My Connection to King Matthias I (Mátyás Király)
Charles Bálintitt Jr.
He was from Transylvania (as were most of my ancestors), the place in this world that may be the closest to my heart. He was born 550 years ago in the same city where my father was born a little over 106 years ago, namely Kolozsvár (Cluj, Romania today).
Mátyás was named King of Hungary when he was not yet 15 years old. His uncle, Szilágyi Miklós, was his regent for the first year and a half until Mátyás took full control.
I always admired the stories of how King Mátyás would disguise himself and go among the people to find out what was really going on in his country and to get a sense of the true feelings of ordinary people. This was one of the reasons why he was referred to as “Matthias the Just” – even though he imposed very high taxes on the peasants. In fact, a few years after his death, many of them said that they would be willing to pay even more, if they could have him back as their king.
I remember visiting his statue in front of St. Michael’s Church in Kolozsvár. I also remember something else that my cousin, Kati, had said while I was visiting with her in Budapest. Erdei Kati is a German teacher and a tour guide in Hungary, as was her grandmother till past the age of 90. A number of years ago, I went along with her for part of one of her tours in Budapest. While standing in front of a statue and giving some details about the life of Mátyás I, she just happened to mention that “This was the last king in our family.” Of course, this made me a bit curious; but since we were a little rushed at the time, I didn’t have the chance to ask her to elaborate.
Recently I started thinking about this subject again. I know that King Mátyás didn’t have any legitimate children, so I figured that we were not his direct descendants. Then I took a closer look to see what I could find out about his parents. His father was Hunyadi János, Voivode of Transylvania, and his mother was Szilágyi Erzsébet. Her father was Count Szilágyi László, Captain of the fortress of Bradics, and her mother was Bellyéni Katalin. They had 5 other children, including Zsófia who married Geréb János (in some places I have also seen the name as Geréb Péter). János, the vice-Voivode of Transylvania, and his wife had 5 sons. Among them were Péter, who served for a time as the Palatine of the Kingdom of Hungary, which was the highest ranking office after the king; Mátyás, who was the Bán of Croatia and Slavonia; and László, who was the Archbishop of Kalocsa. So the Geréb brothers were all the first cousins of King Mátyás.
My grandmother, my mother’s mother, was Geréb Margit. Her sister was Kati’s grandmother, which is how we are second cousins. This is our mutual connection to King Mátyás, but I would need to do a lot more research to trace the direct lineage from my grandmother to his first cousins. I may need to begin with another conversation with Kati’s mother, who recently mentioned to me about King Mátyás having a Geréb uncle.
Grandma Zsuzsi (káposztásszentmiklósi Nagy Tiborné, Vicenty Zsuzsa), as she is known to the family, interrupted the writing of her 2,000 page plus family cookbook (believe me she can cook better than anyone I know!), a few years ago in order to start writing a family history and her own memoir for her children and grandchildren. This project is well under way, as I have already received the first volume with 575 pages from my cousin Tibor Jr. Even though her late husband Tibor was the one on the Geréb side of the family, I think she may be able to shed some more light on the Geréb family tree as well.
Hopefully, I’ll have another chance to visit her in Budapest in the not too distant future. Just the other day she told me to come with my wife, Lily, while she still has a home where she can put us up and cook for us. After all, she will only be turning 94 in July!
Charles Bálintitt Jr. is a working Customs Broker in Lawrence, NY and a member of the Magyar News Online Editorial Board.