Ulrich II of Celje

Ulrich II, or Ulrich of Celje (Slovene: Ulrik Celjski, Hungarian: Cillei Ulrik, German: Ulrich II von Cilli; 1406 – 9 November 1456), was the last Princely Count of Celje.

Life

Ulrich II.[1] was the son of Count Frederick II of Celje and his wife Elizabeth, a scion of the Croatian House of Frankopan. Little is known of his youth. In about 1432 he married Catherine, daughter of Đurađ Branković, despot of Serbia.

His influence in the affairs of the Kingdom of Hungary and the Holy Roman Empire soon overshadowed that of his father, with whom he was raised to a Prince of the Empire by Emperor Sigismund of Luxembourg in 1436. This led to feuds with the Austrian House of Habsburg, wounded in their rights as Styrian overlords of Celje, ending, however, in an alliance with the Habsburg King Albert II of Germany, who made Ulrich his lieutenant in Bohemia for a short while. Upon King Albert's death in 1439, Ulrich took up the cause of his widow Elizabeth of Luxembourg, and presided at the coronation of her infant son Ladislaus the Posthumous with the Holy Crown of Hungary in 1440.

A feud with the Hungarian Hunyadi family followed, embittered by John Hunyadi's failed attack on the forces of the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Varna in 1444 - while Ulrich remained idle - and Hunyadi's refusal to recognize Ulrich's claim to Bosnia on the death of King Tvrtko II (1443). In 1446 Hunyadi, now regent of Hungary, harried the Celje territories in Croatia-Slavonia; however his power was broken at the Second Battle of Kosovo in 1448, and Count Ulrich was able to lead a successful crusade, nominally in the Habsburg interest, into Hungary (1450).

In 1452 he forced Emperor Frederick III of Habsburg to hand over the boy king Ladislaus to his keeping, practically making him ruler of Hungary. In 1454 his power was increased by his succession to his father's vast wealth; and after the death of John Hunyadi at the Siege of Belgrade in 1456, he was named Captain General of Hungary by Ladislaus, an office previously held by his rival.

Ulrich's triumph did not last: On the 8th of November, he entered the fortress of Belgrade with King Ladislaus; the next day he was killed by agents of John Hunyadi's son László in unknown circumstances. With him died the male line of the Counts of Celje.[2] His estates were claimed by his son-in-law Matthias Corvinus of Hungary - the younger brother of László Hunyadi - as well as Count John of Gorizia, and Emperor Frederick III of Habsburg, who outlived his rivals.

Ulrich's high ambitions were criticized by Aeneas Sylvius (the later Pope Pius II), although his writings were politically minded.

Marriage and children

On 20 April 1434, Ulrich married Catherine Cantakuzina. She was a daughter of Đurađ Branković and Eirene Kantakouzene. They had three children:[3]

  • Herman of Celje (1436 – 1452).
  • Georg of Celje (c. 1438/9 – 1445).
  • Elizabeth of Celje (1441 – 1455), first wife of Matthias Corvinus of Hungary.

References

Attribution
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