There was once a kingdom without a king, a country without a sea – ruled by an admiral without a navy.
Do you think I’m joking?!
This country was Hungary between the two world wars. After World War I the Habsburg king, Charles IV, was deposed but Hungary remained a kingdom; in the absence of a king she was ruled by a regent, Miklós Horthy, an admiral of the former Austro-Hungarian Navy. Then the Treaty of Trianon – the peace treaty pertaining to Hungary at the end of World War I – ensured that this admiral without a navy ruled a now landlocked country.
The Navy of a Landlocked Country?
Historically, Hungary had an exit to the Adriatic Sea for about 800 years: from 1102, the year when Croatia and Hungary entered into a personal/dynastic union (for a parallel think Scotland and England) during the rule of St László I of Hungary, until 1918 when at the end of World War I the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy dissolved and Croatia joined the newly formed Yugoslavia.
Having an exit to the sea for 800 years however had no effect on the fundamentally landlocked mindset of Hungarians. There were a handful of adventurers¹ who – mostly from necessity rather than choice – sailed the seven seas over the centuries but there never existed much of a Hungarian merchant fleet and there never was a Hungarian navy.
There was a Hungarian navy in the second half of the 14th century when King Louis I the Great competed against the Republic of Venice for the possession of Dalmatia – during the War of Chioggia Hungary allied herself to Genua and Padua² – but let’s face it: it was a Dalmatian navy under a Hungarian king and there was probably not a single Hungarian on board of any of its vessels. (Perhaps not surprisingly, the Dalmatians preferred subjection to the Hungarian Crown who left them to do as they pleased rather than subjection to the Doge of Venice who had no intention to let them do as they pleased; although doubtless most of all they would have preferred to stay independent). In the end, Hungary lost Dalmatia to Venice in 1409 in a rather tame fashion: the pretender to the Hungarian throne, Ladislaus of Naples, sold the city of Zára (today’s Zadar) to Venice for a hundred thousand ducats.
After that, you’re looking at a gap of more than four hundred years long.
Until in the summer of 1848, when an attempt was made for the establishment of an independent Hungarian Navy. It’s a story of aspiration, double-crossing and cowardice…
Notes: ¹ The most notable of these adventurers was Móric Benyovszky, the Hungarian king of Madagascar in the 18th century. Remind me to tell you his story; it'll leave you gaping... ² The story of the War of Chioggia is told very entertainingly by Roger Crowley in his book City of Fortune: How Venice Won and Lost a Naval Empire. A book I much recommend! You might also like: ⇒ The Black Prince ⇒ Implacabile (The Corvette That Never Was) ⇒ God's Chosen People ⇒ Face to Face with My Ancestors (The Scythians in the British Museum)