Rákóczy räˈkôtsĭ [key], noble Hungarian family that played an important role in the history of Transylvania and Hungary in the 17th and 18th cent. Sigismund Rákóczy, 1544–1608, was elected (1607) prince of Transylvania to succeed Stephen Bocskay. His son, George I Rákóczy, 1591–1648, was elected prince of Transylvania in 1630. He continued the anti-Hapsburg policy of his predecessors, Gabriel Báthory and Gabriel Bethlen, and like them he relied on alliances with the Protestant powers. In 1644 he declared war on Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand III and overran Hungary. Peace was made (1645) at Linz, and the emperor granted religious freedom to the Hungarians and ceded territory to Rákóczy. George I's son, George II Rákóczy, 1621–60, succeeded his father on the throne of Transylvania but was deposed (1657) as a result of his unsuccessful invasion of Poland. He was mortally wounded when the Ottomans invaded Transylvania. He married Sophia, a niece of Gabriel Báthory. Their son, Francis I Rákóczy, 1645–76, was designated George's successor by the diet of Transylvania in 1652. However, he was never recognized. Having married a daughter of Peter Zrinyi, governor of Croatia, he entered with Zrinyi into an unsuccessful conspiracy against Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I. Francis II Rákóczy, 1676–1735, son of Francis I and of Helen Zrinyi, became the leader of the rebellion of the Hungarians against Hapsburg oppression. The outbreak (1701) of the War of the Spanish Succession was followed by an uprising (1703) of the Hungarian peasants, particularly the Calvinists. Rákóczy, at the head of the movement, soon controlled most of Hungary and in 1704 was elected “ruling prince” by the diet. He secured the support of King Louis XIV of France, who sent subsidies and troops. At the Diet of Onod (1707) the Hungarian nobles proclaimed the Hapsburg dynasty deposed in Hungary and set up an aristocratic republic. Rákóczy, however, suffered severe defeats in 1708 and 1710, and in 1711 the Hungarians and Austrians negotiated peace at Szatmar. The Hungarians were promised an amnesty and the restoration of religious and constitutional freedom. Rákóczy, who refused to accept the treaty, fled to Poland, then to France, and eventually to the Ottoman Empire. He died in exile there, but his remains were brought back to Hungary in 1906. He left an autobiography. Francis II Rákóczy is a major national hero of Hungary. The stirring “Rákóczy March,” named in his honor, was composed (1809) by John Bihari. It was used by Berlioz in his Damnation de Faust and by Liszt in the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 15. Playing the march was long forbidden in Hungary, where the tune was used as a national air by the independence movement.

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