The comital coat of arms of the Fekete family. The noble and baronial arms can be found in "Hungarian Family Heraldry" in this blog.
Fekete de Galantha, Fekete von Galantha, galanthai Fekete csalad
Galanta, a small market town in the Matyusfold region in south-west Slovakia, near the capital Bratislava, has been immortalised in the mind of European history as the territorial predicate of the greatest of the Austro-Hungarian princes, the Esterhazy de Galantha. This town was indeed the birthplace of the Esterhazy: but it was also the home of other Magyar nobles of equal extraction and who achieved serious successes throughout the ages. To name but a few are the illustrious comital and baronial dynasties of the Fekete de Galantha and the Balogh de Galantha (et Nebojsza), and the less magnificent but respectably medieval Nagy de Galantha and the extinct Bessenyey de Galantha (whose lands were in fact inherited by the Esterhazy in the 16th century, and from then on Galantha became their territorial base).
I will briefly sketch the fortunes of one of these families, the Feketes. Like other families from good medieval Hungarian noble stock, the Feketes simmered gently until two individuals in the 18th century brought the family to the pinnacle of wordly success – only to cool down again gradually, and survive Communism to this very day in a small ancestral manor house near Galanta.
Fekete means “black” in Hungarian, and understandably there are a great many noble as well as ignoble families in Hungary with that name. When one speaks of noble Feketes in Pozsony County, however, one can only speak of the Feketes of Galantha.
The family’s hoary origins should be traced, as with so many others, to the medieval curial nobility of Bratislava County (see the Origins of the Nobility of Bratislava County) – they were some of the first known landowners of Galanta and the lands around it. The first properly known member of the family was Benedict from circa 1360. His son Nicolas Fekete was a courtier to the King of Hungary. In the 15th century his son, Michael, was the artillery captain of John Hunyady, the greatest Hungarian and one of the greatest European warlords, Governor of Hungary, the Bulwark of Christendom, and father of King Matthias Hunyadi Corvinus, the most evocative King in Hungarian history. Then his son, Martin distinguished himself during the Siege of Eger. In thanks to his gallant service, in 1590, Emperor Rudolf II made a new donation of Galanta lands to the Feketes together with the Esterhazys. This appears to be because Martin Fekete married Potentia Bessenyey of Galantha, and thus inherited further estates along with the Esterhazys who were similarly related. And, as such, in 1609 the heirs of the extinct Bessyeney, namely the Fekete, Balogh, Nagy and Esterhazy families were confirmed with estates in Gaany and Kosut.
The Fekete family treeIn the 18th century the family split into the comital branch and the noble branch. The noble branch consistently produced influential individuals. Martin (1742 – 1825) was secretary of the Royal Chancellery. Michael (1784 – 1825) was titular bishop and the deputy Archbishop of Esztergom, the most important See in Hungary, whose archbishop was also Primate of Hungary. Both Michael and his cousin Baron Janos Fekete (1813 – 1903) were instrumental in the creation of the Dual Monarchy in 1867, after which the Austrian hereditary lands and the Kingdom of Hungary became independent entities joined through the personal union of Emperor Francis Joseph. Another Janos from the noble branch was viscount of Pozsony (Bratislava) County in the first half of the 19th century. Lajos Fekete of Galantha (1820 – 1911) was a very active revolutionary in the 19th century, and played a vigorous part in supporting the deposition of the Habsburgs from the throne of St Stephen (Hungary). He was a member of the revolutionary parliament and was a close friend of Sandor Petofi, the greatest Hungarian poet.
The comital line also produced some extraordinary characters. It was begun by Georg Fekete von Galantha (1711 – 1788), a trained lawyer and later on a grand statesman. He was the Comes (Count or Lord Lieutenant) of Arad County; Imperial vice-Chancellor; Lord High Chamberlain of the Imperial Court; Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece; and Imperial Count from 1760. To clarify, the Lord High Chamberlain was the very highest court title - and it is in fact surprising that George Fekete did not achieve the rank of Imperial Prince.
His son, Janos, though set up to live a life of idle luxury, did not rest on his family’s laurels. Also an Imperial chamberlain, perhaps the most pithy summary of his modus vivendi was written by the late Lord Michael Pratt: “Count Janos was a poet and writer in four languages, a correspondent of Voltaire, and a distinguished representative of the Enlightenment whose works attacked reactionary nobles and prelates. Every time he sent Voltaire another of his poems, he added a hundred bottles of Tokaj wine as a present; not surprisingly, they were always returned with an encouraging note.”
Sadly, this comital line seemed to burn the candle at both ends; for with Janos’ son, Ferenc, who was also an Imperial chamberlain, the branch dies out. Their beautiful Classicist manor house in Fot near Budapest was bought by the Karolyi family, which is owned by them to the present day.
The Karolyi kastely at Fot, originally owned by the comital Feketes
Pratt, Michael, Lord: The Great Country Houses of Hungary (New York, 2007)
Timea Szenassy (Co-ordinator): Kosuty: Byvale Slachticke Sidlo (Komarno, 2006): the private archive of Mrs Eszter Nyary-Fekete