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The Holy Crown of Hungary

The doctrine of the Holy Crown (in Hungarian: Szentkorona-tan) is a complex tradition that underlies Hungary's historical, unwritten constitution. It was on this basis that the idea of the state of Hungary was based, that determined Hungary's peculiar constitutional development from the Middle Ages to World War II, and which yields influence in public thinking on the constitution up to the present.

The Doctrine of the Holy Crown is an alternative approach to constitution as to Indo-European traditions like the British and Commonwealth conception of The Crown. Interestingly the concept is part of the "Christiane Respublica", but is different from it. The constitution was a strong cohesion force for the people of the Carpathian basin.


The basics of the Doctrine

The traditional European approach for maintaining political power is:

  1. The king is the representative of God Almighty, so therefore he is the Sovereign, the unquestionable power. The crown is only representation of the power.
  2. The nation is hierarchically below the king.

The Hungarian approach to political power is different:

  1. The Sovereign is not the king, but the Holy Crown. This is the unquestionable power, as it is the entity connecting heavenly to earthly. The crown is therefore a living entity and sacred, from this point it is the symbol of the permanence of the heavenly transcendent presence.
  2. The nation and the ruler (king) are hierarchically below the crown. Both are on same level in the hierarchy. The nation cannot "rule" the kingdom, so the king is "used" to execise power but only with accordance with the laws of Holy Doctrine, the king is a "substitute" for the nation. The legal entity which is primarily practicing the political power is the nation. The nation is taking the ruler into power, so therefore:
  • The sovereignty belongs to the nation (through the Holy Crown).
  • The nation is sharing a portion of the political power with the ruler.
  • None can reach full power.
  • The right of resistance against illegal/unconstitutional acts/commands.
  • Minority cannot rule over majority (avoiding tyranny and oligarchy).

The political structure set up tends to be less hierarchical and somewhat more egalitarian than constitutions in traditional European kingdoms. The loyalty is expressed first to the Holy Crown, then to the king. This system is providing a theoretical control over the ruler (king).

An other important difference from other feudal political system is the question of ownership. The ownership consists of three parts: right of disposal, right of use, right of possession. The Doctrine clearly states that all rights of disposal in Hungary belongs to the Holy Crown, the "member Sacrea Regnea Coronae" only possess the other two. In other words, the lands, the mineral resources cannot be sold or be mortgaged.


In the first part of the 11th century, the disintegrating tribal structure of society and the establishment of counties necessitated that King Stephen give the free peoples of the Carpathian Basin a guarantee for keeping their privileges and rights and for having a possibility to replace the king. In the spirit of this thought he lifted the Holy Crown above regality. As written in King Stephen's Admonitions to Prince Imre, the Holy Crown symbolizes and is itself

  • the country as a territory (of Carpathian basin),
  • the citizens of the country,
  • the administrative system,
  • the apostolic Christian religion,
  • the person of the sovereign (meaning the crown itself is a living entity),
  • the sovereign's properties and abilities (including all property in Hungary),
  • the judicial institutions,
  • the righteous judicial act,
  • the tolerance for foreigners,
  • the defence of the country and as well as the "received" (or immigrated) peoples living in the country.

In 1000 or 1001 AD, then on 15 August 1038 on the day of Nagyboldogasszony at Székesfehérvár, King Saint Stephen of Hungary offered Hungary to the Blessed Virgin Mary (whose Hungarian name is Nagyboldogasszony, literally meaning "The Great Blessed Woman") in the likeness of the Holy Crown. His aim was to establish a contract between Heaven and Earth which made the Carpathian Basin Virgin Mary's country in such a way that no earthly power be able to render it undone. The doctrine of the Holy Crown is King Stephen's conscious constitutional composition.

First passed on verbally only, the doctrine became refined, more detailed progressively, so it was soon time to text it. The doctrine was first committed to writing by István Werbőczy in his corpus of rights called the Tripartitum, published in Vienna, in 1517. It declares that the body of the Holy Crown is the territory of the country, its members are the citizens of the country. The source of all the power and rights is the Holy Crown, the sovereign acts only in the Crown's name. Besides, in the case of forfeiture of property the estate escheats to the Crown and the king may bestow it again only because the rights of the Holy Crown were assigned to him when he was crowned.

The joined countries (or better, co-countries, társország, meaning they are not higher or lower in any hierarchy): Transylvania, Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia are the lands of the Holy Crown.

Péter Révay, a Crown Guard expounds the doctrine in his works Commentarius De Sacra Regni Hungariae Corona (Explanation of the Holy Crown of the Kingdom of Hungary, published in Augsburg, 1613) and De monarchia et Sacra Corona Regni Hungariae (About the Monarchy and the Holy Crown of Hungary, Frankfurt, 1659), and calls it the law of laws.

In 1848, by the emancipation of serfs each person in the country became a member of the Holy Crown. The serfdom was not only freed, but raised to the level of nobility, so as such all persons became part of the Holy Crown in Hungary. Common people regained their original earlier legal status (according to the Christian state-founder king Saint Stephen's remonstrances, which stated: all people are equal.)

After the defeat suffered at World War I, despite having no king, Hungary kept its constitutional form, the Kingdom. The power was held by Regent Miklós Horthy in the name of the Holy Crown. According to the Doctrine of Holy Crown, it is acceptable to have a "kingdom without a king", as the main ruling power in this political system is not the king, but the crown itself.

The doctrine is in conflict with the current Constitution of the Republic of Hungary, which states that "Hungary is a Republic" and that "[i]n the Republic of Hungary all power belongs to the people."[1]

The Doctrine in detail

1. His Majesty the Holy Crown is a person (living entity). The Holy Crown embodies the state of Hungary.

As a legal entity, the Holy Crown is identical to the state of Hungary in a legal sense, the physical incarnation of the state which is an abstract, incomprehensible idea. Saint Stephen offered his country to Virgin Mary in the likeness of the Holy Crown.

2. The body of the Holy Crown is the body of the country, that is, the land of the country.

Assigning the land or generally the natural resources to the Holy Crown is the guarantee that the communal resources are owned by the whole of the community. No estate could be abalienated, if a noble family died out without an heir, the estate escheated to the Crown.
The body of the Holy Crown is the whole Carpathian Basin, namely Hungary and the joined or (co-)countries: Transylvania, Croatia, Dalmatia and Slavonia.

3. The members of the Holy Crown are the citizens of the Crown's lands.

It concerns the Hungarian people and also the other peoples living in the country who are particularly defended by the doctrine. Thus, the Holy Crown is the politically organized people, namely the nation. And because the Holy Crown is the principal supremacy, it corresponds to the principle of sovereignty of the people, conceived by Rousseau in the 18th century.

4. The Holy Crown is the source of all the power and rights, the highest majesty.

Whereas the Holy Crown is the principal supremacy, the doctrine doesn't acknowledge any person superior to the Crown. Hereby the members of the Holy Crown, the citizens are equal, none of them can dominate the others, so the doctrine excludes every form of dictatorship in advance. The right of resistance makes it possible that the members of the Holy Crown take steps against absolutism exceeding constitutionality.

5. The Holy Crown is superior to the sovereign, the sovereign rules in the name of the Crown.

Whereas the Holy Crown is the principal supremacy, the sovereign cannot be superior to it, his power arises from the Crown. So the doctrine of the Holy Crown is an ancient idea based upon a democratic ground, which – ahead of his age – assured the equality of the people, obliged the supremacy to keep the constitution, made the supremacy electable and replaceable, assured the protection of minorities, the respect for foreigners, defended the independence of the country and gave the state a legal personality.

Comparison to the British Crown

Like the British Crown, the doctrine of the Holy Crown holds that the symbol (the Crown) is a separate legal entity from the person wearing it, and that it is the ultimate source of authority for the government.

See also


  • Varga, Tibor (2006) (in Hungarian). A Szent Korona misztériuma. Solymár: Rovás.  
  • Tóth, Zoltán József (in Hungarian). Megmaradásunk alkotmánya. Hun-Idea.  
  • Kocsis, István (in Hungarian). Magyarország Szent Koronája. Püski.  
  1. ^ The Constitution of the Republic of Hungary (English translation)

External links

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