Kingdom of Hungary
The Battle of Mohi 1241 AD

By Clive McLeod

The Kingdom of Hungary arose out of a loose confederation of seven nomadic tribes known as the Magyars.  The tribes settled in the plains of Hungary in about 895 AD subjugating the indigenous peoples. They were a major nuisance launching massive raids into Western Europe until defeated at the Lechfield in 955. 

The founding of the Kingdom was the work of 2 leaders Geza and his son Istvan (Stephen).   Geza began the work of centralising power into the ruler’s hands.  Stephen was the first King of Hungary, being crowned in 1000 or 1001 and founding the Arpad dynasty which ruled until 1300.  These two men dominated the Magyars from 972 until 1037.  Both worked toward reducing the power of the nobility. 

Initially pagans, the Magyars gradually adopted Christianity during the 10th and 11th centuries.  Stephen in particular was active in converting pagans to Catholicism, by the usual ‘convert or die’ methods of the time.  Stephen was eventually canonised for his efforts.

By the time of the Mongol invasion the nobles had regained much of their power. King Bela IV was trying to wrest this power back which led to serious divisions in the country.  The army he led against the Mongols seethed with unrest and this almost certainly contributed to its defeat.  In addition the Cumans, who had settled in Hungary and might have provided a useful auxiliary force, were massacred in a frenzy of anti-nomad feeling.

Despite these problems the Hungarians did have some initial successes against the Mongols.  After Mohi they pursued a successful guerrilla style campaign against the Mongol troops left behind after the main army went home to elect a new Khan.