The King was assembling a considerable army with a view of fighting one great battle for his crown; but passing from Lynne to Lincolnshire, his road lay along the sea-shore, which was overflowed at high water; and not choosing the proper time for his journey, he lost in the inundation all his carriages, treasure, baggage, and regalia. The affliction of this disaster, and vexation from the distracted state of his affairs, increased the sickness under which he then labored; and though he reached the castle of Newark, he was obliged to halt there, and his distemper soon after put an end to his life, in the forty-ninth year of his age and eighteenth of his reign, and freed the nation from the dangers to which it was equally exposed by his success or by his misfortunes.
During the century preceding the reign of Andrew II, King of Hungary, which began in 1205, that country had been engaged in frequent wars with Venice over the possession of Dalmatia, but no event of recent years had given much importance to Hungarian history. The reign of Andrew began in a time of great confusion in state and church, when the crusading spirit was still a power which both religious and secular rulers found it convenient to turn to the advancement of their own designs.
When Andrew deserted the cause of the crusaders in Palestine, after an unsuccessful attack upon a tower on Mount Tabor, he was doubtless piqued at the failure of the King of Jerusalem to render him any support in ordering his affairs at home, where, under his viceroy, the virtual absolutism of the government had become endangered. Out of the conditions which confronted him on his arrival in Hungary came the memorable event—forming one of the great chapters in his country’s annals—faithfully and succinctly recounted in the following pages.
The reign of Andrew II, in Hungary, forms one of the most important epochs in the history of the country over which he reigned, since from him the nobles obtained their Golden Bull (Bulla Aurea), equivalent to the Magna Charta of England. The people of Hungary had, indeed, by their own determination and spirit of independence, and by the wisdom and virtue of the first kings of the race of Arpad, secured in their constitution the foundation of their liberties; but the power of the sovereign had in the mean time increased, so as to surpass those limits within which alone the office can be conducive to the happiness and welfare of the community. The ceremony of coronation was considered, indeed, a necessary condition for the exercise of the royal authority; but though this in some measure acted as a check upon his inordinate power, still all offices and dignities were in the gift of the King, few, if any, being hereditary, and even the magnates could not prevent the monarch giving away any part of his dominions.