JOHN (ZAPOLYA) (1487-1540), king of Hungary, was the son of the palatine Stephen Zapolya and the princess Hedwig of Teschen, and was born at the castle of Szepesvar. He began his public career at the famous Rakos diet of 1505, when, on his motion, the assembly decided that after the death of the reigning king, Wladislaus II., no foreign prince should be elected king of Hungary. Henceforth he became the national candidate for the throne, which his family had long coveted. As far back as 1491 his mother had proposed to the sick king that his daughter Anne should be committed to her care in order, subsequently, to be married to her son; but Wladislaus frustrated this project by contracting a matrimonial alliance with the Habsburgs. In 1510 Zapolya sued in person for the hand of the Princess Anne in vain, and his appointment to the voivody of Transylvania (1511) was with the evident intention of removing him far from court. In 1513, after a successful raid in Turkish territory, he hastened to Buda at the head of 1000 horsemen and renewed his suit, which was again rejected. In 1514 he stamped out the dangerous peasant rising under Dozsa (q.v.) and the infernal torments by means of which the rebel leader was slowly done to death were the invention of Zapolya. With the gentry, whose hideous oppression had moved the peasantry to revolt, he was now more than ever popular, and, on the death of Wladislaus II., the second diet of Rakos (1516) appointed him the governor of the infant king Louis II. He now aimed at the dignity of palatine also, but the council of state and the court party combined against him and appointed Istvan Bathory instead (1519). The strife of factions now burnt more fiercely than ever at the very time when the pressure of the Turk demanded the combination of all the national forces against a common danger. It was entirely due to the dilatoriness and dissensions of Zapolya and Bathory that the great fortress of Belgrade was captured in 1521, a loss which really sealed the fate of Hungary. In 1522 the diet would have appointed both Zapolya and Bathory captains-general of the realm, but the court set Zapolya aside and chose Bathory only. At the diets of Hatvan and Rakos in 1522, Zapolya placed himself at the head of a confederation to depose the palatine and the other great officers of state, but the attempt failed. In the following year, however, the revolutionary Hatvan diet drove out all the members of the council of state and made Istvan Verboczy, the great jurist, and a friend of Zapolya, palatine. In the midst of this hopeless anarchy, Suleiman I., the Magnificent, invaded Hungary with a countless army, and the young king perished on the field of Mohacs in a vain attempt to stay his progress, the contradictory orders of Louis II. preventing Zapolya from arriving in time to turn the fortunes of the day. The court party accused him of deliberate treachery on this occasion; but the charge must be pronounced groundless. His younger brother George was killed at Mohacs, where he was second commander-in-chief. Zapolya was elected king of Hungary at the subsequent diet of Tokaj (Oct. 14), the election was confirmed by the diet of Szekesfehervar (loth of November), and he was crowned on the following day with the holy crown.
A struggle with the rival candidate, the German king Ferdinand I., at once ensued (see Hungary: History) and it was only with the aid of the Turks that king John was able to exhaust his opponent and compel him to come to terms. Finally, in 1538, by the compact of Nagyvarad, Ferdinand recognized John as king of Hungary, but secured the right of succession on his death. Nevertheless John broke the compact by bequeathing the kingdom to his infant son John Sigismund under Turkish protection. John was the last national king of Hungary. His merit, as a statesman, lies in his stout vindication of the national independence, though without the assistance of his great minister Gyiirgy Utiesenovich, better known as "Frater George" (Cardinal Martinuzzi q.v.), this would have been impossible. Indirectly he contributed to the subsequent conquest of Hungary by admitting the Turk as a friend.
See Vilmos Fraknoi, Ungarn vor der Schlacht bei Mohacs (Budapest, 1886); L. Kupelwieser, Die Keimpfe Ungarns mit den Osmanen bis zur Schlacht bei Mohacs (Vienna, 1895); Ignacz Acsady, History of the Hungarian Realm, vol. i. (Hung.) (Budapest, 1902-1904).
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