A Leathal Debate

A lethal debate between Wallenstein and Zrinyi


The lethal debate between General Wallenstein and György Zrinyi was just the beginning of the hostilities between the Habsburgs and the Zrínyis…

This story took place during the Thirty Years’ War. This war was raging primarily in Central Europe between 1618 and 1648. It was one of the most destructive conflicts in human history.

It resulted in eight million fatalities not only from military engagements but also from violence, famine, and plague. Casualties were overwhelmingly and disproportionately inhabitants of the Holy Roman Empire, most of the rest being battle deaths from various foreign armies.


The war broke out after the election of the new Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand II, who tried to impose on its peoples.

Sometimes, the generals of the Emperor didn’t like each other. It was the case with Wallenstein and Zrínyi.

The famous Zrínyi family

Emperor Ferdinand was also the King of Hungary and Croatia. His subjects had to join in the war. The Croatian-Hungarian Zrínyi family was one of the wealthiest aristocrats of the kingdom. Each member of the Zrínyi family was an excellent military leader. No wonder, their domains were near to the Borderland.

Miklós Zrínyi died while defending Szigetvár castle against the mighty army of Sultan Suleiman in 1566. His heroic last stand crippled the Sultan’s army. Cardinal Richelieu said about this deed of Miklós Zrínyi that „it was a battle that saved western civilization”.

The Habsburgs had to rely on them. The Zrínyi family had many seasoned soldiers who gained renown from the daily clashes with the Turks.

By supporting King Ferdinand with one thousand good Hussars, young György Zrínyi became a valuable asset to the Habsburgs. He gained himself many honors in the process.

A leathal debate
György Zrínyi

Yet he was not appreciated enough for his contribution. The chief general of the army, Wallenstein, was not confronting the enemy, only circling around the back of it. Zrínyi, on the other hand, was a hot-blooded fighting soldier. He didn’t think much of a general who would only try to wear down his enemy with marching. He was a true member of the Valiant Order.

The chronicler of the age, Gergely Peter, confirms: “Wallenstein with his very nice army was always following Mansfeld and could have beaten him if he had wanted to. But one crow does not scratch the eye of another crow.”

The Transylvanians attack Wallenstein

It was the time when the Protestant Principality of Transylvania attacked the Catholic Habsburgs, led by Prince Gábor Bethlen. The Ottoman empire was quite happy for the conflict between the Christians and they supported Prince Bethlen with Turkish troops.

As a result of this, the Hungarian Hussars of Lord Zrínyi had to face the Hungarian Hussars of Transylvania. Once they met on the battlefield but the cavalrymen just rode beside each other and no swords were drawn. Hungarians avoided killing Hungarians.

However, it was different when confronting Turk soldiers.

Zrínyi’s Hussars ran into them in the northern part of Royal Hungary.

When Zrínyi assaulted the Turks at Palánka castle in Zólyom county, it was he himself who cut down a Turkish pasha.

A leathal debate
Albrecht Wallenstein

He rode to Wallenstein’s tent with the Turk’s head and told him:

“Behold, this is how an enemy of the Emperor should be cut down to gain victory.”

“I have already seen more Turkish heads than this”, answered Wallenstein.

“You may have seen those heads, but could cut off no more than one,” retorted Zrínyi. This behavior just angered Wallenstein all the more. The general ordered Zrínyi to the Vág river where he was limited to defense tactics.

The death of György Zrínyi ended the debate

It was there that György Zrínyi fell sick and died at the young age of 28. It was recorded that he died in an epidemic, but eyewitnesses circulated that Wallenstein had fed Zrinyi poisoned radish when dining with him.

The Transylvanian army was quite successful against the proud general. It was the reason why Wallenstein hated Prince Gábor Bethlen of Transylvania so much, that he wrote to King Ferdinand begging to have Bethlen poisoned.

As you can see, Hungarians and Croatians did not have much regard for General Wallenstein.

Zrínyi György left behind two orphans, Péter and Miklós. Miklós Zrínyi aka Nicholas Zrinski is acknowledged in history as a famous general and poet of his age. The story of the once-powerful Zrínyi family is not a happy one. In spite of his military success against the Turks, the Habsburgs always regarded Miklós Zrínyi with suspicion and he died in a hunting accident in 1664. A boar killed him but gossip said: „the boar spoke in German”.

Miklós Zrínyi, the son of György Zrínyi
Miklós Zrínyi, the son of György Zrínyi


Péter Zrínyi, the younger son of György Zrínyi

As for Péter Zrínyi, he rebelled against the Habsburgs. He took part in the Zrínyi-Wesselényi-Frangepán plot but Emperor Leopold I arrested him despite offering him a safe-conduct. Péter was executed in 1671.

It was the fate of Lord György’s two orphans. It was the outcome of the lethal debate between Wallenstein and Zrínyi.