The Family

The Barcsay Family | The Banffy Family

The Barcsay Family

The Barcsays are among the oldest families in Transylvania. The family traces its descent from Ioancha who lived in the middle of the 13th century. In addition to lands the family already possessed at Barcsa (Barcea) in Hunyad(Hunedoara) County, Magister Sumrakus - Ioancha's grandson- was granted estates in Feher (Alba) County in 1315 by Charles Robert of Anjou, King of Hungary. These remained in the possession of the family until after the First World War.

During the 16th and 17th centuries the Barcsay family played a prominent role in the history of Transylvania: Paul Barcsay was Protonotary of Transylvania from 1519. Farkas and Andrew Barcsay were both Ban (governor) of Lugos(Lugoj) and Karansebes (Caransebes). In 1598, Ban Andrew Barcsay inflicted a serous defeat on the Turks. A year later, he briefly served as a Captain General of Prince Michael the Brave's Transylvanian forces. Ban Andrew Barcsay`s son, Sigismund(+1656), was educated at Heidelberg and served as a privy councillor to Prince George I Rakoczy.

The family`s outstanding member was Akos Barcsay (1610-1661). An able diplomat, Barcsay was the leading political figure in the principality in the 1650`s. During Prince George II Rakoczy's Polish campaign in 1657, Barcsay acted as regent. In September 1658 - in the midst domestic and international turmoil - he was named Prince of Transylvania by Mehmed Koprolu, Grand Vezir of the Ottoman Empire. Prince Barcsay`s pro-Turkish policy eventually became unpopular and his rule was challenged by John Kemeny, a Habsburg oriented candidate for the throne. In order to avoid civil war, Prince Barcsay abdicated and Kemeny was elected to replace him in January 1661. Fearing Barcsay had not abandoned hopes of regaining his throne, Prince Kemeny had his predecessor murdered in the summer of 1661.

Prince Akos Barcsay's half-brothers, Michael and Abraham, occupied high offices under Prince Michael Apaffy and Prince Francis Rakoczy II. Two of their grandsons, John and Gregory, were raised to the rank of baron by Queen Maria Theresa in 1742. The last member of the baronial branch was Baroness Agnes Barcsay( 1728-1782) wife of Count Dennis (Denes) Banffy. Prince Akos Barcsay's older brother, Alexander (Sandor), was the great-grandfather of Abraham Barcsay (1742-1806) who left his mark on Hungarian literature. A member of the Hungarian Noble Guard, he spent much of his life in Vienna. Influenced by the ideas of the Enlightenment, his elegant poems were much admired by contemporaries.

Abraham's cousin, Ladislas (1772-1810), Chief Justice of Hunyad County, came to the aid of the fledgling Hungarian theatre in Kolozsvar (Cluj) during the 1790's by translating and writing plays. His son - also Ladislas (1802-1880) - Lord-Lieutenant of Hunyad County, was the grandfather of Thomas Barcsay (1868-1936) who, through his marriage to Countess Katherine Banffy, was the first Barcsay to own Gyalu (Gilau) castle.