Zápas o prvenstvo? Rodinná politika a stratégia Pálffyovcov v prvej polovici 17. storočia

A Struggle for Primacy? The Politics and Strategy of the Pálffy Family in the First Half of the 17th Century

In the early modern period people were deeply aware of the importance of consanguinity and according to the heritage rights of the period they were expected to take care even of distant relatives. Moreover, in the aristocratic families special attention was paid also to familial ties created by their wedding strategy. Nonetheless, continuity of the family could be endangered by several factors, such as inadequate contemporary level of medicine, death of the male members of the family in war conflicts or some adverse demographical conditions.
Family politics of aristocracy give us an invaluable insight into the ways of their endeavours to keep up with social, economic and political elite of the country. It was a sophisticated and extremely elaborated strategy assigning every member of the family an exactly defined position. It was already during their childhood years that their weddings were projected and in the case of male descendants their future career progress had to be arranged and taken into consideration.
The study follows careers of two of the five sons of Nicolaus Pálffy, a hero who drove the Ottomans out of the Castle of Győr. Both sons, the oldest Stephen (1587-1646) and younger Paul (1592-1653) had the same starting position to achieve illustrious careers. Both experienced a foreign study stay and their wives came from Viennese aristocratic families of the Puchheims and the Khuens de Belasi. Stephen Pálffy as the oldest son became the senior of the family; he was the comes (sheriff) of the Pressburg county and main captain of the Castle of Pressburg. In addition, he made a successful military career, for example he used to be the main captain of Nové Zámky (Érsekújvár, Novum Castrum) and the head of the Mining captaincy. Paul Pálffy became the head of the Hungarian Chamber and occupied some other important posts at the Viennese court. The question was which one of the two brothers would make better use of the advantages brought to them by their marriages and useful contacts created by their father in Hungary and in the Viennese court.
Eventually, it was Paul who got on further than his older brother. During his frequent stays in Vienna he had chances to win over some influential patrons. His most important contact was undoubtedly Maximilian von Trauttmansdorff (1587-1650), the chairman of the Privy Council and the court chamberlain. Gradually and increasingly, Paul Pálffy took over his brother's affairs. He acted as a mediator in the donations issues, organised and supervised study stay abroad of his nephew Nicolaus and ultimately he started to openly interfere in matters in competency of his brother in the Pressburg County.
By mischance, brothers Stephen and John Pálffy died shortly after one another in 1646. As a result, Paul Pálffy became the senior of the family. Several indications suggest that Paul wanted to take over precedence in the family for his line. Ensuing controversy over the family primacy that erupted between Paul and his nephew Nicolaus was finally reconciled by a mutual agreement. It was the fickle finger of fate that eventually resolved the primacy within the magnate family of the Pálffys. A tragic coincidence, when two other sons of Paul Pálffy died soon one after the other without leaving descendants irrevocably decided that the leading position in the family remained within the family line of Stephen Pálffy.