Sigismund (February 14, 1368 – December 9, 1437) was Holy Roman Emperor for 4 years from 1433 until 1437, and the last Emperor of the House of Luxemburg. He was also one of the longest ruling Kings of Hungary and Croatia, reigning for 50 years from 1387 to 1437. Sigismund was one of driving forces behind the Council of Constance that ended the Papal Schism, but which in the end also led to the Hussite Wars that dominated the later period of Sigismund's life.
Born in Prague, Sigismund was the son of the Emperor Charles IV and of his fourth wife Elizabeth of Pomerania, the granddaughter of King Casimir III of Poland. In 1374 he was betrothed to Mary, eldest surviving daughter of king Louis I of Hungary and Poland, who intended Mary to succeed him in the Kingdom of Poland with her future husband as was the custom of the time. Sigismund became Margrave of Brandenburg on his father's death in 1378. Sent to the Hungarian court, Sigismund became thoroughly Magyarized and entirely devoted to his adopted country.
In 1381, the then 13-year-old Sigismund was sent to Kraków by his eldest brother and guardian Wenceslaus, King of the Romans, to learn Polish and to become acquainted with the land and its people. King Wenceslaus also gave him Neumark to facilitate communication between Brandenburg and Poland.
Because of his intrigues, Sigismund was expelled from Poland, which was then given to Mary's younger sister Jadwiga I of Poland, who married Jogaila of Lithuania. When an opposing candidate for the Árpád throne appeared, Sigismund fled, leaving his wife Mary and her mother, Elizabeth of Bosnia at the mercy of conspirators. Years of civil war followed.
In the meantime, Sigismund had arranged his own coronation as king of Hungary on 31 March 1387, and having raised money by pledging Brandenburg to his cousin Jobst, margrave of Moravia (1388), he was engaged for the next nine years in a ceaseless struggle for the possession of this unstable throne. The bulk of the nation headed by the great Garai family was with him; but in the southern provinces between the Save and the Drave, the Horvathys with the support of the Bosnian king Tvrtko I, Mary's maternal uncle, proclaimed as their king Ladislas, king of Naples, son of the murdered Hungarian king, Charles II. Not until 1395 did Nicholas II Garay succeed in suppressing them. On a number of occasions, Sigismund was imprisoned by nobles, but skilfully bribed his way out.
In 1396 Sigismund led the combined armies of Christendom against the Turks, who had taken advantage of the temporary helplessness of Hungary to extend their dominion to the banks of the Danube. This Last Crusade, preached by Pope Boniface IX, was very popular in Hungary. The nobles flocked in thousands to the royal standard, and were reinforced by volunteers from nearly every part of Europe, the most important contingent being that of the French led by John the Fearless, son of Philip II, Duke of Burgundy. Sigismund set out with 90,000 men and a flotilla of 70 galleys. After capturing Vidin, he camped before the fortress of Nicopolis. Sultan Bayezid I raised the siege of Constantinople and, at the head of 140,000 men, completely defeated the Christian forces in the Battle of Nicopolis fought between 25 and 28 September 1396. He returned across the sea and through the realm of Zeta, where he ordained a local Serb lord Đurađ with the islands of Hvar and Korčula for resistance against the Turks, which were returned to Sigismund after his death in April of 1403.
Deprived of his authority in Hungary, Sigismund then turned his attention to securing the succession in Germany and Bohemia, and was recognized by his childless half-brother Wenceslaus IV as Vicar-General of the whole Empire. However, he was unable to support Wenceslaus when he was deposed in 1400 and Rupert III, Elector Palatine, was elected German king in his stead.
During these years he was also involved in domestic difficulties, out of which sprang a second war with Ladislas of Naples; on his return to Hungary in 1401 he was once imprisoned and twice deposed. This struggle in its turn led to a war with the Republic of Venice, as Ladislas had sold the Dalmatian cities to the Venetians for 100,000 ducats before departing to his own land. In 1401 Sigismund assisted a rising against Wenceslaus, during the course of which the Bohemian king was made a prisoner, and Sigismund ruled Bohemia for nineteen months. He released Wenceslas in 1403.
In 1404 he introduced the Placetum Regium. According to this decree, Papal bulls could not be pronounced in Hungary without the consent of the king.
In about 1406 he remarried Mary's cousin Barbara of Celje (Barbara Celjska, nicknamed the "Messalina of Germany"), daughter of Count Hermann II of Celje. Hermann's mother Katarina Kotromanić (of the House ofKotromanic) and Mary's mother Queen Elizabeta (Elisabeth of Bosnia) were sisters, or cousins who were adopted sisters. Tvrtko I was their first cousin and adopted brother, and perhaps even became heir apparent to Queen Mary. Tvrtko may have been murdered in 1391 on Sigismund's order.
Sigismund personally lead an army of almost 50,000 "crusaders" against the Croats and Bosnians, which culminated in 1408 with the Battle of Dobor, and a massacre of about 200 noble families, many of them victors of numerous battles against the Ottomans. He founded his personal order of knighthood, the Order of the Dragon, after this victory. Members of the order were mostly his political allies and supporters.
Ego sum rex Romanus et super grammaticam ("I am king of the Romans and above grammar")
An alliance with England against France, and an attempt to secure peace in Germany by a league of the towns, which failed owing to the hostility of the princes, were his main acts of these years. Also, Sigismund granted control of the Margraviate of Brandenburg (which he had received back after Jobst's death) to Frederick I of Hohenzollern, burgrave of Nuremberg (1415). This step made the Hohenzollern family one of the most important in Germany.
The Bohemians, who distrusted him as the betrayer of Hus, were soon in arms; and the flame was fanned when Sigismund declared his intention of prosecuting the war against heretics. Three campaigns against the Hussites ended in disaster. The Turks were again attacking Hungary. The king, unable to obtain support from the German princes, was powerless in Bohemia. His attempts at the diet of Nuremberg in 1422 to raise a mercenary army were foiled by the resistance of the towns; and in 1424 the electors, among whom was Sigismund's former ally, Frederick I of Hohenzollern, sought to strengthen their own authority at the expense of the king. Although the scheme failed, the danger to Germany from the Hussites led to the Union of Bingen, which virtually deprived Sigismund of the leadership of the war and the headship of Germany.
In 1428 he led another campaign against the Turks, but again with few results. In 1431 he went to Milan where on 25 November he received the Iron Crown; after which he remained for some time at Siena, negotiating for his coronation as emperor and for the recognition of the Council of Basel by Pope Eugenius IV. He was crowned emperor at Rome on 31 May 1433, and after obtaining his demands from the Pope returned to Bohemia, where he was recognized as king in 1436, though his power was little more than nominal.
He died in 19 December 1437 at Znaim (in Czech Znojmo, Moravia (now Czech Republic, and was buried at Nagyvárad, Hungary (in German Grosswardein, in Romanian Oradea, now Romania). By his second wife, Barbara of Celje, he left an only daughter, Elisabeth, who was married to Albert V, duke of Austria (later German king as Albert II) whom Sigismund named as his successor. As he left no sons his line of the house of Luxembourg became extinct on his death.
Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor
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John I of Bohemia
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Henry VII, Holy Roman Emperor
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Margaret of Brabant
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Elisabeth I of Bohemia
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Wenceslaus II of Bohemia
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Judith of Habsburg
Elizabeth of Pomerania
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Elisabeth of Lindau-Ruppin
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Elisabeth of Poland
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Casimir III of Poland
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Aldona of Lithuania