Bela I of Hungary Was Killed by His Throne
Bela I of Hungary (circa 1020 – 1063) was king of Hungary from 1060 until his death. During his years as monarch, he solidified Hungary’s Christian identity by putting down a final pagan rebellion. He also fought a successful war against Holy Roman Emperor Henry III to defend Hungary’s independence. Bela accomplished much during his relatively brief tenure on the throne. Unfortunately for him, it was his very throne that would prove his undoing.
Bela was born into Hungarian royalty. His father, prince Vazul, had been a nephew of the childless Hungarian king Stephen I. When the king bypassed Bela’s father to name another nephew heir, Vazul rebelled, but was captured and blinded as punishment in 1031. Bela and his siblings fled Hungary, but returned in 1046, when Bela’s eldest brother successfully deposed the king and seized the crown.
According to Hungarian royal custom, whereby crown passed from brother to brother by seniority, Bela was made a duke and named heir. However, while away from Hungary, Bela’s brother changed the rules by naming his four year old son heir. Bela responded by raising an army in Poland, and marched into Hungary to reassert his rights. During the ensuing struggle, the brother on the throne was killed, and Bela was crowned in his place.
Soon after becoming king, an uprising erupted, demanding a return to paganism, and an end to Christianity, which had become the official state religion a few decades earlier. Bela responded by mobilizing an army and crushing the pagans. In 1063, he successfully fought off a German invasion under the auspices of the Holy Roman emperor, and asserted Hungarian independence from foreign domination.
Bela’s undignified end came later that year, after his throne tottered and fell. “Throne tottered and fell” is not meant here as a figure of speech, or an allusion to a weakening of his power and authority, but literally. One September day in 1063, Bela I held court in his summer palace in Domos. Flanked by his senior advisors, and with his noblemen and officials gathered before him, the king regally ascended the steps to his throne and took a seat. Unregally, the heavy wooden throne collapsed once the royal posterior sat down. Bela I was severely injured in front of his horrified court, and died of his wounds soon thereafter.