9. A Bizarre Royal Demise
While Bela was away from Hungary, his brother changed the succession and named his four-year-old son heir. So Bela raised 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 thereafter, an uprising of recently-Christianized Hungarians erupted. They demanded a return to paganism, and an end to Christianity, which had become the official state religion a few decades earlier. Bela mobilized an army and crushed the pagans. In 1063, he successfully fought off a German invasion under the auspices of the Holy Roman emperor, and asserted Hungarian independence.
Bela’s bizarre end came later that year, after his throne tottered and fell. “Throne tottered and fell” is not meant 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.