Diet of Hungary

The Diet of Hungary or originally: Parlamentum Publicum / Parlamentum Generale[1] (Hungarian: Országgyűlés) became the supreme legislative institution in the medieval kingdom of Hungary from the 1290s,[2] and in its successor states, Royal Hungary and the Habsburg kingdom of Hungary throughout the Early Modern period. The name of the legislative body was originally "Parlamentum" during the Middle Ages, the "Diet" expression gained mostly in the Early Modern period.[3] It convened at regular intervals with interruptions during the period of 1527 to 1918, and again until 1946.

Diet of Hungary of 1830

The articles of the 1790 diet set out that the diet should meet at least once every 3 years, but, since the diet was called by the Habsburg monarchy, this promise was not kept on several occasions thereafter. As a result of the Austro-Hungarian Compromise, it was reconstituted in 1867.

The Latin term Natio Hungarica ("Hungarian nation") was used to designate the political elite which had participation in the medieval and early modern era Parliaments. The members of the parliament consisted the envoys of the Roman Catholic Clergy, the elected envoys of the nobility from the counties of the Kingdom, and the envoys of cities who were elected by the people of the Royal Free Cities)[4] and the members of the county assemblies of the kingdom,[5] regardless of mother tongue or ethnicity of the person.[6] Natio Hungarica was a geographic, institutional and juridico-political category.[7]


Some researchers have traced the roots of the Hungarian institution of national assemblies as far back as the 11th century. This based on documentary evidence that, on certain "important occasions" under the reigns of King Ladislaus I and King Coloman "the Learned", assemblies were held on a national scale where both ecclesiastic and secular dignitaries made appearances.[8] The first exact written mention of the word "parlamentum" (Parliament) for the nation-wide assembly originated during the reign of King Andrew II in the Golden Bull of 1222, which reaffirmed the rights of the smaller nobles of the old and new classes of royal servants (servientes regis) against both the crown and the magnates, and to defend the rights of the whole nation against the crown by restricting the powers of the latter in certain fields and legalizing refusal to obey its unlawful/unconstitutional commands (the "ius resistendi"). The lesser nobles also began to present Andrew with grievances, a practice that evolved into the institution of the Hungarian Diet.

An institutionalized Hungarian parliament emerged during the 14th and 15th centuries. Beginning under King Charles I, continuing under subsequent kings through into the reign of King Matthias I, the Diet was essentially convened by the king. However, under the rule of heavy handed kings like Louis the Great and during reign of the early absolutist Matthias Corvinus the parliaments were often convened to announce the royal decisions, and had no significant power of its own. Since the reign of the Jagiellonian dynasty, the parliament has regained most of its former power.

In 1492 the Diet limited all serfs' freedom of movement and greatly expanded their obligations while at the same time only a few peasant families were prospering because of increased cattle exports to the West. Rural discontent boiled over in 1514 when well-armed peasants preparing for a crusade against Turks rose up under György Dózsa. Shocked by the peasant revolt, the Diet of 1514 passed laws that condemned the serfs to eternal bondage and increased their work obligations still further.

When King Vladislaus II died in 1516, a royal council appointed by the Diet ruled the country in the name of his ten-year-old son, King Louis II (1516–26).

List of legislative sessions

Early legislative assemblies, 11th century

Start dateEnd dateLocationDetails
10571057SzékesfehérvárThe first known nationwide legislative assembly[9]

Early legislative assemblies 12th century

Start dateEnd dateLocationDetails

Parliamentary sessions of Kingdom of Hungary, 13th century

Start dateEnd dateLocationDetails
12221222SzékesfehérvárThe first assembly which was called as "Parlamentum"[10]
12771277 MayFirst phase at Rákos
12771277 AugustSecond phase at Székesfehérvár

Parliamentary sessions of Kingdom of Hungary, 14th century

Start dateEnd dateLocationDetails

Parliamentary sessions of Kingdom of Hungary, 15th century

Start dateEnd dateLocationDetails
14351435Latin: Posonium (Hungarian: Pozsony, German: Pressburg, now Bratislava)

Parliamentary sessions of Kingdom of Hungary, 16th century

Start dateEnd dateLocationDetails

Diets of Royal Hungary – 1527–1699 (the most important diets)

Start dateEnd dateLocationDetails
15371537Pressburg (Pozsony, now Bratislava)
15421543Besztercebánya (now Banská Bystrica)
15451545Nagyszombat (now Trnava)

Diets during the Habsburg ruled Kingdom of Hungary (1700–1867)

Start dateEnd dateLocationDetails
17081715PressburgContinuously interrupted
17901791PressburgFirst phase not held in Pressburg
17961796In 1796, the diet was convened again to be informed that "attacked by the impious and iniquitous French nation, the king felt the necessity of consulting his faithful states of Hungary, remembering that, under Maria Theresa, Hungary had saved the monarchy." The diet voted to supply a contingent of 50,000 men, and undertook to provision the Austrian army, amounting to 340,000 soldiers. The diet was dissolved after only nineteen sittings.
18021802The diet of 1802 discussed demands on Hungary with regard to the French Revolutionary Wars.
18051805The diet of 1805 resembled that of 1802.
18071807The diet of 1807 was more remarkable. To the usual demands was added the royal proposition that an army should be raised, and ready to march at the first signal.
1830PressburgCrowned Archduke Ferdinand as King of Hungary

Re-establishment 1867

In the course of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 a diet was called at Pest that was dismissed by decree of Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria in October; the next year a Hungarian assembly met at the Protestant Great Church of Debrecen, which declared the new Emperor Franz Joseph deposed and elected Lajos Kossuth regent-president. The revolution was finally suppressed by Austrian troops under General Julius Jacob von Haynau and the assembly dissolved.

Since 1902 the diet has been assembling in the Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest

The Habsburgs again approached toward the Hungarian estates after the disastrous defeat at the 1859 Battle of Solferino and the loss of Lombardy. In 1860 Emperor Franz Joseph issued the October Diploma, which provided a national Reichsrat assembly formed by delegates deputed by the Landtage diets of the Austrian crown lands, followed by the February Patent of 1861, promising the implementation of a bicameral legislature. The Hungarian magnates however rejected being governed from Vienna and insisted on an own parliamentary assembly with comprehensive autonomy in Hungarian affairs. The negotiations failed, predominantly due to the tough stance of Austrian Minister-President Anton von Schmerling.

Finally in the course of the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, the emperor appointed Gyula Andrássy Hungarian minister-president and the re-established national assembly convened on 27 February.

The legislative power was vested in this parliament, consisting of two houses: an upper house titled the Főrendiház ([føːrɛndihaːz], House of Magnates), and a lower house titled the Képviselőház ([ˈkeːpviʃɛløːhaːz], House of Representatives). From 1902 on parliament assembles in the Hungarian Parliament Building on the Danube in Budapest.

House of Magnates

Assembly hall of the House of Magnates

The House of Magnates (Főrendiház) was, like the current British House of Lords, composed of hereditaries, ecclesiastics, and, unlike the House of Lords, deputized representatives from autonomous regions (similar to Resident Commissioners of United States territories). The House had no fixed membership size, as anyone who met the qualifications could sit in it. The official list:

  • Princes of the royal house who have attained their majority (16 in 1904)
  • Hereditary peers who paid at least 3000 florins a year land tax (237 in 1904) (at its 1896 exchange rate, £1 was worth 12 florins, so this comes to £250)
  • High dignitaries of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches (42 in 1904)
  • Representatives of the Protestant confessions (13 in 1904)
  • Life peers appointed by the Crown, not exceeding 50 in number, and life peers elected by the house itself (73 altogether in 1904)
  • Various state dignitaries and high judges (19 in 1904)
  • Three delegates of Croatia-Slavonia

See also List of Speakers of the House of Magnates of Hungary

House of Representatives

Since the beginning until the 1848 revolution in Hungary, the members of the house of representatives were elected noble envoys from the members of the counties of the kingdom of Hungary, the elected envoys of the free royal cities of the kingdom, and the envoys of the lower clergy.

Assembly hall of the House of Representatives

The House of Representatives (Képviselőház ) consisted of members elected, under the Electoral Law of 1874, by a complicated franchise based upon property, taxation, profession or official position, and ancestral privileges. The House consisted of 453 members, of which 413 were deputies elected in Hungary and 40 delegates of Croatia-Slavonia sent by the parliament of that Kingdom. Their terms were for five years and were remunerated.

The Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition considered the franchise "probably the most illiberal in Europe". The working classes were wholly unrepresented in the parliament, only 6% of them, and 13% of the small trading class, possessing the franchise, which was only enjoyed by 6% of the entire population.

The parliament was summoned annually by the king in Budapest. While the official language was Hungarian, the delegates of Croatia-Slavonia were allowed to use the Croatian language in the proceedings. The Hungarian parliament had the power to legislate on all matters concerning Hungary, but for Croatia-Slavonia only on matters which it shared with Hungary. Executive power was vested in a cabinet responsible to it, consisting of ten ministers, including: the president of the council, the minister for Croatia-Slavonia, a minister ad latum, and the ministers of the interior, of national defence, of education and public worship, of finance, of agriculture, of industry and commerce, and of justice. The King had the power to veto all legislation passed by the Diet and also to dissolve it and call new elections. Additionally, before any bill could be presented to the Diet, the Emperor-King had to give his Royal Assent. All this shows that the Head of State still had huge power, which however he chose not to use in order to give the Hungarians more control over their own affairs.

According to Randalph Braham, the increasingly illiberal nature of the Diet, leading into World War II, over the period from 1867 and 1944, continues to be a sticking point in regional cultural and political conflicts to this day. The population fluctuated from 6.7% having the franchise in 1848, to 5% having the franchise in 1874, reaching a peak of 8% at the beginning of World War I, with significant police and other pressure on the vote to remain highly partisan. By the start of World War I in 1910, despite the region having a population that was approximately 54.5% magyar 16.1% Romanian and 10.6% Slovak, 405 out of 413 representatives were of Hungarian descent, with 5 Romanian and 3 Slovak representatives making up the difference.[12]

The Austro-Hungarian compromise and its supporting liberal parliamentary parties remained bitterly unpopular among the ethnic Hungarian voters, and the continuous successes of these pro-compromise liberal parties in the Hungarian parliamentary elections caused long lasting frustration among Hungarian voters. The ethnic minorities had the key role in the political maintenance of the Austro-Hungarian Compromise in Hungary, because they were able to vote the pro-compromise liberal parties into the position of the majority/ruling parties of the Hungarian parliament. The pro-compromise liberal parties were the most popular among ethnic minority voters, however i.e. the Slovak, Serb and Romanian minority parties remained unpopular among their own ethnic minority voters. The coalitions of Hungarian nationalist parties – which were supported by the overwhelming majority of ethnic Hungarian voters – always remained in the opposition, with the exception of the 1906–1910 period, where the Hungarian-supported nationalist parties were able to form a government.[13]

See also

Further reading

Free English language book about the history of parliamentarism in Hungary (Content: 22 pages, PDF format, link to the book: )


  1. András Gergely, Gábor Máthé: The Hungarian state: thousand years in Europe (published in 2000)
  2. Elemér Hantos: The Magna Carta of the English And of the Hungarian Constitution (1904)
  3. Cecil Marcus Knatchbull-Hugessen Brabourne (4th Baron): The political evolution of the Hungarian nation: (Volume I. in 1908)
  4. John M. Merriman, J. M. Winter, Europe 1789 to 1914: encyclopedia of the age of industry and empire, Charles Scribner's Sons, 2006, p. 140, ISBN 978-0-684-31359-7
  5. Tadayuki Hayashi, Hiroshi Fukuda, Regions in Central and Eastern Europe: past and present, Slavic Research Center, Hokkaido University, 2007, p. 158, ISBN 978-4-938637-43-9
  6. Katerina Zacharia, Hellenisms: culture, identity, and ethnicity from antiquity to modernity, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2008, p. 237 ISBN 978-0-7546-6525-0
  8. Dr. Zoltán SZENTE: The Historic Origins of the National Assembly in Hungary|
  9. 1222. április 24. | II. András kiadja az Aranybullát Fehérváron
  10. székesfehérvári királyválasztó és koronázó országgyűlés
  11. Randolph L. Braham: The Politics of Genocide, Volume 1 – Third revised and updated edition; p.5-6; published 2016; ISBN 9780880337113
  12. András Gerő (2014). Nationalities and the Hungarian Parliament (1867–1918).
  • István Szijártó (2007). "The Diet: The Estates and the Parliament of Hungary, 1708–1792". In Gerhard Ammerer; William D. Godsey Jr.; Martin Scheutz; Peter Urbanitsch; Alfred Stefan Weiss (eds.). Bündnispartner und Konkurrenten des Landesfürsten? Die Stände in der Habsburgermonarchie. Wien – München. p. 125. The Diets of our period [1708–1792] were held from 1708 to 1715, then between 1722 and 1723, 1728 and 1729, in 1741, 1751, 1764–65, 1790–91 and 1792.
  • The Living Age. 1849. p. 554. In 1796, the diet was called together again... the diet met in 1802... the diet of 1805... the diet of 1807... Some material from this work is included directly above.