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Charles I of Hungary

Charles I of Hungary (Anjou France 1288 or 1291 - Visegrad, Hungary July 16, 1342), also called Charles Robert, Carobert and Charles I Robert, was the king of Hungary from August 27, 1310. He was the grandson of King Charles II of Naples, son of Charles Martel and Clemencia, daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph I.

Table of contents
1 His Life
2 His Reign
3 Deterioration of the southern frontier

His Life

Known as Charles Robert prior to his enthronment as King of Hungary in 1309, Charles claimed the Hungarian crown as the great-grandson of King Stephen V of Hungary and under the banner of the Pope. Travelling in August 1300 from Naples to Dalmatia, he was crowned at Esztergom after the death in 1301 of the last Arpad king Andrew III of Hungary but was forced in the same year to surrender the crown to Wenceslaus II of Bohemia.

His failure only made Pope Boniface VIII still more zealous on his behalf, and support from his Hungarian adherents was observed at the Diet of Bratislava in 1304. In the meantime Wenceslaus transferred his rights to Duke Otto III of Bavaria in 1305, who in his turn was taken prisoner by the Hungarian rebels. He was enthroned at Buda on June 15, 1309. His installation was not regarded as valid until he was crowned at Székesfehérvár on August 27, 1310 with the sacred crown, which was at last recovered from the rebellious barons. For the next three years Charles had to contend with rebellion after rebellion, and it was only after his great victory at Rozhanovce on June 15, 1312 that he was the real master of his own land.

Charles married three times. His first wife was Maria, daughter of Duke Casimir of Teschen, whom he married in 1306. She died in 1315, and in 1318, he married Beatrice, daughter of the Emperor Henry VI. On her demise two years later he married Elizabeth, daughter of king Wladyslaw I Lokietek of Poland. Five sons were born of his third marriage, of whom three, Louis, Andrew and Stephen, survived him. His sister Clemence d'Anjou (1293 - 1328) married Louis X of France on August 13, 1315 and became the mother of John I of France.

Charles died on July 16, 1342, and was laid beside the high altar at Székesfehérvár, the ancient burial place of the Arpads.

His Reign

Charles restored order by absolute rule. The Diet was still summoned occasionally at very irregular intervals, but the real business of the state was transacted in the royal council, where able men of the middle class, 70 percent of them Italians, held trusted positions. To impose limitations on the barons, the lesser gentry were protected against the tyranny of the magnates, encouraged to appear at court and taxed for military service by the royal treasury so as to draw them closer to the crown. The court was famous throughout Europe as a school of chivalry.

Charles also carried out numerous important reforms. He was a born financier, and his reform of the currency and of the whole fiscal system greatly contributed to enrich both the merchant class and the treasury. Towns grew and crime reduced owing to Charles's fiscal care. He encouraged trade and imposed taxes to support his army, which he used to expand his territory, making Hungary into a major European power. His achievements were continued by his son King Louis the Great.

Charles's foreign policy largely stemmed from dynastic alliances. His most successful achievement was the mutual defense union with Poland against the Habsburgs and Bohemians, accomplished by the convention of Trenčín in 1335, confirmed the same year at the brilliant two-month congress of Visegrad. Not only did all the princes of central Europe compose their differences and enjoy splendid entertainment during the months of October and November: the immediate result of the congress was a combined attack by the Hungarians and Poles upon the Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV and his ally the Habsburg Duke Albert II of Austria, which resulted in favour of Charles in 1337.

Charles's desire to unite the kingdoms of Hungary and Naples under his eldest son Louis was dashed by Venice and by the Pope, who both feared Hungary might become the dominant Adriatic power. Nevertheless he was more than compensated for this disappointment by his compact in 1339 with his ally and brother-in-law, Casimir III of Poland, whereby it was agreed that Louis should succeed to the Polish throne on the death of the childless Casimir.

Deterioration of the southern frontier

The Arpad kings had succeeded in encircling their whole southern frontier with six military colonies or banates, comprising, roughly speaking, Little Wallachia (southern part of present-day Romania) and the northern parts of present-day Bulgaria, Serbia and Bosnia. Charles redistributed these territories and proselytized the residents of the region to consolidate his reign.

Although he managed to expand his kingdom, the adverse effect was converting most of the old banates into semi-independent and violently anti-Hungarian principalities. The predominent religion of the area was Greek-Orthodox, and forceful proselytization to Catholicism provoked rebellion. Natural dynastic competition with the Orthodox Serbian and Bulgarian tsars and the emergence of a new Wallachian nationality also contributed to the upraising.

Prior to 1320, Western Wallachia (Oltenia) was regarded by the Hungarians as part of the banate of Szörény. When the Wallachian ruler, Basarab I showed signs of disobidience, Charles lead his army toward Wallachia, but on November 9, 1330, it was ambushed on entering Wallachia, in the Battle of Posada. King Charles barely escaped, by exchanging clothes with one of his knights. This incident marked the beginning of Wallachia as an independent state.

Unknown to Charles, the Ottoman Turks had already secured Asia Minor under the sultans Osman I and Orhan I and planned to invade the Balkans to consolidate their realm. The Balkans sovereignties were keener on securing their regimes than on co-ordinating their defences. With Charles' policy added into the equation, the Turks could annihilate them one by one. Nevertheless these events happened years after Charles' death.

Modified text from 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica

Names in other languages:Hungarian: I. Károly /Károly Róbert , Slovak: Karol I / Karol Róbert, Romanian: Carol Robert

Preceded by:
Otto III
List of Hungarian rulers Succeeded by:
Louis I