BOCSKAY, STEPHEN [István] (1557–1606), prince of Transylvania, the most eminent member of the ancient Bocskay family, son of György Bocskay and Krisztina Sulyok, was born at Kolozsvár, Hungary. As the chief councillor of Prince Zsigmond Báthory, he advised his sovereign to contract an alliance with the emperor instead of holding to the Turk, and rendered important diplomatic services on frequent missions to Prague and Vienna. The enmity towards him of the later Báthory princes of Transylvania, who confiscated his estates, drove him to seek protection at the imperial court (1599); but the attempts of the emperor Rudolph II. to deprive Hungary of her constitution and the Protestants of their religious liberties speedily alienated Bocskay, especially after the terrible outrages inflicted on the Transylvanians by the imperial generals Basta and Belgiojoso from 1602 to 1604. Bocskay, to save the independence of Transylvania, assisted the Turks; and in 1605, as a reward for his part in driving Basta out of Transylvania, the Hungarian diet, assembled at Modgyes, elected him prince (1605), on which occasion the Ottoman sultan sent a special embassy to congratulate him and a splendid jewelled crown made in Persia. Bocskay refused the royal dignity, but made skilful use of the Turkish alliance. To save the Austrian provinces of Hungary, the archduke Matthias, setting aside his semi-lunatic imperial brother Rudolph, thereupon entered into negotiations with Bocskay, and ultimately the peace of Vienna was concluded (June 23, 1606), which guaranteed all the constitutional and religious rights and privileges of the Hungarians both in Transylvania and imperial Hungary. Bocskay, at the same time, was acknowledged as prince of Transylvania by the Austrian court, and the right of the Transylvanians to elect their own independent princes in future was officially recognized. The fortress of Tokaj and the counties of Bereg, Szatmár and Ugocsa were at the same time ceded to Bocskay, with reversion to Austria if he should die childless. Simultaneously, at Zsitvatorok, a peace, confirmatory of the peace of Vienna, was concluded with the Turks. Bocskay survived this signal and unprecedented triumph only a few months. He is said to have been poisoned (December 29, 1606) by his chancellor, Mihály Kátay, who was hacked to bits by Bocskay’s adherents in the market-place of Kassa.
See Political Correspondence of Stephen Bocskay (Hung.), edited by Károly Szábo (Budapest, 1882); Jenö Thury, Stephen Bocskay’s Rebellion (Hung.), Budapest, 1899. (R. N. B.)