About the Holy Crown of Hungary

I’ve been asking my dear readers to vote which topic I should write on.   Currently “Hungarian history (as related to today’s politics)”  is among the most voted options.  So I decided I should write on one of my favourite topics, the Holy Crown of Hungary,  that is the crown of St. Stephen who founded the Kingdom of Hungary in AD 1000.

Someone who knows little about Hungary and Hungarian history will surely find it weird why  the coat of arms of a republic features a crown, why a crown is enshrined in the new Constitution which was passed in 2011, why a crown is often featured on the Hungarian national flag… Why does a crown seem to be so  important in a republic what Hungary is?

Hungary’s coat of arms

For a factual and detailed summary, please read up on the Holy Crown in the  Wikipedia. You’ll find all the basic facts there but I really wanted to write about the political implications of these historic facts for the political life of today’s Hungary.  An important thing from a state theory point of view is that, according to the doctrine of the Holy Crown, the Holy Crown itself was regarded a legal person which represented the country and its peoples, the state of Hungary.  The ruling monarch was a subject to the Holy Crown, too, and (s)he ruled in the “name of the Crown”.   This is somewhat similar to the British “Crown concept”, I think.

The Kingdom of Hungary restricted the absolute power of the monarch already in the Golden Bull of 1222 . This was the second constitutional document after England’s Magna Charta in 1215 in Medieval Europe.  The document established the rights of the Hungarian nobility, including the right of resistance, that is to disobey the king when he acted contrary to law.  This meant there was no absolute monarchic power in Hungary, that is there was some kind of constitutional monarchy, already in the early 13th century!    This way one may say in fact that the Holy Crown  is related to the very start of democracy in Hungary…  That’s an exaggeration, of course, but let’s remember that absolute divine power was the rule in most  European feudal states until the 16th or even the 17th century.

But back to today’s Hungary! Like Deputy Prime Minister Navracsics put it recently (link in Hungarian), the Holy Crown is a basic pillar of Hungarians’ national identity.  One could say the Holy Crown is an important national symbol for the Slovaks, who have a very similar culture and mentality to Hungarians’ but a very different (Slavic) language,  and who lived in the Kingdom of Hungary. (The Kingdom of Hungary was called”Uhorsko” in Slovak until the dismemberment of Hungary by the Dictat of Trianon in 1920.  Post-Trianon Hungary, also “Kingdom of Hungary” until 1946, is called “Maďarsko” in Slovak.)   Similarly to Hungarian folk motifs, the Holy Crown often occurs in Slovak folk motifs, too.

When the USA, whose troops captured the crown jewels in WWII and  safeguarded them from the Soviet Union for decades, gave  the Holy Crown back to Hungary in 1978,  one of their conditions were that the Holy Crown must be put on display. The Communist regime fulfilled that requirement by hiding the crown  in a dark corner of the Hungarian National Museum. They tried hard to present the Holy Crown as merely a museum artefact and they tried to strip it of any political significance.

After the fall of Communist regime in 1990, there was a lengthy and heated debate what coat of arms should replace the Communist one. The so-called Liberals and the Socialists,  the successors of the Communist party, insisted that the coat-of-arms without the crown, which was is use after the dethronement of the Hapsburgs in 1849 for a few months, and which was also used later in the anti-Soviet uprising in 1956, should be used.

Kossuth’s coat-of-arms

The insults thrown at the Holy Crown in this early and heated dispute in the first months of Hungary’s fledgling democracy already signalled the ensuing  long cultural and political cold war in Hungary. The conservative, right-wing parliamentary majority chose the traditional coat-of-arms with the Holy Crown.

Fast forward by ten years: On 1 January 2000, on the 1000th anniversary of Hungary’s founding, the first Orbán-government moved the Holy Crown of Hungary to the Hungarian Parliament Building from the Hungarian National Museum.  The so-called left-wing (“Liberals” and “Socialists”) were even more furious this time than in 1990. They were throwing even harsher insults at the Holy Crown (and also at Prime Minister Orbán who was thought to be behind this move).  I think, as a reaction,  the Holy Crown became even more “fashionable” among right-wingers and it became an even more important political symbol.  A lot of cars in Hungary feature the Holy Crown… including mine.  After an eight year disastrous postcommunist Liberal-Socialist rule, the second Orbán government swept into power in 2010. They were given an absolute (two thirds) majority by the Hungarian electorate and this allowed the Fidesz-Christian Democrat coalition to pass a new Constitution at last instead of the inherited, substantially and multiply amended Communist constitution which was in effect until 2012.   The preamble of the new Constitution makes a reference to the Holy Crown of Hungary as a symbol of national unity and Hungarian national identity.  The postcommunists predictably cried to the heavens again… with little success.  Now probably even the postcommunists are coming to terms with the fact: the Holy Crown ‘rulez’ in Hungary ! 🙂

Advertisements
Leave a comment

15 Comments

  1. Southerner

     /  08/12/2013

    Great lesson, would not the Holy Crown have meant submission to a higher power than that invested in a man? That a man as King would serve as custodian / steward of the office which reminded the subjects that they like the King serve this Holy Crown? The physical embodiment of a unchanging standard that even the Law must submit too, God or Rome or another superior standard to the whims of men. This was a radical thought in a dark age! This was a great lesson and my vote is for more of the same! Thank you.

    Like

    Reply
  2. Angela Bogaczy

     /  06/12/2013

    ‘… there is not a single person on this planet who is worthy of Holy Crown of Hungary.’ Come on, Leto and Éljen a Magyar Királyság! Why was it that people have served the Holy Crown superbly in the past? I’m quite sure that thoroughly decent, courageous patriots are still available for the role. What about the academic (cannot recall his name) who was supposed to be overseeing the land issue, but tendered his very public resignation because he saw it as already bagged and himself as stymied? And there’s Budahazy Gyuri: he blew the whistle, very dramatically, on the Sukoro land heist, at enormous cost to himself and his family. The list can grow with ease. Finally (and fuming): Surely the present Hungarian population is not so poor that none is worthy (in the fullness of time) of our very own Crown?

    Like

    Reply
  3. Éljen a Magyar Királyság!

     /  06/12/2013

    A regency is the only option, because there is not a single person on this planet who is worthy of Holy Crown of Hungary. If such a person exists, please let me know.

    Like

    Reply
    • No, I don’t think either there would be one.

      Like

      Reply
      • Éljen a Magyar Királyság!

         /  06/12/2013

        I would only accept someone who made a massive contribution to Hungary regaining her stolen territories.

        Speaking of which, an article about “Hungarian revisionism in the 21st century” would be an interesting read, though its a hard and very big topic to write about.

        Like

        Reply
      • Well, yes, it’s not a simple topic. I’ll give it a thought but no promises.

        Like

        Reply
  4. Éljen a Magyar Királyság!

     /  06/12/2013

    And now its time to put the Holy Crown back on the Hungarian Flag, like during the Horthy Era.

    Like

    Reply
    • I support that. It’s quite common that people wave the national flag with the coat-of-arms in the centre.

      Like

      Reply
  5. Angela Bogaczy

     /  04/12/2013

    Leto, I do understand the ‘kingdom without a king’ legal concept. I.e., that is the effect of the existence of the Holy Crown: the kingdom is realised and perpetuated by it. But I am under the impression that on the doctrine of the Holy Crown, there has to be a monarch to serve the Holy Crown, in the interest of his subjects. And when there is no monarch, the Prince Primate is the caretaker (regent) until one is elected. (Cardinal Mindszenty used to try to insist that.) And hell, certainly no Habsburg, nor any other foreign claimant! The Hungarian monarch is ELECTED. And can a regent-served interregnum really be perpetuated on this doctrine? That I cannot see as an extension of it, for the doctrine assigns the power of regency to the Prince Primate (the latter is a civilian title, not a clerical one), who surely cannot abrogate his main role of spiritual leader permanently. And ‘regency’ is by nature an interim role. Hang all this republican ‘president’ stuff. That’s against the grain of the doctrine. I want our Kingdom of Hungary back, monarch and all. And the Hungarian Kingdom as Regnum Marianum? I’d rather like that, too.

    Like

    Reply
    • In my opinion the regency doesn’t necessarily need to be interim. But at least we agree that no Hapsburg is acceptable on the throne.
      The situation is not ripe at all for restoring the Kingdom of Hungary now. That must wait a few decades. However that’s the direction we’re heading for. 🙂

      Like

      Reply
      • Éljen a Magyar Királyság!

         /  06/12/2013

        Is there any support for this among Hungarian politicians of today?

        Like

        Reply
        • Hard to tell. Earlier there were some, e.g. MDF MP Raffay, a historian, who would talk about restoring the kingdom. I think this is not something to dwell on now. It takes time, decades, that a lot more people would support restoring the kingdom. It would be foolish to try to hasten settling.

          Like

          Reply
  6. ZriniIlona

     /  03/12/2013

    Impressive and informative article, thank you!

    Like

    Reply
    • Angela Bogaczy

       /  04/12/2013

      I endorse ZriniIlona’s evaluation wholeheartedly. And I like the Constitution’s positioning of the Holy Crown as the symbol of ‘national unity and Hungarian national identity’. But who is the king who serves the Holy Crown now? Without such a being, and without a Prince Primate to take over in an interregnum, we have abandoned the doctrine of the Holy Crown. And that is a pity, for a king who serves the Holy Crown according to the king’s doctrinal role would put paid to politicians’ skulduggery with a hefty kingly boot. Leto for king!

      Like

      Reply
      • No, I’m afraid you misunderstand it. In fact the legal construct of the Doctrine of the Holy Crown permits a “kingdom without a king” very well. You don’t need a human monarch at all because the Holy Crown, as an abstract legal person, could be the monarch itself. It could well be possible that Hungary would become a kingdom where there’s no human ruling monarch, only a regent who would perform the ceremonial duties, etc. , that is the job of the president of republic now. This way the Horthy-era’s status quo could be easily institutionalized. I myself would certainly reject any Hapsburg claim for Hungary’s throne and I’m sure many other Hungarians would as well. In lack of a legitimate descendant of the last non-Hapsburg king ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Z%C3%A1polya ) there wouldn’t be an eligable person anyway.

        Like

        Reply

Please leave a meaningful reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: