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Mihály Graf Károlyi
von Nagykárolyi
Mihály Adam Georg Nikolaus Graf Károlyi von Nagykárolyi was born on 4 March 1875. He was married in Budapest on 7 November 1914 to Katalin Gräfin Andrássy de Csik-Szent-Király et Kraszna-Horka (born 21 Sept. 1892, died 12 June 1985).  They had three children:  Eva Viktoria (b. 1915), Mihály (1917-1939), and Judit (b. 1919). 

Károlyi was best friends with
Leopold Graf von Berchtold during their younger years.  Their socio-political views parted as they grew older.  Károlyi being determined to change the status quo, while Berchtold was intent on preserving it.  They remained friends in spite of these differences. 

He entered the Hungarian Parliament in 1905 as a Liberal and soon became head of the extreme left wing of the the Independence Party.  He was chief of the parliamentary opposition to Premier
István Tisza, and at one point, he even fought a duel with Tisza.  Károlyi's most extreme programs included splitting Hungary from the Empire, forming an alliance with Russia, and instigating a Marxist system of government.  His less extreme platform included suffrage reform.  As a nationalist, he had difficulty reconciling his suffrage reform with the maintenance of Magyar superiority in the parliament. 

Of note is that upon hearing of the assassination of
Franz Ferdinand, Károlyi was at once the loudest mourner in Hungary, referring to the Archduke as a great friend and a benefactor of Hungary, while calling the new successor, Archduke Karl, untested and uncertain regarding Hungarian interests.  It's not that Károlyi believed in what he said, but rather that it severely antagonized Tisza and his comrades, among whom Franz Ferdinand was considered an enemy. 

Throughout July 1914, Károlyi campaigned for funds in the United States and France to support his platforms.  The war had already started when he was in France, and so he was interned.  However, Károlyi managed to convince the French to release him on the promise that he would work to extricate Hungary from the war.  This action was to haunt him later in life.  At any rate, he good by the French when he led the Parliamentary opposition to the Germans' Mitteleuropa scheme. 

By the summer of 1916, Károlyi founded his own party whose platform consisted of suffrage reform, an independent Hungarian army, a separate customs zone, a strictly personal union between Austria and Hungary, and a new peace initiative to end the war with no annexations or indemnities.  Károlyi spent most of his time opposing whatever Premier Tisza and later Wekerle offered to Parliament.  The crisis of late October 1918 caused Premier
Wekerle to resign and the Archduke Josef, the King's voice in Budapest, was left to maintain order.  Foreign Minister Andrassy suggested his friend János Hadik to be Premier, and the Archduke Josef duly appointed him in King Karl's stead on 29 October.  However, a revolution broke out that day, which was also the same day that Andrassy sent a note to President Wilson asking for immediate peace. 

GWS, 3/01 [rev. 4/05]
The radical Count poses with his family; he was not radical enough for the likes of Bela Kun.
A Chance for True Democracy in the Feudal Kingdom?

On 1 November, as a workers' strike threatened peace and troops of GM Gezá Lukachich were suddenly considered unrealiable, the Archduke Josef called on Károlyi as a candidate for Premier.  He accepted the offer, a few hours before István Tisza was shot to death by revolutionaries, and he and his whole prechosen cabinet swore an oath to the King in the presence of Archduke Josef.  The National Council, that body of leftist politicians that had caused the king to release the Hungarian troops from their oath of allegiance, informed Károlyi's cabinet on 2 November that the Hungarian people were no longer for a government other than a republic. Károlyi had previously been wary of making a move because of rumours that Lukachich was gathering his regiments and preparing to storm the National Council headquarters. 

There was some panic in Károlyi's office the day before when a rumour held that Lukachich had ordered a Bosnian regiment to march straight into the city and enforce order with bayonets.  But Lukachich left his troops in their barracks, uncertain of their reliability.  During the afternoon of 2 November, the National Council requested Károlyi's cabinet to approach the Archduke and convince him to release them from the oath of allegiance to the king as well, though not to secure the king’s abdication. Three days later, he denounced royal authority and assumed complete power, appointing his own cabinet to govern the country. 

Mihály Graf Károlyi's government consisted of the following ministers:

Minister of Agriculture:  Barna Buza

Minister of Commerce:  Erns Garami

Minister of Defense:  Béla Linder (31 October 1918 to 9 November 1918; Albert Bartha (9 November 1918 to 12 December 1918; Mihály Graf Károlyi (12 December 1918 to 29 December 1918; Sándor Graf Festetics (29 December 1918 to 19 January 1919)

Minister of Finance:  Mihály Graf Károlyi (31 October 1918 to 25 November 1918;  Pál Szende (25 November 1918 to 19 January 1919)

Minister of Food:  Ferenc Nagy

Minister of the Interior:  Tivadar Graf Batthyány (31 October 1918 to 12 December 1918; Vince Nagy (12 December 1918 to 19 January 1919)

Minister of Justice:  Barna Buza (31 October 1918 to 3 November 1918; Dénes Berinkey (3 November 1918 to 19 January 1919)

King's Personal Minister:  Tivadar Graf Batthyány (31 October 1918 to 1 November 1918)

Minister of Religion and Education:  Márton Lovászy (31 October 1918 to 23 December 1918)

Minister of Welfare and Labour:  Zsigmond Kunfi (12 December 1918 to 19 January 1919)

Minister Without Portfolio:  Oszkár Jászi (31 October 1918 to 1 November 1918); Zsigmond Kunfi (31 October 1918 to 12 November 1918); Béla Linder (9 November 1918 to 12 December 1918)

Minister Without Portfolio for Croatia-Slavonia and Dalmatia:  Zsigmond Kunfi (6 November 1918 to 19 January 1919)

Minister Without Portfolio for Nationalities:  Oszkár Jászi (1 November 1918 to 19 January 1919)

Among the first mistakes the Károlyi government in Budapest committed was the disarming of German soldiers leaving Roumania throughout November.  They even saw to the arrest and internment of Feldmarchal
August von Mackensen, which first drew a glad eye from many leftists, but as the Roumanians advanced deep into Hungarian territory, Károlyi received much criticism from most Hungarians for his poor treatment of the man who conquered the hated Roumania.

The Spiraling Descent into a Nightmare

On 16 November, Károlyi declared a People's Republic and assumed the Presidency; people had been expecting the declaration from the moment of his premiership but Károlyi preferred to wait while the chaos still enveloped the city streets and countryside.  Once some order had been established, Károlyi proceeded with the revolution along its logical path.  János Hock had been chairman of the National Council from 13 November 1918 until 16 November but his position was dissolved and it was replaced by Provisional Presidency of Károlyi.  He attempted to introduce his party's reforms immediately, but problems with the noble's opposition to his socialist schemes and the interference by the Entente upset all of his plans. 
Belá Kun constantly agitated against him, and the stress became unbearable. The socialist president imprisoned the bolsheviks and other dissidents, but Károlyi's problems in the foreign policy arena were mounting daily.

On 19 March, the Entente made public their memorandum, generally referred to as the "Vyx Ultimatum."  On the 20th, Colonel Fernand Vyx personally delivered the note to Karólyi.  The President immediately notified the Colonel that no government could possibly accept such a note, and he called his government together.  The next day, Károlyi and his entire government resigned.  The more radical socialists jumped at the opportunity and joined forces with Belá Kun, the bolshevik agitator whom Károlyi had released from prison earlier that day.   The first piece of business the new socialist/bolshevik government accomplished was to condemn outright the Vyx Ultimatum.

It is perhaps ironic that the leftists and bolsheviks are the ones who stood up for Hungarian nationalism and imperialism. Károlyi's kowtowing in the foreign policy realm was exclusively devoted to retaining as much territory of the Apostolic Kingdom as possible for his Peoples' Republic, while Belá Kun actually used military force to keep the old lands within a Hungarian Soviet Republic.  The conservatives and great landowning magnates who put the right-wing Admiral
Miklos Horthy into power in November 1919 were the ones who openly supported the signing of the Treaty of Trianon, which surrendered two-thirds of the Apostolic Kingdom to the enemy states.  Horthy's regime was concerned thereafter with assigning the loss of lands to the communists and socialists, not themselves.

While living in France, Károlyi was charged with treason over his deal with the Entente during the World War, and all of his properties were seized.  He was disgraced for much of the interwar period, but returned to Hungary just before and during WWII.  After the war, he returned to public life, and served until 1949. 

Mihály Graf Károlyi died in either Venice or Nice on 20 March 1955.

GWS, 7/02 [rev. 4/05]