Zrínyi, Miklós, Count
(Ozaly, May 1st, 1620 – Csáktornya, November 18th, 1664)
"Sors bona, nihil aliud." (M. Zrínyi)
A descendant of the famous noble Zrínyi family who was the main character of the era's military history, forerunner of the national military science, a determinative character of the era's political life, and the creator of the Hungarian political journalism. He never considered poetry as his main profession; however, he pursued it on such outstanding level that he became the main character of the Hungarian literature of the seventeenth century.
His father, György Zrínyi, the viceroy of Croatia was a nobleman who supported the House of Habsburgs, was the grandchild of Miklós Zrínyi - the hero of Szigetvár. His mother was Magdolna Szécy. Zrínyi was born as a Presbyterian, but he had to be re-catholicized as a child, due to the family's loyalty to the emperor. His father died in 1626, and therefore his sons, Miklós and Péter became orphans as small children. Their education was supervised by the Royal Guardianship Council, with the leadership of Péter Pázmány, the Cardinal Archbishop of Esztergom.
They started their studies at home, and then continued at the Jesuits in Graz, Vienna and in Nagyszombat, the country town of Pázmány.
He barely passed the age of 16 in 1636, when he familiarized himself with the Italian art and the era's Italian literature. He went to Venice where his relatives lived, and as a grown-up adolescent he could confidently speak, write and read in Hungarian, Croatian, Latin, Italian and German. He was familiar with the ancient Latin culture and the Italian renaissance culture. He knew Vergilius as much as Torquato Tasso, the epical poet of the Renaissance; he was as immersed with the works of Tacitus as with the political and military science works of Machiavelli. He also knew and loved the poetry of Bálint Balassi, as well as the national historical chronicles in verse. He learned from all of the above-mentioned works, and he never became anybody's slavish imitator.
Although he already lived in the era that had the taste of the Baroque, his human and poet individuality was purely Renaissance. He was always averse to the mystique and the fancyness of the Baroque.
Unanimity, Unanimity, rationality and descriptiveness were those Renaissance virtues that had an influence on all his literary work.
He wrote poems since he was an adolescent. Later on, as a result of being a commander, a military science writer, a politician, a publicist and the reviver of the nation, he had to make history, thus he rarely published any more poems.
From the spring of 1637, he lived in Csáktornya, in the centre of his estates, and started to reconstruct his neglected holdings and in a few years' time he created modern holdings producing goods. He started huge trading concerns, and protected his estates and bondsmen with weapons. He spent the majority of his revenues coming from his estates on military expenses. He considered the fight against the Turks his biggest duty. He expressed his political ideas in his poetry and later on in his theoretical works.
Poetry filled his life principally between the age of 20 and 25. His love poems were all written to Mária Eusebia Draskovich, who later became his wife.
They got married on February 11, 1646 after several years of wooing. Unfortunately their happy marriage did not last long, as he lost his young wife in 1650.
During the winter of 1645-46, he wrote his genial piece, the first Hungarian heroic epic, The Peril of Sziget (Szigeti Veszedelem) with the most modern artistic instruments and with political intentions. In his work he propagated in the language of poetry that the time had come for the victorious war against the Turks. This is one of the last heroic epics of the European Baroque literature. All lines of this epic are filled with the poet's military and political experiences and his personal heroism. It revives the battle and the heroic death of his great-grandfather, the hero of Szigetvár, who lived three generations before and died in 1566. He got into the history of great eposes by following the path of Vergilius and Tasso.
In 1646 he became general,
In 1647 he became the viceroy of Croatia, and commander-in-chief of the Southern Ends.
Between 1646 and 1651 he published his first military science work, Short Treatise on Camp Organization (Tábori kis tracta), which was the result of his detailed military studies. In his work, Zrínyi classified the liquidation of the military ignorance and the establishment of the modern scientific war conditions as the most important tasks. It discusses the technical details of organizing the army and the questions of grouping and provisioning. He heavily emphasized the military importance of the infantry. In order to avoid military lootings, he wanted to solve the problem of field-provisioning with the help of centralized treasury supplies.
In 1651 he published his work that summarized his poetry, the Siren of the Adriatic Sea (Adriai tengernek Syrenaia) in Vienna, at the age of 31. After that he only wrote an elegy for his son', Izsák's death, and a few pieces of the planned epigram cycle about the Hungarian kings. Surrounded by weapons, his muses fell silent in him. However, his single poem book, The Peril of Sziget made him the main character of his century.
In 1652 he got married for the second time, with Mária Zsófia Lőbl. They had four children: Mária Terézia Borbála (*1655, 1659), Mária Katarina (*1656), Izsák (*1658, 1659) and Zrínyi Ádám (1662-1691).
Between 1650 and 1653 he published The Gallant General (Vitéz hadnagy), where he stated that the appropriate military leadership is very important and he summarized the characteristics of the ideal commander. Its central question is the concept of heroism: gallantry, which is the unity of personal bravery, expertise in military science, constancy, prudence, diligence and foresight. He reflects long on the question of luck, that he sees as the instrument of divine providence.
On the autumn of 1653 as the leader of the noble opposition against the Habsburgs he was occupied with his plan on electing him as palatine.
In 1655 in the parliament their opponents prevented Zrínyi from becoming palatine. However, he agitated with success against the endless reign of the Habsburgs, in the name of the Hungarian free king election.
By the time of 1656-57 he fully lost confidence in the Imperial Court of Vienna, and he wrote the story of King Matthias to express his political ideas. In his historical commentary titled Reflections on the Life of King Matthias Mátyás király életéről való elmélkedések), he set the national ruler model as an example to his contemporaries.
In 1660 he published his last prosaic work, his famous pamphlet, the first masterpiece of the Hungarian journalism, The True Remedy against the Turkish Poison (Az török áfium ellen való orvosság).
This was the pamphlet that was the most widely read and that made the biggest influence ever. He urged the establishment of the Hungarian army, which he wanted to recruit from the peasantry. In case of a war, he wanted to provide the whole nation with weapons. He wanted to cover the maintenance costs of the army from the nobles' wealth, and not from the people's taxes. This debating book could have been the ideal foundation of the nation's defensive warfare.
In 1661, despite the protestation of the Imperial Court of Vienna, Zrínyi built the Zrínyi Castle (Új-Zerinvár) on Turkish territory, at his own expenses to protect Muraköz, in order to be able to beat off the continuous Turkish attacks.
The Imperial Court of Vienna, which he wanted to serve, continuously hindered him in executing his political and commander plans. He realized that the only way the nation can reach its goals is to go against the Court of the Habsburgs. He was the follower of the centralized national kingdom and he was fighting for its establishment. He believed that it is the nation that has to initiate the dislodgement of the Turks, and it has to represent such power that can be used against the Habsburgs as well. He built secret relations with the foreign anti-Habsburg forces, among others with the diplomats of the French King Louis XIV.
In 1663 Franz Ferdinand II gave supreme command to Ferdinand Montecuccoli.
Between 1663-64, Zrínyi temporary captured Berzence, Babócsa, Szigetvár and took over Pécs. No matter how successfully he lead the famous winter campaign at the beginning, due to the powerlessness of the imperial war management, victory failed and the Turks took over even Zrínyi-Újvár. Zrínyi was displaced from war management and the peace treaty of Vasvár was signed for the detriment of the Hungarians. By that time those who were dissatisfied with the Habsburg regime believed that he and his younger brother, Péter Zrínyi - who was later executed - were their only hope.
On February 2, 1664, Miklós Zrínyi, as the leader of both the cavalry of the Alliance of the Rhine participating in the anti-Turkish war and the Hungarian army, burned the Dráva-bridge in Eszék that insured the Turkish supplies.
On November 18, 1664, at the age of 44, he died in a hunter accident: he was attacked by an injured wild-boar in the Kursanec woods near Csáktornya. Miklós Zrínyi could have become the triumphant leader of the nation, but due to the accident all his political and military dreams fell apart. His incidental death completed the tragedy of the nation so much that it was hard to believe it was an accident. Gossips started to spread that he was not killed by a boar, but by an assassin, who was hired by the Imperial Court of Vienna, while he was hunting. His life was short, but complete: he was the incarnation of morality, a role model to be followed, such as his literary oeuvre that he left to the following centuries.
The seventeenth century was a tragic century for Hungary; half of the country was under Turkish rule and the other half was the prey of the imperial mercenary. Miklós Zrínyi became the main character of this tragedy, and became the first one who tried to waken the nation, and many people followed his path. All classes of the nation - differently, but together - lived their life in agony. This started the common life-and-death struggle of the humiliated people and the humiliated nobles: the Wesselényi-conspiracy, and later Ilona Zrínyi, Imre Thököly and Ferenc Rákóczi II's war of independence.
- His prosaic works were not published for a long time.
- The The True Remedy Against the Turkish Poison was his first work published in Bártfa (1705), the rest: The complete works of Miklós Zrínyi, Count of Zerinvár was only published in 1853 (published by Gábor Kazinczy and Ferenc Toldy).