Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/83

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SIGISMUND I.

as king of Hungary that he had succeeded in establishing his authority and in doing anything for the order and good government of the land. Entrusting the government of Bohemia to Sophia, the widow of Wenceslaus, he hastened into Hungary; but the Bohemians, who distrusted him as the betrayer of Huss, were soon in arms; and the flame was fanned when Sigismund declared his intention of prosecuting the war against heretics who were also communists. Three campaigns against the Hussites ended in disaster; the Turks were again attacking Hungary; and the king, unable to obtain support from the German princes, was powerless in Bohemia. His attempts at the diet of Nuremberg in 1422 to raise a mercenary army were foiled by the resistance of the towns; and in 1424 the electors, among whom was Sigismund's former ally, Frederick I. of Hohenzollern, margrave of Brandenburg, sought to strengthen their own authority at the expense of the king. Although the scheme failed, the danger to Germany from the Hussites led to fresh proposals, the result of which was that Sigismund was virtually deprived of the leadership of the war and the headship of Germany. In 1431 he went to Milan where on the 25th of November he received the Lombard crown; after which he remained for some time at Siena, negotiating for his coronation as emperor and for the recognition of the Council of Basel by Pope Eugenius IV. He was crowned emperor at Rome on the 31st of May 1433, and after obtaining his demands from the pope returned to Bohemia, where he was recognized as king in 1436, though his power was little more than nominal. On the 9th of December 1437 he died at Znaim, and was buried at Grosswardein. By his second wife, Barbara of Cilli, he left an only daughter, Elizabeth, who was married to Albert V., duke of Austria, afterwards the German king Albert II., whom he named as his successor. As he left no sons the house of Luxemburg became extinct on his death.

Sigismund was brave and handsome, courtly in his bearing, eloquent in his speech, but licentious in his manners. He was an accomplished knight and is said to have known seven languages. He was also one of the most far-seeing statesmen of his day, and steadily endeavoured to bring about the expulsion of the Turks from Europe by uniting Christendom against them. As king of Hungary he approved himself a born political reformer, and the military measures which he adopted in that country enabled the kingdom to hold its own against the Turks for nearly a hundred years. His sense of justice and honour was slight; but as regards the death of Huss he had to choose between condoning the act and allowing the council to break up without result. He cannot be entirely blamed for the misfortunes of Germany during his reign, for he showed a willingness to attempt reform; but he was easily discouraged, and was hampered on all sides by poverty, which often compelled him to resort to the meanest expedients for raising money.

Bibliography. — The more important works to be consulted are Repertorium Germanicum; Regesten aus den päpstlichen Archiven zur Geschichte des deutschen Reichs im XIV. und XV. Jahrhundert (Berlin, 1897); E. Windecke, Denkwürdigkeiten zur Geschichte des Zeitalters Kaisers Sigmund (Berlin, 1893), and Das Leben Königs Siegmund (Berlin, 1886); J. Aschbach, Geschichte Kaiser Sigmunds (Hamburg, 1838-1845); W. Berger, Johannes Hus und König Sigmund (Augsburg, 1871); G. Schönherr, The Inheritors of the House of Anjou (Buda-Pesth, 1895); and J. Acsády, History of the Hungarian Realm, vol. i. (Buda-Pesth, 1903). Of the German books Aschbach is the fullest, and Windecke the most critical. Schönherr is the best Hungarian authority. Acsády is too indulgent to the vices of Sigismund. See also A. Main, The Emperor Sigismund (1903).


SIGISMUND I. (1467-1548), king of Poland, the fifth son of Casimir IV. and Elizabeth of Austria, was elected grand-duke of Lithuania on the 21st of October 1505 and king of Poland on the 8th of January 1506. Sigismund was the only one of the six sons of Casimir IV. gifted with extraordinary ability. He had served his apprenticeship in the art of government first as prince of Glogau and subsequently as governor of Silesia and margrave of Lusatia under his elder brother Wladislaus of Bohemia and Hungary. Silesia, already more than half Germanized, had for generations been the battle-ground between the Luxemburgers and the Piasts, and was split up into innumerable principalities which warred incessantly upon their neighbours and each other. Into the midst of this region of banditti Sigismund came as a sort of grand justiciar, a sworn enemy of every sort of disorder. His little principality of Glogau soon became famous as a model state, and as governor of Silesia he suppressed the robber knights with an iron hand, protected the law-abiding classes, and revived commerce. In Poland also his thrift and businesslike qualities speedily remedied the abuses caused by the wastefulness of his predecessor Alexander. His first step was to recover control of the mint, and place it in the hands of capable middle-class merchants and bankers, like Caspar Beer, Jan Thurzo, Jan Boner, the Betmans, exiles for conscience' sake from Alsace, who had sought refuge in Poland under Casimir IV., Justus Decyusz, subsequently the king's secretary and historian, and their fellows, all practical economists of high integrity who reformed the currency and opened out new ways for trade and commerce. The reorganization of the mint alone increased the royal revenue by 210,000 gulden a year and enabled Sigismund to pay the expenses of his earlier wars. In foreign affairs Sigismund was largely guided by the Laskis (Adam, Jan and Hieronymus), Jan Tarnowski and others, most of whom he selected himself. In his marriages also he was influenced by political considerations, though to both his consorts he was an affectionate husband. His first wife, whom the diet, anxious for the perpetuation of the dynasty, compelled him, already in his forty-fourth year (Feb. 1512), to marry, was Barbara Zapolya, whose family as repre- sented first by her father Stephen and subsequently by her brother John, dominated Hungarian politics in the last quarter of the 15th and the first quarter of the 16th century. Barbara brought him a dower of 100,000 gulden and the support of the Magyar magnates, but the match nearly brought about a breach with the emperor Maximilian, jealous already of the Jagiello in- fluence in Hungary. On Barbara's death three years later without male offspring, Sigismund (in April 1518) gave his hand to Bona Sforza, a kinswoman of the emperor and granddaughter of the king of Aragou, who came to him with a dowry of 200,000 ducats and the promise of an inheritance from her mother of half a million more which she never got. Bona's grace and beauty speedily fascinated Sigismund, and contemporary satirists ridi- culed him for playing the part of Jove to her Juno. She intro- duced Italian elegance and luxury into the austere court of Cracow and exercised no inconsiderable influence on affairs. But she used her great financial and economical talents almost entirely for her own benefit. She enriched herself at the expense of the state, corrupted society, degraded the clergy, and in her later years was universally detested for her mischievous meddling, inexhaustible greed, and unnatural treatment of her children.

The first twenty years of Sigismund's reign were marked by exceptional vigour. His principal difficulties were due to the aggressiveness of Muscovy and the disloyalty of Prussia. With the tsars Vasily III. and Ivan IV. Sigismund was never absolutely at peace. The interminable war was interrupted, indeed, by brief truces whenever Polish valour proved superior to Muscovite persistence, as for instance after the great victory of Orsza (Sept. 1514) and again in 1522 when Moscow was threatened by the Tatars. But the Tatars themselves were a standing menace to the republic. In the open field, indeed, they were generally defeated (e.g. at Wisniowiec in 151 2 and at Kaniow in 1526), yet occasionally, as at Sokal when they wiped out a whole Polish army, they prevailed even in pitched battles. Generally, however, they confined themselves to raiding on a grand scale and, encouraged by the Porte or the Muscovite, systematically devastated whole provinces, penetrating even into the heart of Poland proper and disappearing with immense booty. It was this growing sense of border insecurity which led to the establishment of the Cossacks (see Poland: History).

The grand-masters of the Teutonic Order, always sure of support in Germany, were also a constant source of annoyance. Their constant aim was to shake off Polish suzerainty, and in 1520-21 their menacing attitude compelled Sigismund to take up arms against them. The long quarrel was finally adjusted in 1525 when the last grand-master, after a fruitless pilgrimage I through Europe for support, professed Lutheranism and as first