Prime Minister’s letter to Jimmy Carter: The Hungarian people will never forget the man who returned the Holy Crown
The decision by President Jimmy Carter to return the Crown in 1978 was a controversial one, and one which took political courage. President Carter made his decision based on the evidence that Hungary’s record on human rights – its tolerance of religious expression, its facilitating of travel and communication – while not perfect, deserved recognition as an example to other Soviet-bloc countries
“A great many outstanding figures and names can be found on the pages of Hungarian history; the names of people who performed remarkable and noble acts for Hungary and the Hungarian nation. I can assure you that
“the Hungarian people will never forget the name of the US president who returned the Holy Crown to our country, thereby radiating rays of hope amidst the dark shadows of the Iron Curtain,”
the Prime Minister wrote, adding that “I believe that your decision was not only a fine manifestation of political courage, but equally proof of your commitment to our Transatlantic relations.”
“On behalf of the people of Hungary, please allow me to express my personal good wishes on the occasion of your 95th birthday. God bless you, and may He keep you in good health for many more long years,” Mr Orbán wrote.
US Secretary of State Cyrus Vance (center-left) shaking hands with Hungarian Speaker of the House Antal Apró at the ceremonial return of the Holy Crown of St. Stephen to Hungary, on January 6, 1978
In a letter he wrote two years ago to Hungarian Baptist Aid head Sándor Szenczy, Jimmy Carter recalled that the return of the crown of Saint Stephen (r. 1000-1038) and other coronation regalia had ushered in improved relations between Hungary and the US.
Carter felt that it was only right that the Crown be returned before a whole generation of Hungarians came of age without understanding its symbolism. After all, he said, the Crown belonged to the Hungarian people.
The crown and regalia were taken from Hungary near the end of the Second World War, and given to an American officer by a Hungarian colonel. Eventually, they found their way to the US, where they were safeguarded in Fort Knox for several decades before they were successfully returned in 1978.
The crown for hundreds of years has held immense symbolic and constitutional power for Hungarians. Through history, kings and queens were not considered to be legitimate unless they had been crowned with the Holy Crown the traditional way.