Stephen Báthory of Poland

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Stephen Báthory (Polish: Stefan Batory, Hungarian: Báthory István, Lithuanian: Steponas Batoras, Romanian: Ştefan Báthory, Russian: Стефан Баторий) (27 September 1533 – 12 December 1586) was a Hungarian noble Prince of Transylvania (1571-1586), then King of Poland (1576-1586) and Grand Duke of Lithuania (1576-1586). He was a member of the Somlyó branch of the noble Hungarian Báthory family. Many historians consider him to be one of the greatest of the elected Kings of Poland.

Contents

Biography

Stephen Báthory was born in Szilágysomlyó, Kingdom of Hungary as the son of Stephen Báthory (d. 1534). His father was a partisan of John Zapolya, who claimed the crown of Hungary in opposition to the Habsburg claimant Ferdinand I, and had been appointed Voivode of Transylvania.

Stephen Báthory became known as a skillful diplomat. His advocacy for the rights of Zapolya's son John Sigismund incurred the animosity of the Emperor Maximilian II, who kept him in prison for two years.

The Habsburgs and Zápolya courts finally reached an agreement in 1570 and John Sigismund contented himself with Transylvania. After his death in 1571, the Transylvanian estates elected Stephen Báthory Voivod of Transylvania — against the provisions of the late Prince, who had appointed Gáspár Bekes his successor. Supported by the Habsburgs, Bekesy insisted on his claims but in a civil war Báthory ultimately drove his rival out of the country.

In 1572, the throne of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, at the time the largest and one of the most populous states in Europe, was vacated when King Sigismund II of Poland died without heirs. In April 1573, his sister Ann the Jagiellonian, the sole heir to the crown, convinced the Sejm to elect the French prince Henry of Valois as ruler. A marriage with Henry was to further legitimize Henry's rule but less than a year after his coronation, Henry fled Poland to succeed his brother as King of France.

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