Friday, September 24, 2010

A Tale of Two Families

Here is the story of two Hungarian noble families who lived nine miles from each other yet had completely different impacts on Hungarian history. The first is the Eszterházy family, the richest family in Hungary with an income that probably was larger than that of the Austrian emperor. Miklos (Nikolaus), sometimes called "the magnificent", is pictured here. The Eszterházy family had gained its riches by being favorites of the emperor and by marrying right. At one time they had over a million acres in the area around Sopron. They owned entire towns and build gigantic palaces in several cities in what is now Slovakia, Hungary, and Austria.

Miklos was determined that he could live better than the emperor and built this "hunting lodge" in Fertöd, a village not far from Sopron. It was patterned after Versailles palace in Paris and is often called the Versailles of Hungary. He loved to show off his wealth and hosted fabulous parties for the kings and queens and other nobility of Europe. Queen Maria Theresa of Austria said she had to come here if she wanted a really good party with fireworks, thousands of Chinese lanterns, and the like.

In contrast is the Széchenyi family in nearby Nagycenk. They also were wealthy and owned several estates. They made their money by reinvesting their earnings to develop their land and their businesses. István is pictured here.

This more modest palace is a clue as to how their approaches to life differed. Let's take a look at these representatives of two neighboring noble families and see why one left behind only a tourist attraction but the other is known as the father of modern Hungary and see if there are any lessons for us.

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