Saturday, April 4, 2015

D: by Drowning (26 Ways to Die in Medieval Hungary)

The year was 1526: The year of the Battle of Mohács, one of the most disastrous defeats in Hungarian history.
(And believe me, there are some strong contestants for that title)

The King, Lajos II, was twenty years old, fairly handsome, and inexperienced. The enemy was the Ottoman army, with more than twice as many soldiers than the Hungarians. The battle was a massacre; the Hungarians lost almost all of their soldiers, and a huge part of the nobility. King Lajos is said to have been fighting heroically in the front lines until the battle order broke under fire from Turkish cannons, and the Hungarians started to flee.
It is not known exactly what happened. Historians claim that a nearby stream, the Csele, was flooding from the rains earlier, and while fleeing, the king fell in the stream and was dragged under by his armor. According to some sources either he or his horse was also wounded, and while trying to jump over the stream, they fell in a tangle. They found his body further down along the shore of the Danube, almost two months later.

The memory of this battle still lives in Hungarian minds as a humiliating defeat, and a turning point for the worse in the history of the Turkish wars (the Turks, on the other hand, regarded it as one of their most glorious victories at the time). The tragedy of the young king only made it worse, and the means of his death (not from battle wounds, but from drowning in a stream that under normal circumstances would not have been deep enough to drown in) only added insult to injury.

Here is another famous 19th century painting, this time by Székely Bertalan, depicting the moment survivors found the body of the king:


PLOT TWIST! An article was published last week about two doctors re-examining the sources about the discovery of the king's body, and they concluded that he might not have actually died from drowning - mostly based on how good a condition the body was in 7 weeks after death. They didn't offer an alternative explanation, though.

30 comments:

  1. Hmm, interesting. Did he drown? Not drown? Maybe the doctors will give more information later.

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  2. To drown or not to drown, that is the question ... It's a shame if a stream did him in when the Turks couldn't. Are the doctors saying he died later than the battle then?
    Tasha
    Tasha's Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

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    1. It bugged me that they didn't offer an alternative explanation, they just said that dying with no signs of physical trauma can be drowning, but also can be a heart attack or a broken neck or being suffocated with a pillow. I don't think the Turks carried pillows, though.

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    2. A common conspiracy theory among the locals around Mohács is, that the king was poisoned and than dumped into the river.

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    3. Interesting! You'd think it would be easier to stab him or push him off the horse in the middle of a battle...

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  3. Dying in a tinkle of a stream, while fleeing, and after (possibly) chugging some formaldehyde? How embarrassing.

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  4. Sad that he died so young. :(

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  5. Great post, oh wise one :D
    Hope you're enjoying your A to Z this year!

    Jemima

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  6. It's hard to be young and inexperienced, in particular if you're a king >:)

    Cold As Heaven

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  7. Drowning has to be a horrific way to die. I remember going too far out in the ocean one day and when I turned and looked back at the beach, I was soooo far away and I started to panic. My fiance swam out to get me and bring me back in. It was scary! That's interesting about that article refuting the cause of death. A mystery now, huh??
    Michele at Angels Bark

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  8. Okay so they did give us Ottoman history in school but I barely remember anything, are all Hungarians war at that period with Turks? probably stupid question, I should look into it. Anyway that's really sad, I think he was really brave regardless of how he died.
    "Haneen/I Will Never Give you Up (479)"

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    1. Yeah, most of the country had about 150 years of Turkish occupation, and we had a history of wars on and off for about 3 centuries... I hear they teach it differently in Turkey though, which is really funny :)

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  9. okay, what an interesting theme, love it - drowning has to be such an incredibly horrifying way to die.

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  10. Well, that sounds pretty horrible! Very interesting theme for the A to Z!
    TheCyborgMom

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  11. Sad he died young and unhonorably. I wonder if he was injured afterall and died a slow death.

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  12. Maybe he was miraculously preserved because he was such a good man.

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  13. What a great A-Z theme! I loved the info about the drowned/not drowned king.

    I'm not doing A-Z this year but your blog title caught my eye. I love creepy things! Following you on GFC.
    Lexa Cain’s Blog

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  14. Drowning is probably the one death I can actually say I've thought about and been afraid of. I do NOT want to drown to death. Lots of other options would be fine, but not that. Funny to think of a king just dropping like a rock in the river though
    ~AJ Lauer
    an A-Z Cohost
    @ayjaylauer on Twitter

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  15. That painting is beautiful. Hungarian history is so fascinating!!!

    Alex Hurst, A Fantasy Author in Kyoto
    A-Z Blogging in April Participant

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  16. I've read that drowning is actually a relatively pleasant way to go. Not that I'm volunteering for it, you understand.

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  17. The plot twist. The half-told story without further conclusions. That is frustrating. The ottomans were very tough customers to beat.

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  18. Death by drowning is one that has always scared me, because I'm not a great swimmer. Another would be being burned at the stake because I've been afraid of fire ever since a wildfire almost took my home when I was a kid.

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  19. Death by drowning is one that has always scared me, because I'm not a great swimmer. Another would be being burned at the stake because I've been afraid of fire ever since a wildfire almost took my home when I was a kid.

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  20. What a waste... such young and handsome king.

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  21. Argh for the plot twist! My curiosity is raised!

    Jean, back from the Grand Tour and visiting for the A-Z Challenge from Rantings and Ravings of an Insane Writer Number 209 on the A-Z List.

    Jean Schara
    Blackbirds First Flight (Quin)
    Blackbirds Second Flight (Glaring Upheaval and Fluffy Malone)

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  22. Memo to self... always remove armour before swimming...
    Wendy at Wendy of The Rock

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  23. Sweet! I love when new historical info becomes available. Finding the Romanov graves nearly made me bust a brain-vein.

    Link the article! Oh, I can't wait...I'm going to look for it.

    Thanks!

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