capital, in Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia), Bethlen built a grand new palace. Bethlen was a patron of the arts and the Calvinist church, giving hereditary nobility to Protestant priests. He also encouraged learning by founding a college, encouraging the enrollment of Hungarian academics and teachers, and sending Transylvanian students to the Protestant universities of England and the Low Countries, as well as in the Protestant principalities of Germany. He also ensured the right of serfs’ children to be educated.

Bethlen maintained an efficient standing army of mercenaries. While keeping relations with the Sublime Porte, the Ottomans, he sought to gain lands to the north and west. During the Thirty Years’ War, he attacked the Habsburgs of Royal Hungary (1619-1626). Bethlen opposed the tyranny of the Habsburgs and the persecution of Protestants in Royal Hungary, as well as the violation of Bocskay’s Peace of Vienna, 1606.

In August, 1619, Bethlen invaded Royal Hungary for the first time and took Kassa (Kosice) in September. His Protestant supporters declared him the leader of Hungary and protector of Protestants and thus he gained control of Upper Hungary. Three Jesuits were mercilessly executed in Kassa that same month, under his authority but without his knowledge. Later these victims, one of which was a good friend of Péter Pázmány, became known as the Martyrs of Kassa and were canonized by the Catholic Church.

In October, 1619, Bethlen took Pozsony (Bratislava, Pressburg), where the Palatine of Hungary ceded him the Holy Crown of Hungary. He was able to take the Royal Hungarian territories quite easily because the local landlords and the warriors of the Frontier sided with him at once. Skeptics may say that the nobility swore fealty to him because they didn’t want armies marching through their lands.  After all, at that time it was only Bethlen who could guarantee the territorial status quo and the nobility’s unperturbed continuity of their feudal rights. Also, Bethlen’s quick success somewhat resembled the glorious age of King Matthias. On the other hand, the petty nobility appreciated that Bethlen had the money to offer an honest rate of pay for both the warriors of the Frontier and the Hajdus, the free soldiers. He encouraged them to join him, and they flocked to his flag: a foot soldier was paid three florins and a rider received four per month. It was very little, but at least it was paid regularly.

In November, his army took the suburbs of Vienna. Unfortunately, they did not take Vienna, and soon the forces of George Druget, Captain of Upper Hungary and Polish mercenaries forced Bethlen to leave Austria and Upper Hungary.

In 1619 everything was ready for Bethlen to be elected and crowned King of Hungary, but if he had taken the title and the Holy Crown at that point, he would have made any further talks with Ferdinand II impossible. In the summer of 1620 Bethlen refused the Holy Crown like Bocskay had in 1605 but later negotiated for peace at Pozsony and in Kassa. He finally received ownership of thirteen counties in the east of Royal Hungary in that same year and was elected King of Hungary at the Diet of Besztercebánya (Banská Bystrica). As a result the war with the Habsburgs resumed.

In his 1620 campaign, Bethlen was successfully able to call the Hungarians to his flag again. He entered Royal Hungary with only three thousand Transylvanian soldiers, but when he arrived in the Trans-Danubian region, all the warriors of the frontier castles, from Tata, Pápa, Veszprém, Várpalota, Sümeg (mentioning just the biggest ones of the fourteen strongholds that changed sides) gladly joined forces with him after a very short time. They reasoned this way: “We have made this turn over neither in hope of booty nor for aspiring after someone’s property: but it was out of true love of our homeland and our agreement in defending the freedoms of our country and to safeguard and restore justice, and above all, it was out of the desire of the right to freely live to our faith and religion that had driven us in our actions.” Bethlen appreciated that they were the best warriors, experienced and hardened through the wars with the Turks for many generations. The Austrian general Buquoi and Miklós (Nicholas) Eszterházy tried to force them back to the Emperor’s service in 1621, but in vain; the warriors followed Bethlen’s call and in January they gathered near Szombathely (Savaria) to oppose General Collato’s army. It was interesting that these warriors fought not only against Bethlen’s enemies but also against Bethlen’s Turkish “friendly” auxiliary forces which were pillaging the Hungarian countryside.

In 1621, Ferdinand II regained Pozsony (Bratislava, Pressburg) and the central mining towns. Now it was Bethlen who asked for peace, and in December, 1621, the Peace of Nikolsburg was made. Bethlen renounced his royal title on the condition that Hungarian Protestants were given religious freedoms, and in return he was given the title of Imperial Prince of Hungary and Transylvania, seven counties around the Upper Tisza River, the important fortresses of Tokaj, Munkács (Munkacsevo), and Ecsed (Nagyecsed), and a duchy in Silesia. The Peace of Nikolsburg was a result of Bethlen’s realization that he alone didn’t possess sufficient power to reunite Hungary against the Habsburgs and that trying to do so without getting rid of the Turkish yoke would lead to great peril.

In 1623, 1624, and 1626, Bethlen, allied with the anti-Habsburg Protestants, made campaigns against Ferdinand in Upper Hungary. The first campaign ended with the Peace of Vienna in 1624, the second by the Peace of Pozsony (Pressburg) in 1626. After the second campaign, Bethlen offered the court of Vienna an alliance against the Ottomans and offered himself in marriage to Renata Cecilia, the Archduchess of Austria, but Ferdinand rejected it. Instead, on his return from Vienna, Bethlen wed the young and beautiful Catherine of Brandenburg, the daughter of John Sigismund, Elector of Brandenburg and the brother-in-law of Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden. Catherine’s sister was the wife of Christian IV of Denmark, who had just attacked Ferdinand.

After Bethlen’s death in 1629, it was his wife, Catherine of Brandenburg, who became the only female crowned ruler of Transylvania in 1629-1630. She is the connection between the Swedes and the Hungarians.

Swedish-Hungarian diplomatic relations began with negotiations, and when King Gustav Adolph’s envoy, Filip Sadler [i.e., Philip Sattler], arrived in Transylvania in 1626, he tried to persuade Bethlen to attack Poland. Bethlen sidestepped and offered to meet Gustav Adolph’s troops in Silesia. The Swedish-Transylvanian negotiations went on in Gyulafehérvár, Bethlen’s capital. They discussed how to aid each other mutually against the emperor, and the Swedish made an attempt to gain joint monopoly over the red copper mines. It is likely that Bethlen wanted the Polish throne for himself and may have thought of Gustav Adolph as his rival.

The princely wedding with Catherine of Brandenburg took place in Kassa (Kosice) in 1626, but only under the condition set by the bride that Bethlen should make a compensation for the Jesuit martyrs who were executed a few years previously in the very same city. Catherine was twenty-one and Bethlen was forty-five; the latter spoke neither German nor French so they must had had language barriers at first. After arriving in Transylvania, Catherine wasn’t warmly accepted by the nobility because she was too fond of grandeur and festivals. Besides, she was German. Soon gossip started connecting her with a handsome young count, István Csáky. On top of that, Bethlen seemingly fell in love with her, giving her luxurious presents and nominating her as his heir on the throne, just a few months after the wedding. The influence of the young Count Csáky had been growing and became more and more obvious. Yet, after Bethlen’s death in 1629, the nobility raised no obstacles and allowed her to take the throne, in accordance with Bethlen’s will. Bethlen had assigned his younger brother, István Bethlen, to act as a governor, thus assisting in Catherine’s reign.

The Protestant István Bethlen developed a strong dislike towards the princess because the young Catholic Count Csáky’s influence had become even stronger. The young nobleman was given control over seven royal counties in 1630 and convinced the spiritually unbalanced Catherine to convert to Catholicism and tried to make her negotiate with the Habsburgs. Although the princess hadn’t done anything wrong during her ten-month reign, her suggestibility forecast a frightening prospect for the future, and nobody wanted to take the risk. So István Bethlen and the nobles played the inexperienced princess off against the laws and took her power and wealth away, making her resign in September, 1630, just a few months before the Ring of Fire.

It was around this time that György Rakoczi appeared on the scene, and a fierce political fight developed between István Bethlen and him for the throne of Transylvania. The humiliated Catherine of Brandenburg took her revenge on István Bethlen by voting against him in favor of György Rákóczi. Her intervention decided the fate of Transylvania . . . she was able to obtain the Sultan’s athname for Rákóczi that officially put him in power. She read it in the Council with utter pleasure. The details of events concerning Catherine between 1630-1633 before she left Transylvania, never to return, would take an entire article by themselves.

In Vienna Catherine met Francis Charles, Prince of Saxonia and Lauenburg. They married in 1639 and lived happily together until she died in 1649.

Gábor Bethlen left behind a stable and independent country, a true “Fairy Garden.” It remained George Rakoczi I’s task to make it even stronger. When Wallenstein came to know of his adversary’s death, he was cursing and loudly exclaimed that “it was due time that he has finally croaked.”



HT4ptrpsmnyPéter Pázmány (1570-1637)

He was a Jesuit, a noted philosopher, theologian, cardinal, pulpit orator, a “Hungarian Cicero in purple” and a great statesman. He was considered to be the most important figure in the Counter-Reformation in the Hungarian kingdom. It was said, “He was born in a Protestant country and died in a Catholic one.” He created the Hungarian literary language and became the Primate of Hungary, the chief priest of the kingdom, in 1616.

In 1619 he founded a seminary for theological candidates at Nagyszombat (Trnava) and in 1623 laid the foundations of a similar institution at Vienna, the still famous Pazmaneum. In 1635 he founded the university in Nagyszombat. The faculty of Theology later, in modern days, became the famous Peter Pázmány Catholic University of Budapest, named for him. Pázmány also built Jesuit colleges and schools at Pozsony (Bratislava, Pressburg) and Franciscan monasteries at Érsekújvár (Nove Zamky) and Körmöcbánya.

It was chiefly due to him that the Diet of 1618 elected Archduke Ferdinand to succeed the childless Matthias. He also repeatedly softened the martial ambitions of his good friend, the Transylvanian Prince Gabriel Bethlen and prevented György Rákoczi I, over whom he had a great influence, from allying with the Ottoman Empire and the Protestants.

Pope Urban VIII made him a Cardinal in 1629. He was assigned by the emperor to be the tutor of young Nicholas (Miklos) Zrinyi.

In 1630 he was in Rome and tried through his influence with the pope to help his country. Sadly, the pope was very cold to him and was happy when he left.

The emperor sent Pázmány to Rome again in 1632 to persuade the pope to support the steps against the decline of Catholicism. Pázmány asked the pope to dissuade Louis XIII of French from supporting the Swedish king. Urban VIII turned it down, saying that the Swedish king’s war motives were not religious ones. While Paul V and Gregory XV perceived the Thirty Years War as a religious struggle, Urban VIII didn’t because he was looking at it from the Italian princes’ viewpoint. The Pope strongly disliked the Spanish success and could hardly hide his happiness as he witnessed the Habsburgs’ decline. The Pope absolutely agreed with Richelieu on that.

In vain did Pázmány hope that the Catholic forces would do away with the heretics first, then would sweep the pagan Turks out altogether. The Barberinis of Rome praised his clever brain and wits but coldly refused his plans. He was told that he couldn’t be an advocate nor envoy of rulers because he was a high priest. He was sent back to Vienna with a very small amount of financial support against the Turks.

Later, the pope was not very happy with one of the Spanish rulers’ idea that he wanted Pázmány to return to Rome.

In one of his letters to the Emperor Ferdinand II, written in Pozsony in 1632, Pázmány suggested the creation of a western Catholic coalition against the Turks. “I know very well what they say about the Austrian Empire in Rome,” he wrote. “They think you do nothing against the Ottomans and you only want to make war with foreign help.” He did his utmost to use his influence with the pope to provoke Ferdinand and urge the war. It was a measure of his skill that he could negotiate between Prince Rákóczi and István Bethlen in 1636.  He died in Pozsony in 1637. (Unless possibly superior medical treatment from the future prolongs his life—his good intentions and negotiator’s skills could be most helpful.)



Péter Alvinczi – born Nagyenyed (Aiud), 1570; died Kassa (Kosice, Kaschau), 1634.

He was a famous Reformed pastor, polemicist, and the great adversary of Archibishop Péter Pázmány. He studied first at Nagyvárad (Oradea). It is unknown whether he went to Switzerland and Italy but he must have gone to Wittenberg and Heidelberg, Germany. He returned in 1602 and became a dean in Debrecen, then became a pastor in 1603 in Nagyvárad where he stayed until 1604. He was invited by Prince Bocskay to come and be his pastor at Nagykereki. He accepted and became the Prince’s vicar. He was then a pastor in Kassa, 1606, where he stayed in this office until his death in 1634. When the three Jesuits were executed in Kassa, allegedly it was he who had demanded their death; one of them used to be a dear friend of Péter Pázmány. He became most famous for his debates with Archibishop Péter Pázmány. He wrote political pamphlets and exchanged letters with Prince Gábor Bethlen. He also published a Latin grammar book and was dealing with Hungarian grammar as well but his Hungarian grammar book published in 1639 has since disappeared.  He would probably not have welcomed the Americans from Grantville, despite being a Protestant. Yet because of the Ring of Fire, he could possibly have lived beyond 1634.



HT4ncsthzyBaron Miklós (Nicholas) Esterházy (1583-1645)

He was the founder of his family’s wealth. Coming from the lower nobility he rose to became a baron, count, and Palatine of Hungary. He had seven younger and two elder brothers as well as two sisters. He was brought up in Vienna by the Jesuits.

He converted to the Catholic faith in 1601, and his father disinherited him and chased him away from home. During the siege of Esztergom he was in one camp with Wallenstein in 1604 but nothing is known about their relationship. After serving under the former palatine, he went to Kassa where he served under its captain.

He became immensely rich because of his first marriage in 1612 with Orsolya Dersffy, the widow of the departed captain of Kassa. He had been having a love affair with Orsolya—who was many years older than him—while her husband (his boss) was still alive. Later the lady helped him a lot, and they had a son, István, in 1616.

Orsolya died in 1619 and Esterházy married another rich widow, Krisztina Nyáry, in 1624. During the fifteen years of their marriage they had nine children.

The Habsburgs noted Baron Esterházy because he was one of the few members of the Hungarian nobility to convert to Catholicism, and also because of his zeal in fighting the Turks. The king made him a baron, along with five of his brothers, in 1613, and the next year he gained his reputation as a negotiator in Linz.

His former Jesuit tutor was Péter Pázmány, and Esterházy helped him to be promoted to archbishop of Esztergom. Their relationship later was spoiled, and Pázmány vehemently attacked him in public many times while Esterházy blamed the Jesuit for his friendly relations with the almost bigot Calvinist Prince Rákóczi I. Pázmány also tried to restrict the palatine’s power and rights in favor of his own authority.

Esterházy had been in battles against the Turks during the Long War, but he also defeated the army of the Pasha of Bosnia in 1623. (When the pasha was dismissed by Prince Bethlen from his camp, the Turk soldier returned angrily home, packed with plunder and slaves. He was attacked and utterly defeated by Esterházy when crossing the Nyitra river. All the Christian captives were freed, and it was guessed that it may have been Bethlen himself who had informed Esterházy about the pasha’s route in order to get rid of his unwanted Turkish ally.)

The Emperor made him Palatine of Hungary in 1625, giving him the highest political function in the country. This time the Palatine’s annual salary was twenty-two thousand Hungarian florins. He also became Count of Fraknó and Knight in the Order of the Golden Fleece in 1626. He had been entrusted with the most important questions of the country since 1622. In his court he surrounded himself with the most talented young Hungarian aristocrats whom he trained to become successful diplomats. The list of his titles and domains is long. He fought against Prince Bethlen and was rewarded by the Emperor for it. Also, he was an enemy of Prince György Rákóczi I. Esterházy collected a five thousand-strong army when the Prince was crowned and tried to defeat him, but Rákóczi won the battle of Rakamaz in March, 1631, by sending his Hajdus to attack the mounds of the fortification.

The emperor issued some warnings against the palatine in the 1630s because he had made some attacks from the frontier castles against the Turks. He was said to have been struggling with the emperor and many times had considered resigning from his posts.

He openly supported the Hungarian interests in court and organized the upkeep of the frontier castles. Esterházy established the famous library called Bibliotheca Esterhazyana in his palace in Lackenbach, near Vienna. This palace also had a huge and elegant Renaissance garden. He considered writing to be as important as politics. His court became a meeting place of notable theologians of the age. He founded a renowned treasury-collection at his other main residence, the great castle of Fraknó (Forchtenstein) of Upper Hungary.

The palatine’s goal was to bring about the unity of Royal Hungary and Transylvania under the Habsburgs’ rule in order to defeat the Turks. He considered Transylvania a puppet-state of the Ottoman Empire, a dangerous bastion against the Catholics, but he defended the feudal privileges of the Hungarian nobility and fought for the emperor’s approval of an independent Hungarian army at the same time.

After the death of Ferdinand II in 1637, he suddenly had many enemies, although the Ring of Fire could change this. In the original timeline he was central in Hungarian anti-Protestantism and achieved the conversion of many Hungarian aristocrats, including Ádám Batthyány and Ferenc Nádasdy. He also supported the baroque-style constructions and music throughout the country.

During his last years, the young Miklós Zrínyi visited him. Later Pál Esterházy, Miklós’ son, served under Zrínyi against the Turks.

Four members of the Esterházy family died in the battle of Vezekény against the Turks when they defeated an army that was three times bigger than theirs. The palatine’s son, Pál, never joined the conspirator aristocrats against the court and helped the Habsburgs put down Prince Ferenc Rákóczi II’s freedom fight in 1703-11.

Palatine Miklós Esterházy is a dividing figure, and one can’t jump to conclusions about his person easily. It is true that he fought against the Turks with all his might, but he was absolutely loyal to the Habsburgs. The reaction of Miklós Esterházy to the Americans’ arrival is an open question.



HT4rkczigyrgyGyörgy I Rákóczi (1593-1648)

He was an important Hungarian nobleman who became Prince of Transylvania from 1630 until his death in 1648. During his influence Transylvania grew politically and economically stronger. He was a well-educated and tolerant, “modern” absolute ruler with good military skills and experience. As a strong and independent sovereign ruler of Transylvania, an area then twice as big as modern-day Hungary, he was indeed in a position to make a difference in the Thirty Years War after the Ring of Fire.

In 1605 he was placed in the service of then-Prince István Bocskay. After Bockskay’s death in 1606, he rejoined his father, Zsigmond (Sigismund) Rákóczi. Zsigmond was elected Prince of Transylvania in 1607, but resigned a year later.

In 1619, György joined Prince Gábor Bethlen’s invasion of Royal Hungary, ruled by Ferdinand II as king. György commanded a wing of Bethlen’s army, which was sent to oppose a Polish army coming to the aid of Ferdinand. The Polish force defeated Rakoczi’s force at the Battle of Homonna (Homoneau, Humenné) on November 23rd. As a result, Bethlen had to give up his attack on Vienna and make peace. This is the attack on Vienna in which its suburbs were taken.

It is an interesting commentary on Rákóczi’s character that when he was with Bethlen’s army he received the news that his wife was about to deliver a baby. He didn’t care about the dismay of Bethlen and left the army behind just to be with his wife.

Rákóczi remained in Bethlen’s service until Bethlen died in 1629. Bethlen was briefly succeeded by his widow Catherine, and then his brother István. But the Transylvanian Diet soon turned to György instead. On December 1, 1630, at Segesvár (Schäsbrich, Sighisoara), the Estates elected Rákóczi as Prince.

He made a treaty with Ferdinand II in 1631. Rákóczi was accepted as a prince and in return he was obliged to send away the Hajdu troops. The Sultan also reaffirmed Rákóczi’s title during the same year in June.

Rákóczi was even more independent from the Turks than Bethlen had been. In 1636 he defeated the Pasha of Buda at the Battle of Nagyszalonta. Four years later he made a coalition against the Turks with the Polish king Sigismund III—unless the Ring of Fire has changed all of this.

Rákóczi followed in Bethlen’s steps and also sent a delegation to Sweden but it happened too late because Gustav Adolph had died—in that timeline—so Rákóczi couldn’t join the Swedes against the Habsburgs to take Hungary back from the Austrian usurpers. Their coalition was delayed because the Swedish king wanted Rákóczi’s military support against the Austrians quite unconditionally. But Rákóczi had his own terms: he wanted to keep his lands and the Transylvanian tradition of freedom of religion.

The Habsburgs had done everything to hinder Rákoczi’s intervention in the Thirty Years War: they had bribed the Turkish serasker (chief military leader under the sultan) who threatened to send Tatar and Turkish raiders to Transylvania if Rákóczi tried to attack the Austrians. When this serasker received his “silk string” from Murad, this obstacle was not there anymore.

So it happened in our original timeline that a decade later Rákóczi was free to decide to side with the Swedes when he learned that Torstensson broke into Austria after 1642 at Olmütz. With the coming of the Ring of Fire, who knows where twentieth-century technology will take this land?  Rákóczi occupied the whole Hungarian Highland from the Habsburgs as his fellow Transylvanian princes in the past had made a habit of doing, and in February, 1644, his army was on the march to join Torstensson at Vienna. Finally the prince joined the Swedish army in Bohemia where they were besieging Brno.

In 1644, he intervened in the Thirty Years War, declaring war against the new emperor, Ferdinand III. He was able to achieve his basic military goals (keeping his lands intact and defending the unique Transylvanian religious freedom) with an army that outsmarted superior forces, without a major defeat. He didn’t really want to bring the Austrian kingdom down before dealing properly with the Turks since the Habsburgs represented at least some kind of an opposing power against the sultan. The international political situation was unique, but finally resulted in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. As part of the treaty, Rákóczi and Ferdinand made peace, too, at Linz.

Rákóczi didn’t hurry to help Torstensson in our timeline but he would probably have made more haste had he suspected that the Grantvillers might be willing to help him to get rid of both controlling powers—the Habsburgs and the Ottomans. In any case he couldn’t have come to such an agreement with the USE before 1636, but he could have let the Turks reach Vienna in 1637, in exchange for some strategic forts. The Turks’ successful Viennese campaign must have increased his political and military value in the hope of a future agreement with the USE.

Not encountering the Grantvillers, he ruled until his death in 1648 and left behind a magnificent Transylvanian Fairy Garden to be utterly destroyed by the Habsburgs and the Romanians in future centuries.



Dávid Zólyomi (around 1600-1649)

He was a tough Secler soldier of the age, vice-general of Prince György Rákóczi I, who started his career under Prince Bethlen as the Chief Captain of Field Armies. He married István Bethlen’s daughter, Kata Bethlen, in 1629. They had two children, Krisztina and Miklós.

In 1630 he took Rákóczi’s side against Catherine of Brandenburg and had a great role in helping Rákóczi to the throne. Along with his brother-in-law, Péter Bethlen, he was defeated by the army of Palatine Miklós Eszterházy in 1631 at Rakamaz. He defeated a peasant uprising led by Péter Császár in 1632.

His friendship with Prince Rákóczi worsened so much that he exchanged letters with the Pasha of Buda in order to prepare his escape if it was needed in 1632. He wanted to make the prince continue his fight against the Habsburgs so the prince had to arrest him. He was sentenced to death but was pardoned and instead imprisoned in the castle of Kővár. After his death the prince didn’t take away the lands of his widow.



HT4nkzrnskBaron Miklós (Nicholas) Zrínyi (1620-1664)

Born in Csáktornya (Cakovec) from a Croatian father and a Hungarian mother, he was an outstanding Hungarian military leader, statesman, and poet, having written the first epic poem in Hungarian literature.

Although Miklós Zrínyi was only eleven years old at the time of the Ring of Fire, his story is a good example how the Habsburgs were treating Hungary and the Turkish question. After the early loss of his parents, Péter Pázmány was made his caretaker and tutor. He inherited the northern part of his family’s lands and gradually chose to feel himself a Hungarian, rather than a Croat.

With Pázmány’s help Zrínyi became an enthusiastic student of Hungarian language and literature, although he prioritized military training. In our timeline, he accompanied Szenkviczy, one of the canons of Esztergom, on a long educative tour through Italy from 1635 to 1637. The young aristocrat was received by the pope, and Zrínyi gifted him with a collection of his poems written in Latin.

Over the next few years, he learned the art of war in defending the Croatian frontier against the Turks and proved himself one of the most important commanders of the age.

Their family raised the money for their wars against the Ottomans from their own income: they traded with salt, grain, wood, and cloth. They herded 40,000 grey cattle annually to the marketplace of Légrád (Legrad) in order to avoid paying taxes to Vienna. They made a business contract with the Turk Pasha of Kanizsa as well as with the Venetian merchants to trade. They used their own armed men to herd the cattle to the harbors. It all looked very close to treason but the family was reasoning to the court that they needed the money for the defense of their homeland, and they had to get it from somewhere because Vienna couldn’t have financed the wars alone.

In 1645, during the closing stages of the Thirty Years War, Zrinyi acted against the Swedish troops in Moravia, equipping an army corps at his own expense. At Szkalec he scattered a Swedish division and took two thousand prisoners. At Eger he saved the life of Ferdinand III, who had been surprised at night in his camp by the offensive of Carl Gustaf Wrangel. Although not enthusiastic for having to fight against Hungarians of Transylvania, he subsequently routed the army of George I Rakoczi on the Upper Tisza river. For his services, the emperor appointed him Captain of Croatia. On his return from the war he married the wealthy Eusebia Draskovich.

In 1646 he distinguished himself in the actions against Ottomans. At the coronation of Ferdinand IV, King of Austria, King of Germany, King of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia, he carried the sword of state and was made a “Bán” (duke), and the Captain-General of Croatia. Yet, his loyalty to the Habsburgs had been continually declining.

During 1652-1653, Zrínyi was fighting against the Ottomans; nevertheless, from his castle he was in constant communication with the intellectual figures of his time. The Dutch scholar, Jacobus Tolius, even visited him, and has left in his Epistolae Itinerariae a lively account of his experiences. Tolius was amazed at the linguistic resources of Zrínyi, who spoke Hungarian, Croatian, Italian, German, Turkish, and Latin with equal ease. It was also noted how heroically Zrinyi had led his people to battles, often deciding the fight with his personal bravery.

In 1655, he made an attempt to be elected Palatine of Hungary. In spite of getting support from the petty nobility, his efforts failed as the king—because of Zrínyi’s good connections to the Protestants and the Hungarians of Transylvania—nominated Ferenc Wesselényi instead.

In 1663, the Turkish army, led by Grand Vizier Köprülü Ahmed, launched an overwhelming offensive against Royal Hungary, ultimately aiming at the siege and occupation of Vienna. The Imperial army failed to put up any notable resistance; the Turkish army was eventually stopped by bad weather conditions. As a preparation for the new Turkish onslaught due next year, German troops were recruited from the Holy Roman Empire, and aid was also called for from France, and Zrínyi, under the overall command of the Italian Montecuccoli, leader of the Imperial army, was named commander-in-chief of the Hungarian army. In 1664, Zrínyi set out to destroy the strongly fortified Suleiman Bridge of Eszék (Osijek). Destruction of the bridge would cut off the retreat of the Ottoman Army and make any Turkish reinforcement impossible for several months. Zrínyi advanced 240 kilometers in winter, through enemy territory and destroyed the bridge on 1 February 1664. He was frustrated by the refusal of the imperial generals to cooperate. The court remained suspicious of Zrínyi all the way, regarding him as a promoter of Hungarian separatist ideas. Zrínyi’s siege of Kanizsa, the most important Turkish fortress in southern Hungary, failed, as the beginning of the siege was seriously delayed by machinations of the overly-jealous Montecuccoli. Later the Emperor’s military commanders, unwilling to combat the grand vizier’s army hastily coming to the aid of Kanizsa, retreated.

The court concentrated all its troops on the Hungarian-Austrian border, sacrificing Zrinyi to hold back the Turkish army. The Turks, ultimately, were stopped in the Battle of Saint Gotthard (1664). The Turkish defeat could have offered an opportunity for Hungary to be liberated from the Turkish yoke. However, the Habsburg court chose not to push its advantage in order to save its strength for the future conflict that would be known as the War of the Spanish Succession. So the infamous Peace of Vasvár, the peace with the Turks, was negotiated by Zrínyi’s adversary, Montecuccoli. The peace treaty laid down unfavourable terms for the Hungarians, not only giving up recent conquests, but also offering a tribute to the Turks, all despite the fact that Austrian-Hungarian troops were the stronger.

Yet, Zrinyi was internationally praised, received the Golden Fleece, and was honored equally by the pope, King Louis XIV of France, and King Philip IV of Spain.

Zrínyi hurried to Vienna to protest against the treaty, but he was ignored; he left the city in disgust. It is widely accepted that he, despite being a loyal supporter of the court before, participated in the conspiracy which later became known as the Wesselényi conspiracy for an independent Kingdom of Hungary. However, on November 18, he was killed in a hunting accident by a wounded wild boar. Until this day, legend maintains that he was killed at the order of the Habsburg court and “that boar spoke German.” No conclusive evidence has ever been found to support this claim; however, it remains true that the Habsburgs lost their mightiest adversary with his death.

Zrínyi is also well known for his literary works. He is the author of the first epic poem in Hungarian language, written in 1648-1649.

Its subject is the heroic but unsuccessful defense of Szigetvár (1566) by the author’s great-grandfather, who was also called Miklós Zrinyi and who lost his heroic life by desperately attacking the besiegers on the last day of the Turks’ siege. It is interesting that Suleiman I the Great, the victor of Mohács who had defeated the Hungarian King Louis in 1526, also finished his life during this siege, and his heart was buried there.

Miklós Zrínyi wrote another famous political work about the Turkish peril. Its title is Do not hurt the Hungarians—An antidote to the Turkish poison.  He makes a case in it for a standing army, moral renewal of the nation, the re-establishment of the national kingdom, the unification of Royal Hungary with Transylvania, and, of course, driving the Turkish out. He thought a well-organized, small, modernized army of five to six thousand men could be a core of a standing army, and he himself was able to rise this army anytime (as he had offered this in his letter to the Emperor Leopold I before his death.)

Unfortunately, it was this political open-minded thinking and activity that was observed with utter suspicion from Vienna.

Miklós Zrínyi wrote a book about the greatest Hungarian king, King Mátyás (Matthias), showing up the idea of a strong national monarchy, and this idea was a counterexample of the current reigning foreign dynasty, governing from Vienna. Zrínyi, along with the contemporary public opinion, regarded the Habsburgs as weak and if not outright ill-disposed towards the Hungarians, at least incapable of defending their Empire against the “rage of the Ottomans.” There were opinions that Zrínyi, the Bán (Duke) of Croatia could be a better leader of the Hungarian Kingdom. Some say it was Zrínyi himself who may have hinted this. In his book about King Mátyás he remarked that the great king hadn’t come from any ancient dynasties but was elected freely by the Hungarian nobility. However, Zrínyi never claimed openly that he wanted to get the crown. On the other hand, he was trying hard to get the rank of the Palatine of Hungary and to achieve it, he had built a very good relationship with George Rakoczi II, Prince of Transylvania. The Transylvanian prince in the 1650s was believed to be the perfect ruler with capable characteristics and conditions to conduct the reunion of the country with success.

Zrínyi was a devout Catholic but he was far from being a fanatic. He addressed the Protestant nobility like this: “I am of a different faith, but your lordships’ freedom is my freedom, if you are hurt, I am hurt, too. I wish the prince had a hundred-thousand good papists, a hundred-thousand Calvinist and the same Lutheran warriors, they could save this homeland . . .” (. . .) “I hold a confiding Lutheran in higher esteem than an evil-hearted Catholic.” (. . .) “Dear Sir, we have to keep our oaths even to infidels, how much more we should keep our words to our Christian brothers.” (. . .) “Attacking someone under the name of the religion is not right, it is against God’s mercy; also, it is a great sin and wrong to break our agreement with our enemy, under the cover of religion.”  Here he refers to that contemporary belief that the Hungarian King Ulaszlo I had broken alliance with Sultan Murad II, and because of his perfidy he was killed at the Battle of Varna in 1444.

Zrínyi was also affected by the French idea of separating church and state and the concept of national absolutism.

At this time the Swedish king was paying closer attention to the anti-Ottoman wars and to Protestant Transylvania. Stäyger, the delegate of the Swedish ruler in Vienna, in 1655, wrote home that the Catholic aristocrat Zrínyi spoke against the Jesuits and had had a conflict with Prince Auerperg in the Court of Vienna, in an audience of the emperor which almost resulted in a duel.

Zrínyi’s opinion about religious wars was plain: “I can hardly believe that it would either be kind before God or acceptable for men to attack all of our neighbors or any Christian princes only under the excuse of religion. There are other reasons that force us to fight against the Turks or against other enemies who either share our faith or not; there are more noble reasons than the religion.”

His family’s slogan was Sors bona, nihil aliud (Only good luck, nothing else), but he used to add that God gave the fortune and showed the way. Human efforts must be made, of course: “. . .the human mind never gets so much help for the valiant soldiering or for any other thing as from learning and reading history.”

There are some rather interesting additions about Miklós Zrínyi’s family background. His father, György Zrínyi was said to have possessed outstanding characteristics. He was a Protestant. His wife was of this faith as well, but he was converted to Catholicism in 1619 by Péter Pázmány. George Zrínyi was in his best health when he joined Wallenstein’s army in 1626, April, but died in Pozsony in the same year at the age 29. Eyewitnesses wrote that Wallenstein had him killed during a lunch by giving him a poisoned radish. It is not a totally mad accusation since Wallenstein himself had written a letter to Vienna when he was very angry at Prince Bethlen for defeating his army. He proposed to the Austrian king that Bethlen should be gotten rid of by poison. There was not too much love in the Hungarians towards Wallenstein at the time of the Ring of Fire. Just imagine, had Wallenstein not died in 1634, how would Miklós Zrínyi, the second largest statesman in the Carpathian Basin beside George Rakoczi I, react in 1636 or 1637? Would the young Zrínyi, knowing that his father was murdered by the Grantvillers’ ally, join the Habsburgs who, after all, had been destined to mercilessly kill both him and his younger brother in a future unchanged by Grantville? This foreknowledge would likely leave him feeling that he had nowhere to go for advice except George Rákóczi I, Prince of Transylvania.

Miklós had a younger brother, Péter, who took care of the family’s lands near the Adriatic Sea and defended the shores against the Turks all of his life. He, too, is considered a great Croatian hero. He was later tried for treason and was beheaded by the Emperor after Miklós’ suspicious death in a hunting accident in 1664.



Zsigmond Erdődy ( ?-1639)

He was the Bán (Duke) of Croatia between 1627-1639. He studied in Vienna in 1610-11, then married Anna Keglevich in 1616. He became the Chief Count of Varasd, upon his father’s death, in 1624. The Turks defeated him at Kulpa in 1625; they shot his horse out from under him.



Countess Mária SzéchyCountess Mária Széchy (born in Rimaszécs, about 1610; died in Kőszeg, 1679)

She was a Hungarian aristocrat who became known as the “Venus of Murány castle” for her extremely good looks. She had three husbands: first, when she was 17 she wed István Bethlen Jr., captain of Várad, who died after five years of marriage in 1632. Then she was the wife of István Kun, Chief Comes of Szatmár county between 1634-1637, but she divorced him. Finally she wed Ferenc Wesselényi, captain of Fülek castle, in 1644 when she was about 34. Later it was Wesselényi who was the leader of a famous conspiracy against the Habsburgs for which all the conspirators—Péter Zrínyi was among them—were beheaded. Wesselényi had died before the plot was discovered but Mária Széchy spent some time in prison because of it, too.

Mária had been strongly disliked and even hated by moralistic people of her time. She was said to be eccentric, unconventional, and she was rebuked for her love of men’s clothes and riding a horse like a man. It was also written about her that although she liked pageantry, she also spent great amounts of money on charity as well, supporting hospitals and poor students. She was a Protestant and her family’s lands were among the largest in Upper Hungary. Her family’s center, which was on a strategic location, became the impregnable castle of Murány in 1617. Later the castle of  Murány fell into Prince Rákoczi I’s hands.Wesselényi (at that time still loyal to the Habsburgs) and his wife, Mária, took it back in 1645 from their in-laws by outsmarting them: Mária Széchy–while her family was at Rákoczi’s side—entered the castle and made the guards drunk.



Pasha Murtesa (?-1635)

First he was a pasha in Bosnia but later he became the Pasha of Buda between 1626-1630. He became Pasha of Silistria in 1603 and he was there until 1632 when he was appointed as the Pasha of Dijárbeker. He married the widow of Pasha Háfiz Ahmed in February, 1633. His wife was the sister of Sultan Murad IV.  At the end of that year he was ordered to Constantinapolis where he became a kaymakam (lieutenant-governor). He was the serdar (general) in the 1634 war against the Polish. He was made Captain of the Castle Erivan in 1635, where he died next year.



Pasha Adjem Hussein (?–1631)

He was of Persian origin, and he was the standard-bearer of his country. He became the Pasha of Buda in February 1630 and vizier at the same time. He was removed from these offices in October, 1631, which so saddened him that he died after a few days. It’s possible that the Ring of Fire  might change the circumstances which led to his death.



Pasha Beirám (?–1638)

He was born in Constantinople (current day Istanbul), he was an odabasi and a chorbadji. He became a muhzi-aga in 1620 then he was a turnadjibashi in 1622, then received the rank of a samsudjsibashi and a zagardzibashi the same year, whatever these names may mean. He became a jannichar-kiaya in October 1623 then a jannichar-aga. Four or five weeks later the sultan was forced to remove him from this function but as compensation he was named Pasha of Egypt in 1626. He was removed from there in 1628. He was called back to the court, and they made him the sixth vizier among the viziers. He was appointed as the Pasha of Buda in 1631 but a few days later he became a vizier again. The sources mention him as the Pasha of Rumelia in 1632. Next year he married one of the sultan’s elder sisters and thus was made a kaymakham. He acted as the Pasha of Buda again in 1634, but for just a few weeks. Then he became vizier again; and kaymakham for the second time. He wore the title of grand vizier in February, 1637. He was leading the Ottoman army against the Persians toward Baghdad but he died on the road in Djulab, in August, 1638.



Pasha Musa (?-1647)

He was the Pasha of Buda between 1631-34, 1637-38, and 1640-44. He was appointed to be the Pasha of Buda at first in October, 1631, and he was dismissed in June, 1634. He had to go to the court, but he became Pasha of Buda again in February 1637. A year later he was summoned to the court and was given the office of kaymakham. He became a second vizier in June, 1639 and in 1640 he was made Pasha at Buda for the third time. Four years later he was called to the court and they made him Pasha of Sivás. He was a kapudan-pasha in 1646. He was killed during an attack of a Venetian warship while traveling from Crete to Morea in 1647. The Ring of Fire could entirely change his timeline after 1631, and he could be involved in the Ottoman Onslaught.



Pasha Hussein

He was a silibdar-aga and he became a vizier and the Pasha of Buda in June, 1634. He was removed a few days (!) later from this office and became Pasha of Bosnia. Soon he was sent away from here, too, and was made the leader of Sanjak Paphlagonia. He became the Captain of Erzerum in 1635.



Pasha Djáfer (?-1635)

He was a bostandjibashi. He was made a kapudanpasha and a vizier in July, 1632. He became Pasha of Buda in July, 1634. He was sentenced to death and stringed in May, 1635, Buda, in the original time line; events may have changed significantly for him after the RoF.



Pasha Nazuhpasazade Hussein

He had a high rank at court. He became Chief Master of Horse in 1634. Sultan Murad IV promoted him to be Pasha of Buda and vizier in 1635. At the end of February, 1637, he was made the Pasha of Rumelia by the Emperor but he lost this office in September. He stayed in the Divan as a vizier and in 1639 he achieved the rank of Pasha of Erzerum.



Pasha Tabani Jassi Muhammed (?–1639)

He was of Albanian origin and had been the servant of Mustafa Kizlar-Aga and succeeded him as a Chief Master of Horse. He became Pasha of Egypt in 1628 but was summoned to the court in 1630. He became the grand vizier from 1632 to 1637. He was assigned to Buda as its pasha in 1638 and he became Pasha of Silistra as well. He was removed from Buda in February, 1639, then went to the court where he was made a kaymakham in May. He was imprisoned into the Yedikule fortress and stringed accordingly in December, 1639.



Benedek Cseszneky

Nobleman from Pozsony (Pressburg) county. He was converted from Lutheran to Catholic.

He acted as Ferdinand II’s negotiator on the peace talks with the Transylvanian prince until 1626 and was rewarded by the emperor with a village. His wife was Sára Kánya of Budafalva. Their son’s name was Peter.



Pál Nádasdy (Born in 1597, Sárvár; died in 1633 at Csepreg)

His father died when he was seven and his uncle’s son, his cousin, Tamás, took care of him until 1620. Tamás supported the anti-Habsburg Bocskay but Pál remained loyal to the king.  Pál reached adulthood when he was thirteen in 1610 so he could officially take over offices that went with the male members of his family; this was the year he became the Chief Comes of Vas county (which was one of the hereditary offices of his family). When Ferdinand was crowned in 1618, Pál was made a so-called “knight with the golden spurs.”

Unlike his predecessors, Pál disliked politics and economics; he preferred hunts and pageantry. His property was taken care of by his man János Vitnyédi. His offices were: 1605, hereditary Comes of Sopron County; 1610, hereditary Comes of Vas County; 1622, hereditary chief-captain of Trans-Danubian Captaincy; 1627, chief captain of the frontier opposing the Turk-held Kanizsa castle; 1623, royal advisor and chief senechal; 1625, count and chief chamberlain.

He completed the construction of Sárvár Castle in the manner of his family’s tradition in 1615. He constructed printing houses at Csepreg and at Sopronkeresztút, too. He also sponsored talented students learning abroad such as the Protestant preacher of Csepreg, István Letenyei. Letenyei had his prayer book printed in Csepreg in 1631, in the printing house run by Imre Farkas.

Pál wed his second wife, Judit Révay, in 1620. Their children were Ferenc (eight years old at the Ring of Fire) and Anna Mária, who became a nun.



János Homonnay Drugeth (1609-1645)

He was the one who gained the title of count for his family. They were the wealthiest lords in Zemplén County and Ung County, but he had lands in Poland, too. His father György was converted to Catholicism in 1610 and he began anti-Protestantism on his vast lands. He settled Jesuit priests to his land at Homonna in 1612. Later he supported the union between the Orthodox Catholics and the Roman Catholics by bringing the high priest Athanasius Krupetzkij from Poland to Munkács (Munkacsevo) in 1613, along with 50 lesser priests. This gave an excuse later to Prince Bethlen to take away György’s lands in Zemplén County (even Homonna was taken away) so there was a traditional enmity between the Drugeth family and the tolerant Transylvania. The elder Drugeth was defeated there in Homonna in a bloody battle in 1619.

János continued his father’s policy of converting those in his lands and helped Bishop Tarasovich Bazil get his office in Munkács in 1633.

János helped to put down the peasant uprising of Péter Császár in 1632 in Gönc, with the help of the palatine and István Bethlen. He played a rather cruel role in it. He got back his lands of Zemplén County and the city of Homonna for his deed. He became Captain of Kassa and the judge of the country in 1636. Prince György Rákóczi took Homonna from him again in 1644 and the family began its decline.

See “The Austro-Hungarian Connection” in Ring of Fire II and subsequent mainline novels for his role in the New Time Line.


Below the Radar in the Hungaries:

Notable People from Ring of Fire Hungary


Palatine Ferenc Wesselényi (1605–1667)

He was a Hungarian aristocrat, general, and the Palatine of Hungary 1655-1667. His father, István Wesselényi (1583-1627) was a court advisor to Ferdinand II.

He was brought up in a Jesuit school in Nagyszombat (Trnava, Tyrnau) where he became a Catholic. He had immense physical strength and was quick-tempered; soon he became a soldier. He was very young when he took part in several battles against the Turks. He helped the Polish King Wladyslav IV Vasa by bringing him Hungarian troops against the Russians and the Tatars for which he was rewarded with Polish nobility and received a dominium worth one hundred thousand florins, too. Later Ferdinand II made him a count and the Captain of Fülek castle. He became the Chief General of Royal Hungary in 1647 and fought against the Swedes and against Prince Rakoczi II. He got hold of the castle of Murány in 1644 as has been described. For this deed he was gifted the castle of Balog as well. At the 1655 Diet of Pozsony (Pressburg, Bratislava) he was elected as palatine of Hungary. As a Palatine, he took part on the coronation of Leopold I. He was fighting the Turks in 1663. After the suspicious death of Miklós Zrínyi in 1644, he joined the conspirators against Vienna in 1655, supported all the way by Péter Zrínyi. Wesselényi died before the plot was discovered so he could not be executed.



Count Miklós Forgách

He was a count in Ghymes and Gács and the Chief Master of Treasury in Royal Hungary. In 1633 he was the Chief General of Upper Hungary and the representative of Ferdinand II at the same time. He was not alive in 1649. His wife was Eszter Bossányi who wrote a Hungarian letter to Prince György Rákóczi II in 1649.



Zsófia (Sophia) Bosnyák, born Nagysurány, 1609–died Sztrecsény, 1644.

She was the lady of Sztrecsnó Castle, Upper Hungary. Her father Tamás Bosnyák was a famous warrior who had been valiantly fighting the Turks. Her mother was Mária Kenderes. She was seventeen when she was made to marry Mihály Serényi, the Captain of Fülek and Szendrő Castles. The marriage lasted for only a few months, and her husband died in 1626.

She returned to his parents’ home, but her mother also died that year. Next year she lost her twenty-two-year-old brother. Her father was fighting the Turks this time in Fülek, so Zsófia had to manage the family’s lands. Soon she has become known as the generous helper of the poor and the sick.

She was twenty-one when Archibishop Péter Pázmány assisted her in marrying Palatine Ferencz Wesselényi. They moved to Sztrecsnó castle and had two boys: Ádám was born in 1630 and László in 1633. Later they moved to Vágtapolca.  Zsofia’s father Tamás Bosnyák died of cholera in 1634 so Palatine Wesselényi took Fülek Castle over and then he rarely came home to visit Zsofia because Fülek was frequently attacked by the Turks because of its strategic location.

So Zsófia had to carry on maintaining the lands and bringing up the children. She was taking care of the poor, too; she established a house for them that was used as a hospital as well. The locals respected her for her good heart. Legend says that her husband cheated on her with the famous Mária Széchy, the “Venus of Murány Castle,” and Zsófia grieved a lot because of it. She spent more time with charity and regularly went to pray to the chapel of the castle at night. She had an apparition of the Holy Mary who allegedly told her to trust and pray. Eventually, her health gradually got worse, and she died at the age of thirty-five. She was put to rest in the chapel of Sztrecsnó castle.

Her brother, István Bosnyák, the bishop of Nyitra (Nitra) was two years older and died the same year. Sztrecsnó Castle got a new owner in 1689 who, when he took the place over, found the fully untouched body of Zsófia in the chapel. The body was taken to the church in Vágtapolca, Wesselényi’s village. Zsófia Bosnyák’s resting place had become a pilgrim’s destination and crowds arrived to see her in her glass-covered coffin. Her body was destroyed in 2009 when a thirty-one-year-old Slovakian man set it on fire with gasoline.

The Ring of Fire could have changed this portion of history quite a bit if Tamás Bosnyák didn’t die of cholera in 1634, and if Zsófia didn’t die at age thirty-five.



Count Pál Csáky (born circa 1603, died sometime after 1649)

He converted to Catholicism in 1614 and studied in Vienna between 1620-23, acquiring an unusually high education for his time and age. He began managing his estates in 1623 and then settled down in the Castle of Nagyalmás, in Transylvania.

He was 22 in 1625 when he married Éva, the daughter of the Hungarian Palatine Zsigmond Forgách. Éva died in April, 1639, so he married again in 1640 to Maria, the daughter of the Chief Comes (Count) of Abaúj, György Perényi. Anna died in September, 1641 and he remarried in 1643, taking the hand of Krisztina Mindszenti. He had a total of nine children from these marriages.

Prince Gábor Bethlen made him the Chief Comes of Kolozs county in 1625. He belonged to the most confidential circles of Catherine of Brandenburg, the wife of the prince. This was the reason why Prince György Rákóczi I chased him out of Transylvania in 1630, under the charge of usurping the throne. His lands were confiscated at the same time, just a year before the Ring of Fire. (This could possibly make him a likely “refugee” to Grantville. He had the education and courtly contacts in both Hungary/Transylvania and Austria, and he doesn’t quite seem to qualify for high politics. It could be made quite plausible that—upon hearing about the Ring of Fire—that he traveled to Grantville as a paid agent of the Habsburgs, copied  pages regarding Hungary and Transylvania from a late-sixties-era encyclopedia and returned to Vienna to study, absorb, and forge the information to mislead his personal enemy, Prince Rákóczi I of Transylvania. At which point he’d regret not having lifted more information about the Habsburgs and the Soviet Union. He could be the source of thinking that the Americans in Grantville would be antagonistic toward Hungary and the other Soviet-bloc countries).

In Royal Hungary he became the Captain of Szendrő Castle in Borsod county, in Upper Hungary, in August, 1633. He also gained the estates of Tarcal and the castle of Tokaj from Catherine of Brandenburg. Soon, he got his Transylvanian estates back, too. He was made a count in 1636. Through his marriages he got the castle of Szepes with 123 villages in Upper Hungary, for just 85,000 florins—which in 1651 finally became 168,000 florins because of the machinations and the greediness of the Viennese court. The Austrian emperor made him master of the treasury in 1647, for his deeds in the campaign against Prince György Rakoczi I. He was on the Diet of Pozsony (Pressburg) in 1649 and had visited Vienna countless times. This ex-lover of Prince Bethlen’s wife and turncoat would make a prime anti-Grantviller.



Count Nádasdy Ferenc (1623-1671)

Judge of the Country, aristocrat. Later he was beheaded in Royal Hungary for taking a leading part in the Wesselenyi conspiracy against the emperor. He would have been about eight years old at the Ring of Fire, and about thirteen or fourteen by the time of the Ottoman Onslaught against Vienna.



Baron István (Stephen) Thököly (1581-1651)

He was a wealthy aristocrat in Upper Hungary and unconditionally supported the Habsburgs. He would have been fifty years old at the Ring of fire, and his son, István, born in 1623, would have been about thirteen or fourteen by the time of the Ottoman Onslaught in the NTL. OTL he took part in the Wesselényi conspiracy (ca 1664-71) and was punished for it severely. His descendant was the famous Imre Thököly who rebelled against the Habsburgs and let the Turks come to Vienna in 1683. If he had known how rebellious his family members would become, how would this affect his relationship with the Habsburgs?



István (Stephen) Pálffy (1586-1646)

Aristocrat, Comes of Pozsony, general and Chief Captain of Trans-Danubian Region, loyal to the Habsburgs.  His mother was Mária Fugger, from the wealthiest banker family of Europe. He was guarding the Holy Crown 1608-1625. He was given high functions and became advisor to the king and the emperor. Betlen defeated and captured him in 1621 but he remained loyal, nevertheless. He was freed in exchange for 24,500 florins. Ferdinand made him a count in 1634. He respected Péter Pázmány very much. Pálffy was converting people very aggressively.  He raised a cavalry contingent for the Emperor in 1639. He remained a very firm adherent of the Habsburgs all his life. An older man at the Ring of Fire (about forty-five), he would likely be set in his ways, suspicious of the American technology, and possibly a strong adversary of the Americans.



Benedek Bakai (?-Sárospatak, February, 1633)

He was a teacher and a school principal from Kassa (Kosice). After finishing his basic schooling, he went to Belgium in 1622 then to the University of Wittenberg in 1625, and he was the first Hungarian who went to study in England. Returning home, he became a teacher or priest in Kassa (Kosice). Prince György Rákóczi I invited him to lead the college of Sárospatak in 1630.



János Bánfihunyadi (Joannes Banfi Huniades) (Nagybánya, 1576-Amsterdam, 1646)

Professor. His father was a Reformed pastor, Benedek Mogyoró of Bánfihunyad, bishop of the Trans-Tisza River Region. After his studies in Europe, János (Joannes) went to England and studied chemistry. Later he taught mathematics and alchemy in the Gresham College of London. At the beginning of his stay in England he made his living as a goldsmith, according to early English sources. Prince György Rákóczi I invited him in 1633 to come and teach at the Academy of Kolozsvár (Cluj, Klausenburg) but he couldn’t accept it due to his previous obligations in England. He became the acolyte of Sir Kenelm Digby 1633-1635. He had an English wife named Dorothy Colton, the daughter of Sir Francis Colton from Kent County, and they had four children. They set out to Hungary together in 1646 but he died in Amsterdam. János and Dorothy could be quite affected by the Ring of Fire, depending on their standing with the English government. As a Protestant scientist/mathematics teacher, Charles I could make their fellow church members’ positions quite uncomfortable. It’s possible that since Charles sold the rights to New England to the French, that János could lead a migration to Hungary/Transylvania in the NTL.

He was dealing with the effect of the mercury on gold and silver as well as different technological problems of chemistry. He was experimenting with the production of paints, glues, glass, and the creation of basic materials for medicine. One of his chemical formula can be found in the Bibliotheca Bodleiana in Oxford. He had a recognized name among the contemporary British scientists, and he was closely connected with Arthur and John Dee, William Lilly, John Booker, John Aubrey, and Jonathan Goddard. At the same time he was in everyday connection with his homeland and had been a great helper of Hungarian students in England.



János Bényei Deák  (?-1645)

A Reformed teacher and pastor. Educated in Hungary, he then taught in Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia), 1630, and in Marosvásárhely (Tirgu Mures ), 1633.

He was a tutor of two sons (Zsigmond and György) of Prince György Rákóczi I at Gyulafehérvár, and he edited the Latin handbook of  Janua Linguarum Bilingvis, Latina et Hungarica with his pupils. He accompanied his students abroad, visiting the University of Leiden in 1634 and the University of Utrecht in 1635. Upon his return home, he became the second teacher in the college of Sárospatak in September, 1637. In his inaugural he made a speech about the “Merciful wisdom and the wise mercyness,” and he taught rhetoric among other things. He resigned in 1641 and became a pastor at Mád, and he was made a scrivener by the Diocese of Abaúj. He died of cholera in 1645. His life could have been quite altered by the Ring of Fire.



György Berényi (Bodok, 1601-1677)

Politician, writer. He learnt at Körmöcbánya (Upper Hungary) in a monasterial school and went abroad to an unknown university. Returning home, he became the castle captain of the aristocrat Forgach family, first at Sempte, then he served the Thurzó family at Temetvény as a captain.

He wrote a diary about the happenings of the Diet of Sopron (1634-35) and of the Diet of Pozsony (Pressburg, Bratislava) between 1634 and 1638 where he was a delegate of Nyitra County. He became the leader of the county’s insurrection in 1641, and he was a delegate again on the 1642 Diet. He joined the royal army against Prince György Rákóczi I in 1643.

We can find him in Rákóczi’s service in 1646 but two years later returned to Vienna and got a dominium from the king in 1655 for it. Next year he was made a baron. He was successfully negotiating with Rákóczi on behalf of Emperor Leopold I in 1659. He became a royal advisor at the court in 1660. He seemed to change sides easily.



Gáspár Bojthi Veres (born 1595, died after 1640)

Teacher; secretary of Prince Gábor Bethlen and later court member of Prince Rákóczi I.

He studied in Debrecen from 1613, then from 1617 to 1620 he studied in Heidelberg, at Prince Gábor Bethlen’s expense. Returning home in 1621, he next became a tutor to István Bethlen and a teacher at Marosvásárhely. The prince made him his historian and a professor as well, at Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia). He was responsible for the archives of the local church. Prince Rákóczi I made use of his services as a secret envoy to Germany in 1640.



Tamás Borsos  

He was a teacher, the son of Prince Bethlen’s envoy, Tamás Borsos. He travelled abroad for ten years. He finished his studies at the University of Padua in 1632 where he got his physician and bachelor of arts degree. After returning home, he became a Unitarian teacher and dean in Kolozsvár (Cluj, Klausenburg). Here he wed Anna Ádám in 1638. He resigned from his dean position in that year and worked as a physician. At this time he began to write his diaries, keeping records of his family and contemporary history until 1647.



János Büringer

He started his studies at the University of Wittenberg in April, 1631. In the 1630s there were about three hundred Hungarians learning or teaching in Western schools: he was one of them. He was teaching between 1644-47 in Besztercebánya (Banská Bystrica), Upper Hungary, then in Eperjes (Prjesov) in 1648. He became a notary public in Modor in 1651. Finally he taught at the Evangelical College of Pozsony (Bratislava, Pressburg) until his death. János might make a good agent of change in Hungary if he became fascinated with the new technology available because of the Ring of Fire.



Péter Czack  (?-1636)

He was a writer and a member of a delegation in 1602 from Kassa (Kosice) to Lőcse (Levoca), escorting Peter Zabler. He was a skilled diplomat and in 1605 successfully negotiated with the Hajdu soldiers who were threatening his city, Lőcse (Levoca). We can see him among the city’s officials from 1606 until his death: he was in charge of taking care of the buildings’ and roads’ safety. He was a city judge between 1632-33. He kept a diary that has disappeared. It’s possible that his life could be expanded by medical knowledge learned from Grantville and/or that he becomes interested in America’s up-time building codes and road construction.



Anna Csáky

She was a nun of the Poor Claires, the daughter of Master of Treasury István Csáky and Anna Wesselényi. She joined the nunnery in Pozsony (Bratislava, Pressburg) in 1625. She sent letters from there to her mother and brothers and to Gábor Vadas between 1639-71. We know twelve of her letters which bear witness of her high education.



Baccio (Bartholomeo) del Bianco (1604-1656)

He was a painter, a stucco-artist, an architect, and a military engineer. He was born in Florence and he got his artistic education there. He became the assistant of Giovanni Battista Pieroni and set out to find his luck in the Holy Roman Empire in 1620.

The Council of War assigned him to examine the castles and walls in Hungary. He made scale models of Mosonmagyaróvár and Pozsony and was working on the walls of Győr, Sopron, and Komárom. Later he and Pieroni worked on the fortifications of Prague. At this time, 1623-30, Andrea Spezza was building Wallenstein’s palace in Prague, between. They got work here, too: Pieroni had designed the stanza of the garden while Baccio del Bianco made the stuccos of the central great hall between 1629-30.

Then he returned to Italy and taught architecture and fortification building in Florence. He designed the plans for the facade of the cathedral in Florence. He joined the court of Phillip IV of Spain in 1650 where he was organizing festivities and designing gardens until his death. As an architect and artist he probably would have been fascinated by the technological advancements made possible by the up-timers.



Johann Heinrich Alsted (John Henry Alsted, Alstedius)

(Ballersbach, 1588-Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia), 1638)

He was a German Protestant theologian and philosopher and epitomized what would now be called a Renaissance man. He was teaching between 1629-1638 at the College of Gyulafehérvár where he had come with Heinrich Bisterfeld and Ludwig Piscator at Prince Bethlen’s invitation. He created numerous encyclopedic works regarding theology and philosophy, which were well-known at the time. We know of three hundred fifty-five of his works.



Tamás Borsos  (born in Marosvásárhely in 1566, died sometime after 1633)

He was a notary public and city judge in Transylvania, and also acted as Prince Bethlen’s envoy to the Turks.



Mihály Dálnoki Nagy

He studied at the Unitarian college of Kolozsvár (Cluj, Klausenburg), then travelled to Italy in 1631 and studied at Padova. He returned in February, 1637. He became the president of the university. In 1645 he was studying the solar eclipse and was almost totally blinded. He was famous for his remarkable memory and for teaching philosophy. He was a pastor from 1646 on. Knowledge from Grantville would have (hopefully) saved him from losing his eyesight and certainly would have expanded his thoughts on philosophy.



Péter Debreczeni (Debrecen, 1608-?)

He was a Protestant pastor who studied in Debrecen (located in Turkish-occupied land) and became a teacher there. He was learning in western universities from 1636 on (Leiden, Franeker). He was a pastor at Munkacs (Munkacevo) in 1647 and in 1649 and perhaps in 1666 as well. Later he was pastor at Técső.



István Deselvics  

A Protestant pastor from Győr, in 1630 he was studying at the University of Leipzig, then came home and became the court pastor of Count György Széchy, the Lord of Murány Castle.



Zsuzsánna Dóczi

A poet in the Trans-Danubian region, her religious songs can be found in the Codex Lugosy of 1635.



Count Miklós Draskovits (1595-1659)

A poet, he was in school in 1608 when he wrote a poem for the nobleman, Ferenc Forgács. He was said to be an envoy of this nobleman. His wife was Erzsébet Endrődy.



Dániel Dubravius

Lutheran bishop from Zsolna (Upper Hungary). His parents gave him a nice education. He went abroad to learn and returned in 1619. He was teaching in Breznóbánya and in Bánóc in 1630. Then he became a pastor for Count Predmirre, and from there he went to Szenic. He had to run away from there because of his religion. Finally, he was elected bishop in Bánóc in 1648. He was a great orator and had a good knowledge of the Bible. He was a humble person and dressed in very cheap clothes.



Mátyás Duchon

Lutheran poet from Nyitra county (Upper Hungary). His brother was Florián Duchon, a Lutheran pastor. He gained the title of doctor and was famous for smaller poems.



János Fabinus (?-1644)

Lutheran pastor. His ancestor came from Poprád (Upper Hungary). He was studying in Boroszló in 1630. He was shot down at Illésháza by one of the hussars of Rákóczi.



Ambrus Földvári

Protestant pastor from the first part of the seventeenth century who wrote epic poems and translated the Catechisatio, Theologia, and Theologicum Examen of Guillelmus Bucanus into the Hungarian language. These works were never printed and were entirely lost.



Pál Fráter (?-1658)

Soldier, poet. He was the son of a Transylvanian judge, and his mother was Ilona Horváth Suselich. He was a soldier at several points during the reign of Prince György Rákóczi I.

In 1634 he was arrested because he was accused of being a friend of István Bethlen, the enemy of the prince. He was imprisoned in his own castle from where he escaped to Royal Hungary.

It was during his exile when he wrote his poetic letter to Anna Barcsay. Later he became a confidential advisor of Prince György Rákóczi II, the next ruler, and he was given the leadership of the Hajdu soldiers. He got his lands back in 1654, after the campaign in Moldova. There are lots of different possibilities for this character post-Ring of Fire.



Pál Keresztúri Bíró (?-1655)

Protestant preacher, distinguished educator and famous for his polemics.

He studied in Debrecen, where he became a student of theology in 1617. He became president of the students in 1620 and returned to his home village to teach in 1622. He went to Bréma, Germany, in 1624 and to the Netherlands. The following year he took a longer trip in England and came home in the summer of 1626. He set out again in 1627, presumably sent by Prince Gábor Bethlen. He became a student at the University of Leiden and came home during the late summer of 1629 to become the leading teacher of the University of Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia), in the capital of Transylvania.

He was instructing the children of Prince György Rákóczi I from the summer of 1634 on. In this court-school the children of the Prince studied together with the children of the Transylvanian nobility. He became the court-priest of the next ruler, Prince György Rákóczi II, at Várad. He moved to Gyulafehérvár in 1648 and took charge again of leading the court school.

His theology consisted of a synthesis of traditional Reformed thought and Puritanism. He firmly represented the theological inheritance of the traditional Protestantism. It was not enough for him just to know the theory in all details but he was urging people to consider these principles very thoroughly and make them into a personalized religious experience. This experience was supposed to be obtained continuously, with a very close-to-God feeling. In his preachings he emphasized the Puritan moral views and not the prophetic zeal. He highlighted that a Christian man should spend his life in constant spiritual activity. He debated with his Jesuit adversaries both theologically and politically. He defended the writings of Prince György Rákóczi I, too.

In his pedagogics he thought that physical punishment should be avoided and rather than that, placidity and motivation should be applied. He didn’t consider the children “small adults” as they had been considered in the Middle Ages. In his pedagogics he used the sense of humor, the good mood, and playing, more open-mindedly than others. He thought that the attention of the children should be attracted all the time. His thinking was similar to Comenius’ slogan:  “Omnia sponte fluant, absit violentia rebus” or: “Let everything go on and let the violence be far away.”

He didn’t teach reading and writing apart from each other, but taught them side by side. His students had to learn first in Hungarian and later in Latin. In teaching a language he put the emphasis on talking skills rather than making the children memorize the grammar. He may have been the first who taught the basics of modern languages this way. He taught the languages of neighboring nations and the “civilized nations’ ” languages as well: Romanian, Polish, Turkish, German, French, and English were taught in his school.



Gáspár Madách (1590-1641)

He was a juryman, judge, and a representative of the Diet of Upper Hungary. He was a comes (count) from 1636, the familiaris of the aristocrat Simon Balassa, the director of his properties of Kékkő Castle. He wrote poems in Hungarian and in Czech languages:  these writings were not considered the best poems on Earth.


Some Final Thoughts:


The Hungarian heroism against the Ottoman Empire allowed the civilized Western monarchs to fight their political/religious wars for thirty years.

As a result of the Ring of Fire, the Prince of Transylvania would have learned that after these wars the Austrians would drive the Turks out after the siege of Vienna in 1683. Once Buda was retaken, Hungary would be liberated by the allied European crusaders. Contemporary sources agreed that this “liberation” caused greater misery and destruction across Hungary than the long Turkish occupation, not forgetting the Serbian attacks and massacres that followed it in the 1700s.

After forcing the Turks out, Hungary would lose the last bits of its independence and even Transylvania would fall into the hands of the Habsburgs, who, after putting down two major wars of independence (1704-1711 and 1848-49), would finally force Hungary into their monarchy, taking control over foreign, military, and financial affairs. They had only been able to create their monarchy with the Russian tsar’s help.

Hungarians would learn through the Ring of Fire that the Austrian Habsburgs would bleed them dry for three hundred years in defense of Christendom and then drag them into the First World War. Hungary was the only country in 1919 that shrank back to a smaller size than what it had been after 1541, with the allied American and West European politicians signed the Treaty of Versailles which took away seventy-four percent of its territory.

The Habsburgs were common enemies of Hungary and the USE, and the Turks could have been manipulated into crushing them. Obviously, there were either no negotiations with the Grantvillers before 1637 or they were kept completely secret. Either the Habsburgs or the Turks could have succeeded in stopping or hindering them.

It would be very much in the prince’s interest to use the Turks to destroy the Habsburgs. Of course, he would have asked for a high price from the sultan for letting them through. Who knows how many cities, villages, and strategic castles would be returned to the Transylvanians in exchange for the passage to Vienna? Who knows how many Hungarians could be saved from the Muslims’ slavery? How much stronger would his power grow?




The following books have given me a great help in writing my article:

Péter Katalin: “A magyar romlásnak százada” Budapest, 1979

Péter Katalin: “Esterházy Miklós” Budapest, 1985

Hegyi Klára: “Egy Világbirodalom végvidékén” Budapest, 1976

Újváry Zsuzsanna: “Nagy két császár birodalmi között” Budapest, 1984

Bitskey István: “Pázmány Péter” Budapest, 1986

Makkai László: “Bethlen Gábor emlékezete” Budapest, 1980

Nagy László: “Megint fölszánt magyar világ van” (Társadalom és hadsereg a 17.század első felének Habsburg-ellenes küzdelmeiben) Budapest, 1985

Földi Pál: “Zrínyi Miklós” Budapest, 2015

Földi Pál: “Tündérkert őrzői” Debrecen, 2014

Földi Pál: “Végvárak vitézei” Debrecen, 2014

Nagy László: “A török világ végnapjai Magyarországon” Budapest, 1986

Nagy László: “Hajdú vitézek” Budapest, 1986

Nagy László: “Kard és szerelem” Budapest, 1985

ifj. Barta János: “Buda visszavétele” Budapest, 1985

Somogyi Győző: “Végvári vitézek 1526-1686” Budapest, 2014

Somogyi Győző: “Az erdélyi fejedelemség hadserege 1559-1690” Budapest, 2013

Benda Kálmán: “Magyarország történeti kronológiája 1.-2. kötet” Budapest, 1981

Szerecz Miklós: “Vitézség tüköri: Zrínyitől Rákócziig” (kézirat)

Please, visit this page for pictures of castles and other information:****


Hungary and Transylvania, Part 3: Cities and Castles


Here is a list of the cities and frontier castles in Royal Hungary, Transylvania, and the occupied lands:

The cities and castles of the Trans-Danubian Region and Upper Hungary—the Hungarian Highland—are listed here. They were either in Habsburg hands or taken by Prince Rákóczi I in the 1630s. Some of them were captured by the Turks, but during this time period the borders were fluid.



Upper Hungary


Castle of Érsekújvár (Nove Zámky),+Szlov%C3%A1kia/@47.9929511,18.0611358,33315m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x476b014e1d001c71:0x34e9b20e19515def

It was Péter Pázmány who had the archbishop’s palace built here in 1620 in order to fight Protestantism. He consecrated its Franciscan church and monastery in 1631. Érsekújvár had a well-fortified and modern castle, and thus was considered a strategic place near the Bohemian border.


Castle of Drégely,18.8378311,66643m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x476a99f9e81ef111:0x21ec2a078634fd65

Drégely became a frontier castle in 1544, and it was the gate to the mining towns of Upper Hungary. This small castle deservedly became as famous as Kőszeg or Szigetvár in the Turkish wars. The fort was in a rather poor condition in 1549 because a lightning bolt exploded its gunpowder storage.  It was defended by György Szondy and his one hundred forty-six men in 1552 when Pasha Ali besieged him with twelve to fourteen thousand soldiers. They were able to resist the Turks for only four days, but those few days are legendary in Hungarian history.

Pasha Ali ordered Szondy to surrender the castle, and after his refusal he had the outer palisade set on fire. Szondy had to withdraw into the inner castle, behind old-fashioned stone walls.  The pasha had an earthen rampart built and placed his cannons there. After two days of bombardment the castle and its high gate-tower were in ruins. Pasha Ali was not a bloodthirsty man, and he sent in the local priest, Márton, to negotiate. Szondy refused to yield the castle and sent two of his high-born Turkish captives, dressed in expensive clothes, to Ali, along with his two favorite young pages. He asked Ali to give a good education to the lads because he wouldn’t surrender the castle alive. He asked for a proper burial for himself, too. Meanwhile, Szondy had all his valuables—clothing and other treasures—piled up on the castle yard and burnt them. Also, he had his horses and captives killed at the same time. Shortly after this the Turks launched the final attack and Szondy was shot twice—first in the knee and then ino the heart. All of his men fought to the end. Upon their victory, Pasha Ali made a laudatory speech over Szondy’s body then had him buried decently as agreed. Later the Turks didn’t renovate the old castle, but they built a strong palisade in 1575 around the church of the village that could take in 2000 riders. This New-Drégely-Palisade (Újdrégelypalánk) became the base for raids against Upper Hungary. This new castle was taken back by General Pálffy in 1593, and Ferenc Nagy was left in charge of the fort, as vice-general. The place became the target of constant Turkish attacks which were beaten back strongly. Due to the lack of payment, the defenders’ number decreased to 10 soldiers by December, 1595. They couldn’t protect the surrounding villages so the settlements fell into the Turks’ hands. The garrison’s number was increased next year, and they withstood the renewed Turkish attacks. The Diet of 1604 ordered the reinforcement and renovation of the castle, but in vain. It was somewhat repaired in 1615, though. Prince Bethlen camped his army next to the castle in 1626 while waiting to fight Wallenstein.


Castle of Fülek (Filakovo),+Szlov%C3%A1kia/@48.2694568,19.8065713,4142m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x47400a183f02cd49:0x400f7d1c6971220

It had a strategic location, and its famous captains were the Wesselényi and the Bosnyák family members. It was the Bosnyák family’s property in 1630. Fülek was the center of Nógrád county, and these decades were its heydays.

The story of a warrior from Fülek castle is worth the telling. His name was Benedek Balogh, and he was the leader of the Hungarian raiders of Fülek. The Hungarian raiders had been constant visitors of the Turkish-occupied lands to the south, near Szeged and on the Great Hungarian Plains during the 1610s and 1620s. Sometimes they posed a threat against the Hungarian cities and villages as well, not just to the spahi-lands. Balogh happened to be from Szeged and knew the Turks very well. When he was informed that a high-ranking Turkish officer would travel to muster the Turkish castles of the area, Balogh and his people ambushed him and cut him down along with his men. Then they dressed in their clothes and entered the Castle of Szeged, showing the guards the officer’s credentials. The Bey of Szeged received them and gave them some soldiers to guard them on their way back. When they were far enough from the castle of Szeged, Balogh’s men attacked their escort and slaughtered them.


Castle of Esztergom,18.6288861,33466m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x476a6227b1317923:0xbe2a180c05793793

This ancient Hungarian castle, the old headquarters of Hungarian kings, is located in the Bend of the Danube. It was in the enemy’s hands, and the Hungarians had attempted to take it by siege many times. The greatest warrior poet of the period, Bálint Balassi, lost his life in 1594 during the attack against the castle built on the top of formidable cliffs. A so-called bearded cannon’s bullet shot off both of his legs. He left behind the most beautiful poems and songs that a noble warrior could write; his songs were known and sung by everybody in the 1630s. The recapture of Esztergom, a great military deed at that time, took place the next year in 1595. Its capture cut the logistic lines of the Turks toward Győr and was an excellent basis for further attacks against Buda. After Esztergom, the nearby castle of Vác, Visegrád, and Zsámbék fell more easily into Christian hands. The news of Esztergom’s capture was celebrated throughout Europe; even the Pope held a mass to give thanks for it.

The combined troops of Miklós Pálffy and Alfred Schwarzenberg, along with the army of Vincenzo Gonzaga, Prince of Mantova, laid a long siege against Esztergom. The Italian Claudio Monteverdi was present, entertaining his lord; he played his music piece “Vespro” in the camp. It is thought that here he composed one of his madrigals called “The Contest of Tankred and Klorinda.” It is recorded, that during the pauses of the siege, the Turks up in the castle were listening with utter amusement to the music from the camp of the “Italian Pasha of Montava.” The eight hundred twenty-three Turkish defenders were fighting heroically but many of them were injured, and they lost their strength because of the long siege. By September they had run out of food and water and had just enough gunpowder for one more day. The forces sent from Buda to help were defeated, and they had no more hope left. They didn’t want to endanger their women and children’s lives so they surrendered. They were free to take their leave to Buda, unhurt. Esztergom Castle was taken by the Turks in 1605, and the young Wallenstein was present as a junior officer, so he had to have gained first-hand experience with Turks and Hungarians at that time.


Castle of Eger,20.2513255,33356m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x47408d7894b04023:0x63adb259948d1c24

This castle was blocking the roads towards the mining cities of Upper Hungary as well as the road to Kassa (Kosice), another key city on the east. The 1552 siege of Eger is important not only because of its successful resistance but also because it was the first real triumph over the Turks after the Defeat of Mohács in 1526. It broke the invincible reputation of the Turks and gave tremendous moral encouragement to continue the struggle against the Muslim invaders. It happened during the dual kingship, when Hungary was torn apart by the usurper Habsburgs’ claim for the throne. They didn’t care that Hungary had an elected national king at that time, King János II, who was also the first Prince of Transylvania. So Eger had frequently changed lords before the Turks arrived, and the castle was in a quite neglected state. Fortunately, the castle was given to the care of István (Stephen) Dobó who, when young, had been the bodyguard of the last Hungarian medieval king, King Lajos II, and fought alongside with him in the Battle of Mohács in 1526.

In the autumn of 1552, Captain István Dobó and his two thousand soldiers were successful in defending the fortress and northern Hungary from the expanding Ottoman Empire. The women of Eger had also been doing a sizable part of the fighting on the walls, and their heroism became legendary, which was all the more humiliating for the Muslims.

In spite of the fact that Captain István Dobó and his soldiers successfully defended the fortress, it was destroyed during the siege so it was essential to completely rebuild it. The reconstruction process of the fortress took place between 1553 and 1596, and Italian artificer officers planned the renovations. Captain Dobó was accused of treason in 1569 because he was told to have conspired with the Turks(!). Emperor Miksa II had him imprisoned for three years. Eger was also the garrison of the most famous Hungarian warrior poet, Bálint Balassi, for a few years beginning in 1578.

The second siege of Eger was a rather shameful one, taking place in 1596. Its captain was Pál Nyáry, and initially he was commanding 500 Hungarian and 500 German soldiers. When the Habsburg general Miksa learned that the sultan’s aim was not Vienna but Eger, he sent a last-minute reinforcement of twenty-four hundred more German, Walloon, Czech, and Italian mercenaries. When the Turks besieged the castle, two hundred fifty mostly Italian soldiers sneaked out of the castle during the night and swore fealty to the Turks, changing their religion at the same time. The next day, this caused great confusion among the other mercenaries in the castle, and they started negotiations with the enemy. Soon, everybody left the castle, trusting to the safe conduct of the Turks. Despite that, the Sultan gave order to kill all the foreign mercenaries, except for the Hungarian ones. Instead, the Hungarians were just enslaved and sold accordingly. This was the beginning of the ninety-one-year-long Turkish rule in Eger. The minaret, which is the northernmost minaret in the Ottoman Empire, preserves the memory of this period.  During the Turkish occupation Eger became the seat of an elayet which is a Turkish domain consisting of several sanjaks. As elsewhere, churches were converted into mosques, the castle rebuilt, and other structures erected, including public baths. Turkish rule came to an end when Eger was starved into surrender by the Christian army led by Charles Lorraine in 1687, after the castle of Buda had been retaken in 1686.  The town was in a very poor state. According to the records there were only four hundred thirteen houses in the area within the town walls which were habitable and most of these were occupied by leftover Turkish families.


City of Körmöcbánya (Kremnica),+Szlov%C3%A1kia/@48.7116134,18.8890416,16424m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x4715230a6fad0131:0x400f7d1c6972d80

This mining town was established in the twelfth century by German settlers invited here from Silesia and Thuringia. It was a world-famous mining city due to the abundant gold ore deposits in the mountains of Körmöcbánya. Starting in 1335 the mint produced golden florins and later the famous “Körmöci ducats,” which were used as an international means of payment because of their consistently high purity of gold. It was the most important mint, and later the only one, in the Kingdom of Hungary. It was the capital of the mining towns in central Upper Hungary in the Ring of Fire period. As one of the most important centers of the Protestant Reformation in the country, the town belonged to the Protestant “League of Seven Mining Towns.” The town didn’t open its gates before Prince Bocskay in 1604, but the next year they sided with him, and later Prince Bethlen was allowed to enter, too. Besides the gold mining, it was famous for its paper factory.


City of Lőcse (Levoca),+Szlov%C3%A1kia/@49.0099157,20.5157858,16326m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x473e466038eadf49:0x400f7d1c69777a0u/maps/place/L%C5

The town became the capital of the Association of Szepességi (Zipt) Germans, with a form of self-rule within the Kingdom of Hungary.

Located on an intersection of trade routes between Poland and Hungary, Lőcse became a rich center of commerce. It exported iron, copper, furs, leather, corn, and wine. At the same time the town became an important cultural center. The English humanist Leonard Cox taught around 1520 in a school in Lőcse. The bookseller Brewer from Wittenberg transformed his bookstore into a prolific printing plant that lasted for one hundred fifty years. Also, one of the best-known medieval woodcarvers settled here.

The town kept this cultural and economic status until the end of the sixteenth century, in spite of two damaging fires; one in 1550 which destroyed nearly all of the Gothic architecture, and another in 1599. During this period of prosperity several churches were built, and the town had a school, library, pharmacy, and physicians. There was a printing press as early as 1624. The town was a center of the Protestant Reformation in Northern Hungary. The town started to decline during the anti-Habsburg uprisings in the seventeenth century. A famous printing house was established here in 1630 that remained in use until 1754. Other printing presses were there, too, and many famous people taught and were taught in the city’s schools.


Castle and City of Sárospatak,21.4436253,33104m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x4738ca243049413b:0x400c4290c1e1540

The Reformed College of Sárospatak was founded in 1531 and had become legendary as it was one of the most significant schools of Royal Hungary. The castle was the basis for Prince Bethlen’s campaign of 1619. György Rákóczi I established a cannon-casting factory in 1620 where high-quality cannons were produced. It was the time when tens of thousands of German Hutterites (Anabaptists) had to flee Switzerland and immigrated to Hungary and Transylvania. A large group of them settled in Sárospatak and introduced their special pottery-making style. The fort of Sárospatak had traditionally been the dwelling place of the Rákóczi family, and it kept its importance because it is situated halfway between Transylvania and Royal Hungary.


Castle of Murány (Muran),20.0299645,8204m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x473fcfe8caea136b:0x80be437e2a7a5874

ht3mrnyThe castle was built on a cliff of a mountain top and was one of the highest castles of Central Europe. The Habsburgs sold it, and the castle was obtained by György (George) Széchy’s father. His wife Mária Homonnay purchased it from his father-in-law and made Murány a center of the Protestant spirit and culture in 1613. György Széchy was facing both Ferdinand II and Prince Bethlen. When he died in 1625, his widow bribed the Viennese court with twenty-two thousand florins so she could become the castle’s owner again. She had to swear that she would never yield it to the Transylvanian princes. She held on to her word but her daughter Maria didn’t. She sided with Prince György Rákóczi I. At the time of the Ring of Fire, three daughters inherited the castle: Éva, Kata, and Mária. The castle was under the control of Mária Széchy and her sisters’ husbands. Mária’s husband, István Kun, took an active part in the ownership of the castle and controlled it between 1634-1637, but Mária divorced him and chased him away. Mária, the “Venus of Murány,” was an outstanding figure of the period. Her life is detailed in a subsequent chapter among the list of persons found in the 1630s.


Castle and City of Pozsony (Pressburg, Bratislava ),+Szlov%C3%A1kia/@48.1356952,16.9758327,33222m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x476c89360aca6197:0x631f9b82fd884368

Initially it used to belong to the chief treasurer of Hungary. Its university was established by King Matthias in 1467.  Owing to Ottoman advances into Hungarian territory, the city was designated the new capital of Hungary in 1536, becoming part of the Austrian Habsburg monarchy and marking the beginning of a new era. The Turks besieged and damaged Pozsony (Pressburg, Bratislava) but always failed to conquer it. The city became a coronation town and the seat of kings, archbishops (1543), the center of nobility, and all major organizations and offices. The Holy Crown was held there. Between 1536 and 1830, eleven Hungarian kings and queens were crowned in St. Martin’s Cathedral.  The army of Prince Bethlen took the town in 1620, and he made his peace with the Emperor in this city in 1626. The beginning of the Hungarian baroque period is around 1630, first appearing on territories here, near Austria. The reconstruction of the royal palace of Pozsony began in 1635 in baroque style. The fort guarded the Danube river with its cannons so it was the greatest roadblock before Vienna. Vienna could be reached in 1683 by the Ottoman Empire because Pozsony was taken by the rebel Baron Imre Thököly who let the Turks pass.


Castle of Nógrád,+2642/@47.9007782,18.9753918,16687m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x476a8492a3c17dcf:0x400c4290c1e52f0

It was a northern frontier castle that used to be the center of a county. Its defenders ran away after 1544 so Hussein, Bey of Esztergom, and Muhamed, Pasha of Buda, took the empty castle easily.  

It was only fifty years later, in 1594, that the army of Miklós Pálffy and Christopher Tiefenbach occupied it. Prince Bocskay—with Turkish aid—took it from the Habsburgs in 1605, but it had to be returned according to the Peace of Vienna. Prince Bethlen also took it in 1619 but a few years later he had to give it back to the emperor. It was handed over to the Turkish-Transylvanian troops in 1663 by Miklós Nadányi. It had been in the Turks’ hands for only twenty-two years when a lightning bolt struck the gunpowder stores and exploded the castle: Bey Csonka set the rest of the fort on fire and abandoned it. Later he converted to Catholicism and he received great lands from Emperor Leopold I for handing over Nógrád castle.


City of Kassa (Kosice, Kaschau),+Szlov%C3%A1kia/@48.6973299,21.0991083,32857m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x473ee01b67c6957b:0x400f7d1c6978bd0

It was the eastern key city of Upper Hungary. Prince Bethlen took it in 1619, with the help of György Rákóczi, his strongest supporter. Here was held Bethlen’s wedding, and he issued his proclamations from here. It was the town of the princes in the seventeenth century. When the city was taken by Rakoczi for Prince Bethlen, three Jesuits (István Pongrátz, Menyhért Grodecz and Márk Kőrösi) were murdered in spite of the promise made that they could leave freely. Allegedly, Péter Alvinczi, the Reformed preacher of the city had demanded their heads along with the death of all the Catholics of Kassa. Alvinczi was the greatest Reformed preacher and the legendary enemy of Archibishop Péter Pázmány. One of the executed priests happened to be Pázmány’s dear friend. The savage Hajdu soldiers tortured the Jesuits to find out where their gold was and who might have been members of a Catholic conspiracy. After two days of starving them they were offered some raw liver to eat before their execution, but being a Friday, they couldn’t accept the food. Two of them were beheaded, the third was thought to be dead and thrown into the cesspit where he died twenty hours later. Some circumstances and motives are not clear but the murders very well could have happened with the twenty-three-year-old Rákóczi’s and Prince Bethlen’s knowledge, and this raises questions concerning the famous religious freedom of Transylvania (when Catholics were concerned). Half a year later the peace talks between Prince Bethlen and Palatine Zsigmond Pálffy were taking place in the same house where the martyrs had been executed. Upon reaching an agreement they held a great feast and Prince Bethlen asked the wife of the Palatine, Katalin Pálffy for a dance. She was willing to dance only under the condition that the martyred priests could get a decent burial. It was grudgingly agreed, provided the burial would happen at night.

We know that Bethlen made further compensations some years later when he wed Catherine of Brandenburg who had demanded it. The situation must have improved during György Rákoczi’s rule because he allowed the existence of a Jesuit mission in Kassa from 1630 on. We know that this Jesuit office in Kassa was led between 1632-34 by Dániel Vásárhelyi.

The victims’ corpses finally were carried to a nunnery of Poor Claires in Nagyszombat where Maria Forgach, the daughter of the Palatine, was the Abbess in 1635.

Later in 1905 the martyrs were canonized by the Catholic church as the Martyrs of Kassa. Their day in the Catholic calendar is September 7, when they were killed.


Castle of Tokaj,21.3494844,16619m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x4738ac26cb62a66d:0x8786533afa289efd

This castle guarded the most important and world-famous wine region of the country. It was also a junction of trade routes coming from the eastern part of Royal Hungary and Transylvania. The other, similarly significant, crossing place over the Tisza river was only at the Turkish-owned Szolnok. The castle on Tokaj hill was the witness to the defeat of the Habsburg army in 1630 by the Transylvanians and their Hajdu soldiers.

The fort was in a very poor condition although the Diet of Pozsony had issued several orders for its renovation. It was said to be “not good enough for a pigstry, if it wasn’t surrounded by water one could easily ride straight into the middle of it through its gentle slopes.”

Its captain was Miklós Abaffy who sided with Prince Bethlen, aiding him with soldiers. Yet, it was again in Habsburg hands in 1630 as we can see it on a drawing made by Johann Ledentu, military engineer, who was visiting the place at that time. The city of Tokaj was an agricultural settlement and according to a list from 1640 seventy-three peasant families lived in it, including their judge, and there were an additional twenty-two stately homes with sixteen noble families in them. Only six people served as ferry-men at the important military and trade crossing of the Tisza river. The castle fell into Prince György Rakoczi I’s hands after a short siege in 1644, and he was allowed to keep it according to the Peace of Linz.


City of Besztercebánya (Banská Bystrica, Neusohl),+Szlov%C3%A1kia/@48.7392253,18.9908868,32830m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x47153de36e8ad42f:0xf8223f8a0b8b9032

One of the most famous mining towns of the Carpathian Basin was destroyed by the Mongols in 1241 but soon the king had German miners from Thuringia settled there. Later it was the city where the Diet elected Prince Bethlen to be King of Hungary. The copper mines around the town were rented by the Fugger banker family. The city was renowned for its rich gold, silver, copper, mercury, and lead mines.


City of Selmecbánya (Banská Štiavnica, Schemnitz),+Szlov%C3%A1kia/@48.4441879,18.8353149,16511m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x471532da0c4e3f1f:0xb7b95f1d8cf0a454

This mining town presently is a World Heritage site.  The mining of silver and copper had been more significant than the gold mines. Besides the Hungarian miners there were miners coming from Flanders and Bavaria. It was the first place in Europe where gunpowder was used for mining, in 1627.

The relationship between the town and Prince Bethlen was remarkably good. The city also kept very good relations with the Palatine of Royal Hungary, György Thurzó. It was due to the friendship between the chief notary public of the city, Abraham Unverzagt, and the Palatine’s confidential man called Muller, who was the aristocrat’s secretary. Thanks to this friendship, Palatine Thurzó helped protect the country roads around the city against robbers. At the same time, Prince Bethlen confirmed the city’s privileges in his letters of 1621. The city received a confirmation from King Ferdinand II the same year—the emperor praised the city as a loyal mining town and gave them the religious freedom to practice their Evangelical [i,e., Lutheran] faith. The letter was also signed by István Pálffy, Miklós Pálffy, and Péter Koháry, faithful Hungarian aristocrats of Ferdinand II. The privileges were also confirmed and in addition to this, the king and emperor granted the mining towns’ citizens the right to be called Reichsmitglied, a rank of the Empire. The contest for the mining towns’ loyalty was obvious. After Ferdinand’s letter, Bethlen was quick to issue a document for the town to save them from any Transylvanian military unit that should happen to wander near. A bit later he gave a letter of safe conduct for the envoys of Selmecbánya. The city balanced itself well between these powers but in 1648 it suffered from anti-Protestantism.




Trans-Danubian Region


Castle of Sárvár,16.8638241,16894m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x47694d0704a1a833:0x400c4290c1e19a0!8m2!3d47.2524196!4d16.9294867

The Turks laid an unsuccessful siege on the castle in 1532. Three years later the castle and the city became the property of the Nádasdy family. It was Thomas Nádasdy, an educated “Renaissance man” who turned the place into one of the most sophisticated cultural centers of Royal Hungary. He established a school in 1534 and a printing house in 1537 and assigned János Sylvester to lead them. Sylvester was the first in Hungary who translated the New Testament into the Hungarian language. He printed it as well, in 1541, so it became the first book printed in Hungarian. Sebestyén Tinódi Lantos, a 16th-century Hungarian lyricist, epic poet, political historian, and minstrel, died here in 1556.

The most famous lord of Sárvár was Ferenc Nádasdy II, the famous “Black Bey.” Ferenc helped conquer the castles of Esztergom, Waitzen, Visegrád, Székesfehérvár, and, years later, Győr. During his long period of military service, Count Nádasdy was known for great courage in battle. His wife was the infamous Erzsébet (Elizabeth) Báthory who allegedly committed terrible crimes at the Castle of Csejthe, though some say the charges against her had been fabricated in order to get the Nádasdy-Báthory property for the Emperor. It is strange that Ferenc Nádasdy died of a mysterious and sudden illness in the middle of a battle. Ferenc’s mysterious death benefitted Emperor Matthias II, who sought to acquire the extensive territories produced by the Báthory-Nádasdy marriage. After the death of Elizabeth, the diminished possessions of her estate were divided among her four children. Later, Emperor Matthias accused the Báthory-Nádasdy children of treason based on the crimes committed by their mother. All land formerly belonging to the Nádasdy family, in addition to the new lands that had been accumulated from their political family, became available to the Hungarian crown. The descendants of Ferenc and Elizabeth were banished from Hungary and went to Poland. Although some returned to Hungary after 1640, that was the end of the noble status of the Báthory-Nádasdy family in Hungary.

By the mid-seventeenth century vast property piled up in Sárvár castle, ruled then by Ferenc Nádasdy III, grandson of Ferenc Nádasdy II. He was the one who built the main hall of the castle, one of the most beautiful hall of the age. Ferenc got involved in the Wesselényi conspiracy against the king and was beheaded in 1671. His castle was given to the Draskovich family.


Castle of Kanizsa,16.8651749,34298m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x476893061c075be9:0x400c4290c1e12b0

ht3knzThis famous castle was built at the entrance gate of the Trans-Danubian region. This strategically important location became the target of fierce fighting.

The most renowned Hungarian castle captain, György Thury, was its leader between 1567-1571. Thury was the greatest hero of the Turk wars, defending his castles with very few soldiers and winning battles and sieges in the most hopeless situations. He was also a great duelist: we know of six hundred noted duels against Turkish warriors who sought him out from places as remote as Persia. He also led countless raids against the Trans-Danubian Turkish castles; the only successful strategy to keep the Frontier against the overwhelming enemy was the series of ceaseless and bold attacks from winter to summer.

During the Fifteen Year War the Turks attacked the southern Trans-Danubian region in 1600 and the Turks were able to raid up to and right into the Austrian lands. The Habsburgs hadn’t sent reinforcements to the castle so the few defenders, led by Farkas Bakó, set the castle on fire and abandoned it. So that was how the castle of Kanizsa was taken by the enemy.

Unlike the Habsburgs, the Turks came to realize the strategic value of the castle and made it a center of their elayet under the leadership of Pasha Murat. He built further fortifications, and he and his three thousand eight hundred and twenty-five soldiers successfully beat back the attacking Hungarians.

There were frontier castles opposing Kanizsa: their leaders were members of the Batthyány family from 1633 to 1659 (Adam Batthyany 1633-1637). Pál Nádasdy was also a captain between 1627-1633 in a castle near Kanizsa. These smaller castles had to be maintained by the free labor of the surrounding villages. While the Hungarian captains tried to persuade the peasants to come and work, the Turks threatened them not to do so. Many times the Hungarian frontier warriors had to herd the peasants by force to work on the fortifications.


Castle of Komár,17.1620479,8563m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x4768f19a7c13e047:0x9118460e458ec698

This was a smaller castle near Kanizsa. The Turks attacked it at night, four days before Christmas,1637. There were nearly one thousand attackers, and they destroyed a twenty-five-step-long section of the fence of the outer castle. The Turks could approach the wall because the moat froze over. They attacked the wooden palisade, next to the beerhouse at the mill, three times during the night and tried to cut through the gate. They finally managed to cut through the palisade but were beaten back.

The castle remained in a very poor condition, though István Bessenyei, its captain, had the gate mended. A whole section of the palisade fell into the moat in 1645, and it required very hard work to restore it with earthwork. The enemy attacked the castle of Komár again in August, 1651. From dawn to afternoon, they destroyed the gates and the bastions with howitzers. The water of the moat was diverted. Because of the mill and other noises the defenders couldn’t hear each other’s words so the Turks were able to  make a surprise attack. Fortunately, the warriors led by Captain László Pethő stopped them but many buildings were burned down along with the settlement around the castle.


Castle of Zalavár,17.1185217,17084m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x4768e4593303b7db:0x9d008ec8e231fdac

After the loss of Kanizsa castle (1600), Zalavár’s importance increased. In 1605, Prince Bocskay took possession of Zalavár and all other castles in Zala county, except Sümeg castle. A report of 1625 declared that no castle was more neglected and in poorer condition than Zalavár castle. It must have been because of the lack of supply that the guards of the castle began to rob the villages. István Sárkány (Dragon), captain of the neighboring Komár castle, wrote: “They are stealing the cattle of poor people, robbing them, setting their houses on fire, holding them up on the roads to such an extent that a poor man cannot travel peacefully, undisturbed . . .”

Zalavár castle’s role was to guard the crossing place at Lake Balaton and at Hídvég; they had to defend this passage because it was the only connection for Komár castle with the country behind the war-zone. The chain of these smaller castles relied on each other and the defenders knew every bit of the land that they were guarding. Still, the king sinfully neglected them. Without the warriors inside and the villagers and local aristocrats, the system would have fallen apart at once. We can read the complaint of András Bogács, captain of Zalavár castle, after 1620: “. . . the castle is in ruins, in spite of the constant Turkish threat, and there is not enough food nor soldiers.” A few years later Captain István Svatics describes a very similar situation. Pál Sibrik, vice-general of Hungarian forces in Royal Hungary, asked that one hundred German soldiers be sent to Zalavár castle in 1639. He also complained about Captain Svatics’ long absence from the castle, saying “. . . that man didn’t sit there more than two weeks a year but instead of guarding his post, was always riding astray . . . he doesn’t deserve his office.”

Yet, Svatics was able to beat the Turks back from Zalavár castle successfully in 1639.


Castle of Szentgyörgyvár (Saint George-Castle),17.1170958,4263m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x4768e1909e98b10f:0x546cea7bac754821

It was part of the chain of castles opposite Kanizs castle. Its captain was György Topos in 1629. There were many attacks and sieges in his time, with the Turks feverishly attacking the ford at Mánd. The most serious attack happened during the service of Captain István Török (Turk) in 1643 when the Turks of Babócsa castle arrived to destroy the small fort he had built at the ford of Mánd. After destroying it, the larger part of their army remained there, but a unit of six to seven hundred Turks came to Szentgyörgy castle with their war flags and attacked the bridge of the castle. After an hour-long fight with the defenders, they withdrew. The defenders lost three soldiers, three children, and a woman in the fight. In addition to the continuous Turkish attacks, through the following years disease was also decimating the castle’s population.


Szentgrót castle,17.0327791,8497m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x4769231a57d4c737:0x400c4290c1e17d0

After Kanizsa’s loss, Szentgrót castle became the most important part of the chain of castles defending the valley of the River Zala. It was placed directly under the court’s command. Despite this, members of the Hagymási family remained as captains of Szentgrót castle, and they maintained it better than most of this era’s castles. The Turks tried to attack the castle many times during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries but could never occupy it, and it had never had a serious siege.


Castle of Zalabér,+8798/@46.9714629,17.0131495,4246m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x47693b31d1706e8d:0x400c4290c1e94b0

According to the law, the noble county and community was obliged to maintain this castle through the Treasury of Court. Zalabér’s captain was nominated from the Ányos family in 1621. There were only ten soldiers and a corporal in the castle to defend it at that time. Due to the constant Turkish raids they increased their number to twenty in 1640. The Turkish pillagers enslaved or killed thirty-three of its villagers between 1630 and 1637. The Turks tried but failed to capture the castle in 1644. The same year in June, a bigger raiding party attempted to take the fort but they were pushed into the Zala River by the counterattack of the castle’s warriors. There was a serious fight, and twenty Hungarian soldiers were killed but we don’t know the losses of the Turks. The fleeing enemy set a village on fire and took away five men and two little girls.


Castle of Csáktornya  (Cakovec),16.4023744,8586m/data=!3m1!1e3

The castle was given to the Zrínyi family in 1546. Under the rule of Miklós Zrínyi I (the great-grandfather of the poet and general Miklós Zrínyi II) the castle and the city started to develop. The castle was rebuilt in Italian fashion and the Zrínyies lived like kings in the Renaissance palace of it, amid active cultural life. As a frontier castle not far from the Turkish-controlled Kanizsa castle, the fort was an important post.  It was the dwelling place of Miklós Zrínyi II, who wrote his poems and works here, and this was where he died in 1664 after that suspicious boar-hunt. After his death, his brother Péter organized the anti-Habsburg conspiracy from Csáktornya. When Péter was executed in 1671, the castle was taken by the Emperor.


Castle of Csanád,+Rom%C3%A1nia/@46.1341694,20.5383449,8624m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x4744f974143fd99b:0xdd8375620e9a7e98

Located near Kanizsa, in 1598 its captain was Ferenc Lugosi. With only two hundred soldiers, he was not frightened of the outnumbering enemy but withstood the Turkish attacks in the most valiant way. When he came to realize that they could not continue such an unbalanced fight, he broke his people out in a very brave and tricky way. Captain Lugosi had all of his people—women included—put on armor and take up sabers, and had all of the cannons loaded with double and triple loads of gunpowder and two cannon balls apiece and put a burning fuse connected to them. At late night he had the gates opened and lots of straw spread on the bridge to soften the noise of the horses as all of them left the castle without being noticed by the Turk guards. When they reached the enemy’s lines, the fuse ignited the cannons and a hellish volley struck the Turks’ guardposts as the copper cannons exploded. The Turks thought that the defenders would prepare their breakout with this volley, not realizing that they had already done so under the cover of dark. The Hungarians went through the Turkish camp but eventually were discovered when they ran into a five hundred-strong unit. Immediately they ambushed the surprised Turks and desperately cut themselves out of the camp. The women also fought as they had nothing to lose. The enemy were frightened, thinking a bigger reinforcement must have arrived, and yielded the ground.   


Castle of Keszthely,17.1018699,34109m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x4768e2b85082feeb:0x400c4290c1e1880

The city of Keszthely was raided by the Aga of Koppány in 1589 so after this the inner city had itself surrounded by a palisade and a moat. The outskirts of the city were inhabited by peasants, and they had to pay taxes, unlike the inhabitants of the inner city.

It was a frontier castle near Lake Balaton. The defenders of Keszthely sided with Prince Bocskay in 1605 and didn’t accept the truce between Bocskay and the Habsburgs, so the king had to take the castle by siege in 1608. Although the Turks laid a major siege against it in 1650, they could never take the city, and it always remained under the rule of Royal Hungary.


Castle of Palota (Palace),18.082707,16907m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x47698bc7d760cee3:0x400c4290c1e1820

The defenders of Palota were under an incredibly heavy pressure between 1552 and 1566 due to the capture of Veszprém castle by the Turks.

At that time the captain of Palota was György Thury, a valiant duelist and warrior. There were barely two hundred hussars guarding it when Pasha Arslan of Buda attacked the castle with an overwhelming force of eight thousand soldiers and lots of cannons in June, 1566. When the enemy completely surrounded the castle and night fell, all the hussars broke out noiselessly and attacked the sleeping Turks.

They made such a savage clamor, while setting everything burnable on fire, that Pasha Arslan began to panic. He panicked all the more when it was reported that a huge army of reinforcements was approaching the castle. He wouldn’t have known that it was just the noise made by the judge of Győr city, who had sent many wagons to the Bakony hill to collect wood and branches. As many citizens of Győr were Swabians, they spoke and sang in German while working. Pasha Arslan gave the order to withdraw. He later received a silk string for it from the sultan (i.e., he was manually strangled with a silk string). Meanwhile, the German General Salm was hunting near Győr, not caring about Palota’s peril. He arrived three days later with his troops.

A few years later in 1571, György Thury was slaughtered by the Turks when he was ensnared at Orosztony in Zala County.  Tamás Pálffy became the new captain of Palota in 1573. After he managed to get the fort reinforced, he led a series of victorious raids against the Turks. Still, there were times when no more than thirty soldiers guarded the castle but were still able to hold it. Finally, the Turks were able to take the castle during the Fifteen Year War in 1593 when the captain, Peter Ormándy, made a heroic effort to defend the fort but in a hopeless situation he ceded Palota to the Turks. He was promised by Pasha Sinan, Grand Vizier, that he and his people could leave the castle safely but the Turks broke their word and slaughtered him. Five years later, led by Miklós Pálffy and Adolf Schwarzenberg, the Christian troops took Győr back from the enemy and launched an overall attack against the Turkish frontier castles of the Trans-Danubian region. They took back the castles of Csókakő and Gesztes, then laid siege of Palota. Two days later the Turks surrendered, and the castle fell into Hungarian hands again. The Turks recaptured it in 1605 when the troops of Köse Hussein took the castle of Veszprém. The Turks emptied the fort in 1614 for unknown reasons so it was returned to the Christians. In connection to Prince Bethlen’s attack against the Habsburgs in 1623, the Turkish Bey of Fehérvár was able to take it and hold it on their side until 1687. So at the Ring of Fire it was in Turkish hands, but circumstances changed very rapidly.


Castle of Tata,18.2558391,16774m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x476a460d6f84ab01:0xb620f00f0720fe22

The Turks captured this castle in 1543 but later it changed hands nine times during the one hundred forty-five-year-long Turkish rule. It was under the enemy’s command for sixteen years. In 1630 it was by Hungary.

Castle of Pápa,17.4140709,16874m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x4769610c449a4107:0xa5062e116529d97b

This castle belonged to the immediate defense belt of forts before Vienna, and thus it was well maintained. It had the third largest garrison next to Győr castle, with between five hundred and a thousand soldiers. Its famous captains were János Török (Turk), László Majthényi, Péter Huszár, and István Török.

Pápa Castle fell into Turkish possession twice, the first time between 1594-1597 and later in 1683 for just a couple of months. There was an uprising of the Walloon mercenaries in 1600 when the soldiers rebelled to get their pay; the Austrians put them down only after a two-month siege. The Walloons had wanted to hand the castle over to the Turks in the hope of better payment.


Castle of Győr,17.5186006,33523m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x476bbf87407ea035:0x400c4290c1e11e0

This city is located not very far away from Vienna so all advancing armies had to face its walls. After 1541 the Turks reached it and the castle’s commander, Christopher Lamberg, thought it would be futile to defend the town so he burnt it down. The arriving Turks could see nothing of the castle’s walls, just the smoking blackened ruins, hence the Turkish name for Győr, Yamk Hale (burnt castle).

During rebuilding, the town was surrounded by fortifications, and a city wall was designed by the leading Italian builders of the era. The town changed in character during these years, with many new buildings built in Renaissance style, but the main square and the grid of streets remained.

In 1594, after the death of its captain, Count János Cseszneky, the Ottoman army occupied the castle and the town because the Italian and German troops surrendered it in exchange of free passage. Their captain, Ferdinand Hardegg, was beheaded for it later.

In 1598 the Hungarian and Austrian army, led by Miklós Pálffy and Adolf Schwarzenberg, took control of it again.

In 1683, the Turks returned briefly, only to leave after being defeated in the Battle of Vienna.


Castle of Kőszeg,+9730/@47.3827241,16.464808,16853m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x476ea25ffe917fdd:0x251933f44dd53c4d

The most famous event of Kőszeg castle was its siege in 1532. After the Defeat of Mohács (1526), the Turks’ next destination became Vienna. Great Suleiman I himself led the Ottoman army. The small and old-fashioned Kőszeg castle was in the way but it was defended by the brave Miklós (Nicholas) Jurisics with only a couple hundred warriors and seven hundred peasant soldiers to protect the eighteen hundred women and twenty-three hundred children who took refuge there. They were surrounded by the contemporary world’s strongest army, one hundred and fifty thousand Turks. Seventy thousand of them besieged the castle, fifteen thousand of which were Janissaries. They held the castle for twenty days during which the Turks attacked it nineteen times. The Turks undermined the walls, and once they exploded a twenty-foot stretch of them. They built earth ramparts to three sides of the walls and kept attacking the castle from all sides. Huge rains pouring down during the siege helped the defenders. The castle—or its ruins–were only symbolically handed over to the enemy, and only their flag was allowed to be put on the tower. After the unsuccessful siege, at the end of August, the Turks moved towards Vienna. The heroic resistance of Kőszeg bought time for the Christian armies to arrive and assemble before Vienna. Jurisics was made a baron the next year and was rewarded with five captaincies in Lower Austria. The city was given tax exemption and other privileges by Ferdinand I. The castle was rebuilt, and the city became an important trading point between Vienna and the Adriatic Sea. Ever since, the citizens of Köszeg toll their bells every day at 11 A.M. to commemorate the victory. The city opened its gates to Prince Bocskay in 1605, but the Habsburgs took it back a month later. The same thing happened in 1619 with Prince Bethlen when the inhabitants were more reluctant to yield the castle so their settlement was put to the torch. The Transylvanians took the city in 1620, too; burning some 200 houses again. Prince Bethlen nominated a local citizen as their captain, Mihály Hörmann. After the Prince had taken his leave, the Habsburgs’ troops soon arrived, and the city opened its gates to them. Mihály Hörmann, loyal to the Prince, exploded five tons of gunpowder when the Austrians entered the city. He paid for his loyalty with his head the next day.


Castle of Komárom (Komarno),17.983382,33490m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x476a4d2f43f02c75:0x400c4290c1e1920

It was a formidable fortress, blocking the Danube before Vienna and Pozsony, making all river passage impossible. It was never taken.


Castle of Sopron,16.443831,33508m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x476c3b605048160d:0x400c4290c1e12a0

It was a strategic castle and city right before Vienna; one more obstacle for the attacking enemy. The city of Sopron was a rapidly growing trading and market center next to the Austrian border. It had a population in 1633 of about four thousand people. It was also a coronation town: Ferdinand II’s second wife, Queen Eleonora, was crowned here in 1622. The Diet of Sopron elected Ferdinand II’s son, Duke Ferdinand to be King of Hungary in November, 1625, and he was crowned there in December.

Due to the religious persecutions, many Evangelical [i.e., Lutheran] Austrians moved to Sopron in the first decade of the seventeenth century. Most famous of them was the aristocratic Eggenberg family, but renowned intellectuals, craftsmen, and merchants came there from all over Austria. For example, Andreas Rauch, the famous organ artist, arrived there from Vienna in 1628 and Johann Sartory, a chemist, in 1629. A famous Society of Noble Scientists was established in the city by Kristóf Lackner, a city judge, in 1604. It was similar to a guild of intellectuals; its members in 1625 were Gábor Lampert, pastor from Balf, Münderer Gottfried, pastor of Borbolya in 1623, and Jeremias Scholtz, physician. In spite of the sophisticated atmosphere, there was a nasty witch-hunt going on in 1630.


There are many other fabulous castles of Royal Hungary that were not mentioned in details but nevertheless, they all played an important role in keeping the kingdom intact. The most important ones are listed here:

Tihany, Légrád, Kapronca, Egerszeg, Szigliget, Egervár, Körmend, Németújvár, Csobánc, Fraknó, Zólyom, Késmárk, Eperjes, Kismarton, Magyaróvár, Vöröskő, Gimes, Korpona, Csábrág, Végles, Kékkő, Salgó, Somoskő, Diósgyőr, Torna, Krasznahorka, Sólyomkő, Boldogkő, Füzér, Szerencs, Ónod, Ungvár, Kisvárda, Ecsed, Kálló, Károly, Visegrád, Huszt, Léva, Sümeg, Veszprém.

Most of them are in ruins now: the Habsburgs had them exploded, one by one, so as not to give shelter to any rebels in days to come.




Principality of Transylvania


Castle and City of Nagyvárad (Oradea, Großwardein ),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@47.0745735,21.8674042,16952m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x474647e3687623,53:0x1b55a486d65d5344

ht3ngbyThis was also called Várad, and it was the most important frontier castle against the Turks on the Transylvanian side of old Hungary. It was also one of the gates to Transylvania, and the princes regarded it as their second capital. Accordingly, the rank of its captain was elevated because its bearer became the second in rank after the prince. The captain of Nagyvárad was under the direct command of Transylvania’s ruling prince, was second in rank after him, and was his substitute when the prince was on a campaign abroad. All of the princes, István Báthory, Kristóf Báthory, István Bocskay, and György Rákóczi II had been captains of Várad before becoming rulers of Transylvania.

István Báthory was its captain in 1559, and when he became a prince in 1571, he began carrying out large construction works within the castle in the Italian late-Renaissance fashion that was considered the most modern fort architecture of the time. The building was completed in 1596 by Italian architects like Pietro Ferrabosco, Ottavio Baldigara, Domenico Ridolfino and Simone Genga.

Prince Kristóf Báthory granted collective nobility to the citizens of Nagyvárad in 1580. Yet the citizens swore fealty to Emperor Rudolf, asking for his son, Miksa’s, protection against Prince Báthory and the Turks. Archduke Miksa sent German troops to aid them and occupy this strategic city. The Turks besieged it unsuccessfully in 1598. Prince Bocskay laid siege to it as well. His army had to wait two years to starve the defenders out, making them surrender in 1606. Ferenc Rhédey was the captain of Nagyvárad between 1613-1618 and he modernized the fortifications.

Prince Bethlen had the old, ruined medieval buildings pulled down in 1619 and ordered his Italian architect, Giacomo Resti, to build a pentangular renaissance palace for him that was finished only around 1650. It was the biggest Renaissance palace of Central and Eastern Europe. The city was blooming during the reign of Prince György Rákóczi I, especially due to his wife, Zsuzsanna Lorántffy. They supported the Reformed church and established a college. The first printing house was launched in 1565 when the Polish printer Raffael Hoffhalter settled in Nagyvárad. The next press was set up sixty years later by Ábrahám Szenczi Kertész. István Bethlen had the press brought from Luneburgum and Prince Rákóczi acquired special oval letters for it around 1640. The Hungarian Bible of Nagyvárad was first printed in 1657. The 1500 copies weren’t finished because of the Turk siege of 1660. Luckily, they were able to smuggle the printed pages out and could complete the work in Kolozsvár (Cluj, Klausenburg). It was a sorrowful time because Prince György Rákóczi II was killed in a battle by the Turks, after he had wasted the Transylvanian army in a war for the Polish throne.

Nagyvárad was a serious fort but most of their defenders went to the burial of the prince, led by their captain, Ferenc Gyulai. Only eight hundred fifty untrained soldiers were left behind under the leadership of vice captain, Máté Balogh, when Pasha Achmed and Pasha Ali of Temesvár set out to capture this important castle with fifty thousand seasoned soldiers. At the same time, near the border of Royal Hungary was the sizable army of General Souches who refused the begging and pleading of the city and denied even minimal help against the Turks.  In the meantime the two pashas sacked Debrecen and destroyed some cities before completing the siege around Nagyvárad. It took them a month to drain the water of the moat and destroy the walls with mines and artillery. The defenders lacked the military knowledge to be able to use their own cannons, but they were valiant in close combat.  After forty-four days of futile resistance, vice-captain Balogh left the castle with his people under the terms that the city wouldn’t be sacked. Their heroic fight can be compared to the warriors of Eger, even though they weren’t victorious. After the loss of Nagyvárad the Habsburgs received criticism internationally because the whole Partium (a great area between Transylvania and Royal Hungary) was now under Turkish control. Its loss marked the end of Transylvania’s independence.


Castle of Borosjenő (Ineu, Janopol),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@46.4298523,21.8240081,4289m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x4745f9e1f4251dbf:0x96216d881674cbe3

It had a grand Renaissance palace that was damaged in a fire in 1618 but was extended and renovated between 1625-1630. It belonged to the Transylvanian princes, but had always been badly wanted by the Turks.


Castle of Lippa (Lipova),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@46.0895289,21.683471,4316m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x474f7da21526324f:0xb1fd7b6901e9bf5b

It was owned by Ferdinand I in 1551 but its Serbian soldiers, fifteen hundred men in all, surrendered it to Mehmed Begler-Bey of Rumelia. The Turks pillaged the city but Brother György, the famous monk and statesman, took it back in the same year. The following year its Spanish garrison yielded the fort to the Turks. The Turks organized a sanjak around it and garrisoned the castle with between one hundred and five hundred men. Many Sephardic Jews arrived there during this time. After forty years of Turkish rule, György Borbély’s Transylvanian army took the castle. The Begler-Bey of Temesvár attacked the place in 1595 but Prince Báthory’s arriving army chased him away. The Prince left two thousand soldiers in the castle which enabled them to beat the Turks back three years later. Lippa fell to the Romanian Prince Michael in 1600 but was taken back in 1604 by Prince Bocskay. (The Serbians surrendered the castle to him.) The Pasha of Temesvár captured it in 1605, and the next year it was taken back by István Petneházy’s army. During the next few years this fort played an important role in Turkish-Transylvanian negotiations. The Turks wanted to get back Lippa and Borosjenö that had been organic parts of their frontier castle chain before the Fifteen Year War. Several Transylvanian princes had fed them with promises to give the two castles back but when Gábor Bethlen needed the confirmation of the Sublime Porte in order to gain the throne—he didn’t take risks and had agreed to give the forts “back”. He said:

“. . . if I had a way of keeping it, I would follow that way at all costs—but I have no means to hold it or to procrastinate it any longer because the Turks wouldn’t allow me to do so even if I vomited my soul in front of them . . .”

Finally in 1616 it had to be ceded to them but its defenders, especially Captain István Vajda, didn’t want to accept the decision: everybody thought it a shame and finally Prince Bethlen had to take it from him by siege. Afterwards the prince offered the fort to the Begler-Bey of Temesvár. Prince Bethlen’s reputation suffered quite a bit from this action in the eyes of the Hajdu soldiers all over the country.

The Turkish Bey of Lippa repaired, enlarged, and reinforced the castle and brought more Turks there from the surrounding Turkish frontier castles. Three circles of walls protected the inner castle, and there were fifteen hundred houses around the outer walls. The Turks installed the water of the nearby springs into the city and covered the streets with wooden boards. Allegedly seven schools could be found in the city. Altogether there were 953 defenders in 1621 and 800 in 1660. Prince György Rakoczi II defeated Achmed, Pasha of Buda, under the castle’s walls in 1658. General Caraffa took it back after a four-day siege in 1686.


Lugos ( Lugoj),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@45.6871128,21.8426205,17388m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x474fbebd56492451:0xe9161dd73d36f5a4

The city had a castle surrounded by a wooden palisade and bastions. The Turks took it in 1552 but Sultan Suleiman the Great gave it to King Zsigmond János. The place was burned down in 1594 and in 1599 by the Tatars and also in 1603, then it was burnt by Captain Henry Dampierre Duval. The castle used to be an integral part of the frontier castles guarding Transylvania’s border between 1536 and 1658. It was also a local center, and its garrison consisted of Hungarian, Romanian, and Serbian inhabitants who were mostly soldiers. There were six hundred riders and seven hundred infantrymen in 1626. A Romanian Reformed pastor called Moisi Pestisel, who was one of the Romanian translators of the Old Testament, lived here in 1581. Another famous Romanian pastor was Istvan Fogarasi, the translator of Protestant works into Romanian language in the 1640s.  The city also became the religious center of Orthodox Romanian believers in 1622. The city became the property of the Treasury in 1615. The castle disobeyed Prince Bethlen in 1616 so it had to be taken by force. It was one of the castles the Turks demanded for allowing Bethlen to become a prince. The castle fell under Turkish rule permanently only after 1658, resulting in the escape of its inhabitants to Transylvania.


Karánsebes (Caransebes, Karansebesch),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@45.4106571,22.1808353,8737m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x474e31c2a1df1575:0x73fc927250542a2e

This was a smaller settlement with many privileges, located on a strategic place. It belonged to the German Teutonic Order of Knights between 1429 and 1435. During that time, the Romanian Vlad Dracul, the infamous historical father of the “Dracula,” allied with the Turks, pillaged it. The city’s heyday was during the time of the Transylvanian Principality because it was the headquarters of Lugos-Karánsebes County between the 1530s and 1658.  Its furrier guild was very famous. Most of the inhabitants were Romanians but some Hungarians and Saxons. There were religious divisions among them but after the Diet of Torda in 1564, it was ordered that its church should be used alternately by the Reformed and the Catholic people of the city, every other week. Later the church became the property of the Reformed church. However, there was a Jesuit mission working there between 1625 and 1640, led by the Romanian George Buitul who tried to convert the greatest population of Reformed Romanians of Transylvania. The city couldn’t avoid the Serbian mercenaries’ attack that had been instigated by General Basta. They destroyed the nearby villages and sacked the city, selling many enslaved people to the Turks. Finally the citizens’ uprising chased them away in 1604. The castle and the city became the property of the princes in 1605 and remained in their possession for a long time. Its garrison included two hundred riders and two hundred infantrymen in 1626. Ákos Barcsay, its captain between 1644-1658, finally ceded it to the Turks. It was taken back only after 1688.


Temesvár (Timisoara, Temeswar),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@45.7410432,21.1465497,17371m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x4745677dcb0fb5a7:0x537faf6473936749

This was a strategic castle next to the Transylvanian border, a much disputed fort between the Turks and the Hungarians. First the castle beat the Turks back in 1551 but its famous siege took place in 1552. Pasha Achmed led an army of thirty thousand against the fort that was defended by chief Comes István (Stephen) Losonci who had barely two thousand Spanish, Hungarian, Czech, German, and Italian soldiers. After twenty-five days of siege, the Turks destroyed the water tower of the city so Losonci had to start negotiations. He was allowed to leave freely with his soldiers, accompanied by the city’s inhabitants, but the Turks slaughtered them, capturing and beheading the seriously injured Losonci in the end. In spite of the massacre, the city began to develop during the Turkish rule, especially its agriculture. Temesvár was also an important trading center. It was the first city where beside the Turkish merchants, the Jewish traders appeared in bigger numbers. The houses of the city were built of clay and covered by wooden roofs, and the streets were paved by wooden planks. Each quarter of the city was surrounded by water and had its own fortress. Temesvár became a center of an elayet, and it was the starting point to launch raids and military moves against the nearby regions. Important Turkish officials and foreign envoys, including the Sultans, visited many times. All of the fugitives from Transylvania found shelter here, especially those who aspired to get the throne of Transylvania with the Turks’ help. Gábor Bethlen used to stay in the city like many Romanians who wanted to rule Wallachia or Moldavia one day.


Szatmár (Romanian: Satu Mare, German: Sathmar, Yiddish: Szákmér),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@47.7722936,22.7601767,33457m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x47380434f4e50c2b:0xbb0ab3cb55750d75

After the Defeat of Mohács (1526), Szatmár was the third-best fortified frontier castle of the Kingdom of Hungary, built on its easternmost part. It was rebuilt in the modern Italian fashion with five bastions. It was on the three-sided border between Royal Hungary, Transylvania and the Turkish Occupied Lands. Control passed back and forth between the Transylvanians and the Habsburgs. General Basta in 1603 ordered the Italian Cesare Porta to complete the reconstruction of the fort. Nevertheless, it was occupied by Prince Bocskay the next year. Prince Bethlen got hold of it in 1622, according to the Peace of Nikolsburg. Prince György Rákóczi I’s armies attacked the castle rather successfully in 1645, unlike the Turk armies in 1660 and 1663.


Nagybánya (Baia Mare, Frauenbach),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@47.6688678,23.5008265,16762m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x4737dc70b4206f37:0x30914e534fa9d1dd

It got its name from its plentiful silver and gold mines. The inhabitants were mostly Saxons, craftsmen, miners, and merchants. The city’s patron saint is Saint István (Stephen), the first Hungarian king. The city was renowned in distant lands for its great Saint István cathedral that was finished in 1387. The church is 50 meters long while its tower is 40 meters high.  In the time of King Matthias, Nagybánya produced more than the half of Hungary’s gold, even though the mining towns in Upper Hungary were also very productive. All kinds of artisans lived in the guilds of the city: carpenters, masons, furriers, potters, tailors, goldsmiths, and silversmiths, all had a very good reputation. The goldsmiths were especially world-famous; one of them became a professor of Gresham College in London. The townfolk became Protestant in 1547, and the first Reformed college in Transylvania was established there. Usurers held the renting rights and lived off the rich town’s profits. Prince Bethlen took these rights away from them and freed the city from its unjust debt, gifting the mining rights to the city in 1620. In the Ring of Fire period the city was owned by Prince György Rákóczi I.


Radna (Rodna, Roden),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@46.0995702,21.6583173,4315m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x4745877de6ffbdb3:0x57f7d120324cdf4d

It was famous for its silver mines and was inhabited mostly by Saxons, but the high population included many Hungarians and Romanians as well. The city had very good relations with the cities in Romanian Moldova, for example with the mining city of Moldvabánya. It was the reason why they declined to join the prince’s army in 1632 against the Romanians. In the first part of the seventeenth century many Saxon families moved to the depopulated city of Beszterce so the role of the Saxons in Radna had decreased.

They didn’t elect a Saxon City judge in the 1640s, and the Saxon and Hungarian pastors were preaching together in the church.


Marosvásárhely (Tirgu Mures, Nai Muark),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@46.5430817,24.4825579,17120m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x474bb64a553e9177:0xb1573a839869d90d

This was the center of the Seclers. After the Fifteen Year War the city was burned by German mercenaries, and in 1602 the rest of the houses were put to the torch by the Hungarians. The rebuilding went on until 1653.  It became a free royal city in 1616. It was burned again in 1658 by Romanian and Turkish raiders. Pasha Ali took the town and made Mihály Apafi the Prince of Transylvania within its walls. Due to the Turks’ carelessness the city burned down the next year. The next raiders were the Austrians in 1687. Later these activities continued. During the first part of the eighteenth century this city was hit four times by devastating plagues. Despite these hardships, the city remained the cultural, educational, and trade center of the Seclers.


Csíkszereda  (Miercurea Ciuc, Seclerburg),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@46.3574859,25.5998146,34357m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x474b2a092c490c6b:0x6aa5d0a276cb4941

This city was built at a trade junction and has always been a Catholic center for the Seclers. A Catholic college was founded here in 1630. At the time of the Ring of Fire, the city belonged to Ferenc Mikó, the councilor of Prince Bethlen. Count Ferenc Mikó (1585-1635) was also a famous diplomat and chronicler. He was the captain of Csík county and began to build the castle of Mikó there in 1623.


Torda (Turda, Torembrich),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@46.5600797,23.7422575,17115m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x47496620aa78a95b:0xc7f433dbd893f8a3

Torda was the administrative center of the Transylvanian salt mines, and this was a key function in that time.

After the collapse of the Hungarian feudal state because of the taking of Buda by the Turks in 1541, the Diet of Torda in 1542 accepted Zsigmond János as the first Prince of Transylvania. It was the city where the Diet accepted the Protestant churches in 1557 and they declared the famous freedom of religion in 1568. During the bloody campaign of General Basta and his Austrian mercenaries in 1601, the inhabitants of Torda took refuge behind the walls of their Reformed church, which was built in gothic style. Basta had his cannons brought up and destroyed its walls, killing everybody inside. Prince Bethlen gave the depopulated settlement to salt miners in 1614. The town received a collective nobility in 1665.


Zalatna (Zlatna, Goldenmarkt),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@46.1192289,23.179242,8627m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x474eb9b78807764f:0x900dd6af14117a4c

Its name derives from the Slavic word zlatna meaning gold. There were many rich gold mines, some of which are still in use. All the princes took good care of this mining city, and it was developing rapidly during the RoF. Its inhabitants were mainly Saxon miners.


Déva (Deva, Dimmrich),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@45.87563,22.8431837,17329m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x474ef2942e4b17ed:0x7a9550f58a1eda77

This was a fortress that was considered one of the key gates of Transylvania. Its most famous holder had been János Hunyadi, King Matthias’ father. The first Unitarian bishop of Transylvania, Ferenc Dávid, was imprisoned and died here in 1579. It was the castle where the General Giorgio Basta wanted to execute all high aristocrats of Transylvania in 1603. Both Prince Bocskay and Bethlen were its owners; they used it as their living place. Déva was the dwelling place of Mária Széchy, the “Venus of Murány”, between 1627 and 1640. It was Prince Bethlen who began the renovation of the castle in Renaissance style.


Vajdahunyad (Hunedoara, Hunnedeng),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@45.7631595,22.8726977,8682m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x474e8a547396159f:0x19f38ced3c35233b

This was the traditional knight castle of the great János Hunyadi. It can be seen today as it was built in its gothic glamour. It was attacked by the Romanian Michael in 1601. In 1618, the castle became the property of the Bethlen family, who renovated and improved it. Maria Széchy lived here in 1632 for a short time. Several guilds were working in the city: tailors, tillers, boot makers, and furriers. The Reformed church was established here in 1634.


Brassó (Brasov, Kronstadt or Kruhnen),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@45.6524567,25.5264227,17399m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x40b35b862aa214f1:0x6cf5f2ef54391e0f

This well-fortified city was the main center of the Saxons of Transylvania. The settlers had come primarily from the Rhineland and the Moselle region, with others from Bavaria and even from distant parts of France.

Germans living in Brassó were mainly involved in trade and crafts. The location of this city at the intersection of trade routes linking the Ottoman Empire and Western Europe, together with certain tax exemptions, allowed Saxon merchants to obtain considerable wealth and exert a strong political influence. The town’s “Black Church” is claimed to be the largest gothic-style church in Southeastern Europe. The first book printing office of Transylvania was established here in 1529, and the first book ever printed in Hungarian language was also made here around 1580. In the famous Saxon college of the town, students were taught not only in German but also in the Hungarian language, beginning in 1637.

Prince Gábor Báthory was defeated at Brassó in 1611 by the combined forces of Saxons and Romanians. The city and the church were put to the torch in 1689 by General Caraffa’s mercenaries, hence the name the Black Church.  


Szeben (Sibiu, Hermannstadt),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@45.7829757,24.0697981,17358m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x474c6788fd2c1cd5:0x3ade9d214e3390b4

This medieval royal and free Hungarian town became the spiritual and trading center of the Saxons. János Hunyadi defeated Bey Mezid in 1444 under its strong walls which were defended by forty bastions.

The Turks were never able to take it, but there was a great fire in 1556. The Tatar raiders sacked the city in 1658.


Kolozsvár (Cluj, Klausenburg),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@46.7833002,23.4764279,34088m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x47490c1f916c0b8b:0xbbc601c331f148b

This was the historical center and the most important town of Transylvania, the birthplace of King Matthias. It was one of the seven fortified Saxon cities that gave Transylvania its German name of Siebenbürgen. Prince István Bocskay was also born here. The town was in its heyday during Prince Bethlen’s period when Transylvania was called a “fairy garden.” Kolozsvár was called similarly the “treasure-house Kolozsvár.” Both Prince Gábor Bethlen and Prince György Rákóczi I were elected prince here. The first university of Transylvania was established here by Prince Báthori in 1585. Its Jesuit professors were unfortunately chased away in 1603, and so the university closed its gates. Prince Gábor Bethlen issued a document here in favor of the Jewish inhabitants all over Transylvania in 1623 which permitted them to settle freely, trade freely, and practice their religion freely, without the obligation of wearing the distinctive marks for the Jewish.


Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia, Karlsburg),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@46.0616033,23.4879626,17271m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x474ea80cce754875:0xe9b0f44e8e45cd05

This was the capital of Transylvania, the seat of the princes, between 1542 and 1690. It had also been the administrative center of Transylvania in the medieval period of the Hungarian Kingdom.  János Hunyadi defeated his legendary adversary, Bey Mezid, and his fifteen thousand-strong army next to the city in a three-day-long battle in 1442. The last freely-elected Hungarian national king who was also the first Prince of Transylvania, Zsigmond János, died in the city in 1571. He, his queen, and his son are buried in the city’s Saint Istvan (Stephen) Basilica. The city saw the short and bloody rule of the Romanian Prince Michael in 1599-1600 and suffered the burnings and sacking of General Basta in 1602. Its Reformed college was established by Prince Bethlen, who died in the city in 1629. The Diet of Gyulafehérvár in 1630 reconfirmed the union of the historical three nations of Transylvania: the Hungarian, the Saxon, and the Secler.


Other famous settlements of Transylvania are: Székelyhíd, Kereki, Almás, Sebesvár, Szalonta, Arad, Medgyes, Fogaras, Kővár, Torockó, Nagyenyed




Turkish-Occupied Lands


City of Szolnok,20.0435875,33836m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x474141123b36bec5:0x400c4290c1e11d0

This had an important function on the frontier because it was the entrance to Eger castle, which guarded the road to the north. Sultan Suleiman II ordered Pasha Achmed Ali and Mohamed to take Szolnok and Eger in 1552. The castle had been fortified in 1550, and Lörinc Nyáry was made its captain. He commanded fourteen hundred Spanish, German, and Czech mercenaries and had just a handful of Hungarian soldiers. The fort was supplied with twenty-four cannons and three thousand muskets along with eight hundred quintals of gunpowder.

Pasha Achmed Ali besieged the castle with his forty thousand-strong army on September 2, 1552. The German mercenaries were the first to think of fleeing but it turned out that the Hungarian boaters had fled away before them. The next day the Hungarian and the Spanish riders swam across the River Tisza at night, and then the boaters returned for the rest of the foot soldiers. All of the mercenaries had fled by the third day of the siege and left the gate ajar behind themselves. Captain Nyáry and his 50 faithful Hajdu soldiers were left behind and captured by the Turks, who garrisoned the fort with two thousand soldiers and went on against Eger castle. The memory of this shame still lives today. The castle remained in Turkish hands until 1685.

Szolnok became the center of a Turkish sanjak and unlike at other places, they began the construction of several typical Turkish buildings: they built a bath, a minaret, and a mosque in 1553. They made the first permanent bridge over the Tisza River in 1562. It was in Szolnok where they copied the only Turkish manuscript written in Hungary about the Hungarian campaigns of Suleiman the Great.


Castle of Gyula,21.1542074,34184m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x4745d6912e572a0b:0xe643b29f4ae1ba5a

This was a stronghold on the Great Hungarian Plain, taken by Pasha Pertev in 1566. The siege lasted for two months and finally the defenders, led by captain László Kerecsényi, withdrew into the brick-built inner castle. At last he surrendered the castle in exchange for free passage but upon leaving the ruins, he and his soldiers were put to the sword.

For more than a century the castle had controlled the area between the Körös and the Maros Rivers. Gyula became a center of its sanjak that was divided into four parts: the Nahije of Arad, Békés, Zaránd and Bihar. The bey of Gyula ruled over these territories. The town had a mixed population of Turks and Hungarians. Using the stones of the surrounding areas’ Christian churches as building materials, the Muslims erected two mosques, a ceremonial bath, and a turbe (tomb). This town was well-documented in the writings of Evlija Chelebi, the Turkish traveller who filled 10 thick books with his stories and descriptions between 1664-1666. On assignment for the Sublime Porte, he mustered almost all places of the Ottoman Empire during his forty years of service. He wrote of Gyula that it had “. . . two hundred shops and three churches in the outer town . . . it is a peculiar spectacle that everybody uses a boat when they visit each other from house to house, from garden to the mill.” As the tax-paying Hungarian population was severely decreasing, the Turks tried to fill the numbers up with settlers from the South Slavic areas, giving them the abandoned villages, as they did elsewhere.

There is a village near Gyula, called Ajtós. It is known for the German-Hungarian who left for Germany in 1455 and became famous in Nurnberg: Albrecht Dürer’s father. The word “Dürer” is the direct translation of the village’s name, “Ajtós.”


Castle and Town of Szeged,20.0003839,34435m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x474487e22bcce54b:0x400c4290c1e1190

The Habsburgs’ army took the town from the Hungarian King Szapolyai in 1542 which made the Turks very angry. The Sultan punished the town’s people rather severely for ceding the place to Ferdinand I when after the siege of 1543 he took over the castle. Later Szeged was put under the central treasury’s command so the tax was paid directly to it there. It was more advantageous than the situation of Spahi-owned lands where the Spahies literally robbed the settlements while they were in their possessions. For this reason, the inhabitants of many villages moved to Szeged.


Castle of Kecskemét,19.5389723,34023m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x4743da6108f61c3f:0x400c4290c1e1180

ht3smjThe Turks captured it in 1541 and it was attached—luckily—to the Pasha of Buda so it was not a harassed and overtaxed Spahi dominion. Later, in 1565, Kecskemét also became a treasury-owned settlement so they could develop a more independent local authority in the city. Despite the constant wars, the city enjoyed relative peace and received many inhabitants running away from villages, eventually becoming the most significant settlement of the area between the River Danube and the River Tisza. The symbol of the city’s privileges became a mysterious Turkish kaftan that had been given to the judge of the city to wear when the Turks would come to collect the taxes. The records of the city say: “It was in the year Anno Domini 1596 at the time of Eger castle’s taking, when Sultan Muhamet II appeared in front of the city. The citizens of Kecskemét went before him with presents, giving him six hundred sheep, one hundred cattle and fourteen wagons of bread . . . and they begged the Sultan to send them a Bey to protect them from the armies. The Sultan gifted them with three hundred gold pieces and gave them a golden-woven kaftan, telling them to go home and they should put the coat on if someone wanted to hurt them. When later Turkish soldiers wanted to sack the city, the judge rode out in this kaftan. Amazingly, all the Turks paid respect immediately and left the city alone.”

The city survived the one hundred and fifty years of Turkish rule quite intact but it was destroyed by Serbian attackers in 1707.


Castle of Cegléd,19.6641268,33822m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x474170f3f82c3f27:0xa1db3b9918ea12e7

This became a Turkish-owned town right after the capture of Szolnok in 1553. It enjoyed more peace than most because it belonged directly to the Sultan. Many area villagers flocked there to find refuge. Cold, outdoor cattle-keeping became the main source of the living.

Cegléd joined an alliance with Kecskemét and Nagykörös in the 1550s and possessed a higher level of independence and local authority. Almost everybody was a Calvinist, and they had a Reformed college as well. They also seized the Catholics’ church. The city prospered until the Fifteen Year War broke out in 1591. Due to the war, all the inhabitants ran away to Nagykőrös between 1596 and 1602. They were slowly coming back during the seventeenth century, and the economy was again flourishing but when the Turks were finally driven out, the people fled to Nagykőrös and Kecskemét in 1683. Kecskemét’s growth is a very good example how indifferent and careless the Turks had been toward these half-conquered occupied territories. Gradually they allowed the local authorities to become almost as strong as they had been in the feudal Hungarian Kingdom. Kecskemét finally regained the right of punishment and granting pardon in the county. The Turks retained only the collection of the ever-increasing taxes. The Turks expected to get “gifts” which were not included in any laws but these bribes were needed if anybody wanted to achieve anything with the officials. These gifts were offered to the offices normally once a year, even if there were not any requests or complaints to be taken care of. Regardless of the city and the region’s political masters, in the 1630s the Transylvanian prince as well as the Hungarian king, Ferdinand, had been trying to extend their authority, and they imposed their claims by issuing documents that gave noblemen they endorsed ownership of territories long occupied by the Turks. The endorsed landlords could even take their feudal gift into their possessions—partly or wholly. For example, a nobleman called János (John) Lugossy received a property near Cegléd from the Transylvanian prince. After the death of this landlord the right to the property went to his heir, Imre Bercsényi, who was able to get a confirmation of this right from the Hungarian king Ferdinand in 1636. The tax-collecting of Hungarian landlords had become a regular and accepted habit by 1630 but sometimes Hungarian soldiers had to go with the wagons. The race for the taxes was not only about mere money—the Hungarians this way could interfere with the everyday life of the sultan’s subjects.


Castle and City of Buda,18.8613312,33637m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x4741ddae1d8728f3:0xf41ed7fc34685421

Buda was the most important western frontier castle of the Ottoman Empire. Its pasha or begler bey had been the second-highest ranked person after the sultan, usually after the grand vizier. He was in charge of the Elayet of Buda—simultaneously the military commander and the leader of the civil administratio. Besides, he was authorized to conduct the diplomatic negotiations with the Habsburg powers. In the absence of the sultan or the grand vizier, the pasha of Buda was the leader of the entire Turkish army in Occupied Hungary. All the other elayets belonged under his rule. The pasha of Buda automatically received the rank of a vizier from 1623 on.

The Turks carefully built out a strong belt of castles around Buda (like Esztergom or Székesfehérvár) and established a chain of forts towards Vienna. In peaceful times, the garrison of Buda numbered two thousand soldiers, mostly Janissaries.

When the Turks seized the old royal city of Buda in 1541, they robbed the famous library of King Matthias and systematically destroyed the frescoes and sculptures of the most beautiful gothic cathedral in the center. A traveler who worked for the Fuggers, Hans Dernschwam, described the poor conditions in 1555. The environment hadn’t become any better by 1630. He wrote of it as: “The houses are collapsing one by one. There is no trace of a new construction, except some shads where one could take shelter from rain and snow. There had been great halls and stalls that now are divided into hundreds of makeshift cells made of stone, wood and clay.”

“The Turks don’t need wine-cellars so they had filled them with garbage. The houses look as they had no owner . . . they made a mosque from the Catholic church and threw the altar and the tombstones out . . . many rooms are walled in. The houses look like pigsties and they are so much built around that you couldn’t recognize the wagon-entrances because they fabricated stalls and a bazaar in front of the houses where the Turkish craftsmen sit and work according to their habits.”



This was situated across the Danube river from Buda. It was not a well-fortified settlement, but was protected by just a simple stone wall with many towers and bastions on it. Yet its defenders’ number was not small, usually between one thousand and fifteen hundred soldiers.


Castle of Szigetvár,+7900/@46.0519442,17.7539145,17274m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x47680752985296b9:0x400c4290c1e1c90

This was an important sanjak center, the southern gate of Hungary.

It was defended by Miklós (Nicholas) Zrínyi in 1566 against the army of Sultan Suleiman the Great and his one hundred thousand soldiers. Zrínyi, the great-grandfather of the Miklós (Nicholas) Zrínyi who was eleven years old at the time of the Ring of Fire, had only twenty-five hundred men but was able to hold the small castle for thirty-four days. When even the inner castle was in flames, Zrínyi led his remaining three hundred men out of the castle and died attacking the Turks. His heroic example became a legend in Hungary. It was the last siege for old Suleiman, too; he died at the castle and allegedly his heart was buried there.


There were other castles in the Occupied Lands that were of significance:

Zsámbék, Hollókő, Hatvan, Jászberény,Fenlak, Érd, Fok, Földvár, Simontornya, Kalocsa, Szekszárd, Pécs, Kaposvár, Segesd, Babócsa, and Valpó.


About the Faces on the Cutting Room Floor Number Seven: The Exception That Makes the Rule: Cutting a Chase Scene


Ironically, the last great chase of 1635: The Papal Stakes was cut from the novel. Reason: it simply was not essential to the plotline that we see the failed Spanish attempt to intercept the rescue forces that extracted Frank and Giovanna Stone from their prison in the high reaches of the Castell de Bellver’s lazarette. It was only necessary that the reader know the general parameters of the escape plan and that it had obviously succeeded.

However, in this restored scene, readers get a chance to see how Estuban Miro’s canny plans ensured that the group would wholly elude Spanish pursuers, starting from the very moment they cast off from the dock in Palma de Mallorca . . .

With the sun coming up any minute, Captain Bernardo Villarda y Ruiz, master of the Petrel, gave orders to cast off the moment his executive officer, Alfonso Ricardo Torres y Pizarro—yes, a relative of that Pizarro—clambered somewhat awkwardly onto the deck. “Nice of you to join us, Don Alfonso,” he commented drily.

“I am lucky to be here at all, Captain,” the much younger man and pampered scion replied with a measure of heat. “With all the confusion surrounding what happened last night—“

“That does not concern us. Our task is to pick up the trail of these saboteurs and assassins and stay on them. The rest will come out and follow our lead; we are the first hound in the chase.”

From the spot on the wharf in Porto Pi, furthest south of the moorings in Palma Bay, Torres y Pizarro looked back toward city’s main docks. “I do not recall seeing any major warships there, to bring down the prey.”

“No galleons, if that is what you mean, but there are two frigatas and a brig, if they are even needed: the attackers might have come in smaller ships. But right now, that is not our concern. Hoy, mate, cast off. Raise the yards.”

The Petrel got under way just as the first hint of false dawn was limning the east: she was a barca longa with clean lines and known for speed. But that reputation was not going to help her contend with the forces of nature that pushed against her now.

Don Alfonso, newly arrived in the Balearics (and none too happy with what he considered—rightly—a backwater assignment) noticed the slowness of their start. “What is our problem?”

You are our biggest problem, not having an ounce of maritime experience to go along with the many pounds of silver whereby your family purchased your commission. But instead, the captain—mindful of how frequently this impertinent man-boy’s lips came close to influential ears—chose to educate instead of castigate him: “Our problems are two-fold: the currents and the wind. Whoever planned this treacherous attack was not an idiot; he knew the seas in these parts quite well. The current that runs into the bay is peaking now, and the Llebeig, the wind out of the desert to the southwest, is rising early. The clouds that covered the approach of this, this—balloon—they used, was also the harbinger of stronger weather from Algeria—of winds against which we will be sailing directly.”

Don Alfonso looked outraged, almost personally insulted. “So we are pinned here, unable to pursue?”

Villarda y Ruiz managed not to sigh or close his eyes on exasperation. “No; you are once again thinking of square-rigged vessels. They are helpless—or nearly so—in a headwind. We can make progress, but slowly, and only by tacking back and forth across the wind, and in this case, the current as well.”

“So we progress in a zig-zag pattern, not a straight line.”

Miracle of miracles: the man-boy actually did have a brain! “Exactly. But all this puts us even further behind an adversary who already has a long head start. He will be at least ten miles ahead of us by the time we are a mile out from the bay, I fear. Possibly much more.”

*     *     *

The captain of the Bitch stood alongside Thomas North as one of his men lit the small oil burner close to the base of the rather immense Kongming—or ‘flying’—lantern and tested the thin, silken string to which it was affixed. As they watched, it began to rise slowly into the air from the stern of the ship.

“How high will you run it?” asked North.

“Don Miro said fifty feet should be more than sufficient. It’s small but those Spanish dogs”—he jerked his head at the distant speck of dim sail far behind them—“will see it clearly enough as we let them get a bit closer. The sky is still dark enough that they’ll see the light. Which, if they got any decription of the dirigible, will look like the burner to them.”

North squinted at the bright white, lacquered “shade” of the lantern. “And Miro believes a seaman will mistake that for our airship?”

“Hell,” admitted the captain, “it fooled me the one time we tested it. If you’re not familiar with an airship already—and I wasn’t—it’s hard to know exactly what you’re seeing when you’re too far away to make out a silhouette. All you know is that something is hovering in the sky near a ship, and is bright. At that range, your sense of relative scale—how big the thing in the sky is in comparison to the little dark dot under it—is pretty unreliable. And if they don’t know about these,”—he gestured to the Kongming lamp—“what would you think a distant, hovering light in the sky was?”

North smiled. “Good point. But once the sun comes up, the light won’t show up as well against the sky.”

“No,” allowed the captain, “but then the white silk and shiny lacquer on the shade will start reflecting, along with those big paint chips Miro brought from Grantville. He called it ‘crown’—?”

“Chrome,” North corrected. “Chrome plating. Mostly from automobile bumpers, I believe.”

“From what?”

“Never mind. And how long will the lantern stay aloft?”

“Longer than we need. Now, what can you see through those double-telescopes of yours?”

“Well,” said North, raising his binoculars to fix upon the trailing Spanish ship, “I’ll tell you in just a moment.”

*     *     *

Captain Villarda y Ruiz sighed when his sharpest-eyed sailor shrugged uncertainty. “They are gaining on us again.”

Don Alfonso scowled. “Even with that balloon in tow?”

“Yes, even so. Check on the other boats; are they catching up, at all?”

Alfonso turned around and was silent for a second. “Sir, they are veering off!”

“Both of them?”

“Yes!” The young man turned back, fury in his face. “Sir, what could it mean? Are they such cowards that—?”

Villarda y Ruiz shook his head. “No, no—it would not be that. I am concerned that they saw another boat and have given chase, presuming that they could be of no use to us, since if we slowed down to let them catch up, our prey would slip away.”

“But how can we tell if that is what occurred?”

Villarda y Ruis smiled. “We would need one of the wonderful telescopes you have spoken about, Alfonso—like the one you peered through when you visited your uncle’s galleon.” The lack of a telescope—or simple spyglass, for that matter—had already become a bitter point in their pursuit of the enemy ship. When they spotted the balloon in the sky next to it, shortly before dawn, it would have been helpful to have been able to better discern the range of the ship, the balloon, the distance between them. That would have made it unnecessary to indulge in broad guesses as to their size and configuration. And now, as they drew further away, and the light increased, the ability to discern details diminished further: at greater range, and without the same clear contrast against the dark, the balloon was no more than a winking speck in the sky.

Don Alfonso was, obviously, equally distressed by the lack of necessary equipment, and a great deal more vocal about it. “We must have a telescope! How can you go to sea without one?”

Villarda y Ruiz had expected some such outburst and was thus able to conceal his smile. The young intendant of the Spanish Empire, a hidalgo’s presumptuous scion, Alfonso’s sparse experience with ships had been of precisely the wrong sort: he had lived in close concert with excellent maps, up-to-date sextants, recently acquired up-time charts, and sherry in the great cabin with the captain and officers. And, of course, telescopes. But again, Villarda y Ruiz kept these sardonic observations to himself. “We do not have such expensive instruments on a working ship such as this one, Lieutenant,” the captain replied, emphasizing the word “working” as he did so. If the boy had ever had any hope of becoming a genuine seaman, the aristocratic insistence of familiarizing him—first and foremost—with so-called ‘great ships’ had clearly ruined him. Those great looming hulks of galleons—barges with square rigged sails—were hardly ships at all: more like floating treasure houses with thick sides and cannons to complete the comparison.

And now he was in a genuine naval chase and could not read the unfolding signs—signs as clear to a thirteen-year-old ship’s boy as his letters and sums. Clearer, probably, given the low quality of itinerant tutoring afforded students of such humble means. “Reason it out, Alfonso: you remember how our look-out thought he saw sails to the south, as well.”

“Yes, but he was not sure.”

“”True, but that does not mean he was mistaken. It could simply mean that the ship there was hovering at the edge of visibility.”


“So that later—as we see now—he could edge in closer, and show his sheets to the vessels coming after us. And, thereby, draw them off after him.”

“But to what purpose?”

God help the poor crew who winds up serving under this imbecile. “To split us up. Consider: the attackers knew Palma, evidently knew the Castell de Bellver. They probably also knew the approximate number and kind of pursuit ships we had ready in the bay. And so now, they present us with numerous hulls and all on different headings. So we must choose: follow all and spread ourselves too thin, or choose one and hope that we have luckily chosen the right one. And at our current range, we have no way to signal to the ships following us: their masters are making their own decisions, and so we have no way to tell them that we are following the ship with the balloon.”

Alfonso’s brows lowered and what he said made Villarda y Ruiz decide that he would pay any price to get the young aristocrat off his boat: “It’s just not fair,” announced Don Alfonso.

*     *     *

The sun had just passed the high noon point when the lookout in the bow of the Petrel called attention to something floating in the water, less than half a mile to starboard. Captain Bernardo Villarda y Ruiz ordered the steersman to bring her over two points and squinted into the spray.

Minutes later, he clearly saw what it was in the water: a strange hybrid between a balloon and a paper lantern. He had heard of such things from sailors who had served on the galleons that traded east beyond India, all the way to the Philippines, but had attributed it to the tall tales of professional seamen—seamen who spent much of their shore liberty drunk on whatever local spirits came to hand. Evidently, there had been some truth in those tales after all, which he conceded he now had learned the hard way.

“We have been chasing a . . . a toy?” Don Alfonso nearly screamed.

“For the last hour, yes. I conjecture that when they had opened the range between us to that point when they could no longer see our sail, they rightly reasoned that, reciprocally, we could no longer see theirs. At that time, they cut this ‘balloon-lantern’ free”—he pointed to the fine silken thread in the water—“and let it follow the wind. Then they turned at right angles to that heading, and so are gone. Quite gone. It would be sheer luck for us to find them again.”

Villarda-Ruiz stared down at the shiny lacquered surfaces of the ruined lamp. Its light, and its reflective sheet, had fixed their attention just as intended, particularly with sun dancing in and out of the scattered clouds, sending flashes off the lantern’s sides like taunting beacons. And while they had played hide and seek with this lure, the real balloon and escapees were—

—Where? He turned in a full circle, staring at the surrounding horizon: 360 degrees of flat, empty dark blue capped by feather-clouded light blue. The real culprits could be anywhere, by now.

Naturally, he and the other captains would all give up the chase, returning to report the ruse with all possible dispatch. A tongue-lashing would be meted out, new orders would be given, and the search radius expanded, to the extent that wind conditions and prevailing currents would permit. But the odds of catching the assassins were now slim, at best. And if they had had the foresight to have had yet another fast ship in readiness, which set out on a course entirely different from those he and his colleagues had been led along, the odds of intercept became negligible.

Like he, the other captains would realize this even as they went out from Palma Bay on their second, futile sweep. But they would continue to search, of course: to do any less would be to invite greater wrath from already displeased superiors. Because although failure was bad, and incompetence worse, any sign of lethargy meant not merely dereliction of duty, but a diminished fear of the disapproval of one’s betters. And in Imperial Spain, that was the sin that could not be tolerated, for its rule—from august monarch down to humblest hidalgo—was informed by the same notions of statecraft that had been articulated by Nicolo Machiavelli but a century before: it was better to be respected than loved. But it was better to be feared that respected.  

Much, much better.

Hungary and Transylvania, Part 2: The Lay of the Land: The Neighbors and the Inhabitants


When talking about Hungary and Transylvania, basically and historically we mean one country that used to fill the Carpathian Basin with a corridor to the Adriatic Sea through Croatia. The valleys of the Danube and the Tisza Rivers provided very rich fields and pastures while the huge Carpathian Mountains protected the land on three sides between 895 and 1541 AD.

The total area of the Hungarian Kingdom used to be 325,400 square kilometers. Now, in the twenty-first century it is 93,000 square kilometers while present day Transylvania now is 105,000 square kilometers. Transylvania was bigger in the seventeenth century than now because the lands east of the Tisza and huge parts of the Hungarian Highlands in the north belonged at various times to the Principality of Transylvania, ruled under the likes of Prince Bocskai (1605-6), Prince Bethlen (1613-29), and Prince George Rakoczi I (1630-48).

At the time of the Ring of Fire, Royal Hungary was under the rule of the Habsburgs who considered it as their very valuable but dangerous larder.

The Turkish-occupied lands covered more than the size of modern-day Hungary.



Royal Hungary

The Kingdom of Hungary was divided into six administrative parts: the Croatian Captaincy, the Slavonian Captaincy, the Captaincy Between the Lake Balaton and the River Drava, the Captaincy Between the Danube and Lake Balaton and on the Highland the Captaincy of Mining Towns and the Captaincy of Upper Hungary. On the right side of the Occupied Lands, between it and Transylvania lay a land by the River Tisza called Partium. This rich agricultural area usually belonged to Transylvania but it was the subject of constant dispute between the prince and the reigning sultan.

Let’s begin the description of the 1630s situation with the south-western and western part of the country, going from the Croatian Captaincy through the Trans-Danubian Captaincies up to Pozsony (Pressburg, Bratislava), towards Vienna.


The Croatian Captaincy and the Slavonian Captaincy

Croatia and Slavonia became part of Hungary in the eleventh century. Beginning with King Saint Laszlo I, the Hungarian kings wore the title of “King of Croatia and Slavonia.” The king nominated two leaders called “Bán” who governed from its capitals, Zagrab and Varasd, on his behalf. Being an integral part of Hungary, Croatians and Slavonians remained mostly Catholics and bravely fought alongside the Hungarians against Venice and later against the Ottomans. This deep friendship did not include their southern Serbian neighbors. Enmity between Croats and Serbs also dates back to this time. As a minor buffer state, Orthodox Serbia tried to maintain a balance between Hungary and the Ottomans. However, by the time of the Triumph of Nándorfehérvár (now Belgrade) in 1456, Serbia had been consumed by the Turks. The Turks managed and governed Serbia as they did with the Balkans and tried to integrate these territories into their empire the best they could. Parts of Hungary and Croatia have had one hundred fifty to two hundred years of Turkish rule but the Balkan states suffered it for between four hundred to five hundred years. The resulting differences between their social and economic development are clearly visible. Partly because of their Catholic faith and partly because of common enemies, Croats are friendlier to Hungarians than to Serbians up to this very day.



The Captaincy Between the Lake Balaton and the River Drava and

The Captaincy Between the River Danube and the Lake Balaton

Looking from the west, the Croatian-Slavonian and the Trans-Danubian Captaincies directly separated the Austrian territories from the Turks. On the other side of the captaincies was the eastern frontier, and it went along the shores of the long Lake Balaton. It is called the Trans-Danubian region and was known as Pannonia in Roman days. The major castles and forts which guarded this side of the Turkish Frontier were manned mostly by Hungarians and by some Croats. Along the whole length of the frontier there were generally between 19,000 and 23,000 warriors on the Habsburg payroll. Their pay was three to four times lower than the western mercenaries’, and it arrived late or never. Some of these soldiers died of starvation. Since these captaincies are the nearest to Austria, we can examine their finances.

According to the records of the Viennese court of 1578, in a time of peace they could spare 1,400,000-1,600,000 Rhine thalers/florins to maintain the frontier castles. This amount partly consisted of the tax called “Türkenhilfe” that came from the Austrian and Czech regions. The court thought that only thirty to forty percent of the total expenses could be collected from Royal Hungary.  Expenses always tended to be higher than income. While the pay of 16,724 frontier-warriors for one month was 83,700 florins in 1578, they also spent 1,000,871 florins for the upkeep of the castles annually. In the first part of the seventeenth century this amount decreased because they paid only 12,548 soldiers and that cost 53,477 florins per month. The money for maintaining the castles was reduced to 641,624 florins per year, and it did no good to the defense.

The market price for mercenaries in the 1600s when hiring 6,000 cavalry and 3,000 infantry was 480,000 florins a year in Hungary. In contrast, the Transylvanian Prince Gábor Bethlen paid 75,000 florins to his 20,000 strong army per month or 450,000 florins for half a year. Bethlen’s bodyguard consisted of 500 warriors, and he gave them 3,326 florins a month—39,912 florins a year.

At the time of the Ring of Fire, the income budget of Royal Hungary was about 200,000 florins, and 160,000 of it was spent on administrative expenses. Only 40,000 florins could be spared for military purposes. The cities of Royal Hungary contributed to this amount with 77,219 florins in 1626. Of course, it is questionable how much of the money finally reached its destination. Only the half or one-third of the frontier-warriors could be paid from Royal Hungary’s income. On top of that, the Habsburgs’ debts were over ten million florins in November, 1578, and that wasn’t reduced by the 1630s. In the 1603s the price of keeping a 30,000-strong army in western Europe was two million florins. An equal number of Hungarian soldiers would have cost just 1.3 million florins (or thalers) at that time.

During the 1630s, the Habsburgs were supposed to pay from their annual budget one or one and a half million florins for keeping up the frontier. This amount included only the pay of the soldiers; the supplying and maintenance of the castles would have been another one million florins. The poor, neglected condition of the castles and the unpaid soldiers’ misery became the usual state of affairs. Without the utter extortion of the Hungarian peasants, and the nobility’s desperate help to collect the expenses, the Turks could have walked right into the middle of Vienna. It is no surprise that the warriors of the castles cultivated their own fields when they were not fighting the Muslims. Many times, the warriors collected their food from the Turkish territories or from the local villages, causing further misery. The peasants and the common folks were burdened with manual labor to build or maintain the forts. The Diet of 1554 declared that each peasant had to work six days a year at the nearest castle without getting paid. The nobility was also taxed with similar obligations; for example, they needed to provide four wagons for three days a year, one wagon per each one hundred of their peasants.

It was this time period which gave birth to the Hungarian proverb: “There is neither money nor broadcloth.” Soldiers used to receive their payment partly in money and partly in a low-quality broadcloth, the so-called dreadnought.

At the same time there were approximately forty-five thousand well-paid Turkish soldiers garrisoned on the opposing side, not counting the irregular raiders. Almost every single Hungarian castle was defended to the last man or the last handful of gunpowder, except when foreign mercenaries held them as happened at Szolnok or Temesvár. When a fort went down, sometimes a whole county or dozens of villages changed masters. Sadly, most of the castles are in ruins now; the Habsburgs thought them useless and dangerous and exploded them when they “liberated” the country from the Turks, or did so after the 1703-1711 Hungarian rebellion led by Prince Ferenc Rákoczi II.



The Hungarian Highland:

The Mining Towns Captaincy and the Captaincy of Upper Hungary

These captaincies were on the northern part of Hungary, in the Carpathian Mountains. The first one was closer to Vienna, bordering Bohemia, while the second captaincy had a friendly border with Poland. Many Germans dwelled in their mining towns like Besztercebánya (Neusohl, Banská Bystrica) and Körmöcbánya (Kremnith, Kremnica), producing lots of gold and silver. Hungary in the Middle Ages provided vast quantities of salt, silver, and gold in Europe, all coming from the Carpathian Mountains’ famous mines. Beside the fall of Constantinople (Istanbul), part of the reason why Christopher Columbus set sail to the Indies was that these mines’ productivity had decreased by the late fifteenth century. Yet these mines were quite productive in the 1630s, and the possession of these cities was strategic. They produced iron ore and mercury as well. Many “tilting-mills” (mills that used trip hammers to crush the rock to more easily extract the ore) could be found there, too. A very fertile land lay between Pozsony and Vienna, the Csallóköz plains where agriculture was quite developed. Sopron on the west and the lands around Tokaj could boast world-famous wine production. Innumerable grey cattle were also herded toward Austria and Silesia and sold there at a very cheap price. It was the time when the gap between Western and Eastern Europe became highly defined; due to the Turkish wars, Eastern Europe began to export raw materials and received the industrial products from the West in return.

The capital of the western part of the Highland was Pozsony (Pressburg, Bratislava), the gateway to Vienna. It was never occupied by the Turks, who would have been destroyed by the cannons of Komárom before ever reaching it on the river Danube. Pozsony, just eighty kilometers from Vienna, was a coronation town and the seat of kings and princes and palatines. Laws and acts were issued by its Diets, and all the important people had a house there. The Holy Roman Empire’s Austrian emperor could rule over Hungary only by being elected by the nobility of the Diet and crowned with the Holy Crown. A Hungarian king had to swear to rule according to the Hungarian laws and traditions, giving all the rights to the nobility that had been granted earlier on. Many times the Habsburgs had tried to take away the Hungarian feudal rights and turn Hungary into one of their provinces where they had the right to rule by inheritance rather than election. Due to the Hungarian nobility’s resistance, they were never able to carry it out. The Austrians needed the Hungarians’ rich resources and their manpower very badly while the Hungarians realized that they wouldn’t be able to finance the fight against the Ottomans alone, especially not with an Austrian enemy on their Western border, as well. In addition to this delicate balance, the Transylvanians were gaining more and more ground in the 1630s.

The other key city of the eastern Highland was Kassa (Kaschau, Kosice), the capital of the Captaincy of Upper Hungary. Whoever took it would have control over half of the Highland. All three great princes of Transylvania (Bocskay, Bethlen, and George Rakoczi I) began their wars against Austria by taking it. Interestingly enough, two of the great Transylvanian princes’ lands, Bocskay’s and Rakoczi’s huge family estates, were in Upper Hungary and in the Partium between Transylvania and the Upper Captaincy. All in all, the Hungarian Highland was a very wealthy area that was worth fighting for.


The Turk-Occupied lands

The middle section of the Carpathian Basin—roughly the plains between and around the two major rivers the Danube and the Tisza—was the area occupied by the Ottoman Empire, a tongue penetrating into the country from the south. It was divided into six administrative units by the Turks: the central Buda Eyalet, the Bosnian Eyalet (with the capital: Banja Luka / Orbászvár), the Temesvár Eyalet (bordered by Transylvania, with Temesvár as its capital), the Váradi Eyalet, the Egri, and the Kanizsai Eyalet. Between the Occupied Lands and Transylvania there lay an area called the Partium, on the eastern side of the River Tisza. It mostly belonged to Transylvania, although from time to time the Turks tried to seize its castles.

The Occupied Lands had probably the most fertile lands of Europe with a rapidly decreasing Hungarian population. In 1541 when the Turks first got hold of these lands, the entire Hungarian nation consisted of approximately 4.5 million people. When the Turks were cleared out before 1700, one million Hungarians were missing due to the wars with the eastern Janissaries, Tatars, and the western mercenaries. An entire spoken dialect of the Hungarian language became extinct during this one hundred fifty- to two hundred-year period. The Turk-occupied part of the country was more or less a war-zone during this time, including the whole frontier with its numerous forts and castles. Turkish raids were not uncommon on lands controlled by the Habsburg-led Hungarian Kingdom to the north or west. Even the more peaceful Transylvania suffered Turkish raids, coming from the eastern side of the Occupied Lands. Warring was constant despite the peace treaties between the Holy Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire. Due to the unceasing wars, this middle section of Hungary was never integrated into the Ottoman Empire in the way as the Balkans had been.


Few know that the core of the formidable Muslim Janissary warriors as well as a great number of the Turkish army occupying Hungary actually consisted of Serbs and Albanians, new converts to the Islam from the Balkans. (Ninety-one percent of the soldiers were from the Balkans and only two-and-a-half percent arrived from Asia.) The Janissary units were created by collecting young boys from the entire occupied territories in Europe, an awful and grievous slave-tax imposed on the locals. These orphans became the best warriors, received a harsh military training, and were loyal to the death to their emperor and their faith. They had no camp-followers nor women around them: four warriors shared a tent and the youngest was their trainee who served them food and satisfied their sexual desires. One of these warriors’ weapons—next to the musket and the sabre—was the yatagan. It was a wicked long dagger-sized sword, having an inward curved blade with the sharp edge on the inside. The hilt was made of the end of a bone and there was no cross guard at the blade to defend the hand as it was said that a true Muslim warrior was not supposed to parry a sword but to attack the infidel. The Janissary infantry was the most steady basic component of any Ottoman army, and they firmly withstood the deadliest attacks of mounted knights and volleys of any artillery or musketry. Initially the Janissaries were very well supplied and trained musketeers, but by the time of the Ring of Fire, this knowledge had declined considerably. According to Turkish contemporary sources, the Janissaries’ muskets were old-fashioned and not well-kept, and four soldiers had just one. They also neglected to practice shooting twice a week as it is described in a Turkish script from 1606 called “Laws of the Janissaries.” The script described how the designated area of shooting practice would be found next to the training houses. The Janissaries were supposed to go there every Wednesday and Thursday to learn shooting. If somebody should hit the target, he would receive a silver cup or a piece of gold. If someone doesn’t know how to shoot, the Avdji Bashi would show him. Gunpowder and fuse were regularly given to the Janissaries to practice and learn from each other, and they made the bullets themselves by melting or chopping the lead pieces. But the script went on to say that these things had been forgotten for a good while; they received neither gunpowder nor fuse anymore. Even when they got some fuse, they made candles of them and burned them in their houses.

In order to compensate for the decline of their artillery power, during the 1630s, the Turkish military leaders tried to hire mercenaries—mostly from their Christian subjects—and supplied them with muskets.

These things contributed to the softening of discipline, and during the first part of the seventeenth century the Janissaries’ pay had also been delayed more often. Sultan Osman II was the first Ottoman emperor to be deposed by rebelling Janissaries in 1623, during the heyday of Prince Gabor Bethlen of Transylvania. No wonder that the prince could keep the Turks at bay with his clever diplomacy, envisioning a united Christian attack against the weakened Empire.


The Turkish people lived mostly in the fortified settlements of the elayets and in their districts (called Sandjaks in Turkish) that guarded the borders. They collected the taxes from the locals but except for raids and punishing campaigns, they were quite indifferent. At the time of the Ring of Fire, the Turks could control only their forts and the roads between the settlements; the land was not safe for them to travel without stronger troops. The Muslim grip was a bit loosened in this period.

The conquered villages and towns were given to the Turkish nobles as feudal lands by the sultan. The new feudal lords became the chain-clad Muslim knights called spahis but their feudal gifts couldn’t be inherited by their sons. The sultan could take the land back at any minute. So the new landlords were not the kindest masters and tried to squeeze as many taxes as they could from the land. It was not in their interest to build and develop the economy: sometimes they could hold their lands or office only for a few years before it was given to someone else. By the time of the Ring of Fire, the discipline of the spahis had loosened as well; when they were called to arms, three-fourths of them just didn’t show up.

As for taxes, the Christians sometimes had to pay thirty percent more, according to Sharia law, in order to be allowed to follow their faith—be it Protestant or Catholic. The Turks didn’t differentiate between infidels; this is one reason why huge numbers of people in the Occupied Lands were targeted for conversion by Protestants. Meanwhile, in Croatia and in the Trans-Danubian territories which were controlled by the Hungarian Kingdom, the people remained mostly Catholics. Many more Hungarians living under Turkish rule embraced the Protestant faith. The Muslims allowed the existence of all Christian churches with only some restrictions such as Christians not being allowed to renovate or build their churches and not being allowed to train new priests. Tolling the bells was also forbidden. Due to the frequent wars and raids, the land was depopulated in huge areas, and many villages were wiped out.

Hungarian peasants were hostile to the Turks, and controlling them was not easy. At the same time, occasional friendships developed between Turkish and Hungarian warriors and between Muslim landlords and Christian villagers. A mutual respect was developed between the enemies and their culture, attire, and warfare was equally and mutually affected by each others’. Music, food, and fashion mixed together and both cultures were enriched by many new elements.

The locals tried to evade Muslim taxes by keeping more and more pigs instead of cattle. Pigs were declared unclean by the Muslim imams, so this is the time when eating pork became a very typical Hungarian habit.  Elsewhere beef was the favorite. During the entire Middle Ages, Hungarians always ate more meat than other European peasants. In the seventeenth century Royal Hungary was providing great herds of their grey cattle to the West in enormous quantities, as well as herds of horses. While grain production decreased, wine production substantially increased since Turks were not great wine consumers. The peasants kept more and more animals because it was easier to hide them from the pillaging armies in the swamps of the flatlands. Many people took refuge in the vast swamps to save their lives. Whole villages lived in the “green fortress.” At first the Turks tried to drive them out, but when their soldiers got lost in the marshland, they tried to burn the peasants out. By the seventeenth century they had realized that this didn’t work, and they had to make a compromise with the population. The peasants were allowed to herd their cattle as far as Strassburg or Prague if they paid taxes to the oppressors.

The hardened herdsmen who were guarding these animals became members of a new soldier-class, the so-called “Hajdu” soldiers. From time to time they had to cross the dangerous Ottoman-controlled territories to reach their destination, facing unheard-of perils along the way. The Hajdus had been given a major military role in Bocskay’s and Bethlen’s wars, and George Rakoczi I also relied on them. The Hajdus were all Protestants and hated the Turks. Whoever became a renegade and converted to Islam was never accepted again by the Hungarians, not even in Transylvania. Another reason why Protestantism spread so rapidly among Hungarians was that the Catholic Habsburgs could be opposed this way, too. This religious separatism from both oppressors may be compared to the situation between the Catholic Irish and the Protestant English when national interests struggled behind the mask of religion.

Some major cities enjoyed a bit more freedom because they were under the sultan’s command and paid their taxes directly to his treasury. The Turks had wanted to finance the upkeep of their local forces from taxes collected in Hungary, but they could never achieve this. The treasury had to send a huge amount of money annually to support their army.

There was an interesting verbal agreement between the new Turkish lords and some of the former Hungarian ones: they divided the tax up among themselves. Behind the frontier castle line—which was the longest fortified border in medieval Europe—the Hungarian villages didn’t cut their contacts with their former Hungarian landlords. These lords had to abandon their estates when the enemy appeared and fled to the north, either to Trans-Danubia or what had been called Pannonia in the ancient Roman days. The nobles who fled to the Kingdom of Hungary never gave up their rights over their former lands and properties in spite of the Ottoman conquest. They kept sending their tax-collectors to their formally owned villages and towns and their former subjects tried to pay them what was rightful—or at least as much as they could. Sometimes the villagers sought out their former landlord without being asked. Was it out of a servile loyalty to the old lords or simply a bitter defiance against the new Turkish lords? Or was it simply that neither the old nor the new lords had the proper control? It is strange, but the peasants and the townfolk paid their taxes even from the far-away settlements, not only from the warzone. Many times this way they paid double taxes and sent the Hungarian lord’s part by themselves to the north, even if they had to pay the Turks the same or higher amount. Apparently sometimes the locals agreed with their Turkish lord and were not overtaxed, but at times they couldn’t. It is likely that without the greed of Hungarian nobles, the Occupied Lands would have become similar to the Balkans. Sometimes the taxes were just symbolical gifts: a pair of boots or some horses. But politically, this taxation habit was an indication that the former lords had never given up their rights, and this was the way they tried to retain some control over their former subjects. Even fields, villages, and tax-rights located on the Occupied Lands were donated or sold to nobles and warriors for their services by the prince of Transylvania or by anyone who had the right to grant lands.  After all—many researchers of this period agree on this—it was the Hungarian feudalism that finally won over the Turkish feudalism.


The Principality of Transylvania

(In Hungarian: Erdély, German: Siebenburgen, Romanian: Dacia)

The relationship between Transylvania and the Ottoman Empire was determined by the Muslim political view that Transylvania had always been a vassal state to them. Sultan Suleiman the Great “established” the principality after 1541.

Transylvania’s independence cannot be compared to that of either Wallachia or Moldavia. Here the Turks were only nominal overlords and received symbolic taxes from time to time; its extent was different. It had become traditional, though, that the princes, elected by the Diet of Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia in Romanian, Karlburg in German), the capital, still had to receive an authorization called ahdname from the sultan in order to take the throne. Sometimes this “acceptance” came after, sometimes before the elections; it all depended on the current military power-relations. The prince of Transylvania was allowed to reign as he would in his country but was not permitted to act against the Ottomans’ interest in his foreign policy. The foreign diplomacy was carried on according to the actual strength of the players. In the case of Bocskay, Bethlen, and Rakoczi I, ruling in the Ring of Fire period, Transylvania was a rather free country. The prince was ruling firmly over a sovereign country much like any absolute ruler.

Transylvania was equally far away from both empires, and the principality was able—due to its outstandingly effective spy and diplomatic networks—to balance skillfully “between the two pagans” during the 1630s.

As Miklos Zrinyi had cited from Machiavelli: “La forza caga alla ragione addosso“–”Force shit on reason.” The power at this time was dwelling in the hand of the princes who made Transylvania the “Fairy Garden” of Europe. Transylvania was where the very first law was created in Europe declaring freedom of religion was promulgated—at Torda, as early as 1568. It was the only place in Europe where the Jews could live undisturbed, in accordance with their faith and habits, as Prince Bethlen declared it.

Among the Transylvanian princes was István (Stephen) Báthory, who was Prince of Transylvania (1571-1586) and then King of Poland (1576-1586). He fought back the Russians and defeated Ivan IV the Terrible in 1580 and conquered almost the whole Baltic region for Poland. He was trying to bring together an anti-Ottoman alliance, uniting Transylvania, Hungary, and Poland into a single kingdom, thus getting rid of the Habsburgs and the Muslims at the same time. As King Matthias realized in the late fifteenth century, Hungary had to find partners to become strong enough against the Turks. King Matthias had wanted to conquer Austria and Bohemia to form this power and could have almost done it, had he not been poisoned in Vienna in 1490.  Prince István Báthory’s concept was to make a coalition with Poland and, inspired by these concepts, all of the following princes of Transylvania wanted to defeat the Austrians in order to be strong enough against the Turks. Sadly, the Habsburgs also thought that they would be the best leaders in defeating the Turks. So it was a stalemate.

During the so-called Long War or Fifteen Years War (1591-1606), Transylvania joined the Christian coalition against the Ottoman Empire, mostly because of Prince Báthory’s politics. In the 1630s, it was Transylvanians who manipulated the Turks, rather than the opposite. There lived people who were born fifty or sixty years before 1630 and consequently had first-hand experiences from the Long War as well as from the wars of Prince Bocskay and Prince Bethlen.


The capital of Transylvania was Gyulafehérvár, and another important city was Kolozsvár.

Transylvania was based on the alliance of three orders: the Hungarians, the Seclers (Székely), and the Saxons along with the equilibrium of four religions, the Catholic, Reformed, Evangelical (Lutheran), and Unitarian, all of which was led by the Protestant Hungarian nobility. There were some Romanians living there as well, but their nobility and religion were not part of this union, though the Orthodox church was tolerated. Later the Jews were also given all the rights they wished for.

The principality’s army was comprised of the following parts:

  1. Court Corps: the personal guard of the Prince, his regular professional cavalry and artillery;
  2. The troops of the country: insurgent nobility of the counties and the bands of the high nobility;
  3. The Seclers (Székely): three military classes of Seclers doing military service for collective liberties; infantry, cavalry, and leaders (“Primors”);
  4. Saxons: mercenary infantry of Saxon towns combined with the artillery and training provided by them;
  5. Infantry of taxed towns;
  6. Hajdus: warriors with collective liberties in the flatland border area (in and around the Partium);
  7. Riflemen: local peasant soldiers with collective nobility;
  8. Allied and foreign mercenaries.

The General of the Country was the supreme commander while each field army had its own general.  The leader of the Saxon troops was the Royal Judge.

This well-armed and small but high-quality army contributed well to Transylvania’s balancing policy. This modern and partly uniformed army fought successful battles: in Russia (1579); Austria (1606 and 1619); Moldavia (1653, 1654); Wallachia (1594); Bohemia (1619, 1644) and in Poland (1657), continuously avoiding the pressure to wage wars in alliance with the Ottoman Empire. The princes had good military skills, and their tactics were different from either the Ottoman or Western customs.

The Seclers (Székely) are a subgroup of Hungarian people living mainly in the easternmost part of Transylvania, in the Seclerland (Székelyföld). According to the earliest Hungarian manuscripts, they were the descendants of the Huns, left behind in Hungary when King Attila died. The chronicle said they had greeted Prince Arpad in 895 AD with great joy when he entered the Carpathian Basin.

In the Middle Ages, the Seclers, along with the Transylvanian Saxons, played a key role in defending the country against the eastern intruders. Their name derives from the Hungarian word meaning “frontier-guards.”  The Secler territories came under the leadership of the Count of the Seclers, the Comes Siculorum, initially a royal appointee from the non-Secler Hungarian nobility.  From the fifteenth century onward, the princes of Transylvania held the office themselves.

The Seclers were considered a distinct ethnic group, the natio Siculica, and formed part of the Union of Three Nations. These three groups ruled Transylvania from 1438 onward, usually in harmony though sometimes in conflict with one another, under the authority of the king or the prince. They divided their hilly lands into Seats and didn’t have to pay taxes like other common folks; it was their privilege in exchange for their military services. These mountain folks preserved a surprising amount from the ancient Hungarian nomadic military tactics and were considered as very sturdy, stubborn, and impulsive people whose discipline was legendary. They were also renowned for their resourcefulness and quick-wittedness and above all, insistence on their freedoms.

Unfortunately, they had lost much of their military value by the time of the RoF. They were ill-equipped and only seventy percent of the Secler Seats were able to send soldiers to the prince in 1630.

Almost all of the Seclers remained stubborn Catholics, but some of them embraced the Unitarian faith that had been born in Transylvania and Poland. They are the Hungarians who preserved the most ancient folklore of this nation. To this day, they still have dances that haven’t changed since the time of Gábor Bethlen. You can find today more than one million of them in the Seclerland, still fighting for their human rights. Seclerland’s area now is 13,000 square kilometers, roughly half size of Belgium but 2,000 square kilometers bigger than the newborn Republic of Kosovo, established by the Western powers in 2006. Seclers would undoubtedly be among the first to ally with Americans from the future.

The Saxons

The seven German cities of southern Transylvania (Siebenburgen) are: Beszterce (Bistritz), Nagyszeben or it is called just Szeben (Sibiu, Hermannstadt), Kolozsvár (Klausenburg), Brassó (Kronstadt), Medgyes (Mediasch), Szászsebes (Mühlbach), Segesvár (Schassburg). Szeben (Hermannstadt) was an important cultural center within Transylvania, while Brassó (Kronstadt) was a vital political center for the Saxons.

Most of the Transylvanian Saxons embraced Lutheranism, with a very few Calvinists, while other minor parts of the Transylvanian Saxons remained staunchly Catholics or were converted to Catholicism later on. In Transylvania being a Saxon meant being a Lutheran and the Lutheran Church was a Volkskirche; i.e., the national church of Transylvanian Saxons. The town of Birthalm (Berethalom, Biertan), with its fortified church, was the seat of the Lutheran Evangelical Bishop in Transylvania between 1572 and 1867.

In the 1630s, the military value of these seven cities, similarly to the Seclers, had decreased. In contemporary muster-lists their soldiers were described as “good musket, bad musket but has a sword . . . has a lance . . . has an iron pitchfork . . . has a cudgel . . . he is blind . . . this is deaf . . . this one is crippled . . .” Their training and discipline were also deficient.

Warfare between the Habsburg monarchy and Hungary against the Ottoman Empire from the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries reduced the population of Transylvanian Saxons. Later new settlers appeared, but by the end of the twentieth century they had almost all disappeared due to the systematic ethnic cleansing under Romanian domination.


Hungarian Soldiery at the Ring of Fire

It is very important to commemorate the everyday heroism of Hungary’s ordinary soldiers, whether they were simple castle-warriors, Hajdus, or Hussars. Their three hundred years of ceaseless struggle, generation to generation, kept the country and perhaps Europe and the Protestant faith alive. Armies are made up of individual soldiers, and Hungary’s armies were as different as its people.

According to contemporary records, the Habsburgs in 1635 were able to muster an army with forty thousand soldiers, without the castle-warriors of Hungary and Croatia.  The French were able to boast of a one hundred fifty thousand-strong army and the Spanish fielded three hundred thousand soldiers. At the same time, Sweden had an army of forty-five thousand and the Dutch could call fifty thousand men to arms. Hungarian circumstances and soldiers differed, though, from the contemporary western standards.


The Hajdus were armed herdsmen who worked all over Hungary and the Occupied Lands, taking their grey cattle to markets abroad. They were either detested and despised by mercenary generals, like Wallenstein, or praised by others, like Basta. Almost all of them were Calvinists, and more and more of them went to military service in the first part of the seventeenth century.

Prince István Bocskay was the first great general who hired the Hajdus in numbers against the Habsburgs. He began to settle economic privileges on them in exchange for military service. He very cleverly established Hajdu-towns for them near the Tisza river, where the borders of the Occupied Lands, Royal Hungary, and Transylvania met. They were given collective nobility but they cannot really be compared to Cossacks. All succeeding princes of Transylvania relied on them and gave them additional rights.

The Hajdus were both cavalry and infantrymen. While the riders were fighting in formidable light cavalry units armed with their sabres and battle-axes, the foot soldiers were surprisingly steady and reliable troops, famous for their skills with rifles and muskets. In their attire they were not much different from the Turks, save that they wore no turbans. Their hairstyles during this age looked very much like those of punks or teenagers’ haircut in 2015 because the scalp was almost entirely shaven except for a mop of hair hanging down or grown as a narrow fringe that closely resembled the Turks’ fashion. Besides this, there was no Hungarian warrior without a big mustache.

The Hajdus had a savage reputation; their officers had to keep strong discipline among them to keep them from plundering the countryside. Palatine Miklós Esterházy issued a military order in 1620 in which he decreed that “. . . all soldiers must hurry to their designated places when they hear the alarm of the drums with their weapons and whoever tried to defy the loyalty or the order, would receive a shameful punishment . . . bickering is forbidden . . . who draws a sword on his comrade, will lose half an arm . . . at night everyone must stay at his unit, except the guards and the patrols . . . the soldiers may go out the castle only with the officers’ leave . . . the gates can only be opened or closed at the designated times with a cry ‘Jesus’. . . whoever would break his oath, must be cut in four parts . . .”

Like the Hussars and some of the frontier-warriors, the Hajdus elected their lower officers freely. That was still the practice at the time of the Ring of Fire, although it was strictly discouraged by the generals and princes on both sides.

The battle-value of these soldiers was as great as their bad reputation. Balázs Németi, a Hajdu captain, gained renown for them at Osgyán, at the ford of the Sajó river, 1604, when he stood in battle against General Basta who greatly outnumbered him in soldiers and in equipment alike. Németi had four thousand Hajdus and four thousand armed peasants but could not resist Basta’s mercenaries. When he tried to take up positions on the other side of the river, the peasants thought everything was lost and fled. Despite the valiant fight the Hajdus carried on, the battle was soon hopeless. Németi gathered five hundred of his hard men and got into the stately home of Osgyán to cover the retreat of his soldiers. The small palace was only surrounded by a weak fence and Basta soon destroyed the buildings with his cannons. The defenders tried to break out but in vain; most of them died in the attempt, and only a few succeeded. Németi was seriously injured and was taken into captivity. Basta wanted to know more about Prince Bocskay’s army so he had Németi hung upside-down on a tree, but the tough captain betrayed nothing. Then he was imprisoned and sentenced to death. When he was escorted to the place of execution, he grabbed the executioner’s sword and killed him. He cut down many mercenaries as well before he went down.


The frontier-warriors were permanently garrisoned in between one hundred to one hundred twenty castles along the Hungarian frontier. This frontier was longer than the Polish, the Spanish, or the Russian chain of castles and was held for a longer time against the Ottoman Empire than any other military structure in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Europe. The Hungarian frontier had its little brothers in Poland called the swiat kreswy and the Croatian cosjstvo i junstvo, but none of them were under attack for such a long time as the Hungarian/Ottoman border.

These castle-warriors were either landless nobles who had lost their lands to the Turks or peasants who had run away from their villages because of the same enemy. Mostly they were cavalrymen, many of them hussars. They were generally underpaid or not paid at all. As a letter of complaint that was sent to Vienna from the castle of Keszthely in 1668 says: “. . . the soldiers haven’t had any payment for four years now . . . they are threatening to abandon the fort . . . there is a smaller garrison on the Lake Balaton castle-line called Zalavár where there had been ninety Hajdus but now there are only four left.” The soldiers had to use the surrounding villages for feeding themselves, and they wrote to the Emperor in the hope of getting their pay: “We have to guard the gates of your Majesty’s castles with sticks and are almost naked.”

The upkeep of a warrior was 3.5 quintals of grain per year. So a garrison of 500 men needed 1,750 quintals of grain annually. Yet food was scarce, and more often than not the warriors themselves had to cultivate the fields to survive. Originally many of them had found refuge in taking up arms instead of working as peasants; the landlords tried to force them back in vain. Being a frontier-warrior became a kind of privilege, and the former peasants didn’t want to return to life as serfs. Moreover, they despised the humble farmers, though they also had to work the fields around their castles many times to stay alive. Many of them had a vineyard or kept grey cattle and traded with the products. For instance, they cultivated their vineyards in front of the Turks in the hills overlooking Lake Balaton, with arms in readiness. In spite of the general depression of prices in the seventeenth century, the Hungarian wine was very much sought after.

When the frontier-warriors had no money at all, they ambushed the Turks and tried to take captives. They shared the plunder among themselves and kept the captured Turks in the castles until their ransoms had been paid. Turkish prisoners were the major source of income for the captains of frontier castles in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

It seems as if the general non-payment was one of the triggering causes for protecting the frontier so effectively. The warriors harassed the Turks and ambushed them, attacking them wherever they could so as to get some money. It also turned out to be a rather effective method of warfare because the attacker always enjoys the advantage in these kind of surprise attacks. The attacker can also focus a bigger unit at a weaker point of the defense, and the Hungarians had an excellent information spy network.

Defending the frontier castles only from behind the walls would have meant total failure. The constantly moving light cavalry units knew the land and knew the enemy’s positions. In the 1630s, the roads were controlled by the patrols of these warriors so the Turks could travel only with very large armed escorts, even in the Occupied Lands.

Another advantage was the warriors’ masterful knowledge of martial arts and horsemanship. Duels were in fashion, where Hungarians and Turks met in lethal competitions for fame and money. In winter time, the frozen Lake Balaton served as the greatest dueling field where the opponents frequently met. The greatest frontier warrior duelist, Captain György Thury, had no less than six hundred successful duels against the best Muslim warriors who had come to challenge him from even the corners of Asia. Although Vienna banned duels, they had been going on even in time of “peace.” Truce between the empires was a meaningless word on the frontier where things were changing every minute, and a very violent life dictated the rules. Hungarian warriors were adopting Turkish habits, and Turkish soldiers learned Hungarian ways. Soldiers spoke each other’s languages, and generations grew up in opposing castles knowing their enemies’ names and deeds.

The castle-warriors considered themselves a kind of “valiant order,” as if they were the afterthoughts of Hungarian knights who lived a long time before. They were not the same as the Western ordo bellatores, the holy warriors or knights as we know of them; they did not view themselves as the defenders of Christendom anymore. Their fixed idea in the 1630s was not that they were the  propugnaculum Christianitatis, the “bastion of Christians,” but that they were the defenders of freedom of their religion and the liberators of their country from the embrace of the “two pagans.” The concept of Pro Patria et Libertate–”for the Homeland and for Liberty” was taking shape.


The loyalty of the foreign mercenaries in Eastern Europe always had to be questioned, and it always depended on their pay. We also know that mercenaries were infamous for their cruelty against the local population in an age when logistics were not provided to feed an army.

In Hungary, though, it was also a bit different: the land was so depopulated and poor (or the peasants were so expert in hiding) that there was almost nothing to plunder, so feeding the armies was a double nightmare for each mercenary general. It was partly the reason why Prince Bethlen could beat Wallenstein.

The lay of the Hungarian land was different from the western terrain and didn’t offer the “proper” options to deploy a typical western mercenary army in order to fight a battle in their fashion. The divided countryside—the plains and marshes varied with scattered hamlets and woods or valleys among the low hills, as well as the impenetrable Carpathian mountains and their well-guarded passes—was suited perfectly to unexpected ambushes, hit-and-run raids, and snares.

On top of that, each city or castle had to be taken by siege. The mercenary armies were superior in military techniques and firepower but they couldn’t take advantage of it. Most Imperial armies in Hungary were defeated not in a single battle but were rather eroded and crushed by hundreds of harrassments by light cavalry units who knew the land well.

The Hungarian soldiers’ pay was very low compared to the westerners’, but their loyalty couldn’t be bought because they fought for their country, their religion, and their families. While the German mercenary General Mansfeld could easily sell his cannons to the Turks, and it didn’t cause him a moral crisis to offer his sword to them, Hungarian soldiers treated this kind of person as a turncloak, and even the Transylvanians would cast them out forever. The Turks preferred to hire Albanian and South Slavic mercenaries or even Westerners. The Western mercenaries were not welcome in the Hungarian frontier-castles, either, because everyone knew that they easily yielded the forts to the enemy if their pay didn’t arrive or they simply decided that they wouldn’t fight against an overwhelming enemy.

Still, foreign mercenaries were employed by the Transylvanian princes—Scots and Germans who received three times higher pay than Hungarians, often deservedly enough. The heroism of the Scots defending the castle of Lippa (Lipova) in 1596 became legendary.

The mercenaries fought in closed formations, and learning them required long and hard training. This style demanded blind obedience and iron discipline so that the formation could work smoothly—it was a matter of life and death. The huge war machine didn’t allow for any individual bravery or initiative because its efficiency would have been reduced. Meanwhile, the mercenaries fighting in formation knew that they could survive better and might even win the battle if they and their comrades would just obey orders. They were part of a clockwork, thus they could not give in to fear so easily. The orders and their comrades’ attention had been always a great psychological support to them in a chaotic, bloody, smoky, and loud battle situation. This inner cohesion contributed a great deal to their battlefield value, despite having the lowest status of any society. Unlike in the Ottoman army, the mercenaries’ cavalry never left the foot soldiers alone on the battlefield.

Cossacks were also employed by the Habsburgs, as they were cheaper than anybody else, and they had a reputation equal to the Tatars. In Prince Bocskay’s time, the Cossacks were hired either by the Habsburgs’ Hungarian vassals like Homonnai Drugeth or by the Turks themselves. Homonnai’s Cossacks were scattered by Rákóczi, and they ran until they reached Bártfa (Bardejov) in current day Slovakia. An Austrian chief officer, Siegfried Kollonitsch, hired first six hundred, and then two thousand, Cossacks. Their pay was given to them in cloth and salt-cubes.


The hussars were originally typical Hungarian light cavalrymen and they became famous for their special skills and warfare. Their name derives from the Hungarian huszár, and the world adopted their name, first mentioned in Hungary in the fifteenth century. The nomadic Hungarian warfare arose when the Ottoman Empire attacked Hungary because the Turks used light cavalry that had to be answered in kind.

Hungarians were quick to relearn their nomadic skills and adopted many elements from the Turk attackers as well. There are two kinds of hussars: the light raiders and the armored ones with eagles’ wings and feathers attached to them. The latter were introduced in Poland in 1580 by the Hungarian Prince Báthory who became the Polish king as well. The Polish winged hussars with their fierce and almost anachronistic-looking mass attack were world-famous in the 1630s; even Gustav Adolf adopted from them the use of the sabre and the lance after 1621. These armed hussars were not much different from the chain-clad spahis, though. Yet, it was the armored hussars’ attack which decided the battle at Vienna when Sobieski led his cavalry against the Ottoman besiegers in 1683.

Most of the castle-warriors of the frontier were hussars but not all hussars were castle-warriors.



About the Faces on the Cutting Room Floor, Number Six: Pirates as Prey


Much of the second half of 1635: The Papal Stakes involves defeating, avoiding, even stealing resources from, the plentiful pirates of the seventeenth-century Mediterranean. And while all the main scenes involving these scrapes and adventures were retained, some of the lesser ones could not be kept, even though characters referred to them.

This truncated story-telling was particularly pronounced in the events surrounding the operations team’s arrival on Mallorca and its subsequent attempts to contact local agents to facilitate the rescue of Frank and Giovanna Stone. One such excised scene was the capture of the pirates occupying the Caves of Arta, a necessary refuge and water source for the group. While not a major battle in terms of the plot development, it was a defining moment for Estuban Miro who, until this moment, had always lived more by his wits and words than by the sword . . .


By the end of that day, Estuban Miro knew that the Coves des Arta would live in his nightmares. Not because of the soaring, fluted columns formed from fused stalactites and stalagmites, not because of the ghostly faces that erosion had etched faintly into the sheer walls, or the sudden inky abysses that opened up before the team’s feet as they crept forward quietly into the dark. No: it was because here he at last he made his intimate acquaintance with killing–at very, very close range.

Miro had been sailing in pirate-infested waters since his teens and so had come under fire repeatedly. And had returned the same. But that had been in open air, at ranges of fifty yards or more.

This day, the team began by crawling forward into the caves of Arta, led by a once-local sailor named Miguel who was the only man on the expedition who had ever been in the Caves before. And he had only been there once.

But that turned out to be invaluable since Miguel proved to have a damned good memory. Twice he kept them from blithely crawling over ledges that would have led to fifty yard falls into stalagmite-toothed crevasses. About forty yards into the Caves, they caught sight of the glimmer of a fire up ahead, and the low sound of casual, intermittent conversation. The six of them—Miro, North, two Hibernians, and two Wild Geese—stopped to whisper and confirm their final plans.

What they had not seen ahead of time was the pirates’ sentry, who had apparently been dozing. A chunk of shadow seemed to jump out at them from the opposite wall; Estuban didn’t think, he simply drew the HP-35 North had given to him and fired three times. The shadow fell toward him, and, as one of the Hibernians uncovered a lantern, the lightless oblong shape turned into bearded man, chest bloodied, one eye crossing as they both rolled back into his head.

It didn’t matter that the man was smelly, unwashed, and had probably cheerfully raped and murdered his way around the shores of the Mediterranean: he was dead by Estuban’s hand, and fell into Estuban’s lap.

Who scrambled and clawed his way backward, pushing the body off. After that, he didn’t really have very clear recollections of the sequence of following events. He remembered feeling like an ass for compromising their surprise attack, watched the two Wild Geese—Grogan and Dillon—charge forward, pistols and swords at the ready, heard—deafening in the cave—one of the Hibernians cutting loose with his .40-72 lever action and saw the first shadow that rose up into the low firelight go down just as fast, knocked over by that flurry of man-killing rounds.

North ran forward, gun secured in both hands, checking the flanks for other nooks or clefts such as the one the sentry had been hidden in. With surprise gone, the two Irishmen had gone ahead full speed, not checking the sides of the cave as they did. Speed was of the essence now, and the first rank had to trust in the thoroughness of the next rank in securing the flanks. Which meant Miro and the other Hibernian, neither of whom found any threats.

By the time the two of them got to the small cooking fire, the execution was over. For it had not been a battle: it had been—truly—an execution. Of the four pirates there, one had been drunk, and another asleep. Of the other two, the first one to stand had been gunned down by the Hibernian with the lever action rifle. By the time the other one had his weapon out, the Wild Geese were upon him; they hadn’t even needed to discharge their pistols. The sword wounds in the pirate’s belly were so deep and wide that his own digestive fluids were leaking out along with his blood. The next corsair—the drunkard—had been stupid enough to grab a hand toward his cutlass: the first Irishman’s sword had neatly taken off the hand; the second removed his head.

So now they were looking down at the last surviving pirate, who woke from what had evidently been pleasant dreams into his very worst nightmare: angry men, soaked in the blood of his mates, staring down at him with weapons out, teeth bared, and eyes bright with the fight-or-die rush of adrenaline. It was the terrified look in the raider’s eyes—and the uncertainty of what might happen in the next moment—that brought back the image of the pirate sentry’s dying face tumbling out of the darkness at Estuban, like a hammer of judgment falling toward him. It did not matter that there were more capital crimes upon that pirate’s balding head than there were hairs, or that it had been a life-or-death situation, or that (as the others pointed out gratefully later on, with many pats on the back) Estuban’s swift and immediate reaction had probably saved one or more of their lives. All he could recall was the face, its transition from being alive to being dead, and the terrible knowledge that he had been the architect of that change.

Standing over the final pirate, gun firmly trained at the man’s forehead, Estuban made himself conform to the image of the stone-cold killer, all the while fighting the urge to vomit.



With the Caves of Arta secure, Estuban Miro is compelled to journey overland to Palma to make contact with potential allies in the island’s xueta (converso) community. Waiting behind, Thomas North and Harry Lefferts keep the operations team in readiness, and, hopefully, hidden from shore-watching Spanish eyes. It is during this often tense interlude that North realizes that his young up-time comrade has grown immeasurably since their first ill-fated attempt to rescue Frank and Giovanna in Rome . . .


Thomas North had to hand it to Harry Lefferts: the up-timer had grown up and become a real soldier. No, more than that: a real leader.

The problems had started five days after Miro had gone on his utterly insane solo jaunt across Mallorca to Palma. And would probably fall into the hands of the Spanish and give them all up, if military fortune kept faith with its usual obedience to Murphy’s Laws.

Although Miro had told everyone that he would be gone at least a week, possibly ten days, the crews had started getting antsy. And it was easy to understand why: the entire mission force was now necessarily split up, strewn halfway across the horizon.

abf-p6-twrThe problem stemmed from the location of the Caves of Arta, where they had happily discovered a sizable supply of the pirates’ perfectly serviceable food, dubious water, and wildly heterogeneous weapons. The Caves were entered by clambering up to a rocky shelf perched about sixty feet above the smooth blue surface of the Bahia de Canyamel. However, the primary problem was not the ascent, but possible observation by guards atop the eponymous Torre de Canyamel, a solid thirteenth-century tower that was a great deal more formidable than the rest of the diminutive watchtowers that ringed the island. Located just under two miles inland, it was over seventy-five feet tall and furnished with walls three-foot thick, at the base. It didn’t hold much of a garrison anymore, but, being a worthwhile military structure, it was still occupied by regular troops who maintained their coast watch according to military standards, rather than those of a local militia. Which, in the latter case, meant no standards whatsoever.

However, with the Torre de Canyamel nearby, it meant that the operation’s small flotilla of boats could not remain close to the sizable shore party which was both  bivouacking in, and guarding the concealed water sources of, the Caves of Arta. And if they loitered together, even well off-shore, fishermen would no doubt report this coherent group of new boats, several alarmingly large by local standards. And that report would surely prompt an immediate and disastrous investigation by the local authorities.

abf-p6-gjtSo the mission force’s boats were necessarily scattered. The xebec was well out to sea, over seven miles, simultaneously dodging the watchful eyes atop the Torre de Canyamel as well as the pirate vessel they knew to be in the area, which was evidently waiting for a signal from own (now defunct) shore party. The barca-longa was escorting it. Meanwhile the scialuppa, having become a semi-familiar and non-threatening sight in the local waters, cycled back and forth between the Bahia de Canyamel and the waters on the opposite side of its southern headland: the rocky coastline of the Costa des Pins. The gajeta, although no larger than the scialuppa, was built along lines that were different enough from the local small boats to occasion notice, and so it tracked along the coast three miles out, legitimately fishing in order to supplement the group’s food stores.

Having their forces so badly split up, too far to help each other in the event of an emergency, unnerved all but the most seasoned troops and sailors. The operation’s true veterans of war and wave were no more happy with the state of affairs; they simply knew from experience that it was unavoidable, and worrying about what you couldn’t change simply meant you were too tired to perform when and if an actual emergency presented itself. So they slept a lot.

That was when the Piombinesi stationed with the security elements in the Caves of Arta started approaching Harry Lefferts—nervously, respectfully—asking if, perhaps, they shouldn’t all rejoin the ships and stay together for safety while they waited for Miro’s return.

Harry had been patient, pointing out that, in the first place, the pirates were eventually going to send a contingent to check on what had become of their shore party. When they did, they might squat in the cave again, thereby depriving the whole flotilla of its access to a coastal and well-hidden source of fresh water Consequently, there had to be someone in the caves to greet those unwelcome guests—and greet them warmly.

The Piombinesi all liked, and smiled, at that. But they still pressed him to consider relocation.

Harry pressed right back, reminding them that Estuban Miro had no way to signal to them out at sea when he returned, so some of them had to remain here. Besides, until the whole mission force was ready to leave, it could not move the pirates stores’ down the treacherous slopes leading from the cave mouth to the water: someone in the cottages of the small alqueries clustered along the southwest banks of Cala Canyamel would be sure to see and sound an alarum. And loading at night was simply too dangerous to risk, given how close the boat would have to stay to the treacherous and rock-fanged flanks of Cap Vermell.

But still the Piombinesi had persisted, countering sound logistics and common sense with the same kind of cyclical argumentation that North had observed in some of the spoiled children of Grantville—and in every group of impressed civilians that he had ever accompanied on a military mission. Unaccustomed to the constant tension and uncertainty, their anxiety ultimately ate through what thin veneer of courage civilians had and revealed the face of true terror that lay beneath.

Which, North had to admit, Harry had handled like a real pro. Firstly, he had realized that shouting never does any good; it was just as inefficacious as threatening a child in the throes of a true tantrum with a good switching. In short, the Piombinesi’s fear was already so intense that reprimands were only going to make matters worse. Even more impressive was Harry’s full embrace of the opposite, but essential, instinct: he did not try to soothe them. Attempts to do so brought little, if any, calm to troubled units: grown men discerned pretty quickly if reassurances were genuine—and if they weren’t, you had now primed them for a mutiny by making false promises.

Instead, Harry calmly reviewed all the reasons that made it incumbent upon them all to stay put, and finished by saying. “So you see, by staying here, you’re not only doing your job and helping everyone else, but you’re saving your own lives, too.”

That stopped them. One of them asked, “It saves us? How?”

“Well,” commented Harry with a shrug, “reason it out. The only way we could all evacuate is by boat. But that will signal our presence to the soldiers in the Torre de Canyamel, so once we take that step, our next move has to be to run like hell before they can positively identity, let alone intercept, us. So that will mean abandoning Don Estuban, without whom there is no mission—and no pay.”

Another Piombese had murmured. “We could wait for him—further offshore.”

“Let’s hope the local fishermen don’t see and report us. But more to the point: what sign would Don Estuban be sending us that won’t get him snatched up by the tower’s garrison before we can extract him? And loitering off shore also means we might encounter the corsair we haven’t seen yet—and although our captive tells us its just an outsized llaut, we won’t know if he’s telling the truth until we see it. Or we might run into a Spanish counter-piracy sloop that’s already out hunting them. So it seems to me that the smart plan is for us to move only once and to leave this coast behind as quickly as possible when we do.”

He looked around the group; few met his eyes. But most started nodding, muttering and breaking into smaller clumps of disgruntled men who were not happy, but resigned to their current conditions.

Yes, thought North, looking over at Harry, where he sat in the stern, rolling loosely with the scialuppa, the up-timer had become a passable enough officer.. He’d even learned how to wait like a professional, God love him.


And finally, as Estuban Miro is about to lead the team’s small flotilla toward Palma in the final do-or-die rescue mission, he confronts the one captive pirate who survived the team’s assault of the Caves at Arta:


As he walked toward the shore, Miro came upon a single, disheveled man standing between two of the more combat-experienced sailors from the Guerra Cagna.

The ragged man—the pirate they had taken captive at the Caves of Arta—looked from one face to another, suddenly alarmed. “What?” he asked. “You are leaving?”

Miro nodded. “We are.”

The pirate swallowed. “Don’t kill me. I did everything you asked.”

“So you did.”

“I’ve never even killed anyone. On my father’s scrotum, I never—”

“Do not lie, and do not insult your father’s genitalia by smearing them with that lie. You do not deserve to live, perhaps, but that is not my decision to make.”

The man’s face relaxed into a smile. “Thank you, Lord, thank you. I will remain your servant, if I might, to help you in these treacherous waters where pirates abound—”

Miro shook off his reaching hand. “I am no lord, and I would not have you for a servant, no matter how great my need. Nor are you coming with us.”

The man’s face became horrified once again. “You are—are leaving me? Here? On this god-forsaken rock?”

“Yes.” Miro began walking down to his boat, the two sailors peeling away from the pirate and following him.

“But Lordship, I might be found by Algerines!”

Miro turned. “Indeed you might. And perhaps your prior job experience will be of interest to them. Who knows? They might even make you a full-fledged member of their crew—after you’ve been a slave at their oars for a few years.”


Life at Sea in the Old and New Timelines, Part 3: Shipboard Lighting and Fire Prevention

Life at Sea in the Old and New Timelines Part 3 banner

The enclosed decks of ships were man-made caves, and were it not for openings in the hull and decks, or artificial lights, they would have been as dark as night, even in the daytime. At night, of course, the sailors would be dependent on moonlight or even starlight if they didn’t have artificial lights.

Adequate lighting is essential to safety. In a Hungarian mine, the accident rate was 60 percent lower in a lighted section than in one where only cap lamps were used, and increasing the lighting level from 20 lux to 250 lux decreased the accident rate by 42 percent. (Lewis 3). Mine studies have also shown that productivity increases if lighting is improved (4).

While the emphasis of this article is on shipboard lighting, much of what is said about light sources here (and in part 4) is equally useable by landlubbers.



Natural Lighting


Openings provided both natural light and ventilation. The problem was how to let light and air in and keep water (and projectiles) out. The openings could be vertical (on the sides of the ship hull or superstructure) or horizontal (on the deck or the top of a cabin).

Gunports date back to the late fifteenth century. There was variation in the size and spacing of gunports, in part due to the variation in the caliber and crew requirements of the guns. On the British capital ship Sovereign of the Seas (1637), the ports were 38 inches square, with spacings 9.5-11 feet (Sephton, 69). Both circular and square gunports were employed (sometimes on the same ship, as in the case of the Vasa); in general, the square gunports were on the fully enclosed decks, and the round ones on the poop and forecastle.

The first gunport lids were merely boards placed over the ports from the inside, and secured in some way. In the early sixteenth century, hinged lids were introduced. They were made of two pieces of wood, with the outer piece matching the curvature of the hull and the inner one the opening in the port frame (Mondfeld 176).

Based on Georges Fournier’s Hydrographie (1642), there were regional variations in lid design, with side-mounted lids on Spanish ships, top-mounted ones on French, British, and Dutch ones, and removable lids on ships from certain other countries.

Further adjustability was provided by replacing the single lid with two half-lids, joined by a hook and an eye-bolt. In the late eighteenth century, the British added ventilation scuttles, holes with sliding metal covers. The British also experimented with inserting small glass windows into the gunport lids, but these proved unacceptably vulnerable to enemy fire (Quinn 83).

During the eighteenth century, gunport lids on the gunports of the great cabin and the wardroom were replaced by sliding sash windows—these can be seen on the HMS Victory—not unlike those found in a modern home (Quinn 84). (However, few of us contemplate running cannon out through our windows, even if we don’t like solicitations . . .) After the Napoleonic Wars, the guns were removed from officer’s quarters, and the sash windows were replaced with “fixed lights,” essentially windows that couldn’t open.

Stern lights were windows composed of small diamond-shaped panes of glass or muscovy mica set in lead or tin-plate, which in turn was tacked and sealed into a wood frame. They provided illumination for the “great cabin” and perhaps also the wardroom on a warship. Prior to 1690, mica was cheaper, so the use of glass was a prestige signifier (e.g., it was used on Henry VIII’s Katherine Pleasaunce, 1519) (Quinn 85ff).

The development of cast glass brought the price of large panes down (making possible the large mirrors at Versailles), but shipbuilders used smaller panes because of the stresses placed on the panes as the result of the flexing of the hull in response to wave action. If you doubled the length and width of a pane, you would want to double its thickness, too, so it wouldn’t break. That would mean using eight times as much glass, but the cost would probably be more like nine or ten times as much because of the higher discard rate. The cost of stern lights was high enough so that a ship might have a combination of stern lights and mock lights (hull sections painted to look like stern lights during the day). For more on availability of glass and mica, see Cooper, “In Vitro Veritas: Glassmaking after the Ring of Fire” (Grantville Gazette 5) and ‘The Sound of Mica” (Grantville Gazette 9).

The stern lights might have a gutter and drain structure at the bottom to carry away spray, and be equipped with wooden covers (“dead lights”) to keep out waves.

LaSitOnNt-P3-prtlPortals (Port-lights) were introduced in the nineteenth century, and were either fixed windows, or a pair of hinged doors, one glazed and the other solid. The first type were common on fishing schooners and the latter on the outboard cabins of passenger and merchant ships.

Gratings over hatches provided light from above, but the structure had to be strong enough so the crew could walk over it. In the seventeenth century, the gratings were made out of wood. Notched slats fitted laterally into the hatch frame, and cross battens fitted longitudinally into the notches. The hatches had a raised border so that water on deck wouldn’t run into the hold.

There was an eighteenth-century dispute as to proper spacing; the Dutch and English favored four-inch square spaces to maximize lighting and ventilation, and the French preferred two-and-a-half-inch spaces so the gratings were easier to walk on. The French appear to have won this debate since in the nineteenth century the British reduced the spacing to three inches. (Quinn 89-90).

Skylights, while known since ancient times, did not appear on ship decks until the early eighteenth century. Usually, these were not simple glazed windows but rather square or rectangular box structures, perhaps three to six feet in their longest dimension, and six to twelve inches high. Either the top or the sides of the box would be a glazed window. In some instances the window was hinged so that it could be opened to let in air, too.

A light well was a cross between a grating and a skylight. It was a wooden box with windowed sides and a grating on top.

Lenses were first installed in decks in the early nineteenth century (Quinn 95ff). I prefer to reserve the term for optical elements with a curved side for more efficiently collecting or distributing light.

The first one was the Pellatt “Illuminator” (1807), known also as the “Patent-Light” or “Bull’s Eye Light.” Dana, in Two Years Before the Mast (1841), mentions that the forecastle (crew quarters) of the merchant vessel Alert is “tolerably well lighted by bull’s eyes” in the daytime. The Pellatt lenses were used, not only as decklights, but also as portals and in gunports.

In its original form, it was a lens with a hemispheric top and a flat bottom, five or six inches in diameter and one or two inches thick (centerline), placed in a wood frame (later, a brass or copper collar). Since the convex side was on top (and protruded above the deck), this was a collector lens. The frame could be hinged for ventilation purposes.

By 1818, it was sometimes installed in an inverted configuration, i.e., flat side flush with the deck, and convex side down, arguably making it a “distributor” lens.

However, this didn’t seem to be considered a big advantage because “double flat” lens (I’d call them flush skylights) were sometimes installed (e.g., on the Confederate submarine Hunley.) A problem with a flush flat glass surface was that it was very slippery when wet, and some ships had textured or roughened deck lenses to improve traction.

Prisms. There was less leakage if a deck fixture fit into a single plank. A square or rectangular lens of plank width transmitted more light than a circular lens of the same width. And rather than give them a curved surface, they could be faceted. The faceted side could face up or down, more often the latter.

Mirrors. In theory, mirrors could be used to redirect light from a window to another part of the interior of the ship.



Fuel-Burning Artificial Lighting (and Accessories)


Prior to the discovery of electricity, artificial lighting was provided by burning some kind of combustible fuel. This of course meant that lighting came at a price: not just the cost of the fuel, but the risk of an uncontrolled fire. I will discuss fire prevention and control in a later section.

There is some archaeological evidence of shipboard lighting devices from the early seventeenth century. They include candle sticks or holders on the armed merchant ship Sea Venture (1609), the treasure galleon Atocha (1622), the East Indiaman Campen (1627), the warship Wasa (1628), the East Indiaman Batavia (1629), and the galleon La Concepcion (1641), iron oil lamps on the Mayflower (1620), and brass gimbaled oil lamps with three wicks on the East Indiaman Witte Leeuw (1613) and the Batavia (Quinn 61).

Candles provide the fuel in a solid form (Quinn 30-33). Tallow candles were made from animal fat; the process removed excess protein. Mutton drippings was the preferred source. Wax candles were made from beeswax or, later, from certain plant sources (bayberries, coconut palms, West African palms, and the Lisoea tree). Beeswax candles had a higher melting point, burned 15-20% brighter, and produced light as much as twice as long as tallow candles of the same size. Unfortunately, in the seventeenth century they cost three to four times as much.

The Vergulde Draeck, a 260-ton, 28-gun jacht constructed in 1653 (Bander 218), carried 80 pounds of tallow candles, 80 pounds of wax candles, and 80 of a wax-tallow blend. It is estimated that it would have used 64-128 candles per month (and figure four to eight candles to the pound). (Quinn 66).

By the mid-eighteenth century, there was an elite alternative: the spermaceti candle (Irwin). Spermaceti is a waxy substance found in the head of a whale, in an organ of uncertain function. (It is primarily cetyl palmitate, and Wikipedia/Spermaceti notes that “a botanical alternative to spemaceti is a derivative of jojoba oil.” The jojoba is a shrub found in modern California, Arizona, Utah, and Baja California.) Spermacetei candles cost almost twice as much as beeswax candles, but burned 15% brighter. It was found to be advantageous to add a small amount of beeswax to the spermaceti to inhibit crystallization (Quinn 33).

The obsolete luminous intensity unit candlepower was defined in 1860 as “the light produced by a pure spermaceti candle weighing 1∕6 pound (76 grams) and burning at a rate of 120 grains per hour (7.8 grams per hour)” (Wikipedia/Candlepower).

In the nineteenth century, new manufacturing methods reduced costs. Water-cooled molds (1801) hardened the tallow faster, pistons (1823) could eject the finished candle faster than could be done manually, other machinery provided continuous wicking (1834), and a device could taper the candle base to eliminate the need for manual shaving (1861).

New candle materials were also developed. In 1823, a method of producing stearin (stearic acid) was discovered by Chevreul and Gay-Lussac. (This stearin-making process is described in Faraday’s classic The Chemical History of a Candle, and I am confident that a copy of that exists somewhere in Grantville.) They patented a composite candle, a mixture of stearin and tallow. This was inexpensive but burned like beeswax.

Finally, in 1857, the first paraffin candles appeared. These were 20% brighter than spermaceti candles and cheaper to boot. Paraffin is a mixture of saturated hydrocarbons (alkanes) of 20 to 40 carbon atoms. They can be derived from petroleum, coal or oil shale.

Paraffin has the disadvantage of a low melting point (115-154oF) but this can be improved by adding stearic acid (MP 157oF).

From the point of view of the new timeline petroleum industry, which is trying to produce gasoline for propulsion, paraffins are a waste product. The industry would naturally like to sell them rather than just dump them, and it is only a matter of time before someone thinks of making candles from them. The same refining process that produces paraffin will also produce lubricating oils, which are higher molecular weight hydrocarbons.

Since ancient times there have been two types of candle holders, the socket holder and the spike holder. Both were in use in the early seventeenth century (Quinn 34-5). Some sixteenth-century socket holders had a spring inside the socket, to push the candle up as it was consumed (Quinn 36).

Oil-Lamps provide the fuel in liquid form. Sixteen oil lamps were found on the Uluburun shipwreck in Turkish waters, dated to 1316-18 BCE. We know that six were used by the crew, rather than were mere cargo, because they had blackened rims. Oil lamps have also been found on ancient Greek and Roman shipwrecks (Quinn 13).

The oil in oil-lamps was usually vegetable (olive, linseed, radish, castor betty, sesame seed, or nut) oil; olive oil burnt bright and was nearly smokeless. Fish oil has been known as a fuel since ancient time but created “a poor light, large amounts of smoke, and a disagreeable smell” (Quinn 20).

In the early seventeenth century, whale oil was considered the best fuel, with a single wick in such oil “burned with the brightness of two tallow candles and could last 12-15 hours without trimming” (Id.). However, it was very expensive.

At the eve of the Ring of Fire, oil lamps would have had slanted wicks. The upright wick was introduced in the 1770s (Quinn 23).

The Argand lamp was invented in 1780. It used a hollow, upright wick mounted inside a cylindrical glass chimney. The oil was supplied by a reservoir mounted above the burner since it couldn’t travel far up the wick. The improved air flow increased brightness, and the more complete combustion meant that one didn’t have to trim the wick as often. The brightness was equivalent to six to eight candles (Dempster 30). Post-RoF guidance may be found in EB/11 Lighting, 651-2.

Unrefined coal oil was unsuitable for indoor illumination because it produced too much smoke (Wikipedia/Kerosene). However, kerosene, a mixture of alkanes of 6-12 carbons, could be distilled (150-275oC) from bituminous coal, oil-shale, and petroleum. Kerosene, introduced in the 1850s, rapidly displaced whale oil as the preferred lamp oil.

In one test, a “hurricane style” kerosene lamp (22mm wide wick) when clean provided 82 lumens (but 52 after 10 hours soot accumulation), and the maximum output in a particular direction was 9-10 candelas. A simple kerosene lamp provided only one tenth the light (Mills).

A modern source states that “as a general rule, oil lamps will burn about 1/2 an ounce of lamp oil per hour.” The oil was not specifically identified but based on a link, paraffin oil was contemplated (Bishop). Consistently, another one reports a half gallon (64 ounces) consumed in 154 hours (Mamabear). For olive oil, I find 2 ounces in 5 hours (Modernsurvivalblog). And for kerosene, “A kerosene lamp producing 37 lumens for 4 hours per day will consume about 3 litres of kerosene per month” (Wikipedia/Kerosene Lamp).

A gimbaled lamp was pivotably attached by pins to the two ends of a U-shaped piece, the center of which was attached to a wall mount (Quinn 68, Fig. 20). While the device as described would pivot only on one axis (defined by the ends of the U) a second gimbal could be used to allow rotation around a second axis. Also, elements could be added to limit how far the lamp would swing.

Wicks are fibrous, porous elements that deliver fuel to the flame of a candle or oil lamp. In either case, liquid fuel is drawn up into the wick by capillary action. (In the case of a candle, the heat of the flame liquefies the candle material.) “Too much fuel and the flame will flare and soot, too little fuel and it will sputter out.” (NCA).

Depending on the region and period, wicks were made of flax, wool, hemp, oakum, mullein, linen, castor plant, reed, papyrus, and even asbestos (the last is documented by Plutarch!) (Dilek 449; Quinn 18). In the seventeenth century, cotton was preferred.

The wick is treated with a flame-retardant solution (salt, borax) so it isn’t immediately consumed by the flame. Curiously, the borax also raises the flame temperature.

Wicks require monitoring. If the wick in an oil lamp burns down to the fuel line, the flame is extinguished. Hence, a tender needs to periodically pull up the free end. Also, for a flame of maximum brightness, you occasionally need to clip off the charred end.

A flat-ribbon cotton wick was introduced in 1773. It produced a large and brighter flame but at the cost of more rapid fuel consumption. The plaited cotton wick—several woven fibers with one tauter than the others—was introduced in 1825. It burnt more evenly and curls over to remain in the outer mantle of the flame, causing it to be incinerated rather than charred (making it self-trimming) (Quinn 34).

A wick could be stiffened with a metal wire; this also helps conduct heat down into the candle. Lead is banned in the modern USA, but copper, zinc, or tin can be used.

Gas-lamps were invented in 1792, with gas distilled from coal. In the nineteenth century, certain cities piped coal gas for use in street illumination. There was only sporadic use of gas lighting on large passenger ships in the nineteenth century; Quinn (76) attributes this to concerns over volatility—i.e., if the gas escaped and mixed with air below decks, it could eventually build up to levels constituting an explosive mixture. There is also the problem of storing or generating the gas on shipboard prior to use. Since we begin the new time line (NTL) with the nucleus of an electrical infrastructure, I think that gas lighting is not likely to be adopted at sea.

Gas mantles were first used in conjunction with gas lights, but in theory could be used in conjunction with another heat source such as an oil lamp or an incandescent electric light. The mantle is a cotton bag impregnated with magnesium nitrate (Clamond basket, 1881) or a mixture of thorium and cerium nitrates (Welsbach mantle) (EB1/Lighting, 656). When heated, the fibers burn away but the nitrates are converted to refractory oxides that glow brightly with little infrared emission. In essence, they are converting heat energy to light energy. I am not expecting to see the Welsbach mantle in the new time line for several more years, given the problem of obtaining the necessary chemicals.

LaSitOnNt-P3-lntrnLanterns are housings, made of metal, wood, ceramic, or leather, that protect the flame of a candle or lamp from the weather and also reduce the risk of fire. There were ventilation holes on top. Light was allowed to escape through an opening, or a window of thin horn, mica, or glass, and there might be means to shutter the opening or window. All of these materials were available before the Ring of Fire, but mica windows had the advantages that they “did not yellow with age like horn, and were less expensive than glass.” Unfortunately, one could not usually find pieces larger than six inches and hence to make a larger window, pieces had to be soldered together. Thus, in later times, they were superseded by sheet glass made by casting (late seventeenth century) or drawing (nineteenth century).

A variation on the glass window was the lens, shaped so as to concentrate the light. One could use the bulb formed from hand-blown crown glass, resulting in the “bull’s eye lantern.” This lantern could have “bull’s eyes” on three faces, illuminating the front and flanks but not shining back into the carrier’s eyes.

A “dark lantern” had a hinged or sliding shutter so the light could be completely hid until one wanted illumination. The first use of the term recorded by Oxford English Dictionary is from 1650. However, I strongly suspect that the “absconce” used in medieval monasteries was a dark lantern.

The lantern may have some sort of hanger so it may be hand-carried or hung overhead from a hook.

When the yacht Vergulde Draeck sank in 1656, there were over a hundred lanterns on board. Twelve wood framed “horn lanterns” hung in the mess, and there were eight brass framed ones for the guns. The steward’s chest contained two dark-lanterns and two brass powder-lanterns (Quinn 63).

Mirrors may also be placed behind a light source so the light radiated in that direction is not wasted. The powder-room lantern used by the Dutch East India company in the 1740s had mirrors (Quinn 81). A tin reflector was found in an early American colonial lantern (Hayward 70). A modern lantern might have a stainless steel or aluminum reflector.



Alternative Chemical Based-Artificial Lighting


            Carbide lamps rely on the reaction of calcium carbide with water, producing acetylene. I used one when I went caving in West Virginia, and they were used by miners in the early twentieth century. Its big advantage was that it would not ignite methane gas.

Limelights are discussed under “searchlights.”



Electric Artificial Lighting


In the old time line (OTL), the first shipboard installation of electric lighting was on the 1880 SS Columbia (Quinn 76). The first American warship with electric lights (installed 1883) was the sloop USS Trenton (Bauer 71).

In the NTL the introduction of electric lighting requires economical supply of light bulbs and sockets, electric wiring, and either batteries or a power source.

Batteries would most likely be used for portable lights, like modern flashlights. In 1633, Dr. Gribbleflotz is using a wet cell battery (zinc electrode, another electrode, sulfuric acid) to power a small light bulb. Offord, “Dr. Phil: Zinkens A Bundle” (Grantville Gazette 7). I wish to note that the batteries used in 1920s miners’ lamps tended to leak acid (Lewis 3).

Generators and Steam Engines For cabin, hold, and deck lighting, we want a generator. A generator converts mechanical energy to electrical energy. In the new timeline, the most likely sources of the mechanical energy would be water turbines and steam engines. Water turbines are stationary installations, but a ship can certainly carry a steam engine.

The first steamships of the new time line are the ironclads and timberclads whose construction began in 1633 and were used in the Baltic War of 1634. See Weber, “In the Navy,” Ring of Fire; Flint, 1634: The Baltic War, Chapter 44. By 1636, a civilian paddle steamer, the Pride of Glimminge, is operating in Baltic waters (Offord, “A Trip to Glomfjord,” Grantville Gazette 57). There are also Russian steamboats on the Volga (Flint, Goodlett, and Huff, 1636: The Kremlin Games, Chapter 83). It is easy enough to connect a generator to the crankshaft.

Even a pure sailing ship might carry a small (“donkey”) steam engine to operate pumps, winches, capstans, and so on. Some of the power could be used to run a generator, too.

According to canon, generators are available for purchase at least as early as October 1633 (Huff and Goodlett, “Credit Where Credit Is Due,” Grantville Gazette 36). In 1633, there’s also work on “generator packages”—essentially components for building a generator and adapting it to any of several common purposes (Huff and Goodlett, “Bartley’s Man, Episode One,” Grantville Gazette 46). Shipborne generators are mentioned in Harvell, “Mission in the Baltic,” Grantville Gazette 68), set June, 1637.

There is a small steam engine in the Tech Center classroom in January 1632 (Bergstralh, “Tool or Die,” Grantville Gazette 9), and of course larger steam engines are being made for the railroad.

Small utility steam engines were being made in Magdeburg by Karl Schmidt in 1633 (Huff and Goodlett, “Fresno Construction,” Grantville Gazette 41). In Huff, “All Steamed Up,” Grantville Gazette 32, Schmidt muses that his engine design has only four moving parts, excluding bearings. Also, the cylinder would be made of four pieces, because “the machine tools needed to finish a one-piece cylinder were much more complicated and expensive than the machine tools needed to finish four separate pieces.” While the engine block is apparently a single cylinder, Schmidt envisions a modular structure, in which as many piston rods as needed can be attached to a common crankshaft. The actual engine power would depend on the furnace and boiler setup, but Gorg has Schmidt predicting that these are scaled to the engine such that there is two horsepower per cylinder. (A modular cylinder assembly is also being used by the Danish Airship Company in 1636, see Evans, “Engines of Change: More Power,” Grantville Gazette 60.)

And all we need for ordinary shipboard lighting is a small steam engine. Schmidt’s 2 horsepower is equivalent to 1500 watts. Even if the overall efficiency of the generator and the electrical distribution system were 80%, that would mean 1200 watts delivered to the bulbs – enough for thirty 40-watt bulbs.

Given the almost proverbial stinginess of shipowners, I suspect the catch will be the consumables. First, of course, there’s fuel (oil, coal, or wood) to feed the steam engine.

Fuel requirements A typical mid-twentieth century steam locomotive had an overall boiler efficiency (combustion and absorption) of 72% and a cylinder efficiency of 14% (Cooper, “Airship Propulsion, Part Three, Steaming Along,” Grantville Gazette 43). That’s an overall efficiency at the crankshaft of 10%. (Note that cylinder efficiency is limited thermodynamically by the boiler pressure, and the feedwater and steam temperature, and a small steam engine is likely to be relatively inefficient.)

So to make 1500 watts at the crankshaft, the furnace needs to be burning fuel at a rate of 15,000 watts (15 KJ/sec). Vegetable oil has an energy content of 39-48,000 KJ/kg and crude oil averages at 43,000. Bituminous coal is 17-25,000 and anthracite 32-34,000. Let’s say we have a fuel with 30,000 KJ/kg. Then we need to burn one kilogram every 2000 sec (1.8 kg/hr). If the steam engine is operated 8 hours/day, and the ship is at sea half the year, then in a year’s service we would burn over 2600 kg.

Wind-powered generators are a possible alternative to steam power. In part 2 of this series, I mentioned nineteenth century wind-powered pumps. The maximum power produced by a wind turbine is 0.5 * air density * area swept out by blades * the cube of the apparent wind speed. If you are sailing directly downwind, the apparent wind is the true wind less the ship speed. A masthead generator is mentioned in Carroll, “A Friend in Need,” Grantville Gazette 27, set in Autumn 1635, and his “Marine Radio in the 1632 Universe,” Grantville Gazette 52 clarifies that this generator is a wind-powered generator and is wired to charge batteries to power a radio. A Baen’s Bar post by Jack adds, “It’s on the masthead so that it can pivot freely to face the wind. There’s a vane like the ones you see on a windmill pump in Western movies, to keep it pointed into the wind.”

Water-powered generators are also possible. On rivers, of course, falling or running water is used to turn turbines and thus power generators. Water of course also flows past a moving ship as it sails across the ocean, and the maximum power equation is analogous to that for air—use the water density and the cube of the apparent water speed (the ship speed if there is no current).  You may have an outboard water wheel or propeller with a shaft connecting it to the inboard generator. Or construct the propeller and generator as a single unit that was towed behind the ship. A water turbine will produce drag, but modern estimates are of a half a knot speed penalty.

Both water and wind powered generators have the advantage of not creating a fire (or steam) hazard. But a windmill obstructs valuable deck space. and since water is about 1000 times as dense as air it is pretty clear that a water-powered generator will be more productive.

A water-powered generator, called a “drag generator,” is proposed in Huff and Goodlett, “High Road to Venice,” Grantville Gazette 19.

The obvious fly in the ointment is that if the generator is on a pure sailing ship, and the winds fall off, the ship stops moving and neither wind nor water power will be available. For that matter, it was not unusual for sailing ships to reduce sail at night or under storm conditions. So these fireless generators cannot be the sole power source for shipboard lighting unless there is an adequate supply of batteries.

LaSitOnNt-P3-lghtsIncandescent Light bulbs The basic principle of the light bulb is that you run enough electricity through a filament to heat it to incandescence. The first filaments were made of platinum, but that material proved unsuitable. Experiments were made with a carbon filament in a vacuum as early as 1838 (Wikipedia), but the poor quality of the vacuum limited the lifetime of such filaments for several decades.

“By October 1879, Edison’s team had produced a light bulb with a carbonized filament of uncoated cotton thread that could last for 14.5 hours. They continued to experiment with the filament until settling on one made from bamboo that gave Edison’s lamps a lifetime of up to 1,200 hours . . .” (DOE). A later filament based on carbonized viscose was even better.

The bulb may be made of glass or quartz, and the bulb evacuated or filled with an inert gas to protect the filament from oxidation.

Squirted tungsten filaments (1907) produced 8 lumens/watt, and drawn tungsten (191)) 10. A typical modern tungsten filament bulb produces 16 lumens per watt (Andrews), so a 40W should be 640 lumens (Andrews).

In the old time line, the problem with tungsten was with drawing the metal into fine enough wires. In the new time line, we also have to find and mine tungsten ore and extract the metal.

With tungsten filaments, it is also advantageous to use an inert gas (argon, nitrogen, krypton) rather than a vacuum, as it retards evaporation. Adding a halogen (iodine, bromine) to the bulb gas sets up a chemical reaction that redeposits the evaporated tungsten back onto the filament.

Like carbon filaments, tungsten ones are vulnerable to oxidation. An alternative which isn’t would be the ceramic rod that is electrically heated in the Nernst lamp. The original rod was magnesium oxide (magnesia) and was heated with a platinum wire coil. Later, yttria-stabilized zirconia was used (Mills). Nernst lamps produced 6 lumens/watt (Cp. EB11/Lighting 669).

Light bulbs are available in the new time line. Huff, “Other People’s Money,” Grantville Gazette 3, refers to a “light bulb shop a down-timer had set up.” It used “a vacuum pump from an old refrigerator,” and the filaments were linen threads that had been baked until they were carbon. The glass was hand-blown. Brent and Trent’s meeting with the shop owner occurs before August 1632 and no earlier than December 1631 (when “Sewing Circle” ends). The first light bulbs couldn’t have been made before August 1631, as that is when the glassblower came to Grantville. The Russians, apparently working independently, have recreated light bulbs by February 1633 (Flint, Huff, Goodlett, The Kremlin Games, Chapter 30.

As for brightness, Edison’s first bulb produced 1.4 lumens/watt, and the best carbon filament bulbs is 3-4 lumens/watt (4-5 for metallized carbon). Sonnemann makes a 40W carbon filament bulb that produces 135 lumens.

Tungsten filament incandescents have a higher luminous efficacy (light output per unit power, 15 lumens/watt) than the old carbon based ones, although their luminous efficiency (visible light output as percentage of total power) is still low (~2%).

It took decades to develop a good method of making tungsten filaments. Because of tungsten’s brittleness, it could not be drawn. The first tungsten filaments were made by either extruding a tungsten powder-carbohydrate (dextrin, starch) plastic or by coating carbon filaments with tungsten and then destroying the carbon core by oxidation (MTS). It was eventually discovered that a combination of heating and hammering pure tungsten changes its crystal structure to one that could be drawn (WWH).

Bulb lifetime will depend on various subtle issues, including the how good the vacuum is, the use of getters like argon gas, and the filament structure (tight coiling desirable) and material (ductile tungsten is best),

Gas discharge lamps send electricity through a gas, ionizing it. Some ions are excited by the electrons and, when they fall back to a rest state, fluoresce. If the fluorescence is in the ultraviolet, then one needs a phosphor in the lamp envelope to convert the ultraviolet light to visible light. Gas discharge lamps may be filled with carbon dioxide, nitrogen, a noble gas (helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon), or a vaporized metal (mercury, sodium). They may operate at various gas pressures (0.3% to 5000% atmospheric) and at room temperature or higher.

The first gas discharge lamp was made in 1705 by Francis Hauksbee; he placed mercury in a partially evacuated glass globe and excited it with static electricity, producing enough (blue) light to read by. With mercury and glass both available in the 1630s, and up-time pumps already used in NTL light bulb manufacture, an attempt might be made to develop a low-pressure mercury vapor discharge lamp. Indeed, Huff and Goodlett, “Murder at the Higgins,” Grantville Gazette 49, set in June, 1636, makes reference to a fluorescent lighting company, although the implication is that this was a failed venture.

There are indeed several possible stumbling blocks. One is finding a good electrode material; in OTL 1911 that was ductile tungsten. Another is synthesizing a suitable phosphor, calcium tungstate (OTL 1890s). Still, fluorescent lights weren’t commercialized until the 1930s




Special Shipboard Lighting Needs


Compass Lighting At night, the compass must be illuminated in such a way that the helmsman can read it, preferably without destroying his (or her) night vision. The compass was set in a non-ferrous housing (“binnacle”) with a hole or window through which to view the compass. In the seventeenth century, an oil lamp would be positioned inside the binnacle so as to fully illuminate the compass card without blinding the helmsman.

At nightfall, the binnacle lamp would be lit, and a crewmen would be responsible for making sure that it remained lit. It is likely that the oil chosen for the binnacle lamp would be of the best quality and spare binnacle lamps would be carried.

In the nineteenth century, the British Navy improved on the traditional binnacle lamp, first by using an upright-wick lamp positioned to illuminate the compass from above, and then by interposing a condenser lens between the lamp and the compass so as to concentrate the light.

By the end of that century, compasses were lit by electric lights.

Powder-room lighting A particularly ticklish issue was how to light the powder-room on a warship. In the seventeenth century, the solution was usually to just permit a single candle in a horn-lantern (and put the powder-room far away from where fire was normally used).

In the British navy, beginning shortly after 1702, rather than bringing the lantern into the powder-room at all, it was usually placed in an adjacent “light room,” and the light from the lantern would shine through a glass window into the powder room (in the bow). Sometimes the light room was above the powder room and the window in the floor (thus providing overhead lighting). Other times it was a triangular room that protruded into the powder room and had windows on the two entrant sides. In this case, it might be built around the foremast. The light room and the powder room had to be accessed from separate hatches in the orlop deck. In 1805, copper wire guards were added to the magazine light window. In eighteenth-century French and Dutch practice, a light well with a lantern for nighttime use was used to illuminate both the passage to the magazine on one side and (through a thick window reinforced by a brass grating) the magazine on the other (Lavery 146-9; Quinn 80-1).

The alternative to the separate light room (or well) was to use a specialized powder-room lantern. In the British and Dutch examples, the light source was positioned over a lead container filled with water (Id.).



The Color of Instrument, Bridge, and Deck Lighting


We are probably all familiar with submarine movies in which we see the crew garishly lit by red lights. The red (>620 nm) light doesn’t bleach the dyes in the rods and therefore doesn’t destroy dark adaptation. Hence, we may see electric compass lights equipped with red glass filters.

In medieval stained glass, red was obtained by adding colloidal cuprous (Cu+) oxide. Preferably, to increase transmission of light, the glass was “flashed,” i.e., white glass dipped into a pot of red glass and then blown, so there was just a surface layer of red. There are problems with copper red, but the alternatives (gold, uranium) have their own objections.

While red lighting helps preserve dark adaptation, if the light in question could be visible to an enemy ship, there’s a case for using blue lights instead. The atmosphere scatters blue light more than red light, hence, at a distance, the luminance of a red light will be higher than that of a blue light of equal intensity. On the other hand, the dark-adapted eyes of enemy lookouts would be more sensitive to blue light than red light (Pearce). Blue glass may be obtained by doping with cobalt oxide or cupric oxide.

Another problem with the red lighting was eyestrain, and in 1981 the American submarine command ordered that sonar room lighting be converted to blue. However, there was the problem that the blue light was deleterious to dark adaptation. Ultimately, in 1991, the submarine force switched over to low-level white lighting (achieved by placing neutral density filters over the lights) (Elliott).



Fire Hazards


In Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, the protagonist muses that while the “the lee shore, the gale, and the wave” were “constant enemies of the seaman,” yet “none of them [was] as feared in wooden ships as fire” (Forester, 76). The fire hazard could be attributable to the burning of combustibles to generate heat (especially for cooking), light, or (after the introduction of steam) propulsive power, to enemy use of heated shot or incendiary shells, or to lightning strikes. If the ship were in port, then a fire could spread from a dockside building or from another docked ship. Also, some nineteenth century shipboard fires were the result of arson committed by owners seeking to collect on insurance.

According to Port of New York data (1614-1900), out of 602 distressed vessels, 61 reported fires caused by carelessness with flames, and 23 caused by blown steam engines or lightning.  Of course, a fire could quickly consume an entire ship, perhaps leaving no one to make a distressed vessel report.  The 130-ton Tijger was lost to fire within minutes in 1614 (south of the present Times Square), and the Sovereign of the Seas, built in 1634 and then armed with 102 guns, perished in 1697, its burning popularly ascribed to an overturned candle.   In 1793-1815, ten British warships (including eight ships-of-the-line) were lost to fire (Lavery 185).

In the case of a steamship, electric lighting is obviously preferable to generating light by combustion. It’s true that the boiler and furnace present an explosion and fire hazard, but that is a “sunk cost” attributable to propulsion, and it is confined to the engine room which can be equipped with safeguards. We do of course have to have well-insulated wiring to avoid electrocution hazards and electrical fires.

Bear in mind that early steamships had relatively inefficient boilers and consequently used steam power sparingly, relying on their sails for most of the voyage. That is likely to be true of ocean-crossing steamships in NTL 1636, too. Hence, even a steamship can’t rely just on its steam engine to power its lighting.

Donkey steam engines present a new fire risk for sailing ships, but there is a tradeoff in terms of relegating candles and lanterns to emergency use when the steam engine is inoperative.

Of course, if the electric lighting is wind- or water-powered, the power source doesn’t present a fire hazard at all.


Fire Prevention


The best defense against fire was rigid control of any open flame illumination. In 1595, Drake’s general orders included “to avoid the danger of fire, you must not bear about any candle or light in the ship, unless in a lantern . . . you must take the greatest care with the fire in the galley” (Maynarde 64). On Spanish galleons, dinner was served before sunset (Perez-Mallaina 143), and after it was completed, an officer would make sure that the cooking fires were extinguished. Also before nightfall, the rigging would be inspected by an officer to make sure that it was properly laid out and the “guardian” checked that the pages had put candles into the lanterns designated for night use. Before going to bed, he would make sure that the apprentice stationed at the binnacle was properly maintaining the compass light.

LaSitOnNt-P3-frThe night was divided into three watches, and the officer of the watch (who would be the pilot, the master, and either the captain or the master’s assistant) had to police the crew to make sure that no unnecessary fires were lit. If a lantern were needed, it had to be signed out from the dispenser, an assistant officer, who also was the only person allowed to carry a light into the storeroom (Philipps 135-6). Indeed, on some ships the rule may have been even more stringent; Perez-Mallaina (180) says that the only lights allowed at night were the compass-light and one lantern shared by the deck guard.

Similar rules were followed in the eighteenth-century British navy, except that there it was a lesser officer (midshipman or master-at-arms) that was on “unnecessary light patrol,” and more exceptions were made. First, officers and elite passengers were permitted to use uncovered candles. Second, the crew had a horn-lantern for each mess-group and there were a few large horn-lanterns for lighting the gun deck (where the crew hung their hammocks) during the early evening. Finally, the navigator and the gunners had their own dark-lanterns and the boatswain and carpenter had small horn-lanterns (Quinn 50-1).

Dana (author of Two Years Before the Mast) served on the merchant brig Pilgrim in its voyage of 1834-36. The captain banned any light in a storeroom (many flammable items!) and hence also in the adjoining steerage. A single swinging lamp was permitted in the forecastle, but it had to be extinguished at 8 PM.

If a fire did start, despite precautions, each sailor had his firefighting station and would help with buckets or pumps (see part 2 of this series) to put it out.




Electric lighting is plainly superior to combustion-based lighting, and all of the ingredients needed (bulbs, generators, power sources, wiring) are available in NTL 1635. The only issue is whether the installation and operating costs will be low enough so that they displace shipboard lanterns. My guess is that they will first be used for the powder rooms and store rooms of warships, if need be relying on battery power. They will also be used on ships with steam power, whether for propulsion or deck work. And a few pure sailing ships may be given fireless power sources to drive electric lights.

Where electric lighting is refused, we will probably see replacement of the period lantern with an Argand lamp burning kerosene.

In part 4, we will look at running lights, and pyrotechnics and lamps for both signaling and external illumination.



About the Faces on the Cutting Room Floor Number Five: The Word According to Whom?

About the Faces on the Cutting Room Floor Number Five -banner

The longest running battle in the entirety of 1635: The Papal Stakes does not involve guns or horses or ships, but holy writ. Arguably, the theological fate of Roman Catholicism—and consequently, the prospects for near-term cessation of internecine religious hostilities among the Judeo-Christian peoples of the world—rest with the outcome of the struggle between the tolerance-espousing tenets of the up-time documents known as Vatican II and the harsh Borgia-supported absolutism of the illegally usurped Papacy.

The respective spokesmen of these contending writs and cultural views are the up-timer Father Mazzare (now Cardinal-Protector of the USE) and Father Luke Wadding, a historical down-time Franciscan conservative who was an architect of the papal doctrine of the Immaculate Conception and yet also an innovative and often iconoclastic thinker.

AtFoyCRF-5-rbnThe struggle, carried out in the upper floor of a humble abandoned farm villa in the remote mountain thorp of Molino, ranged between issues of the provenance of Vatican II (i.e., is it truly a papal document from the future or an infernal deceit?) and the extent of toleration that is advisable and supportable in the epoch of the Thirty Years War.  With legitimate but renegade Pope Urban VIII looking on, Jesuit Father-General Vitelleschi (the Black Pope) oversees the often heated and desperate debate, many details of which had to be excised—but are shared here.

Mazzare spends much time defending against the suggestion that the appearance—and particular features of Grantville—might have all been infernal constructs. Of course, actual argumentation would have left no detail unexamined, no supporting perspective unpresented—but this is yet another illustration of how novels necessarily part ways with reality: the semblance of completeness, and the impression of definitude, are sufficient, even if they are not actual “simulations” of what would have been an interminable exegetical debate. One such excised line of argument was:

Mazzare turned a desultory wrist. “And if you should continue to argue that Grantville’s almost innumerable violations of the boundaries of contemporary or ‘down-time’ knowledge all arise as creations of Satan’s knowledge and power—but which he has only now decided to show–I must then ask: what has become of the Church’s long-standing doctrine that the age of worldly miracles has passed? For that, too, must be repealed if Grantville’s presence is to be attributed to a Satanic intrusion. Which would of course imply that either Satan has become desperate, or that God has become weak and something less than a Supreme Deity.”

Vitelleschi looked down his long, fine nose. “Those are both provocative comments that not only warrant, but demand, explanation, Cardinal Mazzare.”

Who nodded. “Of course. One possibility is that the Church’s august exegetes were mistaken, and that the age of worldly miracles is not past. However, this leaves Satan’s tardy exploitation of these powers inexplicable, except to assert that God has heretofore restrained them. But then why would He restrain them no longer? Perhaps He has grown so weak or inattentive that Satan was able to violate that decree?”

The stiffened spines among the clerics demonstrated just how unpopular that hypothesis was.

“Of course,” continued Mazzare, “such a proposition is absurd. The almost equally absurd alternative is that, although the age of miracles was not over, Satan has not conceived of such stratagems until this moment. With nothing but an eternity of torment to focus on in lieu of relentless, vengeful plotting, it is preposterous to impute such titanic oversight to a being known for his cunning and determined malignity.”

Although Mazzare seemed to have won that round regarding the basic provenance of Grantville’s appearance and existence as non-demonic, the status of up-time popes and papal doctrines was a far more closely-contended point, as exemplified by the scene in which Luke Wadding advanced this argument:

Wadding spread his hands in a gesture of appeal. “However, there may be another explanation behind the profound, even radical changes, articulated by Vatican II. It is possible that God’s reason for entrusting these ordinances to the up-time Church was not because it was more mature, but because its situation had become so desperate and grave that it required just such an inspiration. It may have been a necessary catalyst for the faithful to chart a new course for the world, a world that seemed determined to propel itself over the brimstone lip into fiery oblivion. And all for what? For one nation or another to prevail in a petty squabble to possess a globe which, when that final war was concluded, no man could live in, and no man would want mastery over?

“More provocatively, and sadly, we cannot even know if, in that future, God continued to favor their Church. I find it interesting that John XXIII claimed he ‘never speaks infallibly.’ Was this the quip of a pope who embraced a life of humility, or was it in fact a frank and honest statement: did he know that God had gone silent, had forsaken the humans of the up-time world, just as they had supplanted faith in him with confidence in science and machinery?”

“Are you saying that these up-time popes were not popes at all, that the Church was forsaken by God?” Vitelleschi’s eyes were sharp.

Wadding raised his hands in the gesture of the Reasonable Man. “I know I tread at the edge of blasphemy, Father-General, for Christ promised us that he would not forsake us. And yet it was also he who spoke of how it was easier for humans to pass through the eye of a needle than it was for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. And from every depiction of the up-time world, wealth and mammon reigned as supreme there as sodomy and blasphemy did in Sodom and Gomorrah.”

“Which were only forsaken and destroyed because God could not even five good men, there,” added Mazzare with a faint smile. “However, I think you’ve already met more good up-timers than that.”

AtFoyCRF-5-wddngWadding smiled and nodded in agreement; it was the expression of a man whose victory was so secure that he could afford that gesture of charity. “You make an excellent point, Cardinal Mazzare. And yet, we cannot know why God is ever silent, for He often is. And just when we most need the wisdom and comfort of His gentle voice. Perhaps he still spoke to the up-time popes and they responded to the vastly changed needs of the Church and world, fully infused with the guiding Charism of Sacred Magisterium. Or perhaps they worked on in silence, secretly despairing or hoping as their own natures dictated.”

But in the end, Urban called upon Vitelleschi to share his assessments of the contending arguments that had roved across the theological expanses of papal doctrine and canon law. And the outcome was anything but preordained. In actuality, the ramifications of the points made by Wadding and Mazzare would have wanted complete and painfully detailed explication. Consequently, certain of Vitelleschi’s remarks were left “off-screen”—such as this one:

“So let us consider how the arguments advanced by our worthy interlocutors bear upon the issues before us. On the one hand, our Pope is divinely enjoined to convey God’s instruction to all of Peter’s heirs: to care for His flock. On the other hand, our Pope must strive to remain in a state of grace, which is a personal matter between each pontiff and God, and which must not be compromised by favoring pragmatism over principles.

“Father Wadding has already outlined the many social perils that might reside in the ideas of Grantville. And those in turn point to the care that a Pope must take in considering their immediate utility in comparison to their long term impact upon his state of grace and that of the Church. More specifically: although Grantville’s ideas and perspectives brought us short term peace, they may also spawn long term debates, social chaos, and heresies which will end up producing a mixture of diffidence and decadence that could kill the Church like a wasting disease. But on the opposite side of this fearsome coin is a great and hopeful truth: never has Christendom needed unity more than now.

“And one cannot dismiss the tortuous implausibilities upon which the hypothesis of this Infernal conspiracy must ineluctably rest.” Vitelleschi’s voice and eyes became grim. “Satan is the arch-fiend, but he is no fool. He understands that the more complex a stratagem or conceit becomes, the more likely it is to fail. And even we humans can see that the intricate ploy of inveigling the Pontiff’s trust by orchestrating all this ‘legitimating’ bloodshed”—he swept his arms around to take in the sights and smells of the prior night’s destruction and death—“is so hopelessly twisted and byzantine that it must fail.”

And Mazzare, watching him, realized:  Vitelleschi’s miffed because Urban put him on the spot, made him abandon his role as the ever-suspicious watchdog for his Pope. And in so doing, he had to give us all a look at optimistic conjectures that he probably hasn’t fully admitted to himself yet. It sounds like he half-suspects that the real reason that God sent Grantville down-time was to correct the excesses of the Counter Reformation: that it is an encouragement to start contemplating the sermon on the mount instead of the clearing of the temple. And of course, in his Jesuitical world-view, he’s probably subconsciously reassured that the lesson came from a bunch of redneck hillbillies. After all, the messiah came unto the City of David as a carpenter’s son mounted upon an ass. And, in his way of thinking, Grantville’s similarly humble origins preclude the presence of Satanic pride . . .

But Vitelleschi had barely paused for a breath. “In no document or doctrine is such a stark division between possible outcome so clearly and powerfully resident as the up-time Church’s Vatican II. As you suggested, Cardinal Mazzare, it was, from its conception forward, a recasting of the actualities of the Church into a form more amenable to the minds and idioms of your up time world. And, as I think you are right in pointing out, the mere act of rephrasing old truth induced additional, subtle changes that were needful in your epoch.

“Conversely, however, this epoch has its own needs, and they are not the needs that brought your Vatican II to pass, or which informed its outcome. The instructions and language of how that will was imparted in your world are not applicable in this world.”

Mazzare realized he was now holding his breath, realizing that Vitelleschi had just articulated a potential argument for disregarding the infallibility of up-time Papal documents, that they were wholly particular to their own time and place of origins

Vitelleschi drew himself up very straight. “However, the intent of Vatican II is as perfect and unchanging as any other dogma that arises from the Sacred Magisterium and thus enjoys infallibility of faith and morals. Indeed, it is this peculiar requirement of assessing and understanding how both these circumstances can be simultaneously true that confounds this theological situation. In times past, Mother Church’s legal and theological debates simply addressed matters of compliance to well-established standards. Simply put, they were trials to determine whether a questionable action or idea fell within, or beyond, the purview and permitted actions of well-established doctrine or canon. But now, the solidity of those very benchmarks, and the precedents we have built upon them, must be subjected to scrutiny.

Unfortunately, we cannot expect that all the conundrums of this moment will be presently—or ever—solved. Is an up-time pope is to be recognized as a pope in this world as well? I must answer—from a historical and doctrinal standpoint—that the issue is imponderable. It is akin to tautologies such as those which ask, ‘if God is capable of all things, can He then make a stone so heavy that not even He cannot lift it?

AtFoyCRF-5-vtlsch“However,” said Vitelleschi, “while our exegesis is customarily based in adherence to tradition, it is also true that not all new ideas are pleasing to Satan. Consider: the prophets who announced Christ, the apostles who continued his work, the great authors and thinkers of our own world who have expanded our understanding of both Holy Writ and God’s presence. All of them added new ideas to mankind’s collective consciousness, new ideas that strike both despair and fury in the Satanic breast.  So, we must therefore ask: what kind of new words and ideas are coming from Grantville? Do they further the Devil’s work, are they neutral in effect, or do they actually serve to impede or counteract his infernal plots? Unless it can be conclusively be shown that the first of these possibilities is accurate—that the ideas and documents of Grantville innately aid and abet Satan’s objectives–then there is no logical reason why the Prince of Evil would bother to wrench the up-timers from the future and strand them in our present.

“Rather than simply asserting that no such conclusive evidence has been presented,  I will go further and assert that Grantville’s books, ideas, and people might not only illuminate our efforts to build a society that is more just, but one that is more compassionate and Christ-like. If so, far from being an Infernal ploy, Grantville might even be a gift sent to us by our Heavenly Father. Consider what the up-timers’ own histories depict: their own imperfect world had been poised on the very brink of self-destruction for decades. And yet, those imperfect humans stayed their hands, wrestled down their fears, and ultimately reached out for peace across the divides and impasses that had long separated them. I ask you: would Satan send such a lesson of hope and perseverance to us? Would his pride allow him to do so?”

Vitelleschi bowed his head. “And if we find the answer to that query to be in the negative, then we are left with one final alternative to consider: what if Grantville’s displacement in time is not a trap set by the Devil, but also, is not a gift from God? What if it is, instead, a happenstance of nature? But still there is no quandary residing in this option, for resolving this event to the will of God is simplicity itself. For it goes without saying that, verily, Nature acts at the pleasure of God, not the other way around.”


Hungary and Transylvania, Part I

Hungary and Transylvania Part I banner


The science-fiction book 1632 by Eric Flint and its Ring of Fire series created an alternative universe where a small American miners’ town from 2000 AD with all its residents and buildings gets relocated to Thuringia, Germany, in the year 1631—right in the middle of the Thirty Year War. History is greatly affected by this and various changes take place all over Europe. After many adventures the story has now arrived at the point when a clash with the Ottoman Empire seems to be inevitable: No one knows what this alternative future might hold for either the western countries or the Kingdom of Hungary and the Principality of Transylvania. What would a modern American in Grantville think about Hungarians? What would a modern American of Hungarian descent think of Hungarians in the seventeenth century, and more importantly, what would the seventeenth-century Hungarians think of them?

When talking about any actions concerning the Ottoman Empire in the seventeenth century, Hungarians cannot be bypassed. So far there have been just a few Hungarian characters in this series: either villains, charmers, or the minions of the not-so-friendly Habsburg monarchy. So the readers need to see a more detailed picture as the story reaches out towards the attacking Ottoman Empire.

In order to show more than the tip of this political iceberg, it’s necessary to dig deeper into Hungary’s history, because in the year 1630 it had already been fighting an unequal war with the Ottoman Empire for a good 230 years. Considering the disparate sizes of the military forces, this indicates that Hungarian military power cannot be underestimated.

It’s hard to know how much of the military power—the local Hungarian nobles and castle captains of the captaincies of the Hungarian kingdom—were loyal to the Habsburgs in the 1630s. What was the magic of these soldiers that they could keep the overwhelming Ottoman Empire’s armies at bay for so long with so little monetary support? It was not a miracle that the Turks couldn’t reach Vienna in more than two hundred years’ time. It wasn’t the doing of the glorious Habsburg troops, either.

Vienna simply could not be reached from the two main directions from which the Turks had been trying to do so for hundreds of years. The Turks were either following the line of the Danube in the hope of taking the formidable forts of Komárom, Győr (Raab), and Pozsony (Pressburg, Bratislava) that were guarding the river with their cannons all the way to Vienna or attempting to cut through the densely fortified Trans-Danubian region.

A third way would have been to go all around the Hungarian lands and climb the Alps as Hannibal had done a couple of thousand years before the current era.

The only other option left for the Turks if they wanted to get anywhere near Vienna was to get there with Transylvanian assistance. Prince György Rákóczi I of Transylvania had it in his power to make the way free to the Turks during the 1630s.


First, however, some information about the nation that was able to prevent the Muslim invasion of Europe and was crippled by it:

When it comes to Hungary and Hungarians, people have mixed feelings. Whether they’re regarded as some kind of eastern freedom-fighters armed with Molotov cocktails who invented Vitamin C in their spare time, or low Balkan savages, the servile allies of Germans in both World Wars and the barbarian offspring of Attila the Hun, mostly they are just a simple people who try to survive between the West and East—as their seventeenth-century folk song says:

“The wage of a poor soldier’s lad is cheap:

it is two-three pennies for a day.

Still, he can’t even spend that because

he is shedding his blood for one homeland,

between two pagans . . .”

The two pagans are the Holy Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire.

Hungary’s twenty-first century situation derives straight from the seventeenth-century period being discussed. If Hungary hadn’t been weakened so much by the Turks, she never would have been occupied by the Habsburgs. So there would be no Slovakia nor Yugoslavia to speak of and the very existence of Romania as a state would be questionable and Transylvania would have remained within Hungary’s borders.



Origins of Hungarians, Romanians, and Slovakians

However insignificant Hungary may seem now, its central location made it quite significant between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries.

In the seventeenth century, Transylvania was a principality led by and populated mostly by Hungarians. (Except, perhaps, for Count Dracula.)

Neither Romania nor Slovakia existed as countries at the Ring of Fire. The name Romanian was invented in the nineteenth century and was not used at the time of the Ring of Fire. The people who are now referred to as Romanians and who had dealings with the Turks in this time period were from Wallachia and Moldavia, two satellite states which were wholly subservient to the Turks. At the time of the RoF they were mostly called Wallachians ( “Oláh” in Hungarian).

HnT-P1-szklyThe Wallachian and Moldavian population within Transylvania was not numerous and they didn’t belong to the three nations which formed an alliance in order to guard their religious liberties: the Hungarian nobles, the Secler Nation (“Székely Nemzet”, a distinct and ancient Hungarian group) and the Saxon Germans mainly from Thuringia, in their seven major Saxon cities. In German, Transylvania is called “Siebenburgen”—the land of these “seven cities”.

During Transylvania’s history up to the RoF, there was only one non-Hungarian prince. Mihail II, Prince of Wallachia, got hold of Transylvania’s throne for a very short time in 1599. During his rather tyrannic reign he wanted to cease the religious tolerance and introduce the domination of the Orthodox Church along with the exclusive use of the Romanian language. But he failed in his intentions and was chased away after a year. Wallachian and Moldavians are not discussed here in great detail since their role compared to the Hungarians’ in fighting the Turks was minor. If you wish to compare the striking difference between Transylvania and the two Romanian principalities, read the French traveler and diplomat Pierre Lescalonier’s book in which he shares his journey’s story from Istanbul through Wallachia to Transylvania in 1574. The young French knight felt like he was entering civilization when he arrived in Transylvania and was surprised to witness the people in the local Lutheran churches finishing their prayers after each sermon saying:

“Please, God destroy the Papist and the Muslim tyranny!”


Slovakians—or rather, the predecessors of those Slavic people now called Slovakians—in the 1630s were mostly south Slavic refugees finding asylum and protection on the Hungarian Kingdom’s northern fringe. The Hungarian highlands offered a protected melting pot for several ethnic groups with different Slavic origin—southern Slavs (Serbs and Croatians), Moravians from Bohemia, Rusyns from Moldavia—coexisted and provided a basis for the beginning of a future Slovakian nation. That area later—in 1918—became Slovakia, with great numbers of indigenous Hungarians who were turned into minorities and considered second-class citizens. So on a modern map, Slovakia roughly covers the northern part of what was the Hungarian kingdom in the 1630s.

Readers and writers within the 1632verse should be aware of the settlements’ seventeenth-century names; the modern Slovakian names weren’t used until 1918, but they’re the ones that are used on most English language maps. However, the German versions of these names, as well as the Hungarian versions, were used in the 1630s, so these are the ones used in this article as well as the older names for present-day Serbian, Croatian, Ukrainian, and Romanian towns mentioned. Eastern Europe is a difficult place. As the joke goes, Hungary is the only country in Europe that is bordered by itself.


 Hungarians are neither Germans nor Slavs—or even Indo-Europeans.

Even their names are backwards to European norms. In Hungary the family name comes first and the given name comes second, as in China and Japan.

The origin of the nation is much debated. The official version says they are Finno-Ugric and came from somewhere beyond the Ural Mountains and settled in the Carpathian Basin in the ninth century AD. Others say that the Finno-Ugric theory was forced and fabricated by the Habsburg-influenced Hungarian Academy of Science in the nineteenth century and was reinforced by ruling communists in the twentieth century in order to deprive the nation of a richer and more heroic origin. Heroes can be dangerous. Hungarians used to have quite a rebellious reputation and having a famous and glorious past could have meant trouble for the oppressing communist ruling class or from a new-born neighboring nation like Czechoslovakia. In Central Europe, national history, patriotic literature, and poetry have always been as perilous as explosives, and that’s still true today.

Romanians like to point out in their history schoolbooks how barbarian the invading Hungarians had been when they arrived in Transylvania and how they had oppressed poor Romanians who could only keep their superior culture by running and hiding in the Carpathian Mountains to wait for the glorious 1918. Slovakians even fabricated a genealogy for Slovakian kings that dates back to a fictional “Great Moravian Empire” that allegedly had been destroyed by the arrival of the bloodthirsty Huns in the ninth century. [Most scholarship, the Internet and Wikipedia does not agree with this statement. -Ed] The point is always that the neighboring or oppressor nations are supposed to be older and superior in their culture and origin. An indigenous Hungarian person living in one of those new countries could get in trouble if he publicly denied those falsifications.

Unorthodox experts point out that Hungarian culture has many things in common with the Scythians and the Parthians, later with the Huns and their descendants, especially the Avars who had been found in the Carpathian Basin when our native Magyar tribe arrived here in 895 AD, led by Prince Arpad.

By now even Finnish scientists doubt that we would be so closely related; the Finno-Ugric theory is bleeding from a hundred wounds. Recent studies indicate that the Hungarian DNA, food, music, and folklore is strongly connected with those of the white-skinned Uigurs of north China. All agree that our vocabulary and grammar is clearly alien to the Indo-European systems, with many striking similarities in grammar and vocabulary to Irish Gaelic. Some say that the Celtic languages are also not of Indo-European origin.

As even the sound of Hungarian is as similar to German or to Slavic languages as Welsh is to English, the arriving immigrants were not able to mix well with the neighboring nations. The huge differences in every single thing, beginning from language on up to warfare and other habits made this very hard.

Both the Mongols and the Turks claim that they considered the Hungarians to be “brothers” from the historical past and that before attacking they had offered to join forces with them against the western Christian kingdoms. Yet the Hungarian language is not part of the Turkish language family, even though there are similarities. Some linguists say the Turks had taken lots of things from the Hungarians and not vice-versa. Turks could always learn our tongue easily in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and most Hungarian frontier soldiers could speak good Turkish. (Many nobles and town people had some German and Latin, too.) Truly, the Turks in the early twentieth century modernized their language (and writing), and they used Hungarian grammar as a basis to build up their modern grammatical system. Besides, these are only two countries in Europe where people use “Attila” as a first name, using it in a positive sense. These similarities don’t mean that these nations weren’t lethal enemies for three hundred years.

The Hungarians are the only nomadic peoples in Europe that both came from the East and were able to integrate—after their conversion to Christianity in 1000 AD—into the Roman Catholic part of Europe. Thus Hungary has become the outermost border of the western Catholic cultural sphere. On the other side of the Carpathian Mountains everybody is Orthodox—there are no Catholics there (except for some isolated–and oppressed–indigenous ethnic islands of Hungarians). Hungary and Poland are the borderline countries in a religious sense. Similar history and said faith made them good friends. Some fifty years before the RoF, Stephen Báthory, a Hungarian prince of Transylvania, became the crowned king of Poland. He was the one who had beaten the infamous Russian Ivan the Terrible three times during his wars between 1579 and 1581.

Interesting enough, some Polish historians believe that Poles were the descendants of Sarmatian Huns—that Hungarians are their relatives. Aside from their friendship, Hungarians remain the orphans of Europe.


Medieval History of Hungary Before the RoF


Early manuscripts indicate that Arpad the Land Taker and his dynasty descended from King Attila the Hun. Attila was not the monster his enemies portrayed him as. After he was poisoned by his new German wife, Ildico, in 453 AD, his empire collapsed. His headquarters was in the Carpathian Basin. After them another nomadic tribe remained in Pannonia: the Huns’ descendants, the Avars. A nomadic people, their cultural and ornamental heritage was identical with those of Arpad’s Magyars who followed them in the ninth century AD. Frankish king Carolus the Great, also known as Charlemagne, led wars against the Avars, and he vanquished them between 791-799 AD. Whether they were all slain or not, Charlemagne certainly returned home with vast quantities of treasures. Allegedly, even Attila’s famous crown was among them, although some say it was the Holy Crown of Hungary. The pious king gifted many of these treasures to churches and monasteries. The crown mentioned was sent to the Pope in Rome as a gift.

Following the arrival of Arpad’s Magyars in 895 AD, there were many Hungarian raids into Europe in the ninth and tenth centuries. Legend says that these campaigns’ secret aim was to find and take the stolen Hun treasures back. The nomadic warfare took Europe by surprise and only two or three attacks were successfully defeated—the Hungarian threat was equal to the Vikings’ attacks of the time.

It was Hungary’s first Christian king, Saint István (Stephen) I, who demanded the Holy Crown back from Rome and by receiving it he brought Hungary into the Catholic faith in 1000 AD.

It is rather characteristic of Hungarians’ attitude towards colonists coming into the country that King St. István wrote to his son in his Admonitions: “The kingdom with one language and one custom is frail and fallible. Therefore I order you, my son, to honor the guests and the foreigners with good heart so as they should stay here more willingly, rather than at another place.” Hungary embraced colonists coming from all over Europe.

HnT-P1-stvnKing St. István decided to lead his people to the Roman Catholic church instead of siding with the Orthodox Byzantium. King Attila’s Holy Crown has always had a supernatural character among the Hungarians. No king was accepted without being crowned with it: the Holy Crown was a “person” and the kings and the nobility swore fealty to Him. Hungary was described as the Country of the Holy Crown. The Hungarian feudal system and law was attached to the crown rather than to the king. This law obligated the Hungarian nobles and gave them certain liberties and rights. Later, the Habsburgs also had to make an oath on this crown in order to be accepted as long as they themselves kept the crown’s laws. A great part of the Hungarian population called themselves “noble” or was privileged in this or that way. The petty nobles—sometimes owning altogether as many as seven plum trees—had the right to go to the nobles’ convocation and elect a king. It was a right that later Habsburg rulers didn’t like that much. The non-Hungarian residents of the country called themselves Wlachus Hungaricus or Germanus Hungaricus, meaning Germans or Romanians who considered Hungary their homeland.

Hungarians’ success and survival depended on blending their eastern heritage with the western civilization to isolate the hungry West (i.e., the Holy Roman Empire) from the greedy East (i.e., the Byzantine Empire and later the Ottoman Empire). It was not much liked for this, but the kingdom withstood all attempts to bring it down. Their special half-eastern and half-western military style made them the perfect bastion against the nomads from the east and the Germans from the west.

The Battle of Pressburg (Pozsony, now Bratislava) in 907 AD was a great example of the Hungarians winning over the greatest allied western armies of the age who wanted to deal with the intruding “barbarians” for once and for all.

The Arpad Dynasty ruled for three centuries until 1300 AD and Hungary was a considerable middle-power in Europe.


HnT-P1-clmnKing Könyves Kálmán (Coloman the Learned or the Bookish King), 1074-96, was the first in Europe who declared in his laws that witches did not exist, saying: “De strigis vero quae non sunt, nulla questio fiat,” meaning “Witches do not exist so they are out of question.”

The Golden Bull of 1222 was an edict issued by King András (Andrew) II of Hungary. King Andrew II was forced by his nobles to accept the Golden Bull which was one of first examples of constitutional limits being placed on the powers of a European monarch. The Magna Carta in England had been issued just seven years earlier than that.

King Béla IV, son of Andrew II, was the monarch who resisted the Mongol invasion in 1241-1242 and afterwards rebuilt the country. In Europe, only Hungary was partly successful in resisting the Mongols: in the second year of the war the invaders withdrew from the country when Khan Ögedej died. It is remarkable because they hadn’t withdrawn from any other of their already conquered territories. [There are questions as to the actual reason for the withdrawal, since it is considered problematic that Subodei knew that Ögedej had died when he began the withdrawal. Hungary got beaten badly at Mohi, with Béla losing 80% of his men. -Ed.] King Béla IV still had enough military power right after the Mongols’ exit that he could seize those western Hungarian counties back that had been taken by the Austrians while the king was fighting the Mongols. (A nice example of how their western neighbors “helped” when they were attacked from the East, it was repeated often enough during the following centuries.)

The Habsburg family should have been grateful to the Hungarian kings. It was László the Fourth who helped them win the battle of Morvamezö (Dürnkrut) in 1278 which led the first Habsburg to become emperor.

During the Middle Ages Hungary was a country that was compared to France and England both in economic and military strength. Hungary provided vast quantities of salt, silver, and gold to Europe, all coming from the Carpathian Mountains’ many mines. Beside the fall of Constantinople in 1453, part of the reason why Cristopher Columbus set sail to seek an oceanic route to India was that the productivity of these mines had decreased by the late 15th century.

Hungary’s first clash with the Turks was in the fourteenth century. Before the RoF the many wars with the Turks contributed to the development of the character and the quality of Hungarian warfare to such an extent that by in the seventeenth century they were a strong barrier against all Ottoman attacks aimed at Vienna. These wars are worth mentioning briefly since many Hungarians paid with their lives against the Muslim jihads against Europe.

The Hungarian-Turkish wars began at the reign of King Lajos (Louis) I, the Great, an Anjou king who ruled between 1342-1382 and was also King of Poland from 1370. He is acclaimed as the first European ruler who fought the Ottomans and beat them. The ongoing Turkish raids in southern Hungary began at this time as King Louis I got into a conflict with Venice in 1372 and the Venetians allied themselves with the Turks. Together they defeated the Hungarian and the Paduan army at Treviso, although the Hungarians were able to retain the Dalmatian seaside. King Louis’ attention then turned against the Turks. He moved into Wallachia where he was ambushed in the hills by the Romanians who were allied with the Turks. Fortunately he was able to defeat the raiding Turks invading Transylvania. During his Bulgarian campaign he defeated the Turks in a major battle in 1377. The victory gained Europe ten years before the Turks tried again; this time the Muslims attacked Serbia and defeated it at Rigómező (now Kosovo) in 1389.

The Turks took the first Hungarian frontier castle of Galambóc (Golubac, Taubenberg ) in 1391. Five years later the Hungarian King Zsigmond (Sigismund) of Luxembourg set out against the Turks in 1396. In his army there were many European knights and soldiers— Czechs, Spanish, Italian, and French. They were utterly defeated at the large-scale Battle of Nicopolis in 1396. Regrouping afterwards, the king decided to focus on building out his lines of defense in Hungary. He made a law that demanded the financing of one horse-archer per twenty houses. As a result of this, Hungary could maintain an eighty thousand-strong army to defend the country and was able to send forty thousand men campaigning abroad, according to a report from Venice in 1423.

When Mehmed I reunited the sultanate between 1413-1422, he allied with Bosnia and together they attacked Hungary and Croatia in 1415. Mehmed was able to make Bosnia a Sanjak—an administrative division within the Ottoman Empire—and kept sending armies against Wallachia and Hungary, without success. In the end it was he who asked for peace in 1419.

The next series of wars belong to the “Wars of Lower-Danube” period, the time of Turkish wars on the Balkans. Sultan Murad II tried to conquer the whole Balkans but was pushed back by the Hungarian General Pipo of Ozora in 1423. Pipo had two more successful campaigns against the Ottomans before he died in 1426.

Following some smaller raids, the Turks broke into Transylvania with a mighty army in 1432. It turned out to be the fifth Hungarian-Turkish war. The Turks crushed King Zsigmond’s two-thousand strong unit which was guarding the mountain passes and pillaged all over southern Transylvania, taking thousands of slaves to the Balkans.

There were many raids into Transylvania in 1435 and 1436 but the main Ottoman army tried to take the castle of Szendrő (Smederevo) in 1438, but the Hungarian-Serbian-Czech reinforcement chased them away. The Turks returned a year later, though, broke into Transylvania, and took Szendrő by surprise. They could do so because the Hungarian armies were weakened and held up by fighting a major peasant uprising which started in 1437. In 1441 Hungary’s greatest Turkish-fighter hero, János Hunyadi, began his career, campaigning deep into Serbia. The following year he defeated the Begler-Bey of Rumelia in Transylvania. Encouraged by Pope Eugenius IV, János Hunyadi led his “Long Campaign” against the Ottoman Empire, taking advantage of his enemies’ wars in Persia. In addition to his Hungarian armies, he was reinforced by Polish, Serbian, and Bulgarian soldiers, and he had German and Czech mercenaries as well. He almost reached Edirne, the capital of the Ottoman Empire. The Sultan was forced to plead for peace, and so it was made in 1444 at Várad, Transylvania.

Unfortunately, the Italian Archbishop Cesarini absolved the Hungarian King Ulaszlo I (Wladyslaw III) from his oath in order to continue the Turkish war. János Hunyadi had advised the king not to attack the Janissaries headlong, but the advice was ignored. Thus this war of 1444 ended in a disaster at the Battle of Várna when the great European coalition was crushed in an open battle by the Turks. The king himself was slain in it, some say as a penalty for breaking his oath. After the battle it became obvious that the traditional knightly warfare was of little use against the Ottomans. Indeed, the main army of the Sultan could not be defeated anywhere in Europe in open battle until the seventeenth century. After the death of the king, Hunyadi—being the strongest aristocrat—was elected the Governor of Hungary. He tried to join the Albanian Skanderbeg in Macedonia, but was defeated again by Murad II at Kosovo in 1448.

When Constantinople fell in 1453, Hunyadi achieved new military victories on the Balkans. Despite this, Sultan Mehmed II led a huge army against Nándorfehérvár (Belgrade), the southernmost frontier castle of Hungary, in 1456. After a long and fierce siege, Hunyadi—with his peasant crusaders and heavy cavalry—broke out from the castle, took the enemy’s cannons and turned them against the Turks. This was such an outstanding victory over the “invincible” Turkish army that all Europe celebrated it. Hearing the good news, Pope Callixtus III proclaimed a new Catholic holiday and ordered that all the bells in Christendom should toll at mid-day in order to commemorate the fight. János Hunyadi died from the plague soon after the siege, but the bells still ring all over Europe every day at twelve o’clock, and the Pope introduced a new holiday known as “The Configuration of Jesus,” all of which proclaim that it is not Muslim land yet.

Hunyadi’s son was elected as King Matthias Corvinus. He had been fighting the Turks for almost ten years, taking back the castle of Galambóc (Golubac). He also took Jajca back in 1463 and controlled the rest of Bosnia. He could clearly see that however strong Hungary can be, its strength would not be enough against the Ottoman Empire—which is why he wanted to become the head of the Holy Roman Empire. This was the reason why Matthias led his campaigns against the Austrians and the Czechs, but in spite of his campaign’s western plans, King Matthias also continued to support the wars against the Turks. The king had a constant regular army made up of mercenaries called the Black Army. He adopted the most modern artillery units and tactics of the age, using armored wagons with musketeers on them in the Czech Hussite fashion.

He sent his troops to aid Prince Stephen III, ruler of Moldavia, who didn’t want to accept the Sultan as his overlord and turned against him. The Romanian prince finally defeated the Turks with the help of Hungarian-Polish armies.

The Turks attacked Hungary in 1475 and reached into the country as far as Nagyvárad (Oradea) but were driven out. The Muslims lost the castle of Szabács on the southern border the next year and suffered a sobering open defeat at Kenyérmező, Transylvania, in 1479. General Pál Kinizsi scattered their superior army during this tenth Hungarian-Turkish war. Kinizsi chased them deep into Serbia, gaining back territory again and again.

A Turkish army took the city of Otranto from Naples in 1480 and they began building out a beachhead against Italy. When asked, Matthias sent his brother-in-law, Neapolitan King Ferdinand II, two thousand one hundred soldiers at this time and they successfully recaptured Otranto. Very few of these soldiers, led by his General Balázs Magyar, returned home, and King Matthias was not even thanked for this help.

In 1490, five years after he successfully invaded Vienna, and when he seemed close to achieving his goal of becoming Holy Roman Emperor, King Matthias died, allegedly after eating a rotten fig, although poison wasn’t ruled out. At his death the kingdom fell into a severe economic crisis and a proverb was born: “Matthias died, so did justice.” The role of saving Christendom from the Turks later went to the Habsburgs who wanted to take Hungary into their possession rather than defending it from the Ottoman Empire.

Vladislaus II, the king after Matthias, sent the Black Army against the Turks. He wasn’t careful enough about financing his wars so the mercenaries rebelled after they were not paid. Their leader, General Kinizsi, ended up having to fight and defeat his formerly faithful men. Taking advantage of the death of Matthias and the weakness of the new king, the Turks made an attempt to take Nándorfehérvár (Belgrád) in 1492 but General Kinizsi routed them and led his army to Serbia. He repeatedly beat the intruding enemy back in the following years and succeeded in keeping Nándorfehérvár (Belgrád) again in 1494 when its defenders wanted to surrender the fort. He led one more campaign against the Ottoman Empire that year but he died soon afterward. His efforts had been rewarded in the peace treaty of 1495 that was sealed between the King and a Sultan for the next three years.

János (John) Corvinus, King Matthias’ illegitimate son and Duke of Slavonia, defeated the Turks in 1499 in Bosnia. It was at the time when Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia Lanzol, the father of Cesare and Lucretia) organized an anti-Turkish alliance between Hungary, France, Poland and Venice in the year 1500. The Hungarian army was able to reach Bulgaria but it was fruitless, except for the capture of the city of Vidin. This war was ended with a peace treaty in 1504 that was extended in 1510.

The next Turkish-Hungarian wars were fought near the Bosnian and Croatian Frontier castles and the Croatian armies defeated the enemy in the battles of Dubica, Jajca and Korenica. The hero of these fights was Peter Berislo, but his victories were over with his death in 1520.


Things became worse when Nándorfehérvár (Belgrad) was taken in 1521 and the Turks had a free way into the country. Suleiman the Magnificent arrived in 1526 with his modern and immense army of eighty thousand men with his one hundred and fifty cannons and Jannissaries armed with muskets.

The Hungarian royal power was in decline, and some say the hand of the Fugger bankers was also involved in this decline. There was no pope nor emperor elected during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries without these bankers’ involvement. The Catholic Fuggers had a role in triggering the Reformed movement, mainly through the commercialization of indulgences, which trading right was sold to them by the Catholic Church. We might refer to Anton Fugger’s letter to the emperor in 1518 wherein the banker urged the ruler to pay him back the loan of eight million guilders or face the consequences.

It is true that Austria was deeply in debt to the Fuggers and the Habsburgs were badly in need of money. In 1525 they owed ten million guilders to the Fuggers. Everybody would have wanted the rich mining towns of Upper Hungary. These mines had previously been rented by the Fuggers but King Lajos II took their right back to the Treasury of Hungary in 1525. In order to get the gold and silver mines back, Hungary had to perish.

There is a story about a forged letter, written on behalf of the Hungarian King Lajos II to his baron, János Szapolyai, who was ordered not to hurry with his considerable army of 15,000 soldiers to the battlefield of Mohács. The young king had to die.

Others say that Szapolyai, the Voivode of Transylvania, waited for the inevitable death of the young king to gain the throne for himself. In fact, Szapolyai was delayed and the opponents met on the field without him.

Nevertheless, young King Lajos II bravely took the challenge and faced Suleiman the Magnificent with his 24,500 strong army of knights and mercenaries at Mohács. After some initial success, the battle turned out to be a disaster and the king lost his life. He was said to have been drowned in a flooded stream during his escape. There is hearsay that there was a mark of a mercenary’s three-edged dagger on his plate armor and he may have been assassinated. Some one thousand other Hungarian nobles, bishops and aristocrats were also killed.

It is generally accepted that more than fourteen thousand Hungarian soldiers were killed in the initial battle. The modern pike-musket units which consisted of Polish, Hungarian and Czech mercenaries, were left behind by the fleeing cavalry. Finishing them off with the cannons, the Sultan personally supervised the beheading of two thousand captured Christian soldiers on the battlefield. Suleiman could not believe that King Lajos’ small, “suicidal” army was all that the once-powerful country could muster against him, so he waited at Mohacs for a few days before moving cautiously against Buda.

Though they entered the unguarded and evacuated Buda and pillaged the castle and surroundings, they retreated soon afterwards. It was not until 1541 that the Ottomans finally captured and occupied Buda. Between 1526 and 1541 there weren’t any Turkish soldiers permanently in the country.

The Battle of Mohács meant the end of the independent Kingdom of Hungary as a unified entity. Amid political chaos, the divided Hungarian nobility elected two kings simultaneously, János Szapolyai in 1526 and Ferdinand of Austria in 1527. Ferdinand took advantage of the situation and made a successful coup d’état. As a result, he was soon able to pay back his debt to the Fuggers.

Ferdinand claimed Hungary’s throne by inheritance and by referring to previous contracts, but János Szapolyai had been elected by the nobility. Moreover, the Holy Crown of Hungary was in King Szapolyai’s possession. The country became a battlefield between them and Ferdinand succeeded in chasing Szapolyai to Poland.

In the hope of finding a protector against the Ottoman Empire, the Hungarian nobility began supporting Habsburg Ferdinand, thinking that he would be the stronger. At this point, Suleiman entered the fray by declaring war on Austria and Hungary. Although he had only two weeks for the siege of Vienna in the autumn of 1529, it proved to be his first failure abroad. He tried again in 1532 and was delayed by the heroic defenders of a small Hungarian Frontier castle called Kőszeg.

On top of that, the Habsburgs had roused the Serbians of southern Hungary against the Hungarians and massacres and uprisings were destroying the country from 1526 on. In 1528, after pleading for help against the Austrian usurper from all the Christian rulers and the Pope, King Szapolyai humiliated himself by making a treaty in 1529 with Suleiman. King Szapolyai was made to kiss the Sultan’s hand at the battlefield of Mohács. In return, the Sultan gave him back the Holy Crown and restored him to power. The Sultan sent an Italian adventurer called Lodovico Gritti to act as a Governor over King Szapolyai on his behalf. The King could get rid of him only in 1534 when Gritti was not favored anymore by the Sultan.

Before long, many Hungarian nobles became disillusioned by the Austrians’ “help,” and sided with the national king, János Szapolyai. The two kings finally made a treaty in Nagyvárad (Oradea), 1538, and divided Hungary between them. Szapolyai agreed in this treaty to cede his lands to Ferdinand in the event he died without a heir. To everybody’s surprise, King János Szapolyai had a male child before his death in 1540. János Zsigmond II was crowned the same year of his birth, and ended up being Hungary’s last elected national King and the first Prince of Transylvania at the same time.

After King Szapolyai’s death, the Habsburgs sent a strong army to take the castle of Buda in 1541. Their formidable army was led by Willheim von Roggerdorf and they laid siege on Buda which was heroically defended for three months before Sultan Suleiman arrived and defeated the Austrian usurper’s army.

Having scattered the Habsburgs, Suleiman just walked into Buda and the Turks remained there for 150 years. Hungarian historians are very divided on this event, many feeling that if the Habsburgs hadn’t interfered into Hungary’s affairs, the Turks would have had a lot more difficulties in occupying the country.

After defeating the Austrians at Buda, Suleiman ceremonially watched the execution of six hundred German and six hundred Czech prisoners and then finally let Queen Isabella and her son go and “gifted” them the control over the territories over the Tisza river and Transylvania, in exchange for an annual tax.

Although those lands were not actually in Turkish hands, Suleiman thought that he could get ahold of them in the years to come. He was to be disappointed in the loyalty of his new “vassals” because Brother György, the Jesuit guardian of the young King János Zsigmond II, made tremendous efforts to raise an army and strengthen the Frontier against the Turks as well as against the Habsburgs. The Turks watched it with dismay and the next war with the Muslims broke out in 1550 when they came in force to widen further their occupied territories. Brother György succeeded in stopping them and the Pope made him an archbishop. Shortly after this, Ferdinand had the intelligent Jesuit statesman and general assassinated in 1551.


The aging Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent, had dreams of becoming the second Alexander the Great but many heroic sieges at various Frontier castles stopped and delayed his hopes of taking Vienna. But it was he who brought down the sovereign Hungarian Kingdom, bonding Hungary to Vienna for a very long time and causing incredible destruction over the span of forty-five years before his death in 1566. The report of his victorious campaign of 1526 describes it like this: “The warriors of the Muslim faith had spread out all over the country and wherever they found the despised infidels, let them be in the fields or in the hills, killed the men by the sword and by the arrows and carried the women and the children to slavery. They devastated their houses and put their homes to the torch and collected all kinds of goods and huge treasures to themselves.” They herded tens of thousands to captivity and according to the records they left behind brutally massacred babies piled up by the hundreds.

Until the Habsburgs, Turks and Hungarians of Transylvania agreed to make a truce in 1564, the country had suffered constant wars. and great changes took place in every aspect of life. Even in times of “peace” there were raids and sieges all along the Frontier.

Dueling had become a favorite pastime between Hungarian and Turkish warriors who sought each other out by name. It is very entertaining to read their correspondence in which they challenged each other to duels. They used a very insulting vulgar style, identical to the famous letter of Cossacks sent to the Sultan in 1675.

In the meantime, Transylvania was divided from Royal Hungary and gradually became independent from the Turks as well. We must remark that King János Zsigmond II was a Unitarian, the only Unitarian ruler in world history. He was famous for introducing freedom of religion in 1557. After King and Prince János Zsigmond’s death in 1571, Prince István Báthory was elected in Transylvania. This is the beginning of the Transylvanian Principality that had finally come to its summit before the RoF period.



The history of Hungary fifty years before the RoF and until 1699


The Long War or as some call it, the Fifteen Years War between the Turks and the Habsburgs and Royal Hungary began between 1591-93. The Holy Roman Empire, the Habsburgs, and Royal Hungary allied themselves with Spain and the Pope but the Cossacks and the Persians were included as well. During this war numerous castles were taken back in Hungary. Transylvanians also joined in. The Hungarian, Transylvanian and Romanian armies defeated the Turks on their lands at Gyurgyevo (Giurgiu) in 1595 but the Sultan defeated the Christian army the following year at Mezőkeresztes. This battle proved to be the second Mohács and it was a turning point of the war: the armies were fighting back and forth and finally nobody had gained anything, just the locals and the soldiers suffered again. The Tatar raids had become usual and their destruction was twice that of the Turks’.

The Long War was finally ended in 1606 by Prince István Bocskay, the victor of Gyurgyevo (Giorgiu), who dictated the terms of the Peace of Zsitvatorok. He was the first great Transylvanian prince who stopped the Habsburgs’ intentions whereas they had tried to seize the properties of Hungarian nobles by accusing them of treason. He could achieve it by leading his Hajdu soldiers (armed herdsmen) against Vienna, conquering almost the entire Royal Hungary.

Bocskay was also the first who effectively defended the Protestant faith from the Habsburgs. After him came Prince Gábor Bethlen, and in 1630 Prince György Rákóczi I took the throne of the Principality. All of them led an independent country strongly against the Habsburgs’ interests. While they turned Transylvania into a “fairy garden” of Europe, their goal was to reunite Hungary under a national king and liberate the whole country from the Ottoman Empire.

Their concept was based on the idea of religious tolerance, and they didn’t trust that an Austrian-led Catholic Holy Roman Empire would serve the above-mentioned purposes. Their diplomatic activity and spy network was very good since they had to balance between two hostile empires.

The second Transylvanian-Turk war took place in 1636 when Prince György Rákóczi I defeated the Pasha of Buda and István Bethlen’s army. István Bethlen was Prince Bethlen’s younger brother and would have wanted the throne for himself but it turned out otherwise. After this Prince Rákóczi I got involved in the Thirty Years War, siding with the Swedes, which will be discussed elsewhere. His anti-Turk war shows how little he was a friend of the Ottoman Empire and how independent Transylvania was from the sultan.

Unfortunately, Prince György Rákóczi II, son of Rákóczi I, was not so fortunate. In alliance with the Swedes, he attacked Poland in 1657, hoping to get the Polish crown. His campaign had not been welcomed by the Turks, and his entire army was captured by the Crimean Tatars. Soon Transylvania was overrun by the Tatars and their terrible harvest sacked the “fairy garden” bare. The Prince died after being defeated again in 1660.

The newly elected Prince Apafi tried to regain the past power of the principality, but its days began to decline.

HnT-P1-zrnskyAnother great figure of the age was the aristocrat, poet, and general Miklós (Nicholas) Zrínyi (1620-1664), the Hungarian-Croatian hero who had defeated the Turks many times in Habsburg service. Considering his character, he might be an even more appropriate person than Prince György Rákóczi I to interact with the RoF. Zrínyi was reputed to have been the greatest general against the Turks in his day but during his career gradually he had realized that Royal Hungary and Croatia could not rely on the Habsburgs’ mercy or whim in order to overcome the Ottoman Empire. After being bitterly disappointed in the Habsburgs, he was killed by a boar when hunting in 1664. His younger brother, Peter Zrinyi, was beheaded for treason in 1671. His person and activity will be also detailed later.

The Hungarians were getting more and more rebellious against Vienna and in 1678 there was the Thököly uprising in Upper Hungary. This high-born general, later Prince of Transylvania in 1690, put up a fierce fight against the Austrians, and he was not shy to ask for the Turks’ aid, although he had been a famous military leader against the Turks. He helped the Turks get a safe passage to Vienna in 1683. Imre (Emericus) Thököly didn’t directly take part in the siege of Vienna but without his involvment the Turks couldn’t have reached it. Thököly’s troops were able to capture the castle of Pozsony (Bratislava, Pressburg), and during that summer the majority of the western Trans-Danubian counties swore fealty to him. Why did all this happen? Finally the Hungarians in general had realized that their real enemy was Austria, mainly due to the politics of King Leopold I (1657-1705) who had intended to crush the remnants of the Hungarian feudal constitution and privileges as well as Protestantism with one blow. King Leopold I dismissed two-thirds of the frontier-castle warriors in 1671 and stopped calling the Diet together to govern Hungary. Moreover, he ceased to give the highest feudal offices to Hungarian nobles as had been the custom, ending the tolerance of religions according to the Treaty of Vienna, 1606. No wonder that Imre Thököly became more and more popular.

When the Turks saw that Thököly had successfully torn great territories out of Habsburg hands, they decided to attack Vienna. Without Thököly they would not have even thought of it. Likewise, it was the Polish Sobieski who defeated them since the Austrians would not have been able to defend themselves. After the siege of Vienna, the conclusion was very quickly drawn: Hungary must be liberated, and the Turks must be dealt with for good. They could not afford a new Turk attack nor a new Hungarian uprising. They had to attack if they wanted to survive. (In a way, the liberation of Hungary was indeed triggered by Thököly.) Thus, Pope Innocent XI organized the Holy League in 1684 with the Papal States, the Holy Roman Empire, Poland, Venice, and later on with Russia. It was called a crusade and many soldiers, mercenaries, and nobles joined it from all countries of Europe. The Hungarian Hajdus and all kinds of dismissed castle-warriors and other soldiers from all over Hungary were a tremendous help to the Crusaders, not only because of their valiant warfare but also because they knew the land. The following war was so devastating that contemporary sources estimate the mercenaries’ destruction of the recaptured places worse than many years of Turkish devastation.

Finally they took Buda back and drove the Turks out, settling the war with the Treaty of Karlóca (Karlowitz) in 1699. There were no Hungarians present at the negotiations so they decided “sine nobis de nobis” – decided about us, without us. The peace was disadvantageous to Hungary: it left vast Hungarian lands in Turk hands, the Principality of Transylvania was not accepted as a sovereign state and so on. Hungary had to suffer three more Turkish wars in the eighteenth century.


History after 1699


Transylvania fell into the hands of the Habsburgs and Serbian marauders broke into the recently “liberated” land and scorched what they found. Soon German, Serbian, Romanian, and Slavic nationalities were settled on the depopulated areas by the Habsburgs.

Hungary rebelled against injustice and Prince Ferenc Rákóczi II waged a freedom fight against the Austrians between 1703-1711. It should be noted that the Serbs immediately took the side of the Habsburgs and had been burning and destroying the Great Hungarian Plains for eight years, while the Rusyns of the Subcarpathian Area joined Rákóczi along with the Slovakians. The Romanians of Transylvania supported the rebels en masse against the Habsburgs, as well. This insurrection was unsuccessful, closed by the Treaty of Szatmár, however the Hungarian nobility managed to partially satisfy Hungarian interests. The nobility’s rights remained more or less intact, and Hungary didn’t become a mere province of Austria.

After 145 years of Habsburg absolutism the country rose again in 1848-1849, led by Lajos Kossuth. It was the longest freedom fight and war of independence of all the revolutions of 1848 in Europe. The Austrians were able to put it down only with Russian help. The sixteen-year-old Franz Joseph turned to the Russian Tsar Romanov Nicholas I for half a million soldiers to field against his rebel subjects.

After the bloody punishment of the rebels, the Hungarians created the so-called “passive resistance” movement that was later adapted by the Irish freedom fighters. When the Habsburgs realized that a country cannot be oppressed only by force for long, the parties brought about the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867. The Compromise re-established partially the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Hungary, separate from, and no longer subject to, the Austrian Empire.

Hungarian regions of the state were governed by separate parliaments and prime ministers. Unity was maintained through the rule of a single head of state, reigning as both the Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary. Franz Joseph ruled through the common monarchy-wide ministries of foreign affairs, defense, and finance, which were under his direct authority. The armed forces also belonged to the Emperor-King who was the commander-in-chief. So Franz Joseph had all the real power to decide foreign policy, to decide about the money, and to lead the army.

Due to the rebellious nature of the Hungarians and because of the tremendous fight they had had, the monarchy had the most developed policy in the world regarding the national minorities. In the nineteenth-century when North American natives were massacred and Welsh and Irish people were humiliated for their nationality, the minorities and ethnic groups of the Monarchy enjoyed a wide range of rights and independence that was envied by the Hungarian ethnic minoritiess that found themselves in Slovakia or in Romania after 1918.

Hungary was driven against its will into the first World War in 1914, led by the Habsburgs. The consequences were somewhat worse than after the Defeat of Mohács back in 1526. Hungary lost seventy-four percent of its territory and millions of indigenous Hungarians became utterly oppressed minorities in the neighboring new states.

Between the two world wars Hungary tried to reach a balance between the Germans and the Soviets and was able to get back some of the lost territories by playing Hitler against Stalin. Hungarian soldiers had to be sent to Russia and hundreds of thousands perished on the front. Meanwhile, toward the end of the war it offered the last asylum for Jewish people escaping the Germans. While Romania was able to leave its German allies, Hungary’s secret peace negotiations were turned down by the Western powers. The Allied Forces were afraid that if Hungary jumped out of the war, Hitler would immediately invade the country and all the Jewish people would face great peril. Yet that’s exactly what happened . . . the Governor of Hungary, Miklós Horthy, rebelled against the Germans and Hungary was invaded right away.

Despite that, after the war ended with Hungary being thrown to the Soviets, the Soviets treated the Hungarians as the last henchmen of Hitler. The Hungarian anti-communist revolution of 1956 was the only armed uprising against the Soviets in Eastern Europe; Budapest put up a fierce resistance for two full weeks against the Red Army as they waited for the promised reinforcements from the west and from the United States. After the bloodshed, the Communists could not afford to apply such strict measures as before, and a milder form of socialism was introduced.

Hungary was the first again in 1989 to open its borders to the west, and the first democratic elections were held here to crack communism. Now, the country is part of the European Union and a democracy, led by politicians whose fathers grew up under Communism.

Knowing this sorry future history, Hungarians of the Ring of Fire time are likely to turn against the Habsburgs with all their might.



About the Faces on the Cutting Room Floor, Number Four: Books Within the Book

Faces on the Cutting Room Floor Number Four banner

In many ways, 1635: The Papal Stakes is a book dominated by other books and documents—by the Bible, by Vatican II, by learned commentaries, and even by The Lord of the Rings.

One of the major writings that remained largely unremarked were the lost accounts of the life and teachings of Duns Scotus, a major theological influence upon the Franciscan Order. The compositor of these works, one of the leading Franciscan theologians of his age, Father Luke Wadding, is exfiltrated from Rome by the Wrecking Crew, but once safe in Venice, he puts the challenge of preserving the complete works of Duns Scotus before the up-timers and their allies:


Father Wadding looked like he was about to squirm out of his own finely wrinkled skin in eagerness to be off. “I will leave Father Hickey here to attend to the unresolved matters we left behind us in Rome.”

Miro felt one eyebrow rise. “Unresolved matters?”

“Yes, of course: the books.”

“The books?”

Wadding folded his hands, regained his patience and composure. “At St. Isidore’s we were in the process of compiling what we hope to be an authoritative collection and commentary upon the writings and life work of Duns Scotus, one of the most important—”

“Oh, yeah,” Tom Stone interrupted with a cheery wave, “Larry—uh, Cardinal Mazzare—asked me to tell you that he’s having your work on Duns Scotus sent down from Grantville. What we have of it, that is. By looking at it, you should be able to determine what pieces of the complete collection we don’t have. So maybe you only need to work on those missing sections.” Tom evidently missed the utterly dumbfounded, even horrified, look on Wadding’s face. “Of course, Larry tells me that Father Heinzerling hadn’t finished combing through the boxes in his basement. A lot of his collection is still down there, I guess.” Then he saw Wadding’s face. “What’s wrong, Father?”

“It was completed? The Duns Scotus collection? And you have it—or much of it?” Wadding blinked. “So: my life’s work was a success in your world. Which makes it now mostly unnecessary in this one.” Wadding rested his head upon his hand. “This—this will take some getting used to. But never mind. It is good to learn that, no matter what now transpires in Rome, much of Duns Scotus’ work is preserved. But it is still imperative to remove the original manuscripts to a safer location. Maybe for safekeeping here, on the island—”

Miro leaned forward. “Father Wadding, just how many volumes are we talking about? Approximately?”

Wadding considered. “Well, they are not volumes, per se. Most of the documents are folders and collections of original manuscripts. But if I were to estimate their equivalent bulk as books, I would say not more than eight thousand. Or so.”

Miro’s were the only eyes in the room that did not widen. “I see. Father, I must tell you that I do not see any immediate way to secure their removal from Rome. However, we have some local resources there”—he glanced at Lefferts—“that may be able to keep watch over them from a distance, and ensure that they are not subject to acts of random vandalism. However, if the Spanish decide to—”

Wadding held up a hand. “I understand. And I will trust that between your help and God’s will, they will remain safe long enough for us to reclaim them.”

Harry was pointedly keeping a straight face. Obviously, the notion of taking any risks to reclaim a pile of dusty old documents was something only a bookworm would conceive of or understand. And Harry was no bibliophile.


The Gospel According to Tolkien


Another crucial element of the narrative is how Frank Stone resorts to an allegorical re-rendering of The Lord of the Rings to explore and expose the inequities of the aristocratic monopolies that characterized both the Papal and royal authorities of the 1630s. His wife Giovanna, seeing the potential for a revolutionary manifesto in these writings, was an eager if infrequent auditor of Frank’s tale. In the final manuscript, the completed version of the story was referred to in synoptic form, only. But here is Giovanna’s reaction to Frank’s finished magnus opus:


Giovanna folded her hands eagerly. “Now, as I recall, the orcs had taken Gondor and are enslaving its people. What happens next?”

“Well, while the people of Gondor are suffering, the hobbits sneak around and learn more about the orcs.”

“Ah, so is this also where we finally learn about what has made them the beasts that they are. Do we discover what makes them so evil? Are they born wicked? Violent? Cruel? Uncaring?”

“No,” Frank said slowly. “They’re just raised to be greedy. To grasp for themselves before thinking of what is fair to other people, both individually and collectively.”

“Ah! So it is a revolutionary tract, after all! You spit in the eye of capitalists and autocrats!”

“Uh, yeah, sure,” agreed Frank, who hadn’t really thought of that at all. “But people don’t like reading theory and preaching; they want a good story, ya know? So it’s really more of a plot twist, I guess. Like a lot of humans, the orcs don’t realize that greed will not make them powerful. What we learn is that greed was just a way to corrupt them, to make them believe that the only alternative to being alone and scared is to become a creature of pure selfishness.”

“What do you mean?”

“See, there’s a line—a philosophy, really—in an up-time movie which claimed that, in order for people to really succeed, they need to realize that ‘greed is good.’ Which is like saying that because we want things, we are driven to achieve. And so we do more and better work that way.”

“It is the taskmaster’s whip transformed into self-flagellation! It is a trick whereby the elites ensorcel the bourgeoisie to their own acquisitiveness, carried out by subverting the work ethic of the middle class.”

Yup, Giovanna Stone nee Marcoli sure was her father’s daughter, right down to the penchant for radical activism and muckraking. “Right. But I just let that remain implied. No use banging people over the head with moral preaching or economic theory, right?”

“Not as if they couldn’t use it,” Giovanna grumbled.

“Maybe, but writing a novel—a popular novel—isn’t about writing what people need to read, but what they want to read, right? So towards the end of the book, we start discovering that the creatures of Mordor started as normal men and women, but their greed has corrupted them.”

“They have become obese, their greed expressing itself as gluttony?”

Frank nodded. “Yeah, some do get pretty porky. But almost an equal number are as thin as rakes.”

“What? Why?”

“You know the saying ‘you can’t have your cake and eat it too’?”

“No. But it sounds contradictory.”

“Yeah, at first, it does. But think about it this way: there are misers who, no matter how much money they have, still insist on living like rats in a hole.”

Gia’s eyes lit up. “Ah, yes! Now I see. The paradox of wanting to keep everything we accumulate keeps us from spending and enjoying what we have. And so, the physical signs of the orcs’ corruption take on shapes particular to the specific kind of greed, of vice, that dominates each one of them?”

“Yeah, now you’ve got it.”

“And so, the greedy orcs of Mordor are vanquished by the noble men of Gondor, operating with the information acquired by the wily hobbits?”

“Well, sort of.”

She rose up on her forearms; her now-alarming cleavage swayed dramatically. “What? ‘Sort of?’ What kind of victory is ‘sort of?’ Are the orcs not slaughtered by a triumphant union of allied armies and rebel fighters?”


“Do they drown in the filth of their own excesses?”

“Uh, no.”

“So they fall upon each other in a murderous frenzy to possess the last meager scrap of wealth?”

“No at all.”

“Then how are they vanquished?”

“By their own need for love.”

She was silent for a long time. “You are joking.”

“No, Gia, I’m not. Think about it: the hardest, least kind humans you’ve ever met will claim that they can live without love, but they really can’t. Everyone wants to be cared for, everyone wants to matter to someone else. We can’t get away from it: it’s part of our nature as social creatures. It’s coded deep down in our genetics.”

She sat up very slowly. “Tell me more.”

“So the orcs start learning that they can’t get away from love. Almost all of them want it, and lots of them start showing it. Towards each other, even towards the humans—particularly the old and the very young. They can’t really help it, because whenever they show any mercy to the humans, they begin to realize that the impulse behind it isn’t—can’t be—just guilt. Because you don’t feel guilt if you don’t also feel a sense of responsibility, and that, in turn, means that, deep down, there’s some tiny sprout of love for others. A sprout that just won’t die.”

“And how does this finally overcome greed?”

“Well, greed is all about ourselves; it’s about desire that is completely selfish. At its most extreme, greed is about the death of all love except self love. And when real love shows up, greed begins to retract and wither. So in the end, the orcs who are completely greedy have nothing left but all the stuff they’ve taken. None of their own kind even trust them anymore, much less love them. And they don’t trust each other. So they all shut themselves up in their towers of jewelry and junk and die there, miserable and alone, and in the dark—because they’re too stingy to burn a candle.”

Frank looked up and saw an expression on Gia’s face that he had never seen before: it was so grave and yet so passionate that, for a moment, he was almost a bit fearful. Then she nodded, “And so they turned their face from the light, from hope. And they died. Because, you know, your parable is only superficially about love, Frank.”

“It is?” he squawked.

She nodded slowly. “Why do we love? Why do women do this?” She caressed her increasingly round belly. “Oh, there are animal drives in us, to be certain. But even a miserable flea-ridden alley cat loves her kittens, and gives them to the world as a statement of hope, hope in the persistence of her own kind. And women must love more than that, for unlike the beasts of the field, we know full well the dangers of birth. And we know it so much better now, than in your time.

“Think on this, Frank: what purely selfish woman would ever consent to having a child? Why would they bear that risk, even if they were resolved to take no responsibility for the infant, to consign it to the hands of servants and wet nurses? Perhaps noblewomen of great houses have sufficient reason: they are driven to it by the need to cement alliances with comingled blood. But these are but a very few of the many millions of women who embrace new life in their own bodies. And why? For what?”

She came and sat next to him. He suddenly felt like a boy in the presence of a prophet—except Frank seriously doubted that there had ever been any prophet as sexy as his Giovanna. “I will tell you why we do it, Frank Stone, my husband. In the short-term, we do it to celebrate love, but from deep in our souls, we do it to embrace hope. And that is why your story will be read by, and leave its mark upon, millions of people.”

“It will?”

“Yes, Frank, and do you know why?”

“Uh…no. Not at all.”

She smiled. “Because women will understand it. Oh, men will read it and make speeches about how it reveals the moral bankruptcy of the Spanish and all the rest. But women will read—or, sadly, mostly hear—it as well, and they will know what it really means: that you have touched the cores of good and evil and laid them bare for us to see in this allegory of our current situation. And, hearing its message of hope, they will spread news of this book, will keep it in their husbands’ and childrens’ ears.” She smiled. “Men may believe they rule households, but women determine most of what moves through them, including the traffic of ideas. Once they embrace something, it will always be present there. And they will embrace this book, Frank.”

She stood, a little imperious again. “And many will want to embrace you as well, I’m sure. I suppose I must provide you with sufficient incentives to resist those temptations—in addition to leaving you uncastrated, that is.” Even though she smiled as she said it, Frank felt his scrotum contract and make a reasonable effort at ascending back into his body.

She put her arms around him very gently and held him tightly. “You know I am joking, my love, except in this regard: you are soon to become a very famous man, I think. And there will be many women who will want you in their beds, in their lives.”

Frank scoffed. “Well, that’s too bad for them—since there is only one woman whose life and bed I want to be in.”

She looked at him gravely. “Yes. I know. That is why I can joke about these things at all.”

He touched her face. “Thank you, Giovanna.”

“You thank me? For what?”

“For being the real genius behind the book.”

She smiled and shook her head. “No, Frank. I am no artist. I am not even a great thinker. You are both, and you have written a wonderful book. I simply told you what it was really about.” She laughed. “You have an up-time saying, ‘you cannot see the forest because you are too close to the trees?’ Each word you put on these pages was as if you were planting another tree in the forest that is your book. How could you also be expected to see the entirety of your creation when you are so very close to it?”