King Matthias

King Matthias Corvinus (Matyas kiraly), or King Matthias the Just as the Hungarians call him, was and will be probably the most popular statesman in Hungary. He sat on the throne at the age of 15 in 1458, and when he died in 1490 the Hungarians said, and still quote “Matthias is dead—justice is lost” (“Meghalt Matyas, oda az igazsag.”).

He was the first king who did not inherit the throne by dynastic ancestry or relationship, yet he inherited it from his father, John Hunyadi, the ingenous military leader, and later Governor of Hungary. He was elected by the general Diet, crossing the plans of the Habsburg dynasty, i.e. the Holy Roman emperor Frederick III. Just like his father taught him, he concentrated more on how to protect the Hungarian kingdom from its enemies and make the country stronger than on the inner quarrels and conflicts, this way saving the kingdom from feudal anarchy and the Ottoman Turkish threat.

King Matthias was strong, talented, skilled in arts and sciences, spoke several languages, etc. He was a Renaissance man in every aspect. He was legendary. And maybe not so fair when it comes to protecting the poor (although there is a thick volume of tales about King Matthias the Just, and even a great cartoon film series, where every Hungarian kid learns that King Matthias was fair and resourceful and walked among his people in disguise to learn about the true side of his kingdom). His newly introduced tax (the reform of taxes, 1467), ended special exemptions to large proprietors, but it was the peasants the high taxation really burdened.