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Albert Apponyi
Graf von Nagy-Appony
Making Hungarians into Magyars

Albert Graf Apponyi von Nagy-Appony was born in Vienna on 29 May 1846, of a family distinguished for its involvement in public affairs in Hungary.  He was for many years leader of the National Party of 1867 in Hungary.  He was appointed president of the lower house of parliament in 1903, and was a delegate to the Interparliamentary Conference in London in 1906.

Albert married Klothilde Wilhelmine Josepha Gabriele Maria Innocentia in Vienna on 1 March 1897.  Klothilde was born in Vienna on 23 December 1867, the daughter of Alexander-Constantin Graf von Mensdorff-Pouilly, Fürst von Dietrichstein zu Nikolsburg, and died in Budapest on 1 September 1943.

He was a prime mover of Hungarian nationalism and “Magyarisation.”   He delivered a speech in the Hungarian House of Representatives at Budapest on 23 March 1894, rehabilitating Lajos Kossuth as a hero of the country, something that was considerably taboo, as the official policy of the Kingdom was to reject Kossuth as a rebel. 

“And now behold the present state of the country.  God be praised for what we became since.  Though very far still from the fulfilment of our destiny, we are a free nation strong in her unity, in the equality of her citizens; in the recognized power of her representation, a not unworthy sister of the greatest among civilized nations; conscious of our independence, we are governing ourselves in the spirit of liberty and progress; no aim appears too high for our legitimate ambition and undoubted possibilities. A picture, indeed, of hope and self-confidence.  Between these two states of a nation stands a man whose name was Louis Kossuth.”

At the conclusion of his speech, Apponyi proposed a series of resolutions, providing for a public burial of Kossuth and for the erection of a statue to him.  This open display of affection for Kossuth paved the way for the more radical Party of 1848 to take part in politics, and also for Kossuth’s son to become a minister of parliament for the 1848ers. 

He represented the township of Jászberény for 52 years in the parliament at Budapest.  Graf Apponyi, who had twice been the Minister of Public Education and Religion, is known by few people outside his country, but because of his interest in furthering public education, eight schools were built in Jászberény and its environs during his ministry.  His term saw the strengthening of the government’s Magyarization policy, which is illustrated by the 26th and 27th statutes of the 1907 education bill, called “Lex Apponyi.”  These statutes made the Hungarian language compulsory at all primary schools, and heightened cultural and political conflicts formerly considered to be educational differences.

A week after the death of the
Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife on 28 June 1914, Count Apponyi made a deep criticism of the funeral arrangements in the Hungarian House of Deputies.  It was believed that the funeral should have been an occasion for an impressive demonstration by the people of the Empire united in mourning for their murdered heir and in detestation of the heinous act of which he was a victim.  Apponyi in particular criticised the absence of any display of military force as was due to the Chief of the Army and Navy, and he made fun of the Court etiquette which had overruled the feelings of humanity and to prevent what would surely have been a much-needed demonstration of national unity.  This is interesting in that the Archduke was a known enemy of Magyarisation, believing the efforts of Apponyi and his like were damaging to the unity of the Empire.  But where Apponyi was an ardent Magyar nationalist, he was also a loyal Hungarian magnate, capable of being divided on the subject as much as anyone.

After the war, Apponyi was clearly recognised as one of the most valuable assets to the remaining Hungarian state.  As
Miklos Hórthy put it, “On grounds of foreign policy, neither Archduke Joseph nor Archduke Albrecht was eligible for the Regency; Archduke Joseph withdrew on 2 February 1920; the Allies had issued yet another formal declaration that the return of the Habsburgs would not be tolerated.  It was now that my name began to receive public mention as a candidate for the Regency ... I was hoping that Count Apponyi, one of the worthiest and most brilliant figures in our public life, would be chosen. Instead, I was unexpectedly elected Regent of the Realm on 1 March 1920, by 131 votes out of 141.  A delegation, headed by Bishop Prohászka called on me to tell me the result of the voting, and to ask me to go at once to the Parliament Building, there to take the oath.”

Apponyi was already assigned by the interim Hungarian government to lead the Hungarian delegation to face the Entente at Trianon in December 1919.  One of its members was Count Istvan Bethlen, who later, as Premier, consolidated the Hórthy regime.  The Hungarian notes to the Peace Conference reiterated the right of Magyars and non-Magyars within the Carpathian basin to a plebiscite.  In an address to the Peace Conference on 16 January, Graf Apponyi (referring to the Wilsonian principle of self-determination) insisted upon a plebiscite in those parts of Apostolic Hungary that the Entente wanted to detach, stating “I declare that even in anticipation we will accept the results of such plebiscites, whatever they may be.”

“Apponyi's statement was,” according to British Prime Minister Lloyd George, “a tour de force.  He spoke in fluent French, then switched to equally impeccable English and concluded with flawless Italian.  He pointed out that Hungary was being punished more severely than any other of the defeated nations.  It was losing two-thirds of its territory and its population, it was being cut off from its markets and its sources of raw materials, and it was expected to pay heavy reparations.  Three and one half million Hungarians were going to end up outside Hungary.  If the principle of self-determination was a fair one, and he thought it was, then surely it should apply to the Hungarians.  At the very least, there should be plebiscites held in the territories being taken from Hungary.” 

In spite of his pro-Kossuth and Magyar tendencies, Apponyi was the leader of the Legitimist Royalists who desired to have the old line of Hapsburgs on the Hungarian throne.  In that, he was an opponent of Hórthy’s.  He was a strong opponent of the counterrevolutionary “white terror” led by Bethlen, which succeeded in imprisoning tens of thousands of people who were accused of participating in the bolshevik government of
Bela Kun. Apponyi published several open letters to Regent Hórthy, urging the release of the prisoners and their rehabilitation, as well as relaxing the stiff censorship of the media.

Apponyi was made the 1,221st Knight in the Austrian order of the Golden Fleece in 1921.  He died in Geneva on 7 February 1933.

GWS, 6/03 [rev. 10/05]
Apponyi later in life.  He was a critic and opposition leader against Regent Horthy and sought the restoration of the "old line" of the Habsburgs.