The fear of the disappearance of the one-thousand-year-old state awakened resistance. During the months of the Soviet Republic a rival government was set up in Szeged, and its minister of defence proved able to rein in the chaos. Miklós Horthy de Nagybánya was a representative of the old order who had served as adjutant to Franz Joseph, then as a rear admiral and the last commander-in-chief of the fleet of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Even his adversaries recognised his heroism in World War I. As had been the case so often in their history, many Hungarians saw the restoration of old traditions and authority as the only way out of chaos. As a conservative Christian-minded military officer, Horthy lived up to the expectations placed in him, and so the victorious international powers supported his election as commander-in-chief in the summer of 1919. On November 16, 1919 he entered Budapest at the head of the National Army he had raised. As an authoritarian leader, he set about restoring and preserving law and order with a consistent rigour which saw his popularity grow by the day. He was elected regent in 1920 and, correctly judging the international relations of the day, went on to foil two attempts by Blessed Charles IV to return to the throne. Restoration of the House of Habsburg in Hungary would have been seen as a threat by the neighbouring countries which had been set up on the ruins of the monarchy, and this would probably have led to counter-measures by the victorious powers. As his first prime minister Miklós Horthy appointed Count Pál Teleki, who would be followed by Count István Bethlen. Their governments set out to reorganise the Hungarian state.
„All Hungarian patriots must unite for a sacred goal, the two pillars of which are the idea of the nation and Christian morality."
„My mission is to save the nation. To this I shall subordinate all else."
„This capital city denied its one thousand-year history. This city dragged the Holy Crown and the national colours through the mud, and clothed itself in red rags. It threw the nation’s finest sons behind bars or chased them out of the country. And still we have shown our willingness to forgive: yes, to forgive this city mired in sin – if it returns to the service of the homeland, if it will love our Hungarian homeland and our Hungarian people."
Miklós Horthy, Budapest, November 16, 1919
„Calm in this country could only be restored by the upsurge of the Christian and national movement."
Count Pál Teleki
„We are the lifeguards of the nation; we are not the guardians of classes, denominations, parties or individual interests, but solely of the national interest."
Count István Bethlen
„To be, and grow in refinement, or not to be."
Count Kunó Klebelsberg
Shield in the Hungarian national colours with a portrait of Miklós Horthy and an image of a Turul
(Ministry of Defence, Military History Institute and Museum)
Commemorative document in recognition of Ferenc Rendi’s service in the Austro-Hungarian Navy
(Hungarian National Museum)
Letter personally written by Miklós Horthy as captain of the scout cruiser SMS Novara – May 21, 1917
(Hungarian National Museum, authorised facsimile)
May 21, 917
My dear Brother!
It is my painful duty to express with a bleeding heart my truest sympathy to you on behalf of all my officers and my entire crew. We are in want of the deepest compassion ourselves – we truly liked him, respected him and honoured him. He was a goodhearted superior of his subordinates, while to me – apart from being a tireless and excellent second in command – he was also a true and faithful friend. The distress within our community was indescribable and his funeral was the most moving and beautiful one can just imagine. During the three-hour tough fight while being heavily outnumbered, poor Robert was indefatigable, helping out everywhere, checking everything and having things repaired. After 10:00 AM while having a fire extinguished, he was walking backwards along the left side of the deck. It is at that point that he was hit by the disgraceful grenade. Help was on the spot immediately but with a mere 90 seconds he stopped breathing – therefore he probably didn’t suffer. His numerous friends and admirers find consolation in the thought that this is the finest of all deaths. We have ordered a metal coffin to make it possible to send him home. Please excuse me for writing with a pencil, but I am wounded and lying in bed and wanted to send this letter as soon as possible. The Novara will be shortly sailing to Pola to have its wounds mended. I hope I will not have two stay back here, but will need a lengthy treatment anyway, therefore my address is rather uncertain. Nevertheless: letters sent to An das Komando S. M. S. Novara Marinefeldpost Pola will be automatically opened by my deputy without delay. Poor Robert’s legacy will of course be settled with the highest accuracy. Being sick myself, please excuse me, my dear Brother for not being more extensive but as soon as I will be travelling across Budapest, I will not miss the opportunity to call upon you. Please find enclosed a photo of the scene of the catastrophe. Two shell-holes are seen on the armour shield of the battery. Repeating my deepest condolences and sharing your pain with sincere and aching heart,
Yours truly faithful and respectful
commander of the „Novara”