The Golden Age of the Nádasdy Family
The star of the Nádasdys, who had played an outstanding political and public role for centuries, shone brightest throughout the 16th and 17th centuries. The prestige and wealth of the family was founded by Baron Tamás I Nádasdy (1498–1562), who rose to the ranks of national dignitaries owing to his excellent network of contacts and talent. At the height of his career, from 1554 to 1562, he was the first banneret of the country to hold the dignity of palatine. The foundation of the family’s economic power can also be linked to his name – and to his marriage to Orsolya Kanizsai through which he acquired a huge estate as well. The Nádasdy family used to be one of the most important noble families in Hungary; in 1541 it won the title of Fogaras Castle and the heir count of Fogarasföld. His son, Ferenc (1555–1604), was also among the most prestigious magnates; he achieved the greatest success in the battles fought against the Turks. Pál (1597–1633), born of the marriage of the “Black Knight of Hungary” and Countess Erzsébet Báthory, quickly gained high positions owing to his prestigious family background. Of these, the Transdanubian district headquarters was the most significant. Pál’s son, also called Ferenc (III) (1623–1671), was best known for his role in the Wesselényi Conspiracy and his execution after the revelation of the organisation, even though by 1671 he had already achieved a brilliant career envied by many: he was lord chief justice from 1655, from 1662 a member of the secret advisory body – the Secret Council – of the Habsburg Monarchy, and from 1667 also held the office of royal governor.
The courts of family members, from Tamás to the executed lord chief justice, also functioned as outstanding cultural centres of their time. It is enough to mention that palatine Tamás founded a school and a printing house in Sárvár, where in 1541 the New Testament, translated by the famous humanist János Sylvester, the first book to be published in Hungarian in Hungary, was issued. With the Mausoleum published in 1664, lord chief justice Ferenc wished to draw attention to the glorious princes and kings of Hungary, and in his courts in Pottendorf and Sárvár he created one of the most important libraries, as well as applied and fine art collections of the period, in terms of the Habsburg Empire. While there are only a few pieces of artefacts left in the collections, the memories of the Sárvár, Sopronkeresztúr (Deutschkreutz), Léka (Lockenhaus), Egervár and other constructions carried out by the Nádasdys, can fortunately still be admired today.
The Revival of the Nádasdys
The children of the lord chief justice, sentenced to loss of head and property, regained some of their property under pressure of the Parliament of Sopron in 1681, after which they could embark on a bumpy road to regaining the family’s prestige and property. Descendants have entered political, clerical, military, and ecclesiastical careers typical among aulic aristocrats. Although they no longer gained national leadership in the history of our country, and the size of their prestigious estates did not reach that of the territories of their ancestors, many still enjoyed successful careers, and rose to be among the members of the military, ecclesiastical and political elites.
It is necessary to stress the importance of Ferenc (? –1723), the successful soldier, from among the sons of the lord chief justice. Nádasdy took part in the recapture of Buda in 1686, fought on the Habsburg side throughout the Rákóczi War of Independence, and then, owing to his deeds in the War of the Spanish Succession, rose to the rank of general. His name is associated with the acquisition of the estates in Lepsény, Bakonynána, Pere, Dudar, and Keszi among others. Thanks to the inheritance of his wife, Katalin Széchy, he became the first Nádasdy owner of Felsőlendva (Grad), which had functioned as an estate centre of the family for about a century and a half. The name Nádasdy, which was always a well-sounding name in the country, became known throughout Europe again also through his son, Ferenc (1708–1783). Count Nádasdy received his appointment as Field Marshal from Maria Theresa, and she was the one also who donated to him a hussar regiment, which from 1741 was called the Nádasdy Hussar Regiment. For his services in the wars against the Prussians, he was first appointed lieutenant general, receiving the highest Austrian military honour, the Order of Maria Theresa, and finally general. Count Ferenc was also Croatian Ban and Lord Lieutenant of Fejér County.
The common ancestor of the Nádasdys living today is the elder brother of General Ferenc, Flórián Lipót (c. 1700 – 1758). The wealth collected by soldiers, officials and ecclesiastical dignitaries, which had been inherited through two branches until then, was united in the hands of Lipót (1802–1873), his great-grandson, who purchased Agárdpuszta and Sár-Ladány situated in Fejér County, in the middle of the 19th century. The heir and real lord lieutenant of Komárom county thus – along with the aid of his wife’s inheritance – rose to become one of the significantly wealthy landowners of the country.
The Nádasdys of Nádasdladány
The land-seizing Lipót Nádasdy (1802–1873) emphasized the inherited title of heir lord lieutenant of Komárom county from 1837, with his actual lord lieutenant activity. Following his political views formed during the reform era, he did not relinquish his post during the Hungarian War of Independence, when he stood out by organising the First Battle of Komárom. He was imprisoned for his actions between 1849-50.
After his release, he turned his attention to his estates, and after having sold the family’s central estate in Felsőlendva (Grad), Vas County, he moved his headquarters to Fejér County. He carried out exemplary farming in the newly acquired Agárdpuszta and Sárladány (Nádasd-Ladány from 1859), and eventually settled in the latter. He rejoined political life at the National Assembly convened in 1865, and was an active participant in the work of the House of Magnates in preparing the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867.
He and his wife, Countess Júlia Forray (1812–1863), as well-known patrons of their time, supported members of the literary life, and also commissioned such prominent artists as Miklós Barabás, Soma Orlai Petrics and Mór Than. They expanded the family’s art collection with works by famous Hungarian masters. They opened their palace in Pest to artists in the 1840s. Nádasdy became a board member of the Pest Art Association, which organised annual exhibitions, and promoted the importance of the social support and the dissemination of art.
Their son, the mansion-builder Ferenc (1842–1907), forever marked his name in the history of Hungarian sports by leading the National Hungarian Hunting Association satisfactorily for decades, organising excellent hunts on his estates in Fejér, Veszprém and Arad counties, and on lands belonging to the Budapesti Falkatársaság, by setting up and maintaining his hunting grounds in an exemplary manner, furthermore, not sparing any energy, by chasing the game beyond our borders in more challenging terrains than at home. His leading role in the establishment of sailing at Lake Balaton and in the launch of yacht production, as well as his great racing horses, also contributed to his recognition as a sportsman.