Noble and Urban Family-Structures in the Late Middle Ages in the Hungarian Kingdom
Balogh, Robert (University of Debrecen, Hungary)
Ideologies through History Papers of the seventeenth ISHA Conference Utrecht, the Netherlands April 17-22, (2006)
The concept of nobility is a key for understanding Medieval societies and so is that of the town; the medieval commune. In the last three decades a number of studies has been carried out to examine the medieval noble society of the Hungarian Kingdom (I prefer this term to “Hungarian nobility” for greater clarity: even though nobles constituted the political nation of Hungary, ethnically many of them were not Hungarian) and well-trained scholars have taken on the task of penetrating the urban society of the same entity as far as possible. However, very few attempts have been made to describe and compare these two structures on a micro-level, on the level of families.
The family of a noble was not family in the modern sense of the word; it should sooner be described as a clan. The clan was the unity of those who had the same ancestors, but regarding property this only included the male descendants. If we look for the binding that for many generations held the micro spheres of noble society together as strongly as fiefs did in Western-Europe, we find the clan.
The basic element of the birth of a clan was a kind of individualisation: breaking away from the genus through partition of the lands owned by the living male members. Until 1343 the partition was done drastically: whole villages and regions became the property of on or the other branch of the genus. In 1343 a royal decree ordered that the partition must point to a division of each units. This was probably the request of many branches: thanks to the geographical proximity, it became much easier to claim the rights of the lands of other disappearing branches.