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wildest steed, and rushed into the bloody mêlée with as much coolness as the bravest Magyar, Beleknegini was tender and amiable enough to bring to her feet a man less enthusiastic than Geyza. One day the "beautiful mistress," for that was her name in Slavish, took a fancy to hear the missionaries, to be converted to Catholicism, and also to make a convert of Geyza. How could the love-sick chief refuse to bow down with her and receive the holy water? Thousands of Magyars followed their example, and among them Vaik, the son of Geyza, who, upon baptism, received the name of Stephen, afterward to be crowned with the double honor of a saint and king. During the long reign of the latter there was, however, more than one revolt in consequence of attempting to force Catholicism upon those of the Magyars who thought that they saw in the new order of things the destruction of their nationality. At last his successor, Bela I., seeing that neither decrees, wars, nor persecutions would induce all of his subjects to give up the idolatrous worship of Istene and the forces of nature, convoked a general diet at Alba-Royal, where even peasants and serfs were admitted to share in the deliberations. Every village was to send two aged men of experience and ready speech. The delegates assembled. But the constituents, pretending that they wished to watch over the acts of those whom they had sent, presented themselves also, and gathered round the palace of the king in a tumultuous mob. Here is what they demanded. The right to live like heathen; the privilege of stoning the bishops, exterminating the priests, strangling the vicars, hanging the collectors of the tithes, of burning the churches, and breaking the bells. The king desired three days to deliberate with his ministers. The three days passed, and there was no
"What shall it be? what shall it be?" demanded the mob around the palace. The king did not make his appearance, but in his place a band of soldiers rushed upon the clamorous heathens, who were armed only with sticks and stones, and by a horrible slaughter permanently established Catholicism in Hungary.
The Magyars venerate St. Stephen both as an apostle of Christianity and their first king. During his reign monasteries were established, which have since grown into
rich and powerful institutions. He framed a constitution for the government of the people which survived eight centuries. It was St. Stephen also who first divided Hungary into comitats, or counties, each of which was a miniature state regulating its own affairs. This municipal institution was always so dear to the Magyars that their historians claim for its origin a Divine inspiration. The form of government adopted by the Hungarians was a constitutional monarchy, the elective principle having been brought with them from Central Asia. When pasturing their vast herds of cattle and horses on the steppes of Scythia they enjoyed the privilege of choosing their leader and sharing with him the government. And more than once in their long migration westward did they assemble on the plains or in the forests to select those who should lead them to conquest; to distribute the burdens of war or the spoils of conquests. In this manner, during the barbaric period, Magar, Almos, and Arpad were created chiefs; and when St. Stephen became their king, it was by the consent of the people, and not "by the will of God." He submitted his new constitution to the assembled nation, who joyfully accepted its wise provisions, and handed them down unimpaired to their descendants.
These great gatherings of the Magyars ultimately became known as the national diets. They were the stronghold of Hungarian liberty. Omnipotently they discussed, when called together on any great emergency, the acts of the sovereign, determined the subsidies in the case of war, gave or withheld the crown when the throne was vacant, and before them the king was obliged to swear that he would respect the national laws and customs, and defend the realm against invasion from without or civil contests within.
Magnificent assemblages were the ancient diets of the Hungarians held in arms on the plain of Rakos! Speak of them to-day to a Magyar; his eye will brighten and his heart beat quicker, for they recall to his mind the most glorious pages of his country's history, her illustrious kings, and heroes, and conquerors. Aside from historical associations, the field of Rakos. where these national gatherings were usually held, is one of the most interesting places in Hungary. On one side the eye sweeps over an immense plain, dotted
here and there with herds and hamlets, and losing itself in the hazy distance; on the other, the ceaseless flood of the Danube, flanked by the terminus of a chain of mountains. Here is the classic land of the Magyars. These mountains, one of which is crowned by the citadel of Buda, were the ancient boulevards of Hungarian liberty, and overlook the region which was the center and pivot of her greatness.
The national Diet has assembled; it may be to choose a king, or to decide upon some new policy of the government. What agitation in the city! How various the physiognomies! How different the idioms and costumes of those who come together! Behold, moving in solemn dignity through the crowded streets of the metropolis, the long processions of prelates and priests, of barons and magnates, with their gorgeous banners and equipages! The balconies and windows are gay and glittering with female beauty, but the men are serious and thoughtful in view of the great issues to be decided.
They arrive at the gates of the city. You would say that an army had assembled on the field of Rakos, about to be
ranged in order of battle. Squadrons of hussars, with bows and quivers on their shoulders, with lances and crooked sabers, move here and there upon gorgeously caparisoned steeds, which touch the earth daintily in their curvetings and prancings. The wind sports gracefully with innumerable ensigns, embroidered and painted in every conceivable manner, and wafts far beyond the long lines of snowy tents retreating in the distance, the acclamations of the multitude. Here are represented all the picturesque costumes of the Magyars, all their curious weapons and equestrian finery of standards and trappings. The round hats and simple dress of the country nobles, render all the more brilliant the rich vestments of the great magnates of the kingdom. The polished cuirasses and coats of mail, the gleaming helmets and gold-laced " Attilas," the "kalpaks" with eagle plumes, the skins of the tiger and panther glowing with brilliant colors, horse and rider burdened with golden ornaments, and blazing with diamonds-it is Oriental magnificence married with European luxury.
A voice is heard; few and pointed are
the words. They are heralded and repeated from group to group. Is the proposition favorable? joy illuminates the faces of the cavaliers, and thousands of voices rend the air with their ready response. Is it unfavorable? their faces darken with anger, the heavy squadrons move, the rattling of sabers is heard, and perhaps a bloody mêlée ensues. A word follows; silence is restored, the discussion terminated. "Eljén! Eljén!" Long live Hungarian Liberty, rings upon the clear, sunny air, and the national Diet terminates, until again called together.
Such were the ancient assemblages of the Magyar chivalry on the plain of Rakos. It was there that, in 1299, the magnates of the kingdom protested against the assumed right of the popes to impose a sovereign upon them against their will: there, in 1308, Charles Robert was obliged to declare the papal intervention null; it was on the plain of Rakos that brave Jean Hunyad was named captain-general of the kingdom, in order that he might save it from the Germans and the Turks; and there also, in grateful recognition of his services, the crown of
Hungary was decreed to his second son, Rakos, the blood leaps in their veins, Matthias the Just.
Liberty, however, fled from Hungary on the fatal day of Mohacs, when Louis II. and the flower of the Magyar chivalry fell before the Moslems.
Since the ascendency of Austrian influence in Hungary, these great national assemblages have ceased to be held. Rakos is now silent. The soil, consecrated by so many souvenirs of Hungarian liberty, is torn by the plow, even as the hearts of the Magyars have been afflicted by their unmerited misfortunes. When they visit VOL. XII.-16
they dream of the great days that are no more; they think, they hope. Yes, the Hungarians, although crushed down to the earth, still hope.
From the misfortunes of Hungary we turn for a moment to her royal insignia, of which the crown of St. Stephen is the most important, having, for eight centuries, been venerated as the palladium of Hungarian liberty. Of immense value, it is also unique in construction, consisting of a hemispherical cap, which rests upon a broad circular band, the crown proper,
in such a manner, that the two parts form a whole. The material is gold, set with pearls and jewels, and ornamented with enamel paintings of the Saviour and his apostles. The jewels are also arranged so as to form the names of some of the saints and of two or three of the Greek and Roman emperors.
The lower, or Greek crown, is of Byzantine origin, while the inner and upper part, called the Roman crown, came from Italy. The Roman is the older, and is the identical crown sent by Pope Sylvester in the year 1000 to Stephen I., King of Hungary.
The lower, or Greek crown, as appears from the inscriptions, dates its origin in the year 1075, and was about that time sent to Geyza, Duke of Hungary; but up to the year 1306, when Otto, of Bavaria, assumed the name of Bela V., and used the crown at his coronation, its history is obscure. About that time, however, it underwent an interesting episode in connection with Otto and King Wentzel, of Bohemia. The Arpad branch of the royal family having terminated with Andreas III., the royal dignity was offered to Wentzel in the year 1301. He did not accept it
in person, but his son, of the same name, then twelve years of age, was crowned King of Hungary a few months afterward. The choice of Wentzel, however, was not pleasing to a majority of the Hungarians,
to the pope; consequently, he was speedily deposed, and Charles Robert, of Naples, selected in his stead. The old Wentzel conveyed his son back to Bohemia, and with him the Hungarian crown. After the death of his father, in 1305, young Wentzel abandoned his claim to Hungary in favor of Otto, of Bavaria, and gave up to him all the royal insignia. The latter soon after disguised his person in such a manner as to reach Hungary through the territory of his enemy, Rudolph, Duke of Austria.
He carried with him the crown, concealed in a large wooden wine bottle, which was once lost from the wagon in a swamp, but fortunately found again by Otto, who re-crossed the Danube in search of the missing treasure. He was crowned the same year, and soon after carried the royal insignia into Transylvania, whither he went to ask a bride of Ladislaus. But instead of marrying, as he desired, he was thrown into prison by Ladislaus, who at
once took possession of the crown and regalia. Ladislaus thereupon strove to become king of the Hungarians, but they preferred Charles Robert, who was crowned with a diadem prepared for the purpose. Such, however, was the veneration of the Magyars for the old GræcoRoman crown, that Charles was not really regarded as their king until the year 1310, when, after many entreaties, Ladislaus was induced to give up the old crown, with which Charles underwent a second coronation. From that time until 1440 the royal insignia remained in Hungary. Elizabeth then carried them to Vienna, but in 1464 the crown was returned to Buda for the coronation of Matthias. After the battle of Mohacs, where bold Louis fell, and the crescent prevailed over the cross, curious fortunes were again in reserve for the diadem of King Stephen. During the contest between Ferdinand of Austria and John Zapolya, the crown changed possessors two or three times, and ultimately fell into the hands of Jeremy, who, in place of bringing it back to Visegrad, as he had solemnly promised, carried it to Kaposvae, whither he fled before Solyman, the Emperor of the Turks. The crown then came into the possession of the Sultan, who afterward gave it to his vassal Zapolya. Hav
ing returned again into the hands of the Magyars, its possession underwent various changes until the year 1849. Upon the sad termination of the Hungarian insurrection, Kossuth and his noble followers buried this cherished idol of the Magyar race, and took refuge in Turkey. Would that the earth still retained it in her bosom!
The history of its discovery in 1853, after a prolonged search of four years, indicates how high an estimate Austria places upon the royal trophy. Görgey having utterly prostrated the hopes of the Hungarians by the treachery of Vilagos, Kossuth, fled toward Wallachia, carrying with him the royal insignia. Finding, however, that he would be intercepted by a large Turkish force on the Danube, he determined to secrete them, and after making several false movements to mislead his enemies, he finally disappeared in the direction of New Orsova. These movements of the Magyar chief had not escaped the attention of the Austrians, and on the termination of hostilities Major Kuger was commissioned by the emperor to recover, if possible, the lost treasure. He found that Kossuth had carried it to Orsova, but that not being able to secrete it there, had taken it to the baths of Hercules, a few miles distant. Having met, however, with no better suc