László Antal János Lajos Batthyány-Strattmann (1870-1931) was a Hungarian aristocrat and prince, often referred to as the “doctor of the poor”. Peculiarly for the age, despite having the title of prince, he chose a civic profession and became a doctor.
László Batthyány was the sixth child in the family, and his childhood was overshadowed by the fact that his father abandoned the family and his mother, the Countess Ludovika Batthyány died young, when László was just 12 years old. He first studied various subjects at the University of Vienna, including Chemistry, Philosophy, and the History of Music. During this tumultuous part of his life, he fathered an illegitimate daughter, for whom he cared until the end of his life. In 1896, he finally found his calling and enrolled to study medicine, completing his education in 1900. He met Countess Maria Theresia Coreth zu Coredo und Starkenberg during this time, and the two were married on November 10, 1898 in Vienna, leading to a happy marriage blessed with twelve children.
László always continued studying, first learning to be a surgeon and then an ophthalmologist. As a certified doctor, he started building a hospital while he was a surgeon intern, and opened Hungary’s first rural hospital with modern equipment in Kittsee. Dr. Batthyány-Strattmann made sure prescriptions he wrote for medicines and eyeglasses for his patients would be filled for free by settling the bill himself at the end of every month. He devoted a significant part of his fortune to helping heal the poor.
As the Treaty of Trianon put the city of Kittsee under the control of Austria, Batthyány-Strattmann moved to his castle in Körmend, where he set up a new hospital for people suffering from eye afflictions. Thanks to his exceptional dexterity, he gained renown as an excellent surgeon. With the help of his wife, who was also his assistant, Batthyány-Strattmann treated 80-100 patients a day.
The “prince of the poor” helped the needy through his charity work and with all the methods at his disposal. In the last decade of his life, he prayed the Little Office of the Immaculate Conception every day, attended mass with his family, and prayed the Rosary in the evenings. In 1916, he joined the Third Order of St. Francis together with his wife, his son Ödön, and his daughter-in-law. He regularly prayed before and during surgery and made sure his patients were receiving the necessary spiritual care as well. He passed away on January 22, 1931 after several months of a serious illness fraught with pain and suffering. Batthyány-Strattmann was buried in Güssing, Austria, in his family’s crypt at the local Franciscan monastery, and was beatified by St. Pope John Paul II on March 23, 2003.