Louis I of Hungary

From New World Encyclopedia
Louis I of Hungary
King of Hungary, Croatia, Dalmatia, Jerusalem, Sicily from 1342, Poland from 1370
Louis the Great
Reign July 21, 1342 – September 10, 1382
Born March 5, 1326
Died September 10, 1382
Nagyszombat, Hungary (today Trnava, Slovakia)
Predecessor Charles I of Hungary
Successor Mary of Hungary
Consort Margaret of Luxembourg

Elizabeth of Bosnia
Royal House Angevin (Anjou-Hungary)
Father Charles I of Hungary
Mother Elizabeth of Poland

Louis I the Great Croatian: Ludovik I) (March 5, 1326, Visegrád – September 10, 1382, Nagyszombat/Trnava) was King of Hungary, King of Croatia, Dalmatia, Jerusalem and Sicily from 1342 and of King of Poland from 1370. Louis was the head of the senior branch of the Angevin dynasty. He was one of Hungary's most active and accomplished monarchs of the Late Middle Ages, extending her territory to the Adriatic and securing Dalmatia, with part of Bosnia and Bulgaria, within the Holy Crown of Hungary. He spent much of his reign in wars with the Republic of Venice and in competition for the throne of Naples, the former with some success and the latter with little lasting results. Named for his uncle, Saint Louis of Toulouse, Louis was the eldest son of Charles I of Hungary and Elisabeth of Poland, daughter of Ladislaus the Short and sister of Casimir III of Poland, the Piasts who reestablished kinship in Poland. He was designated heir of his father at birth. In due time, he became king of Hungary, at the death of his father in 1342. He was crowned only a few days later on July 21.

Louis led his armies many times in person. Besides his best known campaigns, he fought in Bulgaria, Bosnia, Wallachia, and against the Golden Horde. The first Ottoman-Hungarian clash occurred during his reign. He was an Alexander type leader. He led assaults personally and climbed city walls together with his soldiers. As an excellent commander and a gallant fighter Lajos resembled his exemplar, King Saint Ladislaus. He shared the privations and hardships of camp life with his soldiers. Although few legends were woven around his name, one incident casts light on his courage. When one of his soldiers who had been ordered to explore a ford was carried away by the current, the King plunged into the torrent without hesitation and saved the man from drowning. Yet his greatest achievement was maintaining internal peace and stability at a time when conflict ravaged Europe.


Coat of arms (clockwise from upper left): paternal (Hungary – the Arpad stripes and Anjou-Sicily), Poland, Hungary (the double cross), and Dalmatia.

In 1342, Louis (Bulgarian: Лудвиг I, Ludvig I, Czech: Ludvík I. Veliký, Slovak: Ľudovít I. Veľký was married to a girl age 7, Margaret of Bohemia, (1335 – 1349), the firstborn daughter of Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor, who died while still a minor. In 1353 he married his second wife, age 13, Elisabeth (1340 – 1387, daughter of Stephen II of Bosnia who became Louis's vassal, and Elisabeth of Kuyavia. Her maternal grandfather was Polish Casimir of Kuyavia, son of Ziemomysl of Kuyavia and Salome of Eastern Pomerania.

His daughters

Louis had four daughters, all born of his second wife:

  • Mary (1365 – 1366)
  • Catherine (1368 – 1378)
  • Mary, his successor in Hungary, who married Sigismund, at that time Margrave of Brandenburg (1371 – 1395)
  • Hedwige his successor in Poland, who married Jogaila, then Grand Duke of Lithuania

Domestic and legislative activity

Golden Forint, which depict King Saint Ladislaus, who was Louis' idol.

The gold coin of Hungary (the Florin), of the same weight and purity of its namesake of Florence, was clear proof of the country's prosperity. Hungarian and Florencian coins were the most valuable coins of the age. The gold flowed in an undiminished stream into Louis' coffers, enabling him to keep a court even more splendid than his father's. And the whole country, spared for two generations from serious invasion or civil war, blossomed with a material prosperity which it had never before known. By the end of Louis' reign its total population had risen to some three millions, and it contained 49 royal boroughs, over 500 market towns and more than 26,000 villages. International commerce, favored by the continued stability and high repute of the currency, began to make headway.

Constitutionally, Louis maintained much of the structure of his father's regime, but introduced several cultural reforms. In 1351 Louis also confirmed the Golden Bull of 1222, adding an explicit declaration that all nobles enjoyed 'one and the same liberty', a provision which, it appears, besides reaffirming the rights of the noble class as a whole, including the familiars, also enlarged its ranks by bringing full noble privileges to a further class of border-line cases. His other laws introduced the entail system regulating the inheritance of the land-owning class. In 1351, Lajos codified the military obligations of the nobility in the so-called Law of Entail (ősiség). In the past the nobility mustered soldiers according to the size of their holdings. With the passage of time, however, many of these estates had been sold or split up, causing diminishing returns and a reduction of military obligations. This was harmful to the country's military strength. Other provisions of the law stabilized land tenure by universalizing the system of aviticitas under which all land was entailed in the male line of the owner's family, collaterals succeeding in default of direct heirs; if the line died out completely, the estate reverted to the Crown. The daughters of a deceased noble were entitled to a quarter of the assessed value of his property, but this had to be paid them in cash. [1] This (Law of Entail) is a highly important law, which ensured the integrity of ancestral property, remained in force until 1848 and was to a great extent instrumental in keeping Hungary in Hungarian hands.

At the same time, Louis standardized the obligations of the peasant to his lord at one-ninth of his produce—neither more nor less. As he also had to pay the tithe to the church and the porta to the state, the peasant's obligations were thus not inconsiderable, but do not appear to have been crushing in this age of prosperity; his right of free migration was specifically re-affirmed.[1]

He founded the first university in Hungary[2] in the city of Pécs in 1369. He created the second university at Óbuda in 1389.

Italian Wars

Wars with Venice and Naples

Naples, The Castel Nuovo

In 1346, Louis decided to help liberate city of Zara. His soldiers didn't take the field (because some Hungarian leaders were corrupted by Venice before the battle), therefore he couldn't help for Zara. Louis embarked on an expedition against Naples in revenge of the murder of his brother Andrew, Duke of Calabria, husband of Joan I of Naples. The circumstances of his death – in a palace conspiracy – suggested the involvement of the queen. Louis entered Italy on November 3, 1347 and, after obtaining the support of many local princes, he entered Benevento early in 1348, much to the applause of the Neapolitan baronage. Louis defeated his enemies in Battle of Capua . On January 15, Joan fled Naples by ship for Provence, soon to be followed by her second husband, Louis of Taranto. Having established himself in Naples with little difficulty, Louis was nevertheless forced to withdraw quickly by the arrival of the Black Death. In his rush to leave ravaged Italy, he appointed two Hungarian officials to hold the regency. They soon lost the support of the barons and opened the way for the return of Joan and her husband.

Two years later, early in 1350, Louis landed at Manfredonia and, in next to no time at all, was menacing Naples. However, he soon called off the campaign at the insistence of his exhausted troops and renounced all claims on the Neapolitan crown. Before leaving Italy, he had the papal curia of Avignon begin an inquest into the murder of Andrew, but the papal court found Joan innocent, largely for political reasons, as Joan agreed to ceded her temporal rights over the city of Avignon to the papacy. The conflict with Naples finally settled in 1381, one year before Louis’ death. The pope stripped the royal title from Joan and authorized king Louis to execute his decision. He was too ill to go personally, but his nephew, Charles of Durazzo aided with Hungarian gold and army seized the throne and killed Joan. From 1357 to 1358, Louis waged a new war against Venice for the rule of Dalmatia. After successfully organizing an anti-Venetian league, Louis put the cities of Dalmatia to fire and the sword, expelling all Venetians. By the Treaty of Zara (1358), all of Louis's demands over the Adriatic region were recognized. He immediately built up an Adriatic fleet. Venice had to pay annual tribute to Louis. Venetians also had to raise the Angevin flag on St. Mark's Square on holy days.

Louis' Italian army contained German mercenary infantry, Hungarian heavy knights and light cavalry from Hungary, and remarkable English longbowmen, Louis party Italians.

Northern wars

In the North Lajos assisted his ally and uncle: King Casimir, in his wars against the pagan Lithuanians and Tartars, and against Bohemia. In Poland, Louis defeated Lithuanians, Tatars and repelled the Bohemians. After Casimir's death in 1370, the Poles elected Lajos King of Poland in compliance with the agreement made in Visegrád during his father's reign. Being the ruler of Poland, however, was not an unqualified pleasure. The Poles hated to pay taxes and loved to quarrel among themselves and with the Court, especially with the domineering dowager Queen Elizabeth.

Louis had named Elizabeth Regent of Poland to conveniently eliminate her from his Court. Still, Queen Elizabeth had some justification for taking part in the affairs and quarrels of Poland: she had been a Polish princess before marrying Róbert Károly. Elizabeth's regency turned out to be a failure, her background notwithstanding. In 1375, the Poles killed 160 of her Hungarian soldiers and the dowager Queen escaped to Hungary lest she, too, be killed by her compatriots.

Balkanian and Turkish wars

The rulers of Serbia, Walachia, Moldavia, and Bulgaria became his vassals. His campaigns in the Balkans were aimed not so much at conquest and subjugation as at drawing the Serbs, Bosnians, Wallachians and Bulgarians into the fold of the Roman Catholic faith and at forming a united front against the looming Turkish menace. It was relatively easy to subdue them by arms, but to convert them was a different matter. Despite Lajos' efforts, the peoples of the Balkans remained faithful to the Eastern Orthodox Church and their attitude toward Hungary remained ambiguous. They regarded powerful Hungary as a potential menace to their national identity. For this reason, Hungary could never regard the Serbs and Wallachians as reliable allies in her subsequent wars against the Turks. However Lajos defeated the Turks when Hungarian and Turkish troops clashed for the first time in history at Nicapoli in 1366. The Hungarian Chapel in the Cathedral at Aachen was built to commemorate this victory.

In the spring of 1365, Louis I headed a campaign against the Bulgarian Tsardom of Vidin and its ruler Ivan Sratsimir. He seized the city of Vidin on May 2, 1365; the region was under Hungarian rule until 1369.[3]

But it is easily arguable that his Balkan enterprises brought Hungary, on balance, more loss of money than profit.

Inheritance of Poland and death

In 1370, the Piasts of Poland died out. The last dynast, Casimir the Great, left only female issue and a grandson. Since arrangements had been made for Louis's succession as early as 1355, he became King of Poland upon his grandfather's death in right of his mother, who held much of the practical power until her death in 1380.

When Louis died in 1382, the Hungarian throne was inherited by his daughter Mary. In Poland, however, the lords of Lesser Poland did not want to continue the personal union with Hungary, nor to accept Mary's fiancé Sigismund as a regent. They therefore chose Mary's younger sister, Jadwiga of Poland as their new monarch. After two years of negotiations with Louis widow, Queen Elisabeth, who was regent of Hungary, and a civil war in Greater Poland (1383), Jadwiga finally came to Kraków and was crowned "King" (not Queen) of Poland on November 16, 1384. The masculine gender in her title was intended to underline the fact that she was a monarch in her own right and not a queen consort.

In death as in life, Lajos expressed his wish to lie eternally by his idol's side. Accordingly, he was laid to rest in Nagyvárad beside the tomb of king Saint Ladislaus.


Under his reign lived the most famous epic hero of Hungarian literature and warfare, the king's Champion: Nicolas Toldi. John de Cardailhac, patriarch of Alexandria and envoy of the Vatican,(who saw the most European countries and monarchs) wrote: "I call God as my witness that I have never seen a monarch more majestic and more powerful… or one who desires peace and calm as much as he."[4]

Peace for Hungary in a turbulent Europe

Although he waged a host of campaigns outside Hungary, Lajos did keep peace within Hungary itself. In an era when Spain was harassed by the Arabs, France targeted by the British, Germany tormented by the rivalries of its princes, Italy the scene of bloody conflicts among its city-states, Poland and Russia the objects of Lithuanian and Tartarattacks, and Byzantium and the Balkan States subject to Turkish raids and expansion, Hungary flourished as an island of peace.


Louis I's ancestors in three generations
Louis I of Hungary Father:
Charles I of Hungary
Paternal Grandfather:
Charles Martel of Anjou
Paternal Great-grandfather:
Charles II of Naples
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Maria Arpad of Hungary
Paternal Grandmother:
Klementia of Habsburg
Paternal Great-grandfather:
Rudolph I of Germany
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Gertrude of Hohenburg
Elisabeth of Poland
Maternal Grandfather:
Władysław I the Elbow-high
Maternal Great-grandfather:
Kazimierz I Kujawski
Maternal Great-grandmother:
Eufrozyna Opolska
Maternal Grandmother:
Jadwiga Kaliska
Maternal Great-grandfather:
Maternal Great-grandmother:
Preceded by:
Charles I
King of Hungary, Croatia and Dalmatia
Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
Casimir III
King of Poland
Succeeded by:


  1. 1.0 1.1 Carlile Aylmer Macartney. 1962. Hungary - A Short History. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press), Chapter 3. hungarian-history.hu. Retrieved January 24, 2009.
  2. Homepage. University of Pécs. Retrieved January 24, 2009.
  3. Божилов, 1994 Фамилията на Асеневци (1186–1460). Генеалогия и просопография. София, BG: (Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. ISBN 9544302646), 202–203.
  4. Stephen Sisa. 1983. The spirit of Hungary: a panorama of Hungarian history and culture. (Toronto, Ont: Rákóczi Foundation. ISBN 9780919545021), 45.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Homepage. University of Pécs. Retrieved January 24, 2009.
  • Louis I, king of Hungary. Columbia Encyclopedia. Retrieved January 24, 2009.
  • Macartney, Carlile Aylmer. 1962. Hungary - A Short History. Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press. Chapter 3 Retrieved January 24, 2009.
  • Божилов, Иван. 1994. (Bulgarian)Фамилията на Асеневци (1186–1460). Генеалогия и просопография. София, BG: Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. ISBN 9544302646.
  • Sisa, Stephen. 1983. The spirit of Hungary: a panorama of Hungarian history and culture. Toronto, Ont: Rákóczi Foundation. ISBN 9780919545021.
  • Várdy, Steven Béla, Géza Grosschmid, and Leslie S. Domonkos. 1986. Louis the Great, King of Hungary and Poland. East European monographs, no. 194. Boulder [Colo.]: East European Monographs. ISBN 9780880330879.

External links

All links retrieved November 3, 2022.


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