Author: Miklós Bethlen,Bernard Adams
Category: Biography & Autobiography
The Bethlen family was an ancient noble house of considerable wealth and influence in Transylvania. The earliest recorded member of the family is one who died while studying in Paris in 1184; such was the family's status even then that the king of Hungary was personally notified of the sad event. Over the years the Bethlens provided many a distinguished man to public life - Count Istvan, Prime Minister of Hungary 1921-31, was the last Bethlen to hold high office - among them Privy Councillors, Chief Justices, Foispans, military commanders and Chancellors of Transylvania. Their most famous member, Gabor Bethlen (1580-1629), ruled as Prince of Transylvania from 1613 and was elected King of Hungary in 1620, although he was never crowned. The writer of this autobiography, Count Miklos (born 1642), was a general in 1682, Privy Councillor in 1689, Foispan in 1690 and Chancellor in 1691, after an excellent education (including travel and study in western Europe) and a distinguished career in public life. He then clashed with General Rabutin, from 1696 the Austrian Commander in Chief in Transylvania, which led to his arrest and imprisonment on a charge of treason in 1703. His autobiography, one of the most extensive of the literary memoirs that came from Transylvania at this period (among them the Letters from Turkey of Kelemen Mikes and Metamorphosis Transylvaniae of Peter Apor, both published by Kegan Paul in Bernard Adams's English translation), was written in prison and under sentence of death in Hungary and Austria. Transferred to Viennese confinement in 1708 and pardoned by Emperor Charles III in 1712, Bethlen was never allowed to return to Transylvania, spent his last years in relative freedom in Vienna, and died in 1716.