BETHLEN, GABRIEL (GABOR) (1580-1629), prince of Transylvania, the most famous representative of the Iktari branch of a very ancient Hungarian family, was born at Illye, and edu cated at Szarhegy, at the castle of his uncle Andras Lazar. Thence he was sent to the court of Prince Zsigmond Bathory, whom he accompanied on his famous Wallachian campaign in 160o. Sub sequently he assisted Stephen Bocskay to mount the throne of Transylvania (1605), and remained his chief counsellor. Bethlen also supported Bocskay's successor, Gabriel Bathory (1608-1613), but the prince became jealous of Bethlen's superior abilities, and he was obliged to take refuge with the Turks. He was at Adrianople when the sultan proclaimed him prince of Transylvania, a choice confirmed by the Estates of Transylvania in September shortly before the murder of Bathory. On Oct. 13, 1613, the diet of Klausenburg confirmed the choice of the sultan. In 1615 Bethlen was also officially recognized by the emperor Matthias. Bethlen no sooner felt firmly seated on his throne than he seized the opportunity presented to him by the outbreak of the Thirty Years' War to take up arms in defence of the liberties and the constitution of the extra-Transylvanian Hungarian provinces. While Ferdinand was occupied with the Bohemian rebels, Beth len led his armies into Hungary (1619), and soon won over the whole of the northern counties, even securing Pressburg and the Holy Crown. Negotiations for peace were opened at Pressburg, Kaschau and Bratislava successively, but came to nothing because Bethlen insisted on including the Bohemians in the peace, whereupon (Aug. 20, 1620) the estates of north Hungary elected him king. Bethlen accepted the title but re fused to be crowned, and war was resumed, till the defeat of the Czechs at the battle of the White Mountain gave a new turn to affairs. Bethlen then concluded the peace of Nikols burg (Dec. 31, 1621), renouncing the royal title on condition that Ferdinand confirmed the peace of Vienna, 1606 (which had granted full liberty of worship to the Protestants) and en gaged to summon a general diet within six months. For himself Bethlen secured the title of prince of the Empire, the seven counties of the Upper Theiss, and the fortresses of Tokaj, Munkacs and Ecsed. Subsequently Bethlen twice (1623 and 1626) took up arms against Ferdinand as the ally of the anti Hapsburg Protestant powers. The first war was concluded by the peace of Vienna, the second by the peace of Pressburg, both confirmatory of the peace of Nikolsburg. After the second of these insurrections, Bethlen attempted a rapprochement with the court of Vienna on the basis of an alliance against the Turks and his own marriage with one of the Austrian archduchesses; but Ferdinand rejected his overtures. Accordingly, on his return from Vienna he married Catherine, the daughter of the elector of Brandenburg, and sister-in-law of Gustavus Adolphus of Swe den, who, he hoped, would help him to obtain the Polish crown. He died before he could accomplish any of his great designs (Nov. 15, 1629), having previously secured the election of his wife Catherine as princess. His first wife, Susannah Karolyi, died in 1622.
Gabriel Bethlen was certainly one of the most striking and original personages of his century. A zealous Calvinist, whose boast it was that he had read the Bible 25 times, he was never theless no persecutor, and even helped the Jesuit Kaldy to trans late and print his version of the Scriptures. He was in com munication all his life with the leading contemporary statesmen, so that his correspondence is one of the most interesting and important of historical documents.
His correspondence was published, ed. by Sandor (Budapest, i866) and Szilagyi (1879). For his life see Anton Gindely Acta et documenta historian Gabrielis Bethleni illustrantia (189o) ; Ignae-Acsady Gabriel Bethlen and his Court (189o) .