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Michael the Brave

Michael the Brave, d. 1601, prince of Walachia (1593–1601), of Transylvania (1599–1600), and of Moldavia (1600). Michael was one of Romania's greatest medieval rulers, as well as a celebrated military commander. Having been obliged to pay a large sum to the Ottoman emperor for his appointment as prince of Walachia, he did away with his Ottoman creditors, who had advanced him the money, by summoning them to his palace and then having them massacred. This act was imitated throughout Walachia and became known as the Walachian Vespers. Michael repeatedly routed an Ottoman retaliatory army with the help of Sigismund Báthory, prince of Transylvania, and mercenaries; Michael's subjects were oppressively taxed to pay for the victory. In 1596 the sultan made peace, leaving Walachia virtually independent. Michael now turned to the conquest of Transylvania, which he accomplished after defeating (1599) Andrew Cardinal Báthory, to whom Sigismund had given up his throne. Initially, Michael had the support of Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II and he was able to unite all Romanians under his sole rule. However, Rudolf II soon came to suspect Michael's increased power, and when Transylvanian nobles provoked a rebellion against Michael, the imperial army in Hungary under Gen. George Basta came to their aid. Defeated, Michael fled and presented himself at the imperial court in Vienna, where he was pardoned and reinstated as governor of Transylvania. Returning, he defeated Sigismund Báthory, who had renewed his claim to the principality, but Michael was shortly afterward assassinated on the order of General Basta. After his death Walachia and Moldavia reverted to Ottoman control, while Transylvania came under Austrian domination; the union of the three areas became a national ideal in succeeding generations, and Michael himself a national hero.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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