Vol. 1 No. 1 (2021)
Western Historiographic Ideas in Central Europe

(Un)faithful Subjects of (Un)faithful Rulers: Loyalty in the Earliest Central European Chronicles

Michał Machalski
Department of Medieval Studies, Central European University, Quellenstraße 51, A-1100 Wien, Austria

Published 2021-04-30


  • loyalty,
  • disloyalty,
  • lordship,
  • social bonds,
  • Central European historiography,
  • Middle Ages
  • ...More

How to Cite

Machalski, Michał. 2021. “(Un)faithful Subjects of (Un)faithful Rulers: Loyalty in the Earliest Central European Chronicles”. Historical Studies on Central Europe 1 (1):44–67. https://doi.org/10.47074/HSCE.2021-1.03.


This article focuses on the role loyalty played in the relationship between rulers and their subjects in the earliest Central European chronicles, written at the beginning of the twelfth century: Gesta principum Polonorum by Gallus Anonymous, Chronica Boemorum by Cosmas of Prague, and the twelfth-century historiographical tradition of Hungarian Royal court, which survived as a part of the fourteenth-century century compilation called The Illuminated Chronicle. In the comparative study of those works article aims to analyze how authors of those works, closely connected to the ruling elites of recently Christianized Central European polities, imagined bonds of loyalty between rulers and their subjects, by analyzing the questions about its unilateral or mutual nature, accompanying responsibilities and consequences of breaking it. Answering those questions reveals common ideological underpinnings of the concepts of loyalty used in Central European narrative sources, which present a vision of loyalty as primarily a reciprocal bond characterized by its negative content. This highlights the ideological message of consensual lordship, which coexists in those narratives next to the strong ideas about divine origins of dynastic authority, constituting important common feature in the political and cultural development of Central Europe as a historical region.