2016/08/14

15th century Hungarian army project - historical background


In the future I want to take a big influence on the historical background of my projects, units and figures.

At first I want to give some information about the historical background of my 15th century Hungarian project because it is not a popular period in historical wargaming.

Sigismund (Hungarian king and later the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire) died in 1437 and thereafter an anarchy started in Hungary. The barons had very big influence in ruling the country and the royal power decreased. The Kingdom of Hungary was in big danger at this time because in its southern neighborhood the Ottoman Empire acted very aggressively against Europe. The population of Hungary was about only 3-4 million in these times but its territory was at least four times bigger than today in the 21th century. On the contrary, the Ottoman Empire was much bigger and it's population was about 20 million! The revenues of the Sultan were ten times bigger than the Hungarian king's.


The Kingdom of Hungary in the 15th century

 
In the anarchical times of the 1440's a talented man defended Hungary against the Turks. He was John Hunyadi. The Hunyadi family had origins from the lower part of the Hungarian nobility (I do not want to open discussion if they were Hungarian, Romanian or Serbian – we will never find it surely). John Hunyadi was a good soldier and politician and later he became a wealthy and influential baron. He used most of his money, power and time to lead campaigns against the Turks and even defend the country against them. After King Vladislaus died in the battle of Varna, Hunyadi became the governor of the country. He acted very a aggressively against the Ottomans because he not only defended the country against them but also led a lot of campaigns on the Balkans. He lost some bigger battles but in general he was successful. Before he died in 1456, he beat the Ottomans badly in the battle of Nándorfehérvár (nowdays Belgrád) when he made the city free from the Turkish siege. This Ottoman army was led by Mehmed II (the Fatih) who was able to occupy Constantinople with his army but not Nándorfehérvár! After this the Ottomans did not try to occupy Nándorfehérvár for 70 years!


John Hunyadi


In the second half of the 15th century the political situation normalised again. King Mathias, the new king restored the royal power and centralized it. Mathias was the son of John Hunyadi. Instead of Hunyadi's aggressive behavior against the Turks his son Mathias did not think that his main task is to defend Europe against the Ottoman Empire. He also developed the line of the border castles in Southern Hungary, but he mainly concentrated on occupying territories in Bohemia and Austria. Some historians say that he also wanted to defend Hungary but at first he wanted to create a powerful Central-Eastern European empire that can successfully stand against the Ottoman invaders. Therefore he fought against the Holy Roman Empire and the Kingdom of Bohemia – he also wanted to become the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

Mathias Corvinus
The conquests of King Mathias
 
Mathias needed a powerful, well trained and effective army for achieving his goals. The older Hungarian armies except for the baronial banderiums mostly contained regular troops. This troops could quite successfully defend the kingdom but when the monarch led campaign beyond the borders of the country, these regular troops were not very effective. At the beginning of his reign Mathias only had his royal banderium as his own army with ca. 1500 men. In order to attack Bohemia and the German lands he organized a mercenary army. Later on this army was able to beat the enemies during the campaigns of Mathias. His army mostly contained Czech, Hungarian, and some German and Serbian mercenary soldiers. The army had heavy and light cavalry and heavy infantry supplemented with crossbowmen and handgunners. (Later on I will go into detail about the structure of the army within this blog.) The size of the army continuously changed depending on the status of the war. It's average size was 7,000-8,000 men but based on some resources in some situations Mathias had 25,000 mercenaries! We must add that during the campaigns some baronial troops followed the royal mercenary army. After the death of Mathias the army was named as the Black Army. We do not know why it was called “black” (it is certain that the soldiers did not wear black armour and clothes as opposed to some people say). It is sure that Mathias did not name his army during his life. In order to maintain this army lot of money was needed. Even Mathias - whose incomes were bigger than the other Hungarian kings – often could not pay his mercenaries! Mathias died in 1490 and the following king Vladislaus II could not maintain his ancestor's super army. The army turned against Hungary because the unpaid military pay. Paul Kinizsi (earlier he was commander in the Black Army) had to destroy the looter mercenaries with his own troops.

Unit types in the "Black Army"
After the 1480's, the war against the Ottomans calmed down (calm before the stormy times of the 16th century). The war between Hungary and the Holy Roman Empire stopped and the new Hungarian king, Vladislaus II was also the ruler of Bohemia and Poland.

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