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Reply with quote  #46 


Dense and oracular as it is, Williams’ book-length poem seems to me to capture the part Byzantium plays in our imaginations, the City above all cities, ruled by the Emperor above all lords. The reality was not quite like that, Byzantium a cruel, dangerous and treacherous place, a shifting multiplicity of dynasties occupying the Imperial throne, the lands and power of the Empire fluctuating through the centuries but steadily diminishing towards its final fall. But the imagination is real too; the power and the kingdom are centuries gone, but something of the glory remains.

With my interest in royal genealogy, I have long been aware of various strands of Byzantine imperial blood making their way into the dynasties of Europe, and thought I would try to produce some kind of summary of which Emperors, of which dynasties, have left a trace of blood through to the present day and the remaining European monarchs.

Not a straightforward task; the Eastern Empire, generally agreed to have begun with Constantine the Great in AD 330, lasted in one form or another for 1,123 years, during which time its throne was occupied by 93 Emperors (including four regnant Empresses), drawn from 16 different dynasties and also including nine one-offs who established no continuing line.

That’s my count, anyway, though ambiguity and confusion are synonymous with Byzantium and the count could validly be challenged. In case anyone wishes to, having to begin somewhere I did so with the Wikipedia List of Byzantine emperors, accepting their decision as to who was and wasn’t Emperor and to which dynasty to attach them, with the exception that I declined to count the three pretenders they list following the City’s final fall to the Turks. Apart from what I already knew I at least skimmed the vast majority of the linked articles, and didn’t find myself in any disagreement that all these individuals genuinely held the rule, however briefly.

The one uncertainty was whether to count the four Laskaris who reigned in Nicaea rather than the City proper, but I decided to follow Wikipedia in doing so; the Eastern Empire had not fallen but continued in their stewardship until its restoration to the proper capital. Finally, in its introduction the Wikipedia article gives the total number of Emperors as 99. Deducting the three pretenders gives 96, but I said 93 above. Quite simply, I disagree with the Wikipedian arithmetic.

So, how many of 16 dynasties and nine one-off Emperors left a verifiable trace of blood to the present day? How many of 93 Emperors, if that be the true figure? How many of these can be traced to current sovereigns? Who was the earliest Emperor in the millennium-plus span of time the Eastern Roman Empire lasted to have documented descent to our time?

The answers are respectively six and none, 19 (20.4%), 17 (18.3%), and Romanus I Lekapenos (c. 870-948, reigned 920-944). Though all these figures may seem disappointing, the last is especially surprising perhaps. No Emperor who reigned before 920, a full 120 years after the founding of the Eastern Empire’s Holy Roman upstart rival and almost six centuries after its own foundation? I’m afraid not, at least if possible and speculative descents from earlier Emperors are not counted, which in my opinion they should not be.

I may write separately about the various possibilities at some future time, but for now let’s move on to the third part, and some of the details behind those numbers.


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Reply with quote  #47 

While it is only the last six dynasties that verifiable descent survives from, it is at least all six of them, albeit the first only in a qualified way, as will be seen. And that first is:

The Macedonian dynasty

It would be some consolation for the overall paucity of known descents that the mighty Macedonian line, with 16 Emperors drawn from or associated with it (the record, followed by the Palaiologoi with ten) during its 189-year span (second only to the Palaiologoi’s 192), supplies the earliest Emperor who descends to the present day. It would, were it not that Romanus I Lekapenos is counted as a Macedonian solely due to marital connections, neither he nor his daughter Agatha through whom surviving descent is traced having one drop of actual Macedonian imperial blood.

Agatha’s mother is unknown, but we do know that her husband was Romanus Argyros, a member of a distinguished line which later supplied an Emperor itself, Romanus III, who is also counted to the Macedonians through a marital connection. A grandson of the earlier Romanus Argyros and Agatha Lekapena, the descent is not from him but his brother Basil Argyros, whose daughter (who obviously had a name, but we don’t know what it was) married the general Constantine Diogenes and had a son Romanus.

He is well-known to history as Romanus IV Diogenes, in many ways an attractive and impressive figure but doomed always to be remembered as the loser of Manzikert, the battle that dealt the Empire an eventually fatal wound, albeit it dwindlingly endured for some 382 years afterwards. Romanus IV is counted as a Doukid, marital connections again, so that is the second dynasty from which descent survives, the line continuing through Romanus’s son Constantine.

Romanus though was the fourth not second Emperor from whom verifiable descent remains, it surviving also from another Macedonian and an actual Doukid, both of whom I will get to. Of unknown name again, Romanus’s first wife, the mother of his son, was a daughter of Alusian of Bulgaria, son of the Tsar Ivan Vladislav. He in turn was a nephew of Tsar Samuel, one of the greatest medieval Bulgarian rulers, and was the earliest-known monarch of Bulgaria from whom descent is traceable.

Which is through his great-grandson the aforementioned Constantine Diogenes, who by his wife Theodora Komnena (sister of the very significant Emperor Alexios I Komnenos, whom I will also be getting to) had a daughter Anna Diogenissa, Grand Princess of Serbia by marriage to Uroš I Vukanović, arguably the earliest Serbian sovereign from whom descent can be traced, so we have a definite Balkan theme here (no pun intended). Their daughter Jelena married Béla II of Hungary and it is plain sailing from there, the line going through their son Géza II and his Béla III to András II, shown to be a universal ancestor of today’s sovereigns in the 1215 thread.

Here is the descent in graphical form all the way from Romanus I Lekapenos to András II. As said previously, there was a further Emperor associated with the Macedonians from whom there is verifiable descent to all current European sovereigns. This was Constantine IX Monomachos (c. 1000-1055, reigned 1042-1055), also counted as a Macedonian through marital affiliation, in his case as the third husband of Zoe, next to last of the Macedonian line and also next to last regnant Empress, the last, and last Macedonian, being her sister Theodora. Here is a line of descent from him to the above-mentioned Béla III of Hungary, and now we will continue with the Doukids, successor dynasty to the Macedonians after the one-off Michael VI Bringas and a brief and abortive start for the Komnenoi.

The dynasty of Doukas

Families called Doukas or some near variant thereof were important at various periods in Byzantine history, but the connection if any between them is not known. We are concerned here with the 12th Imperial dynasty, powerful landowners in the Empire’s Anatolian heartland, who rose to the throne in the person of Constantine X following the brief reign and abdication of Isaac I Komnenos, first of that dynasty.

Poorly-regarded by historians and apparently highly unpopular at the time, Constantine was nevertheless followed on the throne by his son Michael VII, with whom his stepfather Romanus IV was co-ruler, then Nikephoros III Botaneiates, (bigamous) second husband of Michael VII’s wife Maria of Alania, a woman of famous beauty.

There is no known descent surviving from either Michael VII or Nikephoros III, but there is from Romanus IV, as already shown, and from Constantine X himself. There are several routes by which this can be traced; I will show the most straightforward one, to Michael VIII Palaiologos, first of that final dynasty. Michael VIII’s son Andronicus II was shown in the 1330 note on posterities part 2 to be a universal ancestor of today’s European royalty.

The Komnenoi

The first Emperor of this important and admirable dynasty, revivers and renewers of the Empire’s power, was as said Isaac I. In his two-year reign he introduced vital reforms and began to restore the ailing Imperial finances to health. His own health however was poor, and following what he believed was a series of omens directed at him he abdicated in favour of Constantine X Doukas. Who promptly began to undo all Isaac’s good work, the disastrous two-decade span during which the four Doukid Emperors ruled also seeing the loss of Anatolia, the tax base and manpower and agricultural resources of which had all been key to the Empire’s strength.

So it was no happy situation that Alexios I, paternal nephew of Isaac I, found himself in when a coup orchestrated by the palace women overthrew Nikephoros III and raised him to the throne (the Komnenoi thus both preceding and succeeding the Doukids). His 37-year reign saw many rebellions and much turmoil and also the upheaval caused by the passage of the First Crusade, but left the Empire in a much-improved position, the coastlands and western portion of Anatolia recovered and imperial overlordship extending further south. What sort of man was he? You can believe the hagiographic account left by his daughter Anna if you like, or you can take note instead of his reputation among the Crusaders for double-dealing and treachery.

Either way (and the truth probably lies somewhere in between) he was a successful Emperor and left the realm in far better case than he found it. There had been successful Emperors that founded continuing dynasties before him, of course, but he is the first such with known descent to the present day. In fact, of the 22 Emperors, of four dynasties, that followed him before Mehmet II brought the Empire to an end, 20 were his descendants and the other two were married to a descendant.

The first of these successors was his son John II, known as ‘John the Beautiful’, not for his appearance which reputedly was unusually ugly but for his virtue, piety and mild and humane character. Which last qualities did not prevent him from also being a successful Emperor, continuing his father’s strengthening work and recovery of lost territory.

When John II died, universally loved and admired, he was succeeded in turn by his son Manuel I, who like his maternal grandfather the sainted László I of Hungary was seen as the very pattern of a chivalrous medieval monarch, the hero of his age. Manuel’s reputation has suffered at the hands of modern historians, who consider him over-ambitious, draining the Empire’s resources with his wars and lacking his father’s and paternal grandfather’s sagacity. Maybe so, but in the ample contemporary sources there is nothing to be found but unbridled praise for the great Emperor Manuel I.

With whom the greatness of the Komnenoi ended, his son Alexios II being murdered aged 14 by his father’s cousin Andronicus I, who made himself so hated that a mob of citizens lynched him, ushering in the reign of the Angeloi.

There is no descent surviving from Isaac I, the first Komnenid, but from what I have said already there obviously is from Alexios I, first of the restored line. There is also from John II, Manuel I and Andronicus I, though naturally not from the child Alexios II. To begin with Alexios I and his son John II, though there are many, many other ways I could trace their line, some of them fascinating and complex routes indeed, I will keep things neat by going once again to Michael VIII Palaiologos, shown already to be a universal ancestor of today’s royalty. Note by the way that descent from the Catholic saint László I is available only through his daughter Piroska, wife of John II and herself an Orthodox saint under the name Irene, and also that through John II’s mother there is a second route from Ivan Vladislav of Bulgaria.

No neat option is available for Manuel I, alas. Here (stage I; stage II) is a tracing of descent from him to a much later and extremely famous ruler, one with a multiplicity of descendants today. However this is the only known route from the great Christian Emperor, and for his blood to re-enter Christian royal lines is not to be looked for. Andronicus I is in better case, as he does have Christian royal descendants today. Four of them that I know of, Grand Duchess Maria of Russia and her son Grand Duke George, plus the two children of Prince Francesco of the Two Sicilies, heir presumptive after his father Prince Antoine to the Castro claim.

What these four have in common is Georgian royal blood through their mothers, with its accompanying tracing of descent from Emperors of Trebizond. This breakaway realm was founded by Alexios and David Komnenos, grandsons of Andronicus I, whose line continued through Alexios and succeeding Trapezuntine rulers into the Georgian royal house, but survives in no other way.

And I think that will be enough for now. As said above, I will resume at a later date with the Angeloi, the Laskaris and the Palaiologoi, with whom the story ends. By ‘later date’, I do mean ‘sometime this month’, not ‘this year’ or even ‘this decade’, as my track record with these things might lead one to think! Any responses in the meantime will be more than welcome, and are assured of a prompt and attentive reply.


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Reply with quote  #48 
Peter, um, none of your links in this thread showing the descents work.

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Reply with quote  #49 
No, they all work fine. I noticed that Genealogics was down last night; like all sites, sometimes it has a problem or requires maintenance. Presumably it still was when you tried the links, but it's back up now.

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Reply with quote  #50 

Resuming the tale with three dynasties to go, before I commence on the first of these I ought to mention that in my original work I had overlooked an Emperor from whom verifiable descent to today’s royalty survives. This was Constantine IX Monomachos, who was actually the second earliest such Emperor, being the next to last of the Macedonians (though again without actual Macedonian blood). The figures in the overview and the section on the Macedonians have been amended accordingly, and now I will continue with the fourth of the six dynasties to be considered.

The Angeloi

Constantine Angelos came from the town of Philadelphia, the modern-day Alaşehir. Situated in western Anatolia bordering the Aegean littoral, under its original name Philadelphia was storied in both history and the Bible. The 12th-century Constantine was a bit late for the latter but gained a none-too-creditable footnote in the former, being paternal grandfather of the first two Angelid Emperors, two of the worst rulers and most contemptible individuals to occupy the Byzantine throne in the entire 1300-year span the Empire lasted. And there isn’t a great deal to be said for the other two Angelid Emperors either.

Which wasn’t in any way Constantine’s fault, of course. Reputedly of lowly birth, he rose by his merits to be an admiral, commanding the Byzantine fleet in Sicily, and to marry Theodora Komnena, youngest daughter of the Emperor Alexios I. They had several children, descent surviving to present-day royalty from three of their sons.

The eldest of these, John, preferred to be known by his maternal grandmother’s more aristocratic surname Doukas (she was the daughter of Andronicus Doukas, son of John Doukas, brother of the Emperor Constantine X). A capable general who played a large part in the events of his day, there are numerous ways to trace descent from John Doukas to current royalty. As an example, I will go first to the 14th-century Tommaso, Marquess of Saluzzo, and then to Frederik Hendrik, Prince of Orange, who was twice great-grandfather of Jan Willem Friso, Prince of Orange, the most recent common ancestor of the ten reigning European monarchs.

Another son, Andronicus Doukas Angelos, took a midway course as regards his name and was also a general. He was the father of those first two Angelid Emperors, Isaac II and Alexios III, to be discussed below. Besides the descents through them that will be shown, Andronicus’s line survives through his son John Angelos and the latter’s daughter Theodora, who married Leopold VI, Duke of Austria.

A ruler very prominent and much admired in his day, Leopold VI was his wife’s third cousin once removed through mutual descent from Alexios I Komnenos, and nor was that his only tracing of Byzantine Imperial blood; his maternal grandfather was Géza II of Hungary, mentioned above as a descendant of Romanus I Lekapenos, and he also descended through his maternal grandmother from Constantine IX Monomachos (finding this affiliation was what drew my attention to that previously-overlooked Emperor).

So, with that of their mother added a rich harvest of Byzantine imperial descents was possessed by Leopold VI’s children. There is traceable descent from three of these, his son Heinrich and daughters Agnes and Constance. I will trace Heinrich through Barbara of Cilli, wife of the Emperor Sigismund, shown to be a universal ancestor in the 1415 note on posterities; Agnes to Christian I of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, for whom the same thing was shown in the first part of the 1453 note; and Constance through his wife Dorothea of Brandenburg.

The third and final son of Constantine Angelos to leave a trace of blood to today’s royalty was Isaac Angelos, unashamedly known by that name and an ancestor of the wife of Michael VIII Palaiologos, and therefore of their son the previously-mentioned Andronicus II, another universal ancestor.

I realise that I have already made a considerable meal of Angelid descents, and there are still several to come. I didn’t get carried away (well, maybe a little), there was a purpose to this; the Angelids were the first dynasty of Byzantium to be descended in their first reigning Emperor from a predecessor dynasty, and showing the variety and ubiquity of collateral descents from that first Emperor, with earlier descents thrown in, demonstrates something of the extent to which Byzantine imperial blood came to permeate all the European dynasties.

But we are now finished with his kin, his other brother aside, and do turn at last to the first Angelid Emperor. Isaac II was raised to the throne in the place of Andronicus I, last Komnenid to reign, a man of many gifts, handsome appearance and great charm but apparently devoid of morality. His licentious nature and taste for seducing especially prominent women made his career before becoming Emperor a series of picaresque episodes, forever fleeing the consequences of the latest seduction. Having seen his opportunity in the minority of Alexios II and seized the rule he proceeded to reign capably but with great brutality and cruelty, murdering and massacring any individual or group that might conceivably pose a threat to his power, the child-Emperor being only one of his uncounted thousands of victims.

Almost anyone would have been better, but Isaac II almost wasn’t. Idle, pleasure-loving and ineffectual, surrounded always by a horde of sycophants and a bevy of mistresses, he taxed his subjects oppressively, provoking the revolt that founded the Second Bulgarian Empire, then squandered the money on opulent palaces and ornate churches while starving Byzantine defences and governance of funds. It was no surprise that such a poor ruler could easily be overthrown, but the Empire’s last case was again worse than its first.

The one attractive feature of Isaac’s character was his affection for his brother Alexios, whom he had redeemed from foreign captivity at great trouble and expense then loaded down with honours. Alexios returned this familial affection by deposing, blinding and imprisoning Isaac, then proceeding to rule, as Alexios III, in similar vein but if possible even more incompetently. It was his and his brother’s policies that led to the fall of the City to the Latins, though that still might have been averted were it not for Alexios’s shameful cowardice when matters came to the crunch, fleeing in panic terror when had he stood and fought there was every chance of winning.

The Latins had intended to place Isaac II’s son, another Alexios, on the throne as their puppet, but the people of the City forestalled them by redeeming Isaac II from prison and restoring him (even though, being blinded, he was theoretically disqualified). So Isaac II and the now Alexios IV reigned jointly, until the latter’s treacherousness, arrogance and unwisdom led to his overthrow and murder by Alexios V, last Angelid Emperor (though paternally a Doukid, he is counted to the Angelids through his marriage to a daughter of Alexios III) and last non-Latin Emperor to reign in the City for over half a century.

Isaac II, overthrown for a second time when his son fell, died shortly afterwards, whether naturally or with assistance is not known. Driven out by the Latins, Alexios V joined Alexios III, marrying his aforesaid daughter (Eudokia, who had already had a chequered marital career and apparently was Alexios V’s mistress before becoming his wife). Father-in-law and new son-in-law soon fell out, and the latter was imprisoned and blinded by the former. The Latins then overran his place of imprisonment and took him back to the City where he was executed for his treachery to Alexios IV. As for Alexios III, he continued his discreditable career until eventually imprisoned in a monastery by Theodore I, the first Laskaris Emperor, where he died.

And that is the end of the squalid story of the 14th Imperial dynasty, apart from showing descent from its first two Emperors, there being none from its third and fourth. Isaac II was married twice, the first time to a woman of uncertain identity and the second to Margarete of Hungary, daughter of Béla III and so a lady with extensive Imperial descents of her own. Descent survives from both unions, in the first case from Isaac II’s daughter Irene Angelina, who was married to the German king Philipp of Hohenstaufen. A line can be traced from three of their daughters; the first of these, Maria, married Hendrik II, Duke of Brabant, and was an ancestress inter alia of Jeanne I of Navarre, shown to be a universal ancestress in the 1286 thread.

The second, Kunigunde, married Václav I of Bohemia (a grandson of Béla III of Hungary again, so their children had Byzantine imperial blood from both sides) and was grandmother of Václav II, whose universal ancestor status is demonstrated in the same thread. And the third, Elisabeth, married the sainted Fernando III of León and Castile and was foremother to Diniz of Portugal among many, many others. Once again, this eminent man and monarch is shown in the 1286 thread to be a universal ancestor.

It is to the 1215 thread that we go for a descent from Isaac II’s second marriage, to Margarete of Hungary. She married a second time herself, to Boniface I of Montferrat, and was mother to Demetrius of Thessalonica. By way of demonstrating collateral descent from the childless Demetrius I linked to descendants of both his parents’ first marriages, that from his mother going through John Angelos, her son with Isaac II.

There are two ways of tracing descent from Alexios III. The first is through his daughter Irene, whom I will take as far as the inevitable Michael VIII Palaiologos, her grandson. And the second is through his daughter Anna, wife of that same Theodore I Laskaris who terminated his father-in-law’s serial betrayals of family (the latest of which had been an attempt on his son-in-law’s throne) by placing him in lifelong confinement.

Universal ancestor status for Theodore and Anna is shown in the penultimate paragraph of the 1215 introduction part II. There is descent from the next two Laskaris Emperors also, both fine men and rulers like the first, but I will tell that and the dynasty’s story in a fifth and hopefully final part of this extended essay, to cover also the 16th and definitely final Byzantine dynasty, the long-reigning Palaiologoi.


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Reply with quote  #51 

Empire in exile

Born under Manuel I, Theodore Laskaris would have been around six when the brief reign of Alexios II began, nine when Andronicus I commenced his reign of terror, eleven when the wastrel Isaac II replaced him, and 21 or thereabouts by the time the worse wastrel Alexios III overthrew his brother. So he had seen some turbulent times, and more were to come before he himself steered the ship of state into calmer albeit sometimes still choppy waters.

We don’t know a great deal about his family background, no more than the names of his parents and siblings. Presumed noble, the Laskaris had never previously made any mark on Byzantine history, but Theodore and his elder brother Constantine rose by their abilities, the former far enough that when 24 or 25 he was wed to the Emperor’s daughter. He showed courage, skill and leadership during the siege of the City by the Latins and, managing to escape across the Bosporus once all was lost, was a natural choice for Emperor of the exiles (albeit the discredited Alexios III was still alive, with misdeeds aplenty still to come).

Establishing himself in Nicaea, which city had itself been recovered from the Seljuk Turks under Alexios I with the assistance of the original Crusaders, his 17-year reign saw many battles, a few lost but most won, during one of which he reputedly slew the Sultan of Rum in single combat, and a steady growth of the territories under his rule and strengthening of the exile realm. Having no surviving son (that he acknowledged, he had a living son Constantine by his second wife Philippa of Armenia, but bride and child had been repudiated and sent back to the court of Philippa’s uncle Leo I), his successor was his son-in-law, John Doukas Vatatzes, husband of his daughter Irene Laskarina.

Born to a considerably more prominent family than the Laskaris had been before their rise to the throne, he appears in the link above from Isaac Angelos, uncle of Isaac II and Alexios III, and so was himself descended from Alexios I Komnenos; his relationship to his wife Irene, second cousin once removed, demonstrates this.

John III, as he now was, suffered from a hereditary form of epilepsy, which he transmitted to his son and successor Theodore II (who resumed the Laskaris surname, also borne by his own son John IV, last of the line to reign). This debilitating condition did not prevent either John III or Theodore II from being successful Emperors, the former especially, and by the time the latter died, after a tragically-brief four-year reign which nevertheless was marked by notable triumphs, what little was left of the Latin Empire was engirdled by Nicene territory, with the Empire of Nicaea poised to retake the City.

But this would not happen under the Laskaris. John IV was just seven years old when he became Emperor in his turn; the position of a child sovereign was perilous anywhere, but especially in Byzantium, or in this case its offshoot. The prominent (and, under Theodore II, rebellious) noble Michael Palaiologos seized the boy-Emperor’s guardianship, making himself co-Emperor as Michael VIII, and on his eleventh birthday John IV was blinded, deposed and consigned to a monastery. With this barbarously wicked act the long reign of the Palaiologoi began.

The new Emperor showed more mercy to John IV’s sisters, merely marrying them off to Italian nobles by way of removing them far from the realm and making their offspring improbable contenders for his crown. Descent from John III and Theodore II survives only through the second of these sisters, Eudokia Laskarina, whose enforced wedding was to Guglielmo Balbo, Count of Ventimiglia and Tenda, domains which today straddle the Franco-Italian border, so far removed indeed from the then surviving remnants of the Eastern Empire.

Their son took the name Lascaris, and his line continued until in 1509, 240 years after the marriage of Eudokia and Guglielmo, Gianantonio Lascaris, Count of Tenda, died leaving only a daughter Anna, married to René of Savoy, a natural son of the Duke Philip II. Now, Anna Lascaris has come up in these threads before. In the 1371 thread I traced descent to her from Ivan Asen II of Bulgaria, by way of showing collateral descent from Ivan Sratsimir of the same, then from Anna to the present-day sovereigns of Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein and Monaco, plus to the Duke of Cambridge.

Theodore II, son of John III, appears in the link from Ivan Asen II to Anna, being the husband of Ivan Asen II’s daughter Elena (whose mother incidentally was a daughter of András II of Hungary, so had imperial blood of her own), through whom the descent is traced. So that is five current monarchs and a future monarch descended from the second and third Laskaris Emperors, and now we will turn to the Palaiologoi, commencing with the (frequently) aforementioned Michael VIII.

Return to the City

Frequently because, while he undoubtedly usurped the throne and in a most cruel fashion, he was the best-connected first Emperor of a dynasty there had been (or, obviously, was to be). In fact only one previous first Emperor, Isaac II Angelos, had been descended from any predecessor, and he could claim only one, Alexios I Komnenos. Michael VIII’s count was four, drawn from three dynasties; Constantine X Doukas, Alexios I (twice) and his son John II Komnenos, and Alexios III Angelos. Not overly impressive in itself, perhaps, but still a 400% increase on the previous record.

The City having fallen to him through a stroke of luck plus the patient work of his Laskaris predecessors (and, it must be admitted, his own brilliant victory at the 1259 Battle of Pelagonia), he felt strong enough to commit his abominable crime against John IV. Which once it became known weakened his position again, the Patriarch Arsenios excommunicating him and considerable provincial unrest ensuing. But he survived this, as he did all the many violent storms of his reign, much of which was dominated by conflict with his fellow usurper Charles of Anjou, King of Sicily.

Both men of great ability, craft and guile, both dominated by ambition and devoid of scruple, they could have been twins though they were actually 6th cousins once removed. Neither triumphed but both endured, and when Michael VIII died he left his son Andronicus II a legacy of the City regained, the western territories increased but the eastern reduced, and that frontier in a weakened and porous state.

This last was to prove the Empire’s eventual undoing, though when Andronicus II commenced his reign as second of the Palaiologoi that eventuality was still a long way off, it falling along with the City itself in the reign of his great-great-great-grandson Constantine XI, tenth and last Palaiologos Emperor and also the last Emperor of all.

Andronicus II’s reign was long, 45 years, and there is no reason to think he was other than a good man striving to do his best. His best though was not often good enough, and when his rebellious grandson removed him from the throne to a monastery it was a further weakened and much troubled realm that the now Andronicus III took charge of. He was the son of Michael IX, so numbered because his father Andronicus II had associated him as co-Emperor. Dying during his father’s reign, he is not though counted among either the 93 Emperors overall or the ten Palaiologoi.

As already shown, Andronicus II had imperial blood through his mother as well as his father. And so did Michael IX, his mother being a daughter of István V of Hungary, grandson of András II and through his own mother of Theodore I Laskaris. Andronicus III did not, his mother Rita of Armenia, a daughter of Leo II, bringing a range of descents from Cilician Armenia and also the Crusader realms, but none that were Byzantine. Normal service was resumed with Andronicus III’s wife Anna of Savoy, a distant descendant of Isaac II Angelos, and indeed the wives of both Andronicus III’s son John V and his son Manuel II, the last two Emperors from whom known descent survives, were descended from a more recent Emperor, Michael VIII Palaiologos himself.

So, barring the one blip with Rita of Armenia, the Palaiologoi increased their overall number of imperial descents with each succeeding generation. Andronicus II though was the last of them to transmit his descents to all the sovereigns of today, the manner of which is as said explained in the 1330 note on posterities part II. That same note also details the descent of the present Kings of Spain and Belgium, Grand Duke of Luxembourg and Princes of Monaco and Liechtenstein plus the Prince of Wales from Andronicus III, and the 1453 note part three does the same for the descent from John V and Manuel II of the King of Belgium, Grand Duke of Luxembourg and Prince of Liechtenstein only.

And that is my genealogical work on the Eastern Emperors done, though I still have to briefly skim over the reigns of the last three, or actually four, from whom known descent survives. Andronicus III proved to have a firmer hand on the tiller than his grandfather ever displayed, and though there were losses in Asia, including the fall of the sometime capital Nicaea, he left the realm in a considerably strengthened position overall. Unfortunately he left it too soon, his son John V being only eight years old when Andronicus III died, possibly of malaria. The ensuing long minority proved a turbulent time indeed, with civil war, plague and external attacks racking the Empire, and John V’s appointed guardian John Kantakouzenos raising himself to the throne as John VI.

He had done so though purely as self-defence against the machinations of the Empress Mother Anna of Savoy and various powerful Court officials, and never intended harm to the young John V, whom he left as co-Emperor and married to his daughter, descents from John V thus being descents from John VI (who is counted as a Palaiologos Emperor) also. The former was not grateful for the latter’s decency, overthrowing his father-in-law and consigning him to the inevitable monastery, then proved a weak ruler, himself deposed twice. He was also restored twice and died still on the throne, but it was a shadow of a realm that he left to Manuel II.

A good, brave and honourable man, cultured and learned and the author of several surviving works of literature, he made a great impression on his travels around Europe seeking aid, journeying as far as England, the only Byzantine Emperor ever to set foot on these shores (I know of only one Holy Roman Emperor that did either, Charles V who in 1520 visited the Court of Henry VIII, and they had a good deal less distance to cover). There was though no aid to be had, and while Manuel played the impossible hand he had been dealt as well as he could all he could achieve was to stave off the doom that finally fell in the next reign but one.

And now I am finished with genealogy and history alike, until the next project. Which may be a semi-continuation of this one; I have it in mind to do some sort of genealogical survey of both the Latin and Holy Roman Emperors, by way of a comparison. But that task if I undertake it will be for another day. I feel that I have learned much from this work, in particular getting a better grasp of those last six dynasties and the interconnections between them and the other European royal houses. Not too many have read what I have written but I hope at least a few of those who have will feel the same, which would make it all worthwhile.


Posts: 6,803
Reply with quote  #52 

Although I have done some preliminary work on the Holy Roman Emperors (my present figures are 45 Emperors, of nine dynasties plus four singletons, known descent to present-day royalty existing from 33 of the 45, all over a span of 1,005 years less interregna), there is a great deal still to do, including checking of those preliminary and tentative results. I don’t suppose though that the final figures will be very different, if at all, and those shown here are certainly in striking contrast to the figures for Eastern Emperors in the overview above, with a ‘success rate’ of 73.3%, as opposed to a measly 18.3% for Emperors of the senior realm.

The greater antiquity of the Eastern Empire is of course a principal reason for this, but it is not the only one. I have so far no more than glanced through the Latin Emperors. Their realm was here and gone in an eyeblink compared to the other two, and it was of only the most minor significance as opposed to their great importance in the continent’s history, but I still intend to go through them more thoroughly and present some sort of summary.

For now I will just mention that Anna of Savoy, wife of Andronicus III and mother of John V, was descended from Baldwin I, the first Latin Emperor, and so therefore were John V and his successors. She was also descended from the Emperor Friedrich I Barbarossa, father of the German king Philipp of Hohenstaufen who is at the head of the link through her in the immediately preceding post. Friedrich I was as far as I can see the most recent Holy Roman Emperor from whom any Eastern Emperor descended.

However the point of this post is not really any of the above, but to do a more thorough job on the Eastern Emperor John VI, an attractive and admirable figure who reigned well and humanely, particularly in his unrewarded clemency to his ward John V. By the time I got to his era I was anxious to finish and mentioned no more than that since his ward was also his son-in-law descents from John V are descents from John VI also.

That though takes you to only three present-day sovereigns (Hans-Adam II, Henri and Philippe), and there are at least two more current monarchs descended from John VI, these being Elizabeth II (stage I; stage II) and Felipe VI (stage I; stage II). The links for Felipe VI go only as far as the children of Carlos IV, which Spanish monarch is demonstrated in the 1330 note on posterities part II to be an ancestor of today’s sovereigns of Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Belgium and Spain, the last being the addition along with the Queen to the roll of John VI descendants.

There are in fact multiple other ways I could trace the descent to the four Catholic monarchs, this one (stage I; stage II) going as far as Carlos IV himself. And here (stage I; stage II) is a tracing by another route to King Michael of Romania, a living former as opposed to current sovereign. It will be seen from a glance at the second stage that many sovereigns of the recent past and pretenders of the present can claim descent from John VI in this way, as indeed they can from the routes to Carlos IV, and others I have not shown besides. But, having done better justice to Lord John, I will leave matters there for now.


Posts: 1
Reply with quote  #53 
I am looking for information on Christopher II  King of Denmark.  A Danish genealogist connected my family to Christopher II.  We are descendants of the Lovenbalks (illegitimate son of Christopher II.  I have read Wikipedia and found he was imprisoned and died after 2 years in prison.  I also found online that his mistress last name "Munk" also died the same day.  Were they executed?  I also have a question about where the name Lovenbalk came from.  Was that a name given to the (illegitimate) descendants of Christopher II?  

Rebecca Haugo-Schulthess

Posts: 6,803
Reply with quote  #54 
Not that I think they will be much help to you, I refer you to posts 29 to 32 on this thread. I have never heard any suggestion that Christopher II was executed, though it does appear that he died in captivity.
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