Miklós Zrínyi


ZRINYI, MIKLOS, COUNT (1620-1664), Hungarian warrior, statesman and poet, the son of George Zrinyi and Magdalena Szechy, was born at Csakvar. At the court of Peter Pasmany the youth conceived a burning enthusiasm for his native language and literature, although he always placed arms before arts. From 1635 to 1637 he accompanied Szenkveczy, one of the canons of Esztergom, on a long educative tour through Italy. During the next few years he learnt the art of war in defending the Croatian frontier against the Turks, and approved himself one of the first captains of the age. In 1645 he acted against the Swedes in Moravia, equipping an army corps at his own expense. At Szkalec he scattered a Swedish division and took 2000 prisoners. At Eger he saved the emperor, who had been surprised at night in his camp by Wrangel. Subsequently he routed the army of Rakoczy on the Upper Theiss. For his services the emperor appointed him captain of Croatia. On his return from the war he married the wealthy Eusebia Draskovics. In 1646 he distinguished himself in the Turkish war. At the coronation of Ferdinand IV. he carried the sword of state, and was made ban and captain-general of Croatia. In this double capacity he presided over many Croatian diets, always strenuously defending the political rights of the Croats
and steadfastly maintaining that as regarded Hungary they were to be looked upon not as panes annexae but as a regn’um. During 1652—53 he was continually fighting against the Turks, yet from his castle at Csáktornya he was in constant communication’ with the learned world; the Dutch scholar, Jacobus Tollius, even visited him, and has left in his Epistolae itinerariae a lively account of his experiences. Tollius was amazed at the linguistic resources of Zrinyi, who spoke German, Croatian, Hungarian, Turkish and Latin with equal facility. Zrinyi’s Latin letters (from which we learn that he was married a second time, to Sophia LObel) are fluent and agreeable, but largely interspersed with Croatian and Magyar expressions. The last year of his life was also its most glorious one. He set out to destroy the strongly fortified Turkish bridge at Esseg, and thus cut off the retreat of the Turkish army, re-capturing all the strong fortresses on his way. He destroyed the bridge, but the further pursuance of the campaign was frustrated by the refusal of the imperial generals to co-operate. Still the expedition had covered him with glory. All Europe rang with his praises~ It was said that only the Zrinyis had the secret of conquering the Turks. The emperor offered him the title of prince. The pope struck a commemorative medal with the effigy of Zrinyi as a fieldmarshal. The Spanish king sent him the Golden Fleece. The French king created him a peer of France. The Turks, to wipe out the disgrace of the Esseg affair, now laid siege to Uj-Zerin, a fortress which Zrinyi had built, and the imperial troops under Montecuculi looked on while he hastened to relieve it, refusing all assistance, with the result that the fortress fell. It was also by the advice of Montecuculi that the disgraceful peace of Vh.svár was concluded. Zrinyi hastened to Vienna to protest• against it, but in vain. Zrinyi quitted Vienna in disgust, after assuring the Venetian minister, Sagridino, that he was willing at any moment to assist the Republic against the Turks with 6000 men. He then returned to Csáktornya, and there, on the 18th of November, was killed by a wild boar which he had twice wounded and recklessly pursued to its lair in the forest swamps, armed only with his hunting-knife.

His poetical works first appeared at Vienna in 1651, under the title of The Siren of the Adriatic (Hung.); but his principal work, Obsidio Szigetiana, the epopoeia of the glorious selfsacrifice of his heroic ancestor of the same name, only appeared in fragments in Magyar literature till Arany took it in hand. It was evidently written under the influence of both Virgil and Tasso, though the author had no time to polish and correct its rough and occasionally somewhat wooden versification. But the fundamental idea—the duty of Hungarian valour to shake off the Turkish yoke, with the help of God—is sublime, and the whole work is intense with martial and religious enthusiasin. It is no unworthy companion of the other epics of the Renaissance period, and had many imitators. Arany first, in 1848, began to recast the Zrinyiad, as he called it, on modern lines, and the work was completed by Antal Vékóny in 1892.

See J. Arany and Kazmir Greksa, Zninyi and Tasso (Hung.), Eger, 1892; Karoly Széchv, Life of Count Nicholas Zrinyi, the poet (Hung.), Budapest, 1896; Sandor Khrosi, Zninyi and Macchiavelli

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