Open main menu

MARTINUZZI, GEORGE [György Utiešenović] (1482-1551), Hungarian statesman, who, since he usually signed himself “Frater Georgius,” is known in Hungarian history as Frater György or simply The Frater, was born at Kamičic in Croatia, the son of Gregory Utiešenović, a Croatian gentleman. His mother was a Martinuzzi, a Venetian patrician family. From his eighth to his twentieth year he was attached to the court of John Corvinus; subsequently, entering the service of the Zapolya family, he saw something of warfare under John Zapolya but, tiring of a military life, he entered the Paulician Order in his twenty-eighth year. His historical career began when his old patron Zapolya, now king of Hungary, forced to fly before his successful rival Ferdinand, afterwards the emperor Ferdinand I., sent him on a diplomatic mission to Hungary. It was due to his tact and ability that John recovered Buda (1529), and henceforth Frater György became his treasurer and chief counsellor. In 1534 he became bishop of Grosswardein; in 1538 he concluded with Austria the peace of Grosswardein, whereby the royal title and the greater part of Hungary were conceded to Zapolya. King John left the Frater the guardian of his infant son John Sigismund, who was proclaimed and crowned king of Hungary, the Frater acting as regent. He frustrated all the attempts of the queen mother, Isabella, to bring in the Austrians, and when, in 1541, an Austrian army appeared beneath the walls of Buda, he arrested the queen and applied to the Porte for help. On the 28th of August 1541, the Frater did homage to the sultan, but during his absence with the baby king in the Turkish camp, the grand vizier took Buda by subtlety. Then only the Frater recognized the necessity of a composition with both Austria and Turkey. He attained it by the treaty of Gyula (Dec. 29, 1541), whereby western Hungary fell to Ferdinand, while Transylvania, as an independent principality under Turkish suzerainty, reverted to John Sigismund. It included, besides Transylvania proper, many Hungarian counties on both sides of the Theiss, and the important city of Kassa. It was the Frater’s policy to preserve Transylvania neutral and intact by cultivating amicable relations with Austria without offending the Porte. It was a difficult policy, but succeeded brilliantly for a time. In 1545, encouraged by the growing unpopularity of Ferdinand, owing to his incapacity to defend Hungary against the Turks, the Frater was tempted to unite Austrian Hungary to Transylvania and procure the election of John Sigismund as the national king. But recognizing that this was impossible, he aimed at an alliance with Ferdinand on terms of relative equality, and to this system he adhered till his death. Queen Isabella, who hated the Frater and constantly opposed him, complained of him to the sultan, who commanded that either the traitor himself or his head should be sent to Constantinople (1550). A combination was then formed against him of the queen, the hospodars of Moldavia and Wallachia and the Turks; but the Frater shut the queen up in Gyula-Fehérvár, drove the hospodars out of Transylvania, defeated the Turks at Déva, and finally compelled Isabella to accept a composition with Austria very profitable to her family and to Transylvania, at the same time soothing the rage of the sultan by flatteries and gifts. This compact, a masterpiece of statesmanship, was confirmed by the diet of Kolozsvár in August 1551. The Frater retained the governorship of Transylvania, and was subsequently consecrated archbishop of Esztergom and received the red hat. Thus Hungary was once more reunited, but the inability of Ferdinand to defend it against the Turks, as promised, forced the Frater, for the common safety, to resume the payment of tribute to the Porte in December 1551. Unfortunately, the Turks no longer trusted a diplomatist they could not understand, while Ferdinand suspected him of an intention to secure Hungary for himself. When the Turks (in 1551) took Csanád and other places, the Frater and the imperial generals Castaldo and Pallavicini combined their forces against the common foe; but when the Frater privately endeavoured to mediate between the Turks and the Hungarians, Castaldo represented him to Ferdinand as a traitor, and asked permission to kill him if necessary. The Frater’s secretary Marco Aurelio Ferrari was hired, and stabbed his master from behind at the castle of Alvinczy while reading a letter, on the 18th of December 1551; but the cardinal, though in his sixty-ninth year, fought for his life, and was only despatched with the aid of Pallavicini and a band of bravos. Ferdinand took the responsibility of the murder on himself. He sent to Julius III. an accusation of treason against the Frater in eighty-seven articles, and after long hesitation, and hearing one hundred and sixteen witnesses, the pope exonerated Ferdinand of blame.

See A. Bechet, Histoire du ministère du cardinal Martinusius (Paris, 1715); O. M. Utiešenović, Lebensgeschichte des Cardinals Georg Utiešenović (Vienna, 1881); Codex epistolaris Fratris Georgii 1535-1551, ed. A. Károlyi (Budapest, 1881). But the most vivid presentation of Frater is to be found in M. Jókai’s fine historical romance, Brother George (Hung.) (Budapest, 1893). (R. N. B.)