Lady Mária Széchy, the “Venus of Murány Castle”
Murány Castle (Muránsky Hrad) was perhaps one of the most formidable forts in the Upper Lands of the Hungarian Kingdom. It is sitting on the steepest and highest cliffs of the Carpathian Mountains.
You can read about this castle here.
A scandalous lady
Countess Mária Széchy was a Hungarian aristocrat who became known as the “Venus of Murány castle”, for her extremely good looks. She had three husbands: first, Jr. István Bethlen, captain of Várad, who died in 1632. Then she was the wife of István Kun, Chief Comes of Szatmár county but she divorced him. Finally, she gave her hand to Ferenc Wesselényi, captain of Fülek castle, in 1644 when she was about 34.
Her beauty was renowned in the whole country and she was either envied or loved, for her love of independence and her brave and straightforward character. Mária had been strongly disliked and even hated by morally unquestionable people of her time. She was told to be eccentric, unconventional and she was rebuked for her love of men’s clothes and riding a horse like a man.
It was also written about her that although she liked pomp, she also spent great amounts of money on charity as well; she supported hospitals and poor students. She was a Protestant and her family’s lands were among the largest in Upper Hungary. Her family’s center became the impregnable castle of Murány in 1617 which was on a strategic location.
The legend of Murány Castle
The famous legend of Murány tells the story of how Mária Széchy tricked everyone and gained the castle for her fiancée, Ferenc Wesselényi in secret. Wesselényi happened to be on King Ferdinand’s side, so this was how the fort returned to the king in 1644 without him having to pay or fight for it.
Wesselényi had been a talented and valiant, but not very rich nobleman. He was the Captain of Fülek Castle, not very far from Murány. When he wed Mária Széchy he became prosperous and his career rose higher and higher.
Lady Mária Széchy lived in Murány Castle with her mother and two sisters, Éva and Katalin.
Her sisters were living in Murány Castle with their husbands. They were afraid that Mária would spend all of the family money, so they kept instigating their mother against her. Mária did not want to cede everything to her malicious sisters and their greedy husbands, but her mother closed her in a room and did not let her out until she signed the document in which she accepted the disinheriting. Mária tried to attack her mother’s verdict in court, but it was in vain.
After divorcing her second husband, Mária returned to Murány Castle in 1644. Her mother was no longer alive. However, Éva and Katalin had to allow their sister to stay with them, but all control over the castle was in the hands of Gábor Illésházy, Éva’s husband.
Finally, Lady Mária joined forces with Lord Wesselényi in secret. While the Lady made the soldiers drunk, Wesselényi and his men could sneak into the castle because of a rope ladder hanging down from the Lady’s window.
What happened after Wesselényi’s death?
Later it was Wesselényi who was the leader of a famous conspiracy against the Habsburgs. Unfortunately, the king beheaded all the conspirators. Wesselényi had died before they discovered the plot.
Maria would not give Murány Castle up so easily, though. Duke Charles V of Lotharingia had to bring his army and lay a proper siege on it in 1672. Maria Széchy was personally leading the defenders. But despite how heroically she fought, she had to surrender the fort.