Saint Ladislaus I or Saint Ladislas I (I. (Szent) László, Ladislav I., Svätý Ladislav I, Władysław I Święty) (c. 1040 – 29 July 1095), King of Hungary (1077-1095) and of Croatia (1091-1095). Ladislaus is one of the most respected kings of Hungary. Before his ascension to the throne, he was the main advisor of his brother, Géza I of Hungary, who was fighting against their cousin, King Solomon of Hungary. When his brother died, his followers proclaimed Ladislaus king according to the Hungarian tradition that gave precedence to the eldest member of the royal family to the deceased king's sons. Following a long period of civil wars, he strengthened the royal power in his kingdom by introducing severe legislation. He also could expand his rule over Croatia. After his canonisation, Ladislaus became the model of the chivalrous king in Hungary.
In 1048, the family moved to Hungary, where his father received as appanage one third of Hungary ("Tercia pars Regni") from his brother, King Andrew I of Hungary who had acquired the throne from King Peter after a pagan revolt. Following his accession, King Andrew I had to face the attacks of Henry III, Holy Roman Emperor whose supremacy had been acknowledged by King Peter. King Andrew I and Duke Béla cooperated closely against the German attacks and they could preserve Hungary's independence. However, they cooperation began to loosen from 1053 when the king fathered a son, Salamon, because from that time King Andrew wanted to ensure his son's inheritance against his brother, who pursuant to the old Hungarian costumes, as the oldest member of the royal family, could lay claim to the throne in case of the king's death.
In 1057, King Andrew I had Salamon crowned to ensure his accession, and Ladislaus had to participate in the coronation together with his father and his brothers, Géza and Lampert. However, Duke Béla and his sons left the country in 1059 and they returned with Polish troops in the next year. King Andrew I lost two battles against his brother and died, and after his death Ladislaus' father was crowned on December 6, 1060. After his father's death on September 11, 1063, Ladislaus and his brothers offered to accept their cousin's rule, who had come back followed by German troops, if they received his father's former duchy. However, King Solomon refused the offer and the superiority of his troops obliged the three brothers to leave Hungary. They went to Poland, and after the withdrawal of the German army, they came back to Hungary followed by troops King Bolesław II, their maternal cousin, provided them.
The parties, however, wanted to avoid the civil war; therefore they accepted the mediation services of the bishops, and they made an agreement on January 20, 1064 in Győr. Under the agreement Ladislaus and his brothers accepted Salamon's rule, and they received their father's former duchy, i.e. the one third of Hungary.
At that time, Ladislaus married his first wife who was probably a daughter of a German count.
From 1071, when Ladislaus' elder brother, Duke Géza denied to hand over the king's share of the booty acquired after the occupation of Belgrade from the Byzantine Empire, the relationship between King Salamon and the three brothers deteriorated. Thus, in the next year, when the king lead a new campaign against Belgrade, only Duke Géza followed him, but Ladislaus and Lampert was left behind, because the dukes were worrying about that the king's partisans would try to conquer their duchy during their absence.
During 1073, both King Solomon and his cousins were preparing for the coming struggle. The king sent his envoys to his brother-in-law, King Henry IV of Germany, while Ladislaus and his brothers were seeking the help of their Polish and Czech relatives. Ladislaus went to Moravia, and came back followed by the troops Duke Otto of Moravia, his brother-in-law provided him. He came just in time, because before his arrival his brother, Duke Géza had been defeated by King Salamon in the battle at Kemej on February 26, 1074. On March 14, at the Battle of Mogyoród, the three brothers won a decisive victory over King Salamon's troops, who had to fleed to the Western parts of Hungary, and Géza was proclaimed king by the dukes' followers. The new king confirmed his brothers, Ladislaus and Lampert in the possession of their duchy.
During his brother's reign, Ladislaus was his military commander, and in the autumn of 1074, he forced back King Salamon's attack against Nyitra, but in 1076, he could not occupy Pozsony from King Salamon (although, pursuant to his legends, he could overcome his cousin in a single combat).
After the death of his brother on April 25, 1077, Ladislaus was proclaimed king by their partisans. He was probably crowned with the crown sent by the Emperor Michael VIIto his brother, because the ancient crown was still in the possession of King Solomon.
In 1079, Ladislaus took the fortress of Moson from King Solomon, but he was not able to occupy Pozsony. Afterwards, he began negotiations with his rival, who finally abdicated in his favour in 1081 in exchange for extensive landholdings. Although, the deposed king tried to plot against his cousin, but Ladislaus overcome the conspiracy and had Salamon imprisoned.
Upon Ladislaus' initiative, Pope Gregory VII ordered the canonization of the first king of Hungary, Stephen I and his son, Emeric (Imre). On the occasion of the celebrations, on the feast of the Assumption (August 15), 1083, Ladislaus allowed Salamon to go free. Salamon subsequently fled to the Pechenegs. In 1085, the Pechenegs invaded the Eastern territory of the kingdom, but Ladislaus defeated them. Following upon his victory, no-one disputed Ladislaus' right to rule.
King Ladislaus took an active part in the reorganization of the Roman Catholic Church in Hungary, by the setting up a new bishopric in Zagreb in 1087, the founding of the Archbishopric of Bacs by its separation from Kalocsa, and transferral of the See of Bihar to Nagyvárad, which was not entirely in line with the normative practice of the Church. Similarly, the synod of Hungarian prelates at Szabolcs in the year 1092 recognized the legitimacy of the first marriage of the members of the clegry, which was contrary to canon law.
Following the death of King Dmitar Zvonimir of Croatia on April 20, 1089, his widow, Jelena, Ladislaus' sister, was continuously conspiring in the court of the new King of Croatia, Stephen II in favour of Ladislaus. Thus, when King Stephen II died in 1091, Hungarian troops entered Croatia and Ladislaus occupied the neighboring country.
However, this action provoked a counter move by the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I. He enlisted the aid of the Cumans and persuaded them to invade the Eastern parts of Hungary. Upon hearing of the Cuman invasion, Ladislaus lead his armies against them and won a decisive victory over them near the river Temes. Ladislaus followed up his victory by his occupation of Szerém and Beograd, areas under Byzantine control. Emperor Alexios I, however, sent fresh nomad troops against Hungary which forced Ladislaus to exit Byzantine territory. It was probably King Ladislaus I who planted in Transylvania the Székely in order to defend the Eastern parts of the Kingdom of Hungary against foreign invasions.
In the autumn of 1091, Pope Urban II sent a legate to Ladislaus' court and demanded Ladislaus to accept his supremacy over Croatia. But Ladislaus refused this claim, and he probably accepted the legitimacy of Antipope Clement III, who had been elected by the followers of the Holy Roman Emperor. In 1092, Ladislaus lead his armies against Prince Vasilko of Terebovlia, who had allied himself with the Cumans, and won a victory over him. In 1093, Ladislaus supported Duke Zbigniew's revolt against his father, Duke Władysław I Herman of Poland.
Ladislaus was preparing a campaign against Duke Břetislav II of Bohemia in order to help his sister's sons, Dukes Svatopluk and Otto II of Moravia, when he was informed that Coloman came back to Hungary in the company of Polish troops. The elderly king, upon hearing the news, died suddenly.
He was buried in the Abbey of Somogyvár which he had founded in 1091.
C.A. Macartney, in his Hungary: A Short History, eulogizes Ladislaus thus: "Ladislas I, who, like Stephen and his son, Imre, was canonised after his death, was the outstanding personality among them: a true paladin and gentle knight, a protector of his faith and his people, and of the poor and defenceless."