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A new element of the royal extraordinary revenues

It is not entirely clear when Louis resorted to the fundraising method of pledging for the first time. What can be stated with greater certainty is that putting royal possessions in pledge was more characteristic of the last two decades of his rule than the early phases. Presumably, Altenburg (Ovar) Castle of Moson County was one of the earlier examples of his pledging. The only piece of evidence attesting that Altenburg was given in pledge is in fact about its redemption. In 1364, Eglolf Wolfurt informed the king about the redemption of the castle from his brother Conrad. The text does not provide any further details on when and under what conditions the deal between Conrad and Louis was struck. Moreover, the situation is further complicated by the fact that Altenburg was in the Wolfurt family’s possession as part of their office already from 1350. Even Conrad himself is mentioned in 1357 as comes of Altenburg, supposedly around that time he became the pledge holder for it (DL 5313; Sopron vm., p. 354).

This was not the only transaction that Louis concluded with the Wolfurts. Kittsee (Kbpcseny), another castle in Moson County, was similarly pledged to the family. We know about the transaction because, in 1363, Stephen, the bishop of Zagreb and vicar of Slavonia, promised in his and in some of his relatives’ names that by February 1364, they would manage to issue a charter with the royal grand seal. The document would contain that Eglolf Wolfurt and his brother Rudolph took in pledge the castle Kittsee from the king at a value of 6,000 florins. Also, in the case that the charter could not be issued by the deadline, Bishop Stephen and his relatives themselves would have to pay back the 6,000 florins to the Wolfurts. Finally, if the bishop and his relatives would not prove able to get the charter issued nor pay the money back then they would have to provide a recompense from their own domains (DL 5256; HO, 410). It was uncommon that certain persons stood as guarantors behind the pledgings of kings, but it was not completely unparalleled either. From the many transactions of King Sigismund, there is one with a resemblance to this. In that case, a royal familiaris guaranteed similarly with his own possessions that before a given deadline the creditors of the king would receive royal domains for the money they lent (CD X/6, p. 842; ZsO XIII, 1429). Furthermore, it was he to whom the credit was handed over. It remains unclear whether Bishop Stephen was similarly more deeply involved in the deal concluded between the Wolfurts and the king, or if his role was restricted simply to the issuing of the charter. The reason behind Louis not being able to use the great seal when the charter of the pledging was issued is that he simply did not have it. That year (1363), he personally led a military expedition to Bosnia and during the siege of a castle, the great seal was allegedly stolen (or lost) from the archbishop of Esztergom’s tent. In order to prevent the stolen seal being used for falsification and forgeries, a new grand seal was produced, and all documents on which the stolen seal was hanging had to be resealed with the new (Csukovits 2019, p. 78. AOklt XLVII. 659).

The Wolfurts, the pledge holders of the two royal castles, were a knightly kindred from the Vorarlberg region that King Louis came to know from his Italian military expeditions. Ulrich Wolfurt, the brother of Eglolf, Rudolph and Conrad, had a prominent role in Louis’ campaigns to Naples, as he was the Hungarian king’s most highly favored mercenary captain. It shows how much trust Louis placed in him that after the first campaign to Naples, the king left the city with Ulrich in charge acting as a governor (Veszpremy 2008, p. 166). After the Neapolitan Wars were over, the brothers moved to Hungary where they received offices from the king (Engel 1996, pp. 155-6, 179, 226). It was suggested that even Altenburg Castle was pledged to them as a recompense for Ulrich’s military accomplishments (Csukovits 2019, p. 43). Most probably, the pledging was concluded several years after the Neapolitan campaigns finished; there is information preserved only on

Conrad being the castle’s pledge holder, no such information existing for Ulrich. Still, since Louis donated royal domains years after his troops left the Italian Peninsula - for the grantees’ ‘Apulian merits’ - the possibility cannot be completely ruled out (Csukovits 2019, p. 50).

It was more than mere coincidence that the Wolfurts - who provided military service to Louis - became pledge holders of royal property. Waging war was a central element of Louis’ four-decade reign in the Kingdom of Hungary. The bellicose ruler organized military campaigns almost in every direction (to Naples, Venice, Lithuania, Serbia, etc.), and he himself took part in a minimum of sixteen of these. Only from the second part of the 1370s, his appetite for war began to diminish and in 1377, he led a military campaign abroad for last time (Csukovits 2019, p. 106; Kubinyi 1982, p. 31). The almost regular wars must have caused difficult periods for the treasury; especially the Italian Wars could be proven very costly as mercenaries like the Wolfurts were hired in large numbers for these campaigns (Veszpremy 2008, p. 171). Due to the mounting expenditures, Louis had no choice but to raise loans, sometimes in the middle of a military expedition (for example, see the study of Boglarka Weisz in the present volume). By that time, it was already a common practice for members of the royal court, and members of the high clergy, to secure the loans they contracted by pledges of lands (DL 3924, AOklt XXXI, 929; DL 94077; DL 37556; DL 87228; Lederer 1932,44). It was only a matter of time until the king himself would also resort to this fundraising method. War-related expenses burdening the treasury’s resources most heavily, it is presumable that Louis’ pledges aimed to cover these directly or indirectly. However, it must be emphasized that the field of military expenditures was not the only one with which the money of the pledges was associated.

Only fragmentary evidence is left regarding Louis’ two financial deals struck with the Wolfurts. His first known pledging for which a charter has come down to us with full details of the transaction is from 1372 and concerns the castle of Sirok. The wording of the charter is not ordinary as it completely lacks the terms commonly used to denote pledging (obligare, impignorare). Based on its wording, it is no wonder that for a long time this transaction was regarded as the very first royal castle pledging in the Kingdom of Hungary (Fiigedi 1986, p. 114). In this case the castellan of the very same castle (Sirok) became the pledge holder of it for 2000 florins lent to the king and which the ruler needed for the refurbishment of that castle (DL 6047, 6049). Another instance reveals a different field of outlays with which Louis’ pledging was associated. Just two months before he died, he gave in pledge a number of settlements in Pozsony County to Temlin Szentgyorgyi, for an earlier loan and for the expenses of diplomatic assignments. According to the document, Szentgyorgyi and another envoy travelled twice to Bavaria on Louis’ order and the journeys’ expenses were covered by Szentgybrgyi himself. With the pledging, Louis intended to clear away his debt from the loan and the diplomatic journeys (DL 6939).

The sample-pool of Louis’ pledges is not large enough to perform a painstaking comparison with his successor’s pledging practice but, nonetheless, certain patterns are vaguely traceable. It was King Louis who laid down the foundations of royal pledging in Hungary and it was he who chose the more advantageous form of pledging for the royal possession - a practice that later became widely used by the future kings of Hungary. This form lacked a deadline for redeeming the pledge; in this case the ruler did not risk losing the property due to not being able to meet the deadline. The elaboration or precise description of the need for pledging was often bypassed by some of the Hungarian king’s charters of pledging, in a way that the justification was phrased too vaguely in many cases (DL 7519, 33412, 13189). This practice also had its beginnings in King Louis’ reign. The already mentioned 10,000 florins loan raised from the pledging of Stenicnjak was allegedly needed by Louis for his own advantage, without anything more specific being revealed about why it was necessary (Frangepan I, pp. 89-91).

Certain decisions of Louis regarding how and for what he used pledging (refurbishing royal castles, covering services of his adherents) proved to be a desirable model for the successors to his throne. Moreover, even his choice of pledge holder turned out to be influential since he began to undertake transactions of pledge (Stenicnjak) with the prominent Croatian family, the Frankopan, which later became the most important pledge holder of his heir to the throne (Incze 2018, p. 168).

Finally, it is not known precisely how many transactions of pledge King Louis made. Nonetheless, it seems almost certain that he was among the Hungarian kings with the fewest pledgings. The number of pledged royal castles can serve as a good indicator of this. The four castles known at this point as being put in pledge by Louis seems like a negligible number compared to the more than 80 pledged castles of King Sigismund. Also, King Matthias I (1458-1490) and Wladislas II (1490-1516) had considerably more castle pledges than Louis (Incze 2018, p. 82; DL, 15508, 30860, 16156, 88716, 103835, 88828; Fogel 1913, 14-15). This can be explained by Louis father’s cautious alienation policy, one that which Louis would also follow. As a result, only 18 castles were transferred into private hands during his whole reign (Fiigedi 1986, pp. 113-14).

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