Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor

Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor

:"For other nobles of the same name, please see Sigismund."

Infobox German Royalty|monarch
title=Holy Roman Emperor; King of the Romans, Bohemia, Italy, Hungary, Croatia and Dalmatia

caption=Sigismund, aged approximately 50, depicted by unknown artist in the 1420s — the only contemporary portrait
succession = Holy Roman Emperor
reign= 1433 - 1437
predecessor = Charles IV
successor = Frederick III
coronation= 31 May 1433 in Rome
succession1 = King of Hungary and Croatia
(with Mary)
reign1 = 1387 - 1437
predecessor1 = Mary
successor1 = Albert
coronation1 = 31 March 1387 in Székesfehérvár
succession2 = King of Bohemia
reign2 = 1419 - 1437
predecessor2 = Wenceslaus IV
successor2 = Albert
coronation2 = 27 July 1420 in Prague
succession3 = King of the Romans
reign3 = 1410 - 1437
predecessor3 = Rupert
successor3 = Albert II
coronation3= 8 November 1414 in Aachen
royal house=House of Luxembourg
spouse=Mary of Hungary
Barbara of Celje
issue=Elisabeth, Queen of Bohemia
father=Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor
mother=Elizabeth of Pomerania
date of birth=14 February 1368
place of birth= Prague
date of death=9 December 1437
place of death= Znojmo
place of burial= Oradea

Sigismund (February 14, 1368December 9, 1437) was Holy Roman Emperor for 4 years from 1433 until 1437, and the last Emperor of the House of Luxemburg. He was also one of the longest ruling Kings of Hungary and Croatia, reigning for 50 years from 1387 to 1437. Sigismund was one of driving forces behind the Council of Constance that ended the Papal Schism, but which in the end also led to the Hussite Wars that dominated the later period of Sigismund's life.


Early life

Born in Prague, Sigismund was the son of the Emperor Charles IV and of his fourth wife Elizabeth of Pomerania, the granddaughter of King Casimir III of Poland. In 1374 he was betrothed to Mary, eldest surviving daughter of king Louis I of Hungary and Poland, who intended Mary to succeed him in the Kingdom of Poland with her future husband as was the custom of the time. Sigismund became Margrave of Brandenburg on his father's death in 1378. Sent to the Hungarian court, Sigismund became thoroughly Magyarized and entirely devoted to his adopted country.

In 1381, the then 13-year-old Sigismund was sent to Kraków by his eldest brother and guardian Wenceslaus, King of the Romans, to learn Polish and to become acquainted with the land and its people. King Wenceslaus also gave him Neumark to facilitate communication between Brandenburg and Poland.

Because of his intriguesFact|date=September 2008, Sigismund was expelled from Poland, which was then given to Mary's younger sister Jadwiga I of Poland, who married Jogaila of Lithuania. When an opposing candidate for the Árpád throne appeared, Sigismund fled, leaving his wife Mary and her mother, Elizabeth of Bosnia at the mercy of conspirators. Years of civil war followed.

King of Hungary

At the death of her father in 1382, his betrothed, Mary, became the Queen of Hungary and Sigismund married her in 1385 in Zvolen. She was however captured, together with her mother who has acted as the Regent of Hungary, in the following year by the rebellious Horvathys, Bishop Paul of Machva, his brother Ivanish and younger brother Ladislaus. This was according to an elaborate plan by the seventeen year-old Sigismund himself, and his mother-in-law was strangled (allegedly by Sigismund's men) in January 1387. Mary was only rescued in June 1387 through the aid of the Venetians (her uncle by adoption, Stefan Tvrtko of Bosnia, was then an honorary Venetian citizen), and she apparently reconciled with the Horvathys. Mary never forgave Sigismund for the death of her beloved mother, despite his claim to have punished the murderers, and they subsequently lived separate lives and had separate households. She died in 1395 in a suspicious horse accident while heavily pregnant.

In the meantime, Sigismund had arranged his own coronation as king of Hungary on 31 March 1387, and having raised money by pledging Brandenburg to his cousin Jobst, margrave of Moravia (1388), he was engaged for the next nine years in a ceaseless struggle for the possession of this unstable throne. The bulk of the nation headed by the great Garai family was with him; but in the southern provinces between the Save and the Drave, the Horvathys with the support of the Bosnian king Tvrtko I, Mary's maternal uncle, proclaimed as their king Ladislas, king of Naples, son of the murdered Hungarian king, Charles II. Not until 1395 did Nicholas II Garay succeed in suppressing them. On a number of occasions, Sigismund was imprisoned by nobles, but skilfully bribed his way out.

In 1396 Sigismund led the combined armies of Christendom against the Turks, who had taken advantage of the temporary helplessness of Hungary to extend their dominion to the banks of the Danube. This "Last Crusade", preached by Pope Boniface IX, was very popular in Hungary. The nobles flocked in thousands to the royal standard, and were reinforced by volunteers from nearly every part of Europe, the most important contingent being that of the French led by John the Fearless, son of Philip II, Duke of Burgundy. Sigismund set out with 90,000 men and a flotilla of 70 galleys. After capturing Vidin, he camped before the fortress of Nicopolis. Sultan Bayezid I raised the siege of Constantinople and, at the head of 140,000 men, completely defeated the Christian forces in the Battle of Nicopolis fought between 25 and 28 September 1396. He returned across the sea and through the realm of Zeta, where he ordained a local Serb lord Đurađ with the islands of Hvar and Korčula for resistance against the Turks, which were returned to Sigismund after his death in April of 1403.

Deprived of his authority in Hungary, Sigismund then turned his attention to securing the succession in Germany and Bohemia, and was recognized by his childless half-brother Wenceslaus IV as Vicar-General of the whole Empire. However, he was unable to support Wenceslaus when he was deposed in 1400 and Rupert III, Elector Palatine, was elected German king in his stead.

During these years he was also involved in domestic difficulties, out of which sprang a second war with Ladislas of Naples; on his return to Hungary in 1401 he was once imprisoned and twice deposed. This struggle in its turn led to a war with the Republic of Venice, as Ladislas had sold the Dalmatian cities to the Venetians for 100,000 ducats before departing to his own land. In 1401 Sigismund assisted a rising against Wenceslaus, during the course of which the Bohemian king was made a prisoner, and Sigismund ruled Bohemia for nineteen months. He released Wenceslas in 1403.

In 1404 he introduced the "Placetum Regium". According to this decree, Papal bulls could not be pronounced in Hungary without the consent of the king.

In about 1406 he remarried Mary's cousin Barbara of Celje (Barbara Celjska, nicknamed the "Messalina of Germany"), daughter of Count Hermann II of Celje. Hermann's mother Katarina Kotromanić (of the House ofKotromanic) and Mary's mother Queen Elizabeta (Elisabeth of Bosnia) were sisters, or cousins who were adopted sisters. Tvrtko I was their first cousin and adopted brother, and perhaps even became heir apparent to Queen Mary. Tvrtko may have been murdered in 1391 on Sigismund's orderFact|date=September 2008.

Sigismund personally lead an army of almost 50,000 "crusaders" against the Croats and Bosnians, which culminated in 1408 with the Battle of Dobor, and a massacre of about 200 noble families, many of them victors of numerous battles against the Ottomans. He founded his personal order of knighthood, the Order of the Dragon, after this victory. Members of the order were mostly his political allies and supporters.

King of the Romans

After the death of the Roman King Rupert in 1410, Sigismund - ignoring the claims of his half-brother Wenceslaus - was elected as successor by three of the electors on 10 September 1410, but he was opposed by his cousin Jobst of Moravia, who had been elected by four electors in a different election on 1 October. Jobst's death 18 January 1411 removed this conflict and Sigismund was again elected King on 21 July 1411. His coronation was deferred until 8 November 1414, when it took place at Aachen.

Anti-Polish alliances

On a number of occasions, and in 1410 in particular, Sigismund allied himself with the Teutonic Knights against Wladyslaw Jagiello of Poland. In return for 300.000 ducats he would attack Poland from the south after the truce on St. John's Day, 24 June expired. However, he was opposed by most of his noblemen and was prevented to participate in the alliance of twenty-two western states against Poland in the decisive Battle of Grünwald in July of that year.

Council of Constance

In 1412 – 23 he campaigned against the Venetians in Italy. The king took advantage of the difficulties of Antipope John XXIII to obtain a promise that a council should be called to Constance in 1414 to settle the Western Schism. He took a leading part in the deliberations of this assembly, and during the sittings made a journey into France, England and Burgundy in a vain attempt to secure the abdication of the three rival popes. The council ended in 1418, solving the Schism and — of great consequence to Sigismund's future career — having the Czech religious reformer, Jan Hus, burned at the stake for heresy in July 1415. The complicity of Sigismund in the death of Hus is a matter of controversy. He had granted him a safe-conduct and protested against his imprisonment; and the reformer was burned during his absence.

It was also at this Council that a cardinal ventured to correct Sigismund's Latin (he had construed the word "schisma" as feminine rather than neuter). To this Sigismund famously replied:

An alliance with England against France, and an attempt to secure peace in Germany by a league of the towns, which failed owing to the hostility of the princes, were his main acts of these years. Also, Sigismund granted control of the Margraviate of Brandenburg (which he had received back after Jobst's death) to Frederick I of Hohenzollern, burgrave of Nuremberg (1415). This step made the Hohenzollern family one of the most important in Germany.

Hussite Wars

In 1419, the death of Wenceslaus IV left Sigismund titular king of Bohemia, but he had to wait for seventeen years before the Czechs would acknowledge him. Although the two dignities of King of the Romans and King of Bohemia added considerably to his importance, and indeed made him the nominal temporal head of Christendom, they conferred no increase of power and financially embarrassed him. It was only as King of Hungary that he had succeeded in establishing his authority and in doing anything for the order and good government of the land. Entrusting the government of Bohemia to Sofia of Bavaria, the widow of Wenceslaus, he hastened into Hungary.

The Bohemians, who distrusted him as the betrayer of Hus, were soon in arms; and the flame was fanned when Sigismund declared his intention of prosecuting the war against heretics. Three campaigns against the Hussites ended in disaster. The Turks were again attacking Hungary. The king, unable to obtain support from the German princes, was powerless in Bohemia. His attempts at the diet of Nuremberg in 1422 to raise a mercenary army were foiled by the resistance of the towns; and in 1424 the electors, among whom was Sigismund's former ally, Frederick I of Hohenzollern, sought to strengthen their own authority at the expense of the king. Although the scheme failed, the danger to Germany from the Hussites led to the Union of Bingen, which virtually deprived Sigismund of the leadership of the war and the headship of Germany.

, and after obtaining his demands from the Pope returned to Bohemia, where he was recognized as king in 1436, though his power was little more than nominal.

He died in 19 December 1437 at Znaim (in Czech Znojmo, Moravia (now Czech Republic, and was buried at Nagyvárad, Hungary (in German Grosswardein, in Romanian Oradea, now Romania). By his second wife, Barbara of Celje, he left an only daughter, Elisabeth, who was married to Albert V, duke of Austria (later German king as Albert II) whom Sigismund named as his successor. As he left no sons his line of the house of Luxembourg became extinct on his death.


Sigismund married twice but the otherwise lucky monarch in his all life had little luck in his succession. An only child was produced from his each marriages. His first-born child, probably a son, however, was born prematurely through a horse riding accident of Queen Mary of Hungary well advanced in pregnancy, and died immediately after his birth together with his mother in the hills of Buda on May 17 1395. This caused a deep succession crisis because Sigismund ruled over Hungary by right of his wife, and although he managed to keep his power, the succession crisis lasted essentially until his second marriage. The second-born child was already born "in the purple", probably in the castle of Visegrád on October 7, 1409 but it was "only" a daughter, namely Princess Elisabeth, the future queen consort of Hungary, Germany and Bohemia. The Queen Barbara of Celje was seventeen years old, and she got barren and later she cannot have given birth to any further issue. Elisabeth was thus the only surviving legitimate offspring of Sigismund. He is also saidFact|date=September 2008 to have an illegitimate son from a woman of Wallachia, Elisabeth Morsina (Morzsinai in Hungarian), who later married a Wallachian boyar, Voicu (Vojk, Vajk in Hungarian). It was John Hunyadi, the future regent of Hungary and father of king Matthias I Corvinus of Hungary.


*1st spouse: Mary I of Anjou (1371-1395)
**N of Luxemburg (Son) (1395-1395)
*2nd spouse: Barbara of Celje (1392-1451)
**Elisabeth of Luxemburg (1409-1442), married in 1421 Albert of Habsburg
*(Presumed) Mistress: Elisabeth Morsina
**John Hunyadi (1409-1456)

Names in other languages

* German: "Sigismund (von Luxemburg)"
* Hungarian: "(Luxemburgi) Zsigmond"
* Italian: "Sigismondo (del Lussemburgo)"
* Czech: "Zikmund (Lucemburský)"
* Slovak: "Žigmund (Luxemburský)"
* Croatian and Serbian: "Žigmund (Luksemburški)"/"Жигмунд (Луксембуршки)"
* Slovene: "Sigismund (Luksemburški)"
* Romanian: "Sigismund de Luxemburg"


ee also

*Kings of Germany family tree.


* H. Horváth: "Zsigmond király és kora" ( _en. King Sigismund and his age; Budapest, 1937)
* B. Kéry: "Kaiser Sigismund Ikonographie" (Vienna and Munich, 1972)
* E. Mályusz: "Zsigmond király uralma Magyarországon, 1387 – 1437" ( _en. King Sigismund’s reign in Hungary, 1387 – 1437; Budapest, 1984)
* E. Marosi (ed), "Művészet Zsigmond király korában, 1387 – 1437" ( _en. Art in the age of King Sigismund, 1387 – 1437, 2 vols, exh. cat.; Budapest, Hist. Mus., 1987)
* J. Hoensch, "Kaiser Sigismund: Herrscher an der Schwelle zur Neuzeit, 1368 – 1437" (Munich, 1996)
* M. Pauly und F. Reinert, eds.: "Sigismund von Luxemburg: ein Kaiser in Europa". "Tagungsband des internationalen historischen und kunsthistorischen Kongresses in Luxemburg", 8 June to 10 June 2005(Mainz, 2006)
* I. Takacs: "Sigismundus rex et imperator: Kunst und Kultur zur Zeit Sigismunds von Luxemburg 1387 – 1437" ( _en. Sigismund, king and emperor: Art and culture in the age of Sigisumd of Luxembourg 1387 – 1437; exh. cat.; Mainz, 2006)


External links

* [ Art, images, maps connected to Sigismund]


NAME = Sigismund
SHORT DESCRIPTION = Holy Roman Emperor
DATE OF BIRTH = 14–15 February 1368
DATE OF DEATH = December 9, 1437

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