The family was given its land by Sigismund, King of Hungary, on 18 October 1409
John Hunyadi (Bulgarian: Сабинян Янко / Sabinjan Yanko, Croatian: Janko Hunjadi, Hungarian: Hunyadi János, Latin: Ioannes Corvinus or de Hunyad, Serbian: Сибињанин Јанко / Sibinjanin Janko, and Slovak: Ján Huňady, Slovene: Ivan Hunjadi, Romanian: Iancu or Ioan de Hunedoara) (c. 1407–11 August 1456), was a leading Hungarian military and political figure in the 15th-century history of Central and Southeastern Europe. Son of a noble family of Romanian origin, he mastered his military skills on the southern borderlands exposed to Ottoman attacks of the Kingdom of Hungary. Appointed voivode of Transylvania and head of a number of southern counties, he assumed responsibility for the defence of the frontiers in 1441.
Hunyadi adopted the Hussite method of using wagons for military purposes. He employed professional soldiers, but neither did he refrain from mobilizing local peasantry against invaders. These innovations contributed to his earliest successes against Ottoman troops plundering the southern marches in the early 1440s. Although defeated in the battle of Varna in 1444 and in the second battle of Kosovo in 1448, his successful "Long Campaign" across the Balkan Mountains of 1443-44 and the defence of Nándorfehérvár/Belgrade in 1456, against troops led personally by the Sultan established his reputation as a great general. In Hungary, tradition still holds that the bells of Catholic churches are daily rung at noon to commemorate the latter victory, although the pope had ordered this in advance, before the siege, in order to encourage the soldiers fighting for Christendom.
John Hunyadi was also an eminent statesman. He actively took part in the civil war between the partisans of Wladislas I and the minor Ladislaus V, two claimants to the throne of Hungary in the early 1440s, on behalf on the former. Popular among the lesser nobility, the Diet of Hungary appointed him, in 1445, as one of the seven "captains of the realm" responsible for the administration of state affairs until Ladislaus V (by that time unanimously accepted as king) came of age. The next Diet went even further, electing Hunyadi as sole regent with the title of governor. When he resigned from this office in 1452, the sovereign awarded him with the first hereditary title (perpetuus comes Bistriciensis) in the Kingdom of Hungary. Furthermore, Hunyadi who had by this time become one of the wealthiest landowners in the kingdom, preserved his influence in the Diet up until his death.
This Athleta Christi ("Christ's Champion"), as Pope Pius II referred to him, died some three weeks after his triumph at Nándorfehérvár, falling to an epidemic that had broken out in the crusader camp. However, his victories over the Turks prevented them from invading the Kingdom of Hungary for more than 60 years. His fame was a decisive factor in the election of his son, Matthias Corvinus king by the Diet of 1457. Hunyadi is still a popular historic figure among Hungarians, Romanians, Serbians, Bulgarians and other nations of the region, many of them even considering him as their own hero.
The Hunyadi family were a noble family in the medieval Kingdom of Hungary, of Wallachian (Romanian) origin according to the majority of sources. Hunyadi was named Valachus or Balachus ("the Wallachian") in some contemporary texts.
According to other opinions, John Hunyadi came from a modest Romanian noble family from Hațeg. The Hunyadis were first recorded in a royal charter of 1409 in which Sigismund of Luxembourg, then King of Hungary, granted Vojk the Hunyad Castle (in contemporary Hungarian: Hunyadvár, later Vajdahunyad, in present-day Romanian: Hunedoara) and its estates for his distinction in the wars against the Ottomans.
Woyk (Voicu, Vajk) — Hunyadi's father — was described as being of Vlach descent by medieval chroniclers and modern historians. He was a nobile Knyaz from Wallachia. Sigismund of Luxembourg's royal charter (1409) Hunyad Castle, main entrance John Hunyadi - hand-colored woodcut in Johannes de Thurocz's Chronicle Chronica Hungarorum, Brno, 1488.
Matthias Corvinus' court historian Antonio Bonfini flattered his king by tracing the family's ancestry to the Roman gens Corvina, or Valeriana, while adding: "for this man was indeed born of a Romanian father and a Hungarian mother" A contemporary Hungarian historian Johannes de Thurocz, similarly flattering his king, wrote in the Chronicle of the Hungarians (Chronica Hungarorum) that the Hunyadi family was of Hunnic origin, even calling Matthias Corvinus the "Second Attila". The 16th century Saxon historian Gáspár Heltai made Hunyadi the illegitimate son of king Sigismund and the young noble Erzsébet Morsina/Morzsinay.
Hunyadi's mother was Elizabeth Morsina/Morzsinay (Hungarian: Erzsébet Morzsinay, Romanian: Elisabeta Morşina), a lady of the lesser nobility from Karánsebes (Caransebeş), Krassó-Szörény (now Caraş-Severin) county, Kingdom of Hungary. According to Gáspár Heltai she was the daughter of a Romanian lesser noble from Hunyad (Hunedoara), Transylvania, Kingdom of Hungary. Her family (also known as the Demsusi Muzsina family) was a family of Romanians ennobled in the second half of the 15th century
In 1432, Hunyadi married Erzsébet Szilágyi (c. 1410-1483), a Hungarian noblewoman.
John Hunyadi had two children, Ladislaus and Matthias Corvinus. The former was executed on the order of King Ladislaus V for the murder of Ulrich II of Celje, a relative of the king. The latter was elected king on 20 January 1458, Matthias after Ladislaus V's death. It was the first time in the history of the Kingdom of Hungary that a member of the nobility, without dynastic ancestry and relationship, mounted the royal throne.
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