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12,000 prisoners were beheaded and their heads presented to the Sultan

The bon mot was rightly found for the dynastic politics of the Habsburg Maximilian I: “May others wage wars, you, happy Austria, marry.

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12,000 prisoners were beheaded and their heads presented to the Sultan

The bon mot was rightly found for the dynastic politics of the Habsburg Maximilian I: “May others wage wars, you, happy Austria, marry.” In this sense, the emperor had married his son and daughter to the heirs to the thrones of Castile and Aragon in 1495/96 , which, thanks to unexpected deaths a few years later, gave his grandson Charles (V) an empire on which the sun never set. Following this example, Maximilian launched another marriage project in 1515: the double marriage of grandson and granddaughter with the possible heirs to the crowns of Hungary and Bohemia.

This opened up a door for Maximilian in the politics of Austria's neighboring countries, which he had been denied when the Hungarian king was elected. Because the Habsburgs were simply too powerful for the magnates of Hungary. One of them bluntly formulated the demands the grandees made of their ruler: “A king whose braids we can hold in our fists”.

So they came to the right place with Ludwig II (1506–1526). The son of the Jagiellonian Vladislav II, who had acquired the Bohemian royal crown in 1471 and the Hungarian royal crown in 1490, succeeded his father in 1516. After all, that was a point victory for Maximilian, as his granddaughter Maria rose to become queen. Since both monarchs were only ten and eleven years old, respectively, a noble regency council ran the business. Above all, he thought of himself by reducing or completely abolishing the duties towards the crown, such as making levies.

While Hungary's nobility indulged in their usual quarrels and the country was also shaken by a peasant revolt, the kingdom's foreign policy situation darkened due to a change of rulers in the Ottoman Empire. There, in 1520, Süleyman had inherited a world empire from his father Selim I that included large parts of the Levant. The son was driven by the ambition to surpass his father's conquests if possible. His long-term goal was the imperial city of Vienna. The way there led through Hungary.

As early as 1521, an Ottoman embassy made representations to the Hungarian capital of Buda (today's Budapest). When their demand for tribute payments was denied, an Ottoman army advanced to the Danube and conquered Belgrade. Süleyman then turned against the Hospitallers on Rhodes, so that Ludwig II, who had now come of age, lacked the threatening backdrop to bring his magnates to joint defense efforts.

Even when it became known in 1526 that Süleyman was preparing for a new campaign, Hungary gave the impression of a "kingdom in anarchic confusion", as Nicolae Jorga put it in his great "History of the Ottoman Empire". At the Reichstag, there were arguments about promotions, the queen's entourage or the misuse of the imperial income in a way that prompted a foreign diplomat to remark "that the pope, if the sultan wanted to attack this kingdom at all, would also confidently attack Hungary may be counted among already lost Christian lands".

After Jorga, however, Ludwig continued the life to which he had become accustomed, “slept until midday and opened the Reichsrat around midday, as if he did not suspect the danger that he avoided speaking of either”. Even when the Turks began to cross the Danube in early July, Louis could not bring himself to intensify the defensive effort. Only at the end of the month did he start collecting troops.

That was few enough. Because many magnates were not willing to provide mounted fighters or peasant foot soldiers. Barely 20,000 men finally assembled, half of them inexperienced peasants. It was not until mid-August that this troop, which had meanwhile been strengthened, "set out (under a king) whom everyone served as badly as possible, in order to shift the entire responsibility for the critical situation to him," writes Jorga. Camp was set up in the middle of swamps near the village of Mohács, east of Pécs.

By the 28th, Süleyman and about 70,000 soldiers had taken up positions not far from there. The Ottoman could not only rely on the discipline of his janissary guard and the power of his sipahi cavalry, but he also had a branch of weapon up his sleeve with which his father Selim I had achieved his great successes in the Orient: mobile field artillery. This pulled up covertly in a depression.

Ludwig and his high-ranking leaders rejected the suggestion of paying tribute to avoid the unpredictability of a battle. Instead, the Hungarians relied entirely on the power of their heavily armored cavalry. Instead of making inquiries about the enemy's position (which might have spotted the gun positions), a mock attack by Suleyman on August 29 was enough to provoke the Hungarians to attack. The Sipahis retreated in an orderly fashion, putting the Hungarians in front of the Turkish guns. They once again confirmed the term "gunpowder empire" that was coined for the Ottoman Empire.

The Hungarian army was completely wiped out. 12,000 prisoners were beheaded by the Turks and their heads presented to the Sultan on his golden throne. Ludwig II was among those who fled and died in the swamps and watercourses. He drowned miserably in a tributary of the Danube. His body was not discovered until weeks later.

Like the Battle of Blackbird in 1389 for the Serbs, Móhacs became a central place of remembrance for Hungary and the nation-building of its people. Politically, the country remained divided into three for the next 150 years. The central area was occupied by Ottoman troops. Transylvania and neighboring countries became vassals of the sultan. However, the Habsburgs were finally able to enforce their right of inheritance for the peripheral areas in the west. Suleyman's attack failed in 1529 before Vienna.

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