Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor

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Holy Roman Emperor
Coronation 31 May 1433, Rome
Predecessor Charles IV
Successor Frederick III
King of Hungary and Croatia
with Mary (1387–1395, jure uxoris)
Coronation 31 March 1387, Székesfehérvár
Predecessor Mary I
Successor Albert
King of the Romans
King of Germany
contested by Jobst (1410–1411)
Coronation8 November 1414, Aachen
Predecessor Rupert
Successor Albert II
King of Bohemia
Coronation 27 July 1420, Prague
Predecessor Wenceslaus IV
Successor Albert
Born15 February 1368
Free Imperial City of Nuremberg, Holy Roman Empire
Died9 December 1437(1437-12-09) (aged 69)
Znojmo, Kingdom of Bohemia
Nagyvárad, Kingdom of Hungary (today Oradea, Romania)
(m. 1385;died 1395)
(m. 1405)
Issue Elizabeth of Luxembourg
House Luxembourg
Father Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor
Mother Elizabeth of Pomerania

Sigismund of Luxembourg [lower-alpha 1] (15 February 1368 – 9 December 1437) was Holy Roman Emperor from 1433 until his death in 1437. He was elected King of Germany (King of the Romans) in 1410, and was also King of Bohemia from 1419, as well as prince-elector of Brandenburg (1378–1388 and 1411–1415). As the husband of Mary, Queen of Hungary, he was also King of Hungary and Croatia ( jure uxoris ) from 1387. He was the last male member of the House of Luxembourg. [1]


Sigismund was the son of Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor and his fourth wife Elizabeth of Pomerania. He married Mary, Queen of Hungary in 1385 and was crowned King of Hungary soon after. He fought to restore and maintain authority to the throne. Mary died in 1395, leaving Sigismund the sole ruler of Hungary.

In 1396, Sigismund led the Crusade of Nicopolis, but was decisively defeated by the Ottoman Empire. Afterwards, he founded the Order of the Dragon to fight the Turks and secured the thrones of Croatia, Germany and Bohemia. Sigismund was one of the driving forces behind the Council of Constance (1414–1418) that ended the Papal Schism, but which also led to the Hussite Wars that dominated the later period of his life. In 1433, Sigismund was crowned Holy Roman Emperor and ruled until his death in 1437.

Historian Thomas Brady Jr. remarks that Sigismund "possessed a breadth of vision and a sense of grandeur unseen in a German monarch since the thirteenth century". He realized the need to carry out reforms of the empire and the Church at the same time. But external difficulties, self-inflicted mistakes and the extinction of the Luxembourg male line made this vision unfulfilled. [2] Later, the Habsburgs would inherit this mission and imperial reform was carried out successfully under the reigns of Frederick III and especially his son Maximilian I, although perhaps at the expense of the reform of the Church, partly because Maximilian was not particularly focused on the matter. [3]

In recent years, scholarly interest (especially from East-Central Europe) has grown greatly in the person and reign of Sigismund—the ruler who had gained and led an imperial association almost reaching the size of the later Habsburg Empire—as well as cultural developments associated with his era. The setbacks which have been seen as his major failures (like dealing with the Hussite movement) are now generally considered by most scholars to be the results of the lack of financial resources and other heavy constraints, rather than personal failings. [4] [5]


Early life

Born in Nuremberg [6] [7] or Prague, [8] Sigismund was the son of Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor and his fourth and final wife, Elizabeth of Pomerania, who was the granddaughter of King Casimir III of Poland and the great-granddaughter of Gediminas, a Grand Duke of Lithuania. He was named after Saint Sigismund of Burgundy, the favourite saint of Sigismund's father. From Sigismund's childhood, he was nicknamed the "ginger fox" (liška ryšavá) in the Bohemian Crown lands on account of his hair colour.

Sigismund's first wife, Queen Mary of Hungary (Chronica Hungarorum, 1488) Mary (Chronica Hungarorum).jpg
Sigismund's first wife, Queen Mary of Hungary (Chronica Hungarorum, 1488)

King Louis the Great of Hungary and Poland always had a good and close relationship with Emperor Charles IV, and Sigismund was betrothed to Louis' eldest daughter, Mary, in 1374, when he was six years old and Mary but an infant. The marital project aimed to augment the lands held by the House of Luxembourg. [9] Upon his father's death in 1378, young Sigismund became Margrave of Brandenburg and was sent to the Hungarian court, where he soon learned the Hungarian language and way of life, and became entirely devoted to his adopted country. [10] King Louis named him as his heir and appointed him his successor as King of Hungary.

In 1381, the then 13-year-old Sigismund was sent to Kraków by his eldest half-brother and guardian Wenceslaus, King of Germany and Bohemia, to learn Polish and to become acquainted with the land and its people. King Wenceslaus also gave him Neumark to facilitate communication between Brandenburg and Poland.

While Mary was accepted as monarch of Hungary, Sigismund vied for the crown of Poland as well. However, the Poles were unwilling to submit to a German sovereign, nor did they want to be tied to Hungary. [11] The disagreement between Polish landlords of Lesser Poland on one side and landlords of Greater Poland on the other, regarding the choice of the future monarch of Poland, finally ended in choosing the Lithuanian side. The support of the lords of Greater Poland was however not enough to give Prince Sigismund the Polish crown. Instead, the landlords of Lesser Poland gave it to Mary's younger sister Jadwiga, who married Jogaila of Lithuania.

King of Hungary

King Sigismund of Hungary (Chronica Hungarorum, 1488) Sigismund (Chronica Hungarorum).jpg
King Sigismund of Hungary (Chronica Hungarorum, 1488)

On the death of her father in 1382, his betrothed, Mary, became queen of Hungary and Sigismund married her in 1385 in Zólyom (today Zvolen). The next year, he was accepted as Mary's future co-ruler by the Treaty of Győr. However, Mary was captured, together with her mother, Elizabeth of Bosnia, who had acted as regent, in 1387 by the rebellious House of Horvat, Bishop Paul Horvat of Mačva, his brother John Horvat and younger brother Ladislav. Sigismund's mother-in-law was strangled, while Mary was liberated.

Campaign of King Sigismund of Hungary against the rebellious House of Horvat in 1387 (Chronica Hungarorum, 1488) Thuroczy kronika - Zsigmond kiraly hadjarata a lazado urak ellen.jpg
Campaign of King Sigismund of Hungary against the rebellious House of Horvat in 1387 (Chronica Hungarorum, 1488)

Having secured the support of the nobility, Sigismund was crowned King of Hungary at Székesfehérvár on 31 March 1387. [12] Having raised money by pledging Brandenburg to his cousin Jobst, Margrave of Moravia (1388), he was engaged for the next nine years in a ceaseless struggle for the possession of this unstable throne. [10] The central power was finally weakened to such an extent that only Sigismund's alliance with the powerful Czillei-Garai League could ensure his position on the throne. [13] It was not for entirely selfless reasons that one of the leagues of barons helped him to power: Sigismund had to pay for the support of the lords by transferring a sizeable part of the royal properties. (For some years, the baron's council governed the country in the name of the Holy Crown). The restoration of the authority of the central administration took decades of work. The bulk of the nation headed by the House of Garai was with him; but in the southern provinces between the Sava and the Drava, the Horvathys with the support of King Tvrtko I of Bosnia, Mary's maternal uncle, proclaimed as their king Ladislaus of Naples, son of the murdered Charles II of Hungary. Not until 1395 did Nicholas II Garai succeed in suppressing them. [10] Mary died heavily pregnant in 1395.

To ease the pressure from Hungarian nobles, Sigismund tried to employ foreign advisors, which was not popular, and he had to promise not to give land and nominations to anyone other than Hungarian nobles. However, this was not applied to Stibor of Stiboricz, who was Sigismund's closest friend and advisor. On a number of occasions, Sigismund was imprisoned by nobles, but with the help of the armies of Garai and Stibor of Stiboricz, he was able to regain power.

Crusade of Nicopolis

King Sigismund of Hungary during the battle of Nicopolis in 1396. Painting by Ferenc Lohr (1896), main hall of the Castle of Vaja. Zsigmond Nikapolyban.jpg
King Sigismund of Hungary during the battle of Nicopolis in 1396. Painting by Ferenc Lohr (1896), main hall of the Castle of Vaja.
Royal Standard of Hungary under the rule of Sigismund (1387-1437). Flag of Sigismund of Hungary.svg
Royal Standard of Hungary under the rule of Sigismund (1387–1437).

In 1396, Sigismund led the combined armies of Christendom against the Turks, who had taken advantage of the temporary helplessness of Hungary to extend their dominion to the banks of the Danube. This crusade, preached by Pope Boniface IX, was very popular in Hungary. The nobles flocked in their thousands to the royal standard, and were reinforced by volunteers from nearly every part of Europe. The most important contingent being that of the French led by John the Fearless, son of Philip II, Duke of Burgundy. Sigismund set out with 90,000 men and a flotilla of 70 galleys. After capturing Vidin, he camped with his Hungarian armies before the fortress of Nicopolis. Sultan Bayezid I raised the siege of Constantinople and, at the head of 140,000 men, completely defeated the Christian forces in the Battle of Nicopolis fought between the 25 and 28 September 1396. [10] Sigismund returned by sea and through the realm of Zeta, where he ordained the local Montenegrin lord Đurađ II with the islands of Hvar and Korčula for resistance against the Turks; the islands were returned to Sigismund after Đurađ's death in April 1403.

Gold coin of Sigismund of Hungary with his coat of arms (right), and the image of the King Saint Ladislaus I of Hungary (left). 765572.jpg
Gold coin of Sigismund of Hungary with his coat of arms (right), and the image of the King Saint Ladislaus I of Hungary (left).

The disaster at Nicopolis angered several Hungarian lords, leading to instability in the kingdom. Deprived of his authority in Hungary, Sigismund then turned his attention to securing the succession in Germany and Bohemia, and was recognized by his childless half-brother Wenceslaus IV as Vicar-General of the whole empire. However, he was unable to support Wenceslaus when he was deposed in 1400, and Rupert of Germany, Elector Palatine, was elected German king in his stead. [10]

Return to Hungary

Sigismund of Luxembourg, official imprint. Sigismundof Luxemburg.jpg
Sigismund of Luxembourg, official imprint.
Reverse of the first double seal (1387-1405) of King Sigismund of Hungary Luxemburgi Zsigmond kiraly (1387-1437) elso kettos felsegpecsetjenek hatlapja (1384-1405).jpg
Reverse of the first double seal (1387–1405) of King Sigismund of Hungary

On his return to Hungary in 1401, Sigismund was imprisoned once and deposed twice. That year, he aided an uprising against Wenceslaus IV, during the course of which the Bohemian king was taken prisoner, and Sigismund ruled Bohemia for nineteen months. He released Wenceslaus in 1403. In the meantime, a group of Hungarian noblemen swore loyalty to the last Anjou monarch, Ladislaus of Naples, putting their hands on the relic of Saint Ladislas of Hungary in Nagyvárad (today Oradea). Ladislaus was the son of the murdered Charles II of Hungary, and thus a distant relative of the long dead King Louis I of Hungary. Ladislaus captured Zara (today Zadar) in 1403, but soon stopped any military advance. This struggle in turn led to a war with the Republic of Venice, as Ladislaus had sold the Dalmatian cities to the Venetians for 100,000 ducats [10] before leaving for his own land. In the following years Sigismund acted indirectly to thwart Ladislaus' attempts to conquer central Italy, by allying with the Italian cities resisting him and by applying diplomatic pressure on him.[ citation needed ]

Due to his frequent absences attending to business in the other countries over which he ruled, he was obliged to consult Diets in Hungary with more frequency than his predecessors and institute the office of Palatine as chief administrator while he was away.[ citation needed ] In 1404, Sigismund introduced the Placetum Regium. According to this decree, Papal bulls could not be pronounced in Hungary without the consent of the king. During his long reign, the royal Buda Castle became probably the largest Gothic palace of the Late Middle Ages.[ citation needed ]

Crusade against Bosnia

The campaign of Hungarians against Bosnia during the reign of King Sigismund of Hungary (Chronica Hungarorum, 1488) Thuroczy kronika - A magyarok boszniai hadjarata Zsigmond kiraly idejen.jpg
The campaign of Hungarians against Bosnia during the reign of King Sigismund of Hungary (Chronica Hungarorum, 1488)
Drinking horn of Sigismund of Luxembourg, before 1408. Drinking horn of Sigismund of Luxemburg.PNG
Drinking horn of Sigismund of Luxembourg, before 1408.

In about 1406, Sigismund married Mary's cousin Barbara of Celje, daughter of Count Hermann II of Celje. Hermann's mother Catherine (of the House of Kotromanic) and Mary's mother Queen Elisabeth of Bosnia were sisters, or at least cousins who were adoptive sisters.

Sigismund managed to establish control in Slavonia. He did not hesitate to use violent methods (see Bloody Sabor of Križevci), but from the River Sava to the south his control was weak. Sigismund personally led an army of almost 50,000 "crusaders" against the Bosnians, culminating with the Battle of Dobor in 1408, a massacre of about 200 members of various Bosnian noble families. However, although campaign militarily looked like a success, it ultimately failed politically and Hungarians retreated, while the Bosnian crown slowly but surely slipped away out of the reach for Sigismund and Hungarians. [14]

Possessions in Serbia

Threatened by Ottoman expansion, King Sigismund managed to strengthen the security of southern Hungarian borders by entering into a defensive alliance with Despot Stefan Lazarević of Serbia. In 1403, Hungarian possessions in northwestern regions of Serbia (city of Belgrade and the Banate of Macsó), were given to Despot Stefan, who pledged his allegiance to King Sigismund, remaining the king's loyal vassal until death in 1427. Stefan's successor George Branković of Serbia also pledged his allegiance to Sigismund, returning Belgrade to the king. By maintaining close relations with Serbian rulers, Sigismund succeeded in securing southern borders of his realm. [15] [16]

Order of the Dragon

Sigismund founded his personal order of knights, the Order of the Dragon, after the victory at Dobor. The main goal of the order was fighting the Ottoman Empire. Members of the order were mostly his political allies and supporters. The main members of the order were Sigismund's close allies Nicholas II Garay, Hermann II of Celje, Stibor of Stiboricz, and Pippo Spano. The most important European monarchs became members of the order. He encouraged international trade by abolishing internal duties, regulating tariffs on foreign goods and standardizing weights and measures throughout the country.

King of the Romans

After the death of King Rupert of Germany in 1410, Sigismund—ignoring the claims of his half-brother Wenceslaus—was elected as successor by three of the electors on 20 September 1410, but he was opposed by his cousin Jobst of Moravia, who had been elected by four electors in a different election on 1 October. Jobst's death 18 January 1411 removed this conflict and Sigismund was again elected king on 21 July 1411. His coronation was deferred until 8 November 1414, when it took place at Aachen. [10]

Anti-Polish alliances

On a number of occasions, and in 1410 in particular, Sigismund allied himself with the Teutonic Knights against Władysław II of Poland. In return for 300,000 ducats he would attack Poland from the south after the truce on St. John's Day, 24 June expired. Sigismund ordered his most loyal friend Stibor of Stiboricz to set up the attack on Poland. Stibor of Stiboricz was of Polish origin and from the main line of the powerful Clan of Ostoja that had also been against choosing Jagiello as King of Poland. With the support of Sigismund, Stibor become one of the most influential men in late medieval Europe, holding titles as Duke of Transylvania and owning about 25% of modern-day Slovakia, including 31 castles of which 15 were situated around the 406 km long Váh river with surrounding land that was given to him by Sigismund. In the diplomatic struggle to prevent war between Poland-Lithuania, which was supported by the Muscovites, and the Teutonic Knights, Sigismund used Stibor's fine diplomacy to gain financially. The Polish side appointed several negotiators and most of them were also from the Clan of Ostoja, distant relations of the Stibors. However, those "family meetings" could not prevent the war and an alliance of twenty-two western states formed an army against Poland in the Battle of Grunwald in July 1410. Stibor attacked then Nowy Sącz and burned it to the ground, but after that he returned with his army back to the Beckov Castle. After the Polish-Lithuanian victory in the Battle of Grunwald, the Teutonic Knights had to pay a huge sum of silver to Poland as reparation and again, through diplomacy of his friend Stibor, Sigismund was able to borrow all this silver from King Władysław II of Poland on good conditions. In the light of facts about the diplomatic work of Stibor and the Clan of Ostoja that was following the politics of King Sigismund, one can question whether Sigismund actually joined the anti-Polish alliance. [17]

Conference in Buda

King Sigismund of Hungary (Nadasdy Mausoleum, 1664) Nadasdy Mausoleum - Zsigmond kiraly.jpg
King Sigismund of Hungary (Nádasdy Mausoleum, 1664)

In 1412, a Knights Tournament was held in Buda, Hungary, this was also a conference between Hungarian King Sigismund, Polish King Wladyslaw II and Bosnian King Tvrtko II. 2000 knights were present from all over Europe, even England. There were very many princes, lords, knights and servants at the court of Buda in Hungary. Three kings and three other monarchs, a Serbian despot, 13 herzogs and/or dukes, 21 counts, 2000 knights, 1 cardinal, 1 legate, 3 archbishops, 11 other bishops, 86 players and trumpeters, 17 messengers, and 40,000 horses. There were people from 17 countries and languages. A presumably contemporary list of the participants of the meeting has also survived. Besides the host, Sigismund, and his main guest, Władysław II, this text mentions Władysław's cousin Witold, Grand Duke of Lithuania, and the king of Bosnia, usually identified as Tvrtko II. Some argue convincingly that it was not Tvrtko II but Stjepan Ostoja who visited Buda at that time. Besides the king, Hrvoje Vukčić Hrvatinić, Sandalj Hranić Kosača and Pavle Radinović also came from Bosnia, and from Serbia, the Despot Stefan Lazarević, bringing two thousand horses. From Austria, dukes Ernest (the Iron) and Albert II, later successor of Sigismund, also took part in the Buda meeting. Also Heinrich von Plauen. the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, Stibor of Stiboricz, Nikola II Gorjanski, Hermann II, Count of Celje and his son Frederick II, count of Krbava—Karlo Kurjaković, Ivan Morović-ban of Machva. Długosz reports the arrival in Buda of the envoys of the Jalal al-Din, khan of the Golden Horde and son of Tokhtamysh, who wanted to meet Władysław II of Poland. Jalal al-Din was an ally of the Polish and Lithuanian rulers in their fight against the Teutonic Order, and according to some reconstructions of the events, Sigismund also wanted to rely on the Tatars against the Ottoman threat. A narrative source from Lübeck also mentions the proceedings in Buda in 1412. Detmar's Lübeckische Chronik continued for the period of 1400 to 1413. The continuation also gives a detailed description of the participants at the Buda meeting. The royal meeting was accompanied by festivities and various entertainments. At the tournament, a knight from Silesia named Nemsche and a page from Austria won the joust. A Polish priest and chronicler Jan Długosz says in his Annales seu cronici incliti regni Poloniae that in the tournament there were also knights from Bulgaria, probably from the court of prince Fruzhin, Sigismund's vasal who also was at the conference.

Council of Constance

Sigismund and Barbara of Celje at the Council of Constance. Meister der Chronik des Konzils von Konstanz 001.jpg
Sigismund and Barbara of Celje at the Council of Constance.

From 1412 to 1423, Sigismund campaigned against the Republic of Venice in Italy. The king took advantage of the difficulties of Antipope John XXIII to obtain a promise that a council should be called in Constance in 1414 to settle the Western Schism. He took a leading part in the deliberations of this assembly, and during the sittings travelled to France, England, and Burgundy in a vain attempt to secure the abdication of the three rival popes. The council ended in 1418, having resolved the Schism and—of great consequence to Sigismund's future career—having the Czech religious reformer, Jan Hus, burned at the stake for heresy in July 1415. The complicity of Sigismund in the death of Hus is a matter of controversy. He had granted Hus a safe conduct and protested against his imprisonment; [10] and Hus was burned during Sigismund's absence.

When at one point during the council a cardinal corrected Sigismund's Latin, Sigismund replied Ego sum rex Romanus et super grammaticam ("I am king of the Romans and above grammar"). [18] Thomas Carlyle nicknamed Sigismund "Super Grammaticam". [19] [20]

His main acts during these years were an alliance with England against France, and a failed attempt, owing to the hostility of the princes, to secure peace in Germany by a league of the towns. [10] Also, Sigismund awarded Brandenburg (which he had recovered after Jobst's death) to Frederick of Hohenzollern, burgrave of Nuremberg, in 1415. This step made the House of Hohenzollern one of the most important in Germany.

Sigismund began to shift his alliance from France to England after the French defeat at the Battle of Agincourt, which he was also controversially absent from due to hosting a pseudo-council in Perpignan with Antipope Benedict XIII and King Ferdinand I of Aragon. The signing of the Treaty of Canterbury on 15 August 1416 culminated diplomatic efforts between Henry V of England and Sigismund and resulted in a defensive and offensive alliance against France. This, in turn, led the way to the resolution of the papal schism. [21] The close relationship that developed between Henry V and Sigismund resulted in him being inducted into the Order of the Garter. [22]

Hussite Wars

The wars of King Sigismund against the Hussites (Chronica Hungarorum, 1488) Thuroczy kronika - Zsigmond kiraly haborui a huszitak ellen.jpg
The wars of King Sigismund against the Hussites (Chronica Hungarorum, 1488)
Portrait of Emperor Sigismund, painted by Albrecht Durer after the emperor's death Albrecht Durer 082.jpg
Portrait of Emperor Sigismund, painted by Albrecht Dürer after the emperor's death

In 1419, the death of Wenceslaus IV left Sigismund titular King of Bohemia, but he had to wait for seventeen years before the Czech Estates would acknowledge him. Although the two dignities of king of the Romans and king of Bohemia added considerably to his importance, and indeed made him the nominal temporal head of Christendom, they conferred no increase of power and financially embarrassed him. It was only as King of Hungary that he had succeeded in establishing his authority and in doing anything for the order and good government of the land. Entrusting the government of Bohemia to Sofia of Bavaria, the widow of Wenceslaus, he hastened into Hungary. [10]

The Bohemians, who distrusted him as the betrayer of Hus, were soon in arms; and the flame was fanned when Sigismund declared his intention of prosecuting the war against heretics. Three campaigns against the Hussites ended in disaster although the army of his most loyal ally Stibor of Stiboricz and later his son Stibor of Beckov could hold the Hussite side away from the borders of the kingdom. The Turks were again attacking Hungary.

At the 1422 Diet of Nuremberg, Sigismund and German territorial princes collaborated to organize two armies against the Hussite rebels. The first army was sent to relieve Karlštejn, which was under a Hussite siege; the second army was ordered to destroy the Hussite field army. But Jan Žižka defeated the Imperial force at the Battle of Kutná Hora and then at the Battle of Německý Brod. These two unexpected defeats at the hands of the Hussites "ended the first Imperial and Catholic attempt to crush the Bohemian 'heretic rebellion'." [23]

The alliance against the Hussites continued to develop though, joined by Upper German princes and cities, even from "the regions furthest from Bohemia". In January 1424, associative activity of the German electors led to the Union ('einunge') of Bingen, "within which the Rhenish princes were joined by the elector of Saxony and Sigismund's loyal partner Margrave Frederick of Brandenburg, and mutual assistance, adjudication, and cooperation in the face of the Hussite threat were stipulated." [24]


Sigismund's rule in Germany and in the empire in general was hampered by his complete lack of Hausmacht (domestic power) within the Kingdom of Germany. [5] [25]

His rule relied on key allies and the culture of associative political mechanisms in Germany. Duncan Hardy remarks that, "both the local and the trans-regional dimensions of the political activity displayed by the sources from throughout Sigismund's reign demonstrate that power at every level in the empire was exercised and mediated through the customary institutions and mechanisms of associative political culture. If Sigismund enjoyed considerable successes at certain junctures, it was not in spite of or independently from these institutions and mechanisms, but precisely because he devoted considerable energy to harnessing associative interactions and building strategic relationships with leading actors within elite networks. Even during his prolonged absences from the empire's core lands, Sigismund was able to make use of these partnerships, and could reasonably expect that the associative activity of princes, nobles, and towns would yield results—as indeed they did, in the form of large-scale collective activity against Duke Frederick IV of Austria—Tyrol in the 1410 and the Hussites in the 1420. Not all of Sigismund's projects came to fruition, and he could not always control the longer-term outcomes of his policies, but the notion that there were phases of an 'empire without a king' during his reign clearly does not stand up to the abundant evidence of his interactions with regional clients and associations. At the same time, the somewhat adulatory view that has developed in recent years of Sigismund as a masterly politician can be tempered by the evidence that it was often felicitous alliances as much as personal skill which made his successes possible." [26]

The alliance between Sigismund and his two key allies in Germany, namely Frederick I, Elector of Brandenburg and Albert of Habsburg (who became his son-in-law and heir through the marriage with Sigismund's only daughter Elizabeth of Luxembourg, started the rise of the Hohenzollerns and reboosted the Habsburgs (who returned to the German throne and also inherited the connection with Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia from Sigismund). [27] [28]

Final years

In 1428, Sigismund led another campaign against the Turks, but again with few results. In 1431, he went to Milan where on 25 November he received the Iron Crown as King of Italy; after which he remained for some time at Siena, negotiating for his coronation as emperor and for the recognition of the Council of Basel by Pope Eugenius IV. He was crowned emperor in Rome on 31 May 1433, and after obtaining his demands from the pope returned to Bohemia, where he was recognized as king in 1436, though his power was little more than nominal. [10] Shortly after he was crowned, Pope Eugenius began attempts to create a new anti-Ottoman alliance. [29] This was sparked[ citation needed ] by an Albanian revolt against the Ottomans, which had begun in 1432. In 1435, Sigismund sent Fruzhin, a Bulgarian nobleman, to negotiate an alliance with the Albanians. He also sent Daud, a pretender to the Ottoman throne, in early 1436. [30] However, following the defeat of the rebels in 1436, plans for an anti-Ottoman alliance ended. [30] Sigismund died on 9 December 1437 at Znojmo (German : Znaim), Moravia (now Czech Republic), and as ordered in life, he was buried at Nagyvárad, Hungary (today Oradea, Romania), next to the tomb of the King Saint Ladislaus I of Hungary, who was the ideal of the perfect monarch, warrior and Christian for that time and was deeply venerated by Sigismund. [31] By his second wife, Barbara of Celje, he left an only daughter, Elisabeth of Luxembourg, who was married to Albert V, duke of Austria (later German king as Albert II) whom Sigismund named as his successor. As he left no sons, his line of the House of Luxembourg became extinct on his death. [10]

Family and issue

Sigismund married twice but had little luck in securing the succession to his crowns. Each of his two marriages resulted in the birth of one child. His first-born child, probably a son, was born prematurely as a result of a horse riding accident suffered by Queen Mary of Hungary when she was well advanced in pregnancy. Mother and child both died shortly after the birth in the hills of Buda on 17 May 1395. This caused a deep succession crisis because Sigismund ruled over Hungary by right of his wife, and although he managed to keep his power, the crisis lasted until his second marriage to Barbara of Celje. Barbara's only child, born in the purple on 7 October 1409, probably in the castle of Visegrád, was Elisabeth of Luxembourg, the future queen consort of Hungary, Germany, and Bohemia. Queen Barbara was unable to give birth to any further issue. Elizabeth of Luxembourg was thus the only surviving legitimate offspring of Sigismund.

Hungarian affiliations

Coat of arms of John Hunyadi. Coa Hungary Family Hunyadi Janos (extended) v2.svg
Coat of arms of John Hunyadi.

Sigismund was known to speak fluent Hungarian, wore Hungarian-style royal clothes, and even grew his beard in the Hungarian fashion. [32]

Emperor Sigismund, in terms of the quality of his face and the greatness of his stature, was a fairly great man, the world's chief creator blessed him with a beautiful face, curly, bluish hair, and a gentle look. He wore a long beard out of his attraction to the Hungarians because they also wore long beards once upon a time.

He also spent huge amounts of money during his reign to rebuild the Gothic castles of Buda and Visegrád in the Kingdom of Hungary, ordering the transportation of materials from Austria and Bohemia. [34]

His many affairs with women led to the birth of several legends, as the one that existed decades later during the reign of the King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary. According to this, John Hunyadi was Sigismund's illegitimate son. Sigismund gave a ring to the boy's mother when he was born, but one day in the forest a raven stole it from her, and the ring was only recovered after the bird was hunted down. It is said that this incident inspired the coat of arms of the Hunyadis, and later also appeared in the coat of arms of Matthias "Corvinus". [35]

Sigismund adopted the Hungarian reverence for Saint Ladislaus I of Hungary, who was considered to be an ideal Christian knight at that time. He went on pilgrimage several times to his tomb in Nagyvárad. Before Sigismund died, in Znaim, Moravia, he ordered to be buried next to the king saint. [36]

The bloodline of Sigismund connects through three princesses to the royal Hungarian Árpád dynasty.

Béla III of Hungary
Coa Hungary Country History Bela III (1172-1196).svg
Andrew II of Hungary
Coa Hungary Country History Andrew II (1205-1235).svg
Constance of Hungary
Béla IV of Hungary
Coa Hungary Country History (15th century).svg
Yolanda of Hungary Anna of Hungary Wenceslaus I of Bohemia
Jadwiga of Kalisz Kunigunda of Halych Ottokar II of Bohemia
Casimir III of Poland Wenceslaus II of Bohemia
Elizabeth of Poland Elizabeth of Bohemia
Elizabeth of Pomerania Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor
Sigismund, King of Hungary and Holy Roman Emperor
Sigismund Arms Hungarian Czech per pale.svg

Reformatio Sigismundi

The Reformatio Sigismundi appeared in connection with efforts to reform the Holy Roman Empire during the reign of Emperor Sigismund (1410–1437). It was presented in 1439 at the Council of Basel, published by an anonymous author, and referred to the injustice of the German rulers. It included a vision of Sigismund's about the appearance of a priest-king, Frederick, as well as plans for a wide reform of the monarchy and emperorship and the German empire.

Historiography and cultural depictions of Sigismund



Heraldry of Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor
Coat of Arms of the King of the Romans (c.1433-1486).svg Coat of arms of Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor.svg
Coat of arms as King of the Romans
Coat of arms as Holy Roman Emperor
(1433–1437), king of Hungary and Bohemia
Sigismund Arms Hungarian Czech per pale.svg Sigismund Arms.svg
Arms of the House of Luxembourg-Hungary-Bohemia
Coat of Arms of Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor.png
Coat of arms as Knight of the Garter


King Sigismund is portrayed by British actor Matthew Goode in the 2022 film Jan Žižka by director Petr Jákl. [38]

Video games

King Sigismund is a briefly seen antagonist in the 2018 Warhorse Studios hit action role-playing game Kingdom Come: Deliverance. [39]

See also


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Further reading

Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor
Born: 15 February 1368  Died: 9 December 1437
Regnal titles
Preceded by
as sole monarch
King of Hungary and Croatia
with Mary
Succeeded by
Preceded by German King
(formally King of the Romans)

contested by Jobst (1410–11)
Preceded by King of Bohemia
Elector of Brandenburg
Succeeded by
Preceded by Elector of Brandenburg
Succeeded by
Title last held by
Charles IV
Holy Roman Emperor
Succeeded by