1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Batthyány, Louis
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Batthyány, Louis (Lajos), Count (1806-1849), Hungarian statesman, was born at Pressburg in 1806. He supplied the defects of an indifferent education while serving in garrison in Italy as a lieutenant of hussars, and thenceforward adopted all the new ideas, economical and political. According to Széchenyi, he learnt much from a German tutor of the radical school, but it was not till after his marriage with the noble-minded and highly-gifted countess Antonia Zichy that he began working earnestly for the national cause. When Széchenyi drew nearer to the court in 1830-1840, Batthyány became the leader of the opposition in the Upper House, where his social rank and resolute character won for him great influence. Despite his “sardanapalian inclinations,” he associated himself unreservedly with the extremists, and spent large sums for the development of trade and industry. In 1847 he fiercely opposed the government, procured the election of Kossuth as the representative of Pest, took part in the Great Deputation of the 15th of March, and on the 31st of March 1848 became the first constitutional prime-minister of Hungary. His position became extremely difficult when Jellachich and the Croats took up arms. Convinced that the rigid maintenance of the constitution was the sole panacea, he did his utmost, in his frequent journeys to Innsbruck, to persuade the court to condemn Jellachich and establish a strong national government at Pest. Unfortunately, however, he was persuaded to consent to the despatch of Magyar troops to quell the Italian rising, before the Croat difficulty had been adjusted, and thenceforth, despite his perfect loyalty, and his admirable services as Honvéd minister in organizing the national forces, his authority in Hungary declined before the rising star of Kossuth. When Jellachich invaded Hungary, Batthyány resigned with the intention of forming a new ministry excluding Kossuth, but this had now become impossible. Then Batthyány attempted to mediate between the two extreme parties, and subsequently raised a regiment from among his peasantry and led them against the Croats. On the 11th of October he was incapacitated for active service by a fall from his horse which broke his arm. On his recovery he returned to Pest, laboured hard to bring about peace, and was a member of the deputation from the Hungarian diet to Prince Windischgrätz, whom the Austrian commander refused to receive. A few days later (8th of January 1849) he was arrested at Pest. As a magnate he was only indictable by the grand justiciary, as a minister he was responsible to the diet alone. At Laibach, whither he was taken, he asked that Deák might be his advocate, but this being refused he wrote his own defence. Sentence of hanging was finally pronounced upon him at Olmütz for violating the Pragmatic Sanction, overthrowing the constitution, and aiding and abetting the rebellion. To escape this fate he stabbed himself with a small concealed dagger, and bled to death in, the night of the 5th of October 1849.
See Bertalan Szemere, Batthyány, Kossuth, Görgei (Ger.), (Hamburg, 1853).
- (R. N. B.)