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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: 7,500
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: 7,500
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.

Posts: 7,500
Reply with quote  #55 
In the long-ago post #51 above there is an error that needs correcting and an observation that needs clarifying. The error is my statement that Rita of Armenia, mother of the Eastern Emperor Andronicus III, had no imperial Byzantine blood herself. She did, being a remote descendant of John the Beautiful, the Emperor John II Komnenos, and therefore also of his father Alexios I. The observation was that Charles V was the only Holy Roman Emperor ever to visit these shores. He was, at least as far as I have been able to discover (and, as a piquant footnote, a requiem mass for him was the last Catholic service ever celebrated in Westminster Abbey), but I believe I have observed elsewhere that the Emperor Sigismund, a figure whose historical importance often seems to be underrated, also came here. He was not however Emperor at the time of his visit, being already elected German king but not receiving the requisite Papal coronation until almost two decades later.

That ceremony had long since been dispensed with when Franz I came to the Imperial throne, essentially as surrogate for his wife Maria Theresia, who was debarred by her sex from taking the crown for herself. The clarification is that Franz I also came to England, in fact for a quite protracted stay. But he was not then Emperor, or married to his formidable wife, or even Franz, being instead still just François III, Duke of Lorraine. So my original statement remains true in the strictest sense, but did need this further clarification.

In post #52 I speak of ambitious plans to do for the Latin and Holy Roman Emperors what I had already done at possibly wearying length for the Byzantine variety. Those plans never came to fruition, and likely won't ever. I was discouraged at the time by the effectively zero interest shown in my (considerable) labours to discover and set out known descents from Eastern Emperors, and something of the careers of those from whom descent does survive. And perhaps the plans always were too ambitious to be realised. The Latins would have been easy enough to do, but truly were of no great consequence compared with either the German rulers or the Eastern dynasties whose sequence they briefly interrupted. The Germans would not; they'd have needed a book not a few posts on an Internet forum to do them any real justice, and the labours required were and are beyond my capacities.

Even longer ago than the conclusion of the Byzantine sequence, I had another ambitious plan. This was for a thread chronicling the histories of the Christian dynasties of Iberia, from 8th-century beginnings (and even before that, to set the scene) until the 17th-century reestablishment of Portugal's independence as a kingdom. The plan fell foul of my usual problem; I did all the genealogical work with zeal and enthusiasm, preparing table after table full of links, then turned reluctantly to the accompanying prose. And, having made it from the 8th century to the 12th, gave up the whole idea as a bad job with five centuries still to go.

I can't now post the genealogical material. Website Toolbox, who once handled Excel better than any other forum host I have ever come across, now don't handle it at all. No doubt they would claim this as an 'improvement', though in what way beats me. The prose can still be accommodated, though, as far as it went, and is about to be, a decision sparked in part by a private discussion with DavidV of this parish. Whether I will ever continue let alone complete it I doubt. And I doubt also that more than a very few will read it. But it has languished for long enough in a dusty corner of my laptop. To anyone who makes it all the way through the 2,829-word fragment and wishes the dust were accumulating still, I can only say that I put it here so other people could read it. I never said anything about having to.

Realms of Iberia

Asturias, León, Navarre, Castile, Galicia, Aragón, Portugal; the names are full of romance and colour, evocative of southern sun and northern fastness, of coasts washed on one side by the warm waters of the Mediterranean and on the other by Atlantic swells, of a great tapestry of history shot through by exotic threads of Moorish culture and tales of Catholic devotion and piety, of centuries of struggle to win back a great land from alien conquerors. It is the weaving of that tapestry that I want to examine in this topic, though with such a vast stretch of years to consider and so many historic events and great men and women to chronicle only the sketchiest overview can be expected.

Genealogical aspects at least will be detailed, when I get to them. The scene must be set first, then when, centuries after the beginning, the kingdom of Portugal joins the already ancient León and Navarre and the more recent Aragón and Castile among the Iberian realms, relationship tables and other genealogical matter will begin – though I cannot promise there won’t be the odd little genealogical excursion before that. First, though, let the tapestry unroll.

The origins

Once, there was just Hispania. Its patchwork of native chiefdoms and Greek and Carthaginian colonies had been replaced by Roman rule over the whole great peninsula of Iberia, from the green mountains and rushing waters of the north to the olive groves of the south, from eastern to western sea. Then, as the Western Empire crumbled and barbarian tribes rushed in, Sueves, Alans and Vandals divided up the Iberian lands. Under commission from the Emperor the Romanised Visigoths pushed south from Gaul and drove the Vandals and Alans into North Africa, though the Suevic kingdom of Galicia remained. Before the Western Empire ended the Visigothic king obtained legal sovereignty, and once Galicia finally fell the peninsula was again under one rule.

It was not always an entirely united rule, though the reason for this was not what is commonly assumed. The image of the Visigoths as an alien, Arian elite divided from the Catholic general population was true in the beginning, but did not remain so. While they still formed the elite they became fully accepted as the native aristocracy of Hispania, and King Recarred converted to Catholicism in 587, compelling all others to follow suit. The kingdom’s fall to Arab and Berber armies over a century later was due not to division of the masses from the elite, but to division among the elite.

The Balting royal house, the kin of Alaric, had failed and an elective monarchy been instituted in its stead, with the inevitable consequence of perpetual rivalry for the throne, only the strongest kings being able to keep the realm whole and at peace. There was no one strong king but rather two weak ones at war with each other when the Muslim armies landed and swiftly extended their dominion over almost all of the peninsula, henceforth to be the realm of Al-Andalus rather than Hispania.

Almost all. In the far north-west the regions of Galicia, which had proved so intractable under the Sueves, and neighbouring Asturias and Cantabria came only lightly if at all under Muslim rule, and the same was true of the Basque Country to their east. These regions had been the very last to fall to the Romans, the emperor Augustus having personally supervised their final conquest, had long held out against the Visigoths and now remained free from the Muslims, a Christian refuge from which perhaps reconquest could begin.

And it did begin. The Muslim conquest that commenced in 711 was as complete as it would be by 718. In the battle of Covadonga, variously dated to 718, 719 and 722, the Visigothic nobleman Pelayo, said to be of royal lineage, led the Asturians to victory over the forces of the local Moorish governor and founded the principality of Asturias, which soon rose to be a kingdom, first of the Christian realms of Iberia to grow out of the wreckage of Hispania.

Later the kingdom of Asturias changed its name to León, with the conquest of that ancient city from the Moors and its choice as the new capital. One of the lands ruled from there was Galicia, though its status as a separate kingdom in personal union remained, a holdover from Suevic days which gave it rather than Asturias/León some claim to be regarded as the most ancient of the Iberian realms. Indeed, in medieval times it was just as common to call its ruler king of Galicia as it was of León, the exclusive use of the latter nowadays being somewhat anachronistic. But nevertheless separate kings of Galicia were rare and their reigns brief, whether they inherited León, were again subjugated by it or died heirless so that the realm reverted to the main line, and in the rest of this topic I will not be treating Galicia as other than a part of the Crown of León, and later of Castile.

But in mentioning the latter realm I am getting ahead of myself by several centuries. First we must treat of the kingdom of Pamplona. Whereas Pelayo, founder of Asturias, was a Visigoth of noble and possibly royal lineage, as was Peter, Duke of Cantabria, whose line replaced that of Pelayo a generation or two later, the founder of the realm of Pamplona was a Basque, Iñigo Arista, who established the new realm’s independence and was elected its king in 824. Iñigo’s grandson Fortún Garcés was overthrown by Garcia Jiménez, hereditary ruler of a part of the kingdom of Pamplona with the title of king himself, though whether he was a sub- or co-king we don’t know.

In any case he made himself neither of these, but just plain king of the whole realm. Unlike the Peréz descendants of Peter of Cantabria, connected to Pelayo’s line only by marriage and not blood, the mighty Jiménez dynasty that descended from Garcia Jiménez, future kings of Navarre, as Pamplona became, León, Galicia, Aragón and Castile and, some of them, emperors of all the Spains, did preserve within itself the blood of the original founder. Toda, granddaughter of Fortún Garcés, was the wife of Garcia Jiménez’s son and successor Sancho Garcés, all the kings that followed springing ultimately from that union.

The twin kingdoms, Asturias/León and Pamplona/Navarre, continued to grow through reign after successive reign, taking back more and more of the peninsula into Christian rule, the proud title of Emperor being assumed by the Leónese kings. There was some basis for this, they being successors of the Visigoths who in turn were legal successors of the Romans, but the title was never accepted by the Holy Roman Emperors in Germany, the Popes in Rome or generally by the kingdoms of Christian Europe. In Iberia, though, almost a little continent in itself, it had potency.

León fell to Sancho III Garcés of Navarre, the Great, in 1034. Although he had himself crowned again in the Imperial city which was now his he appears to have used the title of King of the Spains only, the imperial title however being revived by several of his successors.  Not for centuries, though, would any of those successors rule over all the Christian lands of Iberia as Sancho did. Indeed, the two kingdoms he had joined together separated not into two again but into three, with more division to come.

Sancho had married Muniadora Mayor, daughter of the Count of Castile, a vast lordship nominally subject to the Kings of León but effectively independent. As regent for his young brother-in-law Garcia Sánchez he transferred suzerainty over the county to himself, then on Garcia’s death, assassinated in León where he had travelled to be wed to the King’s sister, claimed the succession of Castile for his own son Fernando. The disappointed bride was also claimed for Fernando, and then the entire kingdom for himself.

Sancho the Great died in 1035, and the aforementioned division took place. His eldest son Garcia became King of Navarre and, theoretically, over-king of his brothers’ realms. Fernando became regarded as the first King of Castile, though he personally appears only to have used the title Count. He became undoubtedly a King, of León, after he killed Bermudo III, last male Peréz (and Fernando’s brother-in-law) in battle. Their illegitimate half-brother Ramiro is counted as first King of Aragón; though he similarly did not personally use the title his successors were less shy.

Fernando clearly was the brother with the greatest capacity, becoming known as the Great himself and being crowned Emperor of the Spains . His brother Garcia’s theoretical overlordship was ended along with his life, killed in battle against Fernando, and Navarre became subject to León under Garcia’s son and successor Sancho Garcia IV. Numerous wars with the various Muslim states added considerable territory to Fernando’s domains, including a large part of Portugal, and much wealth to his treasury in the form of tributes and ransoms.

After a life full of triumphs, not to mention fratricides, the great Fernando I died in 1065 in his conquered city of León. The expected division took place between his three sons, the eldest, Sancho, receiving Castile, the second son, Alfonso, León and the youngest, Garcia, becoming King of a separated Galicia. And then the expected warfare between the brothers, costing first Garcia and then Alfonso their thrones. And Sancho his life, assassinated while attempting to consolidate his hold of León, and now it was Alfonso who ruled the reunited realms, while Garcia ended up imprisoned in a monastery, where he died.

Famed as an honourable and chivalrous king and a strong ruler, admired by Muslim and Christian alike, the much-married Alfonso VI began to open wider relations, diplomatic, trade and marital, between the bulk of Christian Europe and the hitherto rather closeted society of Christian Iberia. Despite five wives he had no legitimate son to succeed him, but he also had at least two mistresses and named Sancho, his son by one, as heir. Sancho’s death in battle left him with no choice however but to anoint his eldest legitimate daughter Urraca as heiress.

She was the daughter of Alfonso VI by his second wife, Constance of Burgundy, and had been married to Raymond of Burgundy, but a different Burgundy. Constance was the daughter of the Capetian Duke of Burgundy Robert I, and Raymond a younger son of William I, Count of Burgundy, hereditary ruler within the Empire of Franche-Comté, otherwise known as the Free County of Burgundy. Raymond was of the House of Ivrea, tracing his male line back through Kings of Italy to the 9th-century Burgundian noble Anscar. Through his son with Urraca, Alfonso VII, his line would reign for centuries to come in León, Castile and eventually Aragón and then all Spain.

From landless to lord

Iberia in this age was a magnet for the younger sons of Europe’s noble and royal houses. Like the Holy Land, it offered the opportunity to win glory and, even more importantly, lands and wealth battling against the infidel. Raymond of Burgundy was one such adventurer, and Henri of Burgundy another. Respectively fourth and fifth sons, it seems likely that they arrived in Iberia together in 1087, knights in the following of Henri’s brother Eudes I, Duke of Burgundy. He had come to give aid against the Moors, who were at that time aggressively seeking to recover territory lost to the Christians. Eudes went back home after a battle or two but Raymond and Henri remained, the former as said to marry the heiress Urraca.

She was probably eight when they wed, and the marriage must have been consummated when she was thirteen, as aged fourteen she suffered a miscarriage. In the meantime her husband had been given the lordship of Galicia, but shortly after gaining his new dominions he lost a substantial part of them, the County of Portugal and the County of Coimbra to its south. Not a trusting man by nature, Alfonso VI was wary of his son in-law and decided to balance his power with that of the other adventurer, Henri of the other Burgundy, by awarding these two counties to the latter.

Raymond and Henri had in fact been conspiring together against the King, a fact of which he was probably well aware. By the division of the lands he also divided the two allies, who now became rivals, and strengthened his own position. And by way of excuse for it he made Henri also his son-in-law, marrying him to his natural daughter Teresa. From the unions of the landless lords and the Emperor’s daughters were founded the two royal houses that would govern Iberian lands for centuries to come.

But not all of them until many more generations had passed. There was at this time another Jiménez line, headed by Alfonso I of Aragón, called Alfonso the Battler.

The warrior and the monk

Second ruler of Aragón after the above-mentioned Ramiro, Sancho Ramírez at first eschewed the royal title as his father had done. That changed in 1076, when a succession crisis in Navarre was resolved by his election as King there. He then assumed the title of King of Aragón as well, the first to formally do so, and ruled the two kingdoms until in 1094 he died in battle, again like his father.

His son Pero I ruled the two realms with great success, failing only in producing children that lived beyond a young age. His successor then was his half-brother Alfonso I, son of their father Sancho Ramírez by his second marriage. There is reason for his sobriquet of the battler; Alfonso, one of the mightiest warriors of his age, is recorded as having fought in 29 battles, whether against the Moors or his fellow Christians. Among the latter were his wife Urraca, by now Queen of León and Castile and Empress of the Spains in her own right, whom he wed as her second husband after the death of Raymond of Burgundy.

As already indicated, it was very much not a case though of their living together happily ever after. Proud husband and proud wife soon quarrelled and then quite literally went to war. Neither could gain the upper hand and eventually the marriage was dissolved on the grounds of they being second cousins, therefore too near akin to have been validly wed in the first place without dispensation. Alfonso did not marry again; indeed, he seems to have been entirely uninterested in women, his passions being reserved for war, and had married Urraca in the first place only for the advantages the union would bring.

He therefore, like his brother and predecessor Pero I, died without heirs of the body. This led to the dissolution of another union, that between Aragón and Navarre. The Battler’s relations with the Church were as bad as they were with his wife and, it seemed, nearly everyone else. It is then one of history’s more peculiar riddles that he should have left his realms to the military orders of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the Templars, the Hospitallers and the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre.

The Navarrese nobility were having none of this, and elected as their King Garcia Ramírez, grandson of Sancho Garcés*, illegitimate son of Garcia, elder brother and victim of Fernando I of Castile and León and successor in Navarre of their father Sancho the Great. The Aragonese nobility were similarly unimpressed by the terms of Alfonso’s testament, dragging his only surviving brother unwillingly from his monastery and crowning him as Ramiro II.

But Ramiro had been every bit as true a monk as his brother was a warrior, and desired only to return to his vocation and the peace of monastic life. He consented to meet the kingdom’s needs by marrying and producing an heir, but when his daughter Petronilla was born he considered that covenant fulfilled. Petronilla was wed in her cradle to the powerful Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Barcelona, and Ramiro withdrew from his marriage and from public life back to his monastery, entrusting the rule to his capable son-in-law.

These events were in 1137, and in 1157 Ramiro II died, making his daughter regnant Queen. In 1164 the now-widowed Petronilla abdicated in favour of her seven-year-old son, who thus became Alfonso II, first of the great House of Barcelona to reign over Aragón, as Petronilla had been the last of the Jiménez. In León and Castile rule had long since passed from the Jiménez, in their case with the 1126 death of Urraca and the succession of Alfonso VII, son of her first marriage and first of the House of Burgundy that as said above would eventually rule all Spain. Not, though, all Iberia; their Habsburg successors would be the first and last since the Visigoths to do that.

* And, on his mother’s side, of the legendary hero El Cid.

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