Prince Charles has become somewhat of a fixture in Transylvania, visiting the Szeklerland every year, usually in May. He owns a small house in the picturesque village of Zalánpatak. When there, he will chat with locals, trek across the hilly woods, his walking stick in hand, and, generally speaking, feel at home. He has said that his love for the place may have something to do with his heritage: he is a descendant of the Hungarian Transylvanian Rhédey family, through his Great Grandmother, Queen Mary.

Magyar fordítás  

That relaxed mood was disturbed last summer when he offered a video message to Romanians about domestic tourism. The aim was obviously to boost travel to his beloved Transylvania, where many Hungarians live and where guesthouses (including his own in Zalánpatak, and those of my brother Tibor Kálnoky in Miklósvár) were hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. However, in the final version of the video, no reference to Hungarians or Szeklers remained.

That led to a cry of outrage in some Hungarian media. Charles, they argued, had betrayed the spirit of Transylvania, or at least Transylvanian Hungarians. My brother Tibor Kálnoky felt the heat as well: He had hosted the media event introducing the video.

While I cannot go into any details of what had happened, I can confidently say that it had never been Charles’ intention to act as if Hungarians didn’t exist in Transylvania. He has now made that abundantly clear in a new video. The subject, this time, is not touristic but diplomatic: the 140th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the United Kingdom and Romania. The video message praises Romania’s “diversity” (something Romanian politicians tend to mention rather reluctantly) and mentions Hungarian, as well as Széklers - twice. Charles also underlines, as he has many times before, how much he cherishes his ancestry connecting him to the  Rhédey family. In his words (italics by me):

“Like the United Kingdom, Romania is a country of such remarkable diversity with a precious tapestry of cultures, religions, languages and people. That Szeklers, Transylvanian Saxons, Danube-Swabians, Jews, Turks and Tatars, together with Hungarians, Roma, Lipovens and more than a dozen other ethnicities should live side by side with Romanian speakers is, it seems to me, such a unique and significant feature of Romania’s national life. I consider myself immensely fortunate to have visited Romania on so many occasions and to have met such a large number of Romanians and British people carrying out remarkable work to strengthen the ties between us. They are ties which have particular personal resonance to me, not least because of cherished family connections, through my Great Grandmother Queen Mary, to my ancestor Countess Klaudia Rhédey of Erdőszentgyörgy / Sângeorgiu de Pădure in that part of Transylvania where the Szeklers live.”   

I’m quoting this at full length just in case anyone had any doubts about Charles’ feelings for Transylvania’s Szeklers and Hungarians.

The full video is available here (Prince Charles' speech begins at 29:46).

Cover photo: Kátai Edit/MTI