My kingdom in pledge : King Sigismund of Luxemburg’s town pledging policy, case studies of Segesd and Bartfa
Master of Arts degree in Medieval Studies, Central European University, Budapest, May (2012)
King Sigismund of Luxemburg was one of the most important political figures of Europe in his age. As the son of a Holy Roman emperor (Charles IV, 1355-1378), Sigismund ruled Hungary (1387–1437), Bohemia (1419–1437), and the Holy Roman Empire (1433– 1437). He is mainly known as one of the most important initiators of the Council of Constance (which ended the Papal Schism), and his name is linked to the defeat of the crusaders at the battle of Nicopolis (1396). To his contemporaries Sigismund was also known for his bad finances; because of his serious financial problems he often borrowed various amounts of money or pledged royal (imperial) domains. As a result of his pledging activity in Bohemia he left the Bohemian throne to his successor with a difficult financial heritage, near insolvency. His successor had to initiate a thrifty financial policy for which he was often blamed by contemporaries. In the Holy Roman Empire Sigismund’s pledging activity led to an increase in imperial town pledgings to an extent previously unknown.
Sigismund’s pledgings in Hungary have not been researched thoroughly, although it is known that he was certainly involved in many such transactions. Not by coincidence, Sigismund’s reign in Hungary is known as the period when the royal domain structure was transformed, caused by the king’s policy of alienating his domains. Often the alienations were carried out through pledging as an intermediate step; in many cases the ruler eventually donated the pledged properties to the former pledgees. One can ask if Sigismund’s pledging activity had such profound consequences in Bohemia and in the German territories, then what impact did it have in the case of Hungary. The fact that Sigismund even acquired the Hungarian throne through pledging – at that time the Margraviate of Brandenburg to his cousin Jobst (Jodok) – expresses well the important role of pledges in his Hungarian reign.