Matthias I, the Great, surnamed Corvinus, king of Hungary, born in 1443, died in Vienna in 1490. He was a son of John Hunyady (Hunniades), the governor of Hungary during the minority of King Ladislas the Posthumous. His elder brother Ladislas perished on the scaffold by order of that king, but he succeeded the latter on the throne by election in 1458, after having been previously detained as a prisoner in Bohemia by the adversaries of his house. He met with bitter opposition on the part of many powerful nobles, who in 1459 elected the emperor Frederick III. as rival king. Matthias, however, prevailed upon Frederick to surrender to him the crown of St. Stephen; and he next expelled the Turks, who had availed themselves of the intestine troubles to invade the country. He restored order in the kingdom with a firm hand, curbing the license of the nobles with rigor. He had married a daughter of George Podiebrad, king of Bohemia, but was induced by ambition and the entreaties of the court of Rome to fight his own father-in-law, who had been excommunicated as a Hussite in 1463, and afterward declared deposed by the new pope Paul II., a crusade being preached against him throughout the German empire.
Podiebrad repulsed the invasion of Bohemia by Matthias, and concluded an armistice with him in April, 1469; but the latter, being chosen king of Bohemia by a mockdiet at Olmutz, without effect, renewed hostilities, which did not terminate till July, 1470. In the mean time Matthias had wrested from Podiebrad Moravia, Silesia, and Lusatia (1468-70); he also vanquished the Poles, and in 1485-'6 wrested Vienna and a large part of Lower Austria from the emperor Frederick. The enormous expenses of these wars entailed heavy burdens upon his subjects; but his rule, though arbitrary, was so eminently judicious and popular that after his death the adage gained currency: "King Matthias gone, justice gone." Hungary enjoyed under his influence an era of unprecedented prosperity and prestige in Europe as the great bulwark against the Turks.
At the same time he promoted letters and science niore thoroughly than any other potentate of his day. He gathered round him learned Italians, founded the university of Buda, acquired Greek manuscripts, and employed numerous copyists at Florence and Buda to add valuable materials to the royal library. Its partial destruction by the Turks in 1527 was a great calamity, especially as only a small portion of it found its way to Vienna. - John (!or-vinus, a natural son of Matthias, attempted to succeed to the throne, which was occupied after the latter's death by Uladislas II.