The Dragon Order – the second secular order of Hungary

The Dragon Order - the second secular order of Hungary. National Archives of Hungary, MNL OL DL 40483
The Dragon Order – the second secular order of Hungary. National Archives of Hungary, MNL OL DL 40483

Behind the official goals of the Order founded by the future Holy Roman Emperor, Sigismund of Luxembourg, who soon won international importance, were actually different aims: mainly, to support the later succession of the throne.

King Sigismund of Luxembourg and Queen Borbála Cillei founded the Order on the occasion of the victory over Bosnia, with the sign of a dragon. The badge of the Order shows a wounded dragon coiling into a circle and wrapping its tail around its neck while a red cross can be seen on his back. The name of the Order refers to one of the most popular medieval legends, namely St George’s struggle with the dragon. On the badge the animal’s big “bloodless slit” on its back hints at the defeat of the dragon, while the red cross refers to the triumph of the religion/faith.

On its foundation, the Order had 22 members – in addition to the King and the Queen – all of the monarch’s most faithful supporters who were in alliance with each other.

The goal of the religious-inspired but secular Order was to protect the Christian faith and the Hungarian kingdom against the pagans and the dissenters. The Order of the Dragon supported the royal power and also suppressed internal dissension. However, among their primary goals, other implied intentions were hidden. The members swore allegiance to the royal couple’s unborn, to both possible sexes of the offspring, so the text can be interpreted as a guarantee of the distaff succession of the throne. In addition to the detailed “sacred goals”, the Order put a great emphasis on realising the future Holy Roman Emperor’s political ambitions.

The knighthood was also a good opportunity for Sigismund to strengthen relations between the Hungarian kingdom and the southern buffer states who were struggling against the Ottoman Empire. This is evidenced by the invitation to the Serbian despot, the Bosnian Voivod, as well as the Wallachian Voivod, to become members of the Order. The constitution of the Order of the Dragon was approved with slight modifications by Pope Eugene IV on 24 July 1433.

The Order of the Dragon soon outgrew the framework and resolved in a foundation. In 1409, the number of members doubled and after Sigismund’s coronation as German and Czech King, the order gained international importance. In 1433, he became the Holy Roman Emperor as well. With his growing international role, Sigismund invited a number of important leaders from Aragon to Lithuania to the Order of the Dragon which had thus become a type of European honour.


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