My Valentine: Story of Petar and Katarina Zrinski

Farewell Katarina and Petar Zrinski, oil painting by Oton Ivekovic

On Valentine’s Day I choose to remember the love story of Croatia’s beloved Petar and Katarina Zrinski. This love story ended tragically because Croatia wanted independence.

This is one of most famous Croatian tragic love stories. “It involves Viceroy Petar Count of Zrin and his wife Katarina.

While Croatian-Hungarian kingdom was under Habsburg monarchy disappointment in Habsburg kingdom grew in Croatia. Petar of Zrin was outstanding statesman and writer in Croatian history.

His wife Katarina was a poet and a sister of Fran Krsto Frankopan (Croatian nobleman, poet and politician). Petar and Fran Krsto had great success in liberating the areas occupied by the Turks. However, the Viennese Military council, instead of supporting them to free the rest of the Hungarian and Croatian land, signed a shameful peace treaty with Turkey (Warsaw peace), by which the liberated territories had to be handed back to the Turks. Disappointed Croatian and Hungarian nobility started a rebel against Habsburgs. Katarina, Fran Krsto and Petar started a secret plot which involved French monarchy, Turks and Venice.

The result of the rebellion against Vienna was a cruel public decapitation of Petar and Fran Krsto in Wiener Neustadt near Vienna in 1671. Both Petar of Zrin and Fran Krsto Frankopan went to Vienna voluntarily to seek a pardon for the rebellion. Instead of gaining a pardon they lost their lives. During the trial they defended themselves claiming that only Croatian Parliament (Hrvatski Sabor) can bring them to trial”.

But for Petar Zrinski the verdict was read as follows:

“…he committed the greater sin than the others in aspiring to obtain the same station as his Majesty, that is, to be an independent Croatian ruler, and therefore he indeed deserves to be crowned not with a crown, but with a bloody sword”.

Both Petar and Fran Krsto had a considerable collection of books and works of art, which after confiscation were held in Austria (many of them in Austrian National Library). The remains of these two Croatian martyrs were finally  buried in the Cathedral of Zagreb in 1919.

It is interesting that, while in prison from April 18th, 1670 to April 30th, 1671, Fran Krsto Frankopan translated into Croatian Molier’s “George Dandin”, written in Paris in 1669, only two years earlier. This was its first European translation. Frankopan is the author of very famous Croatian verses Navik on živi ki zgine pošteno (Forever he lives who dies honourably).

Katarina was imprisoned by general Spankau in a monastery in Graz, where she went insane and died in extreme poverty two years after Petar. Even the son of Peter and Katarina – Ivan Antun, the last of the Zrins, was imprisoned in Graz, solely because he belonged to this outstanding noble family. He died after 20 years of pneumonia at the prison in Schlossberg in Graz.

These six centuries old noble Croatian families had died out and their properties, robbed.

This is the last letter from Petar to Katarina and is written night before he was decapitated:

My dear soul!

I most humbly beg of you, that you would not grieve yourself to excess, at the sight of this letter. Tomorrow, Ah Madam, I must tell you, Alas! Tomorrow about ten o’clock in the morning, we must lose our Heads, I, and your brother. Today we have taken our last farewell; and now I come also to take leave of you, my dear Soul, forever; entreating you that you will please pardon me all things, whereby in all my life time, if I ever offended you. God, who had created me, will have pity on me, whom I will also beseech, for I hope I shall tomorrow be in his presence, that we may see each other in eternal glory before his Throne. As to anything else, I can write nothing, neither concerning my Son, nor any disposal of what I have in the World, having resigned all to the will of God. Afflict not yourself beyond measure, for God will have it so. Neuestadt, the last day of my life: Being the 29th of April, at 7 o’clock at night, in the year 1671. God preserve you and bless you, and my Daughter Aurora Veronica. Amen.

Petar Count of Zrin “


  1. Ina this story is sad on it’s own, but also is a tragic representation of Croatian aspirations and naivety to this day. We rightly believe in our just cause, but are naive to how justice and politics of the world works. Our trust in outside powers and rulers has been our tragedy. Yes, we are a small nation, but we can control our destiny and indeed we can become a bigger nation if we are focused on the family and traditional Croatian values – have more children Croatians; people is power! I sadly feel that the fate of Petar and Fran Kristo we befall our heros Gotovina and Markac – instead of travelling to Vienna they are in the Hague and will suffer for Croatian independance, while our politicans sell out to yet another imperial conquering pwoer, the EU.

  2. Michael silovic says:

    Very tragic but warming letter.To know ones fate and to ask for forgiveness and to be strong is powerful.

  3. marijan ranogajec says:

    very nice right up on pianting, what is value of original?

  4. It’s a really tragic story; honestly. Congratulations for writting it; it got featured in my page!
    -Hermione Zrinski

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