Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Meandering Adventures of Cognatic Inheritance

There are numerous ways in which titles can be passed, but primogeniture, where the eldest child inherits all of the titles, is one of the most well-recognised inheritance systems in the West. But this system has a problem: which child is considered the oldest? Is it the first-born, male or female (absolute primogeniture)? Is it the eldest male (agnatic primogeniture)? Or is it the eldest male, or the eldest female if there is no male (cognatic primogeniture)? In different countries, there are different rules, and these are but three of them.

For the sake of this discussion, let us just focus on one: cognatic primogeniture. Cognatic succession can be anathema to a dynasty. If a dynasty is patrilineal, then cognatic succession can allow a title—or all the tiles—to separate from that patrilineal line. Thus, cognatic titles can appear over generations as wayward travellers, traversing several dynasties in only a few generations. Such problems rarely impact agnatic succession systems, or seniority, or elective monarchies because all of those systems favour men more absolutely. But cognatic succession systems, even if they favour elder male children over female children, inevitably will revert the succession to a female line (a cognate).

There are numerous polities throughout Western European history that have allowed women to succeed, and sometimes those titles pass through numerous female holders. Generally—although not always—a female title holder will share her titles with her husband so long as she is alive, at which point the titles pass to her eldest child or to her nearest relative. Thus, just because a system allows female transmission of titles does not mean she gains exclusive use of those titles. Some women certainly insist upon exclusive regnal prerogatives, but not all of them. In other words, men still often become counts or kings when their wives hold the rights. Legally, this practice is called suo uxoris (by right of wife) and suo uxoris titles rarely outlast the woman from whom the titles derive.

There are a number of important cases of monarchies which were ruled, and indeed dictated, by the precepts of cognatic succession. Some of the most famous—England, Denmark, Russia, and Spain—rarely actually operated off of cognatic succession or, when they did, they often skipped women in favour of eldest sons. But a few polities, specifically many in France, experienced multiple female rulers throughout their existences.

The Lost Kingdom of Spain
Perhaps the most notorious European kingdom to experience the potential upheavals of cognatic succession was the Pyrenean kingdom of Navarre. Established in the mid-ninth century as one of two crusader states that began the expulsion of the Moors from Spain, Navarre's dalliance with cognatic succession did not begin until the Jiménez line of kings went extinct in 1234. Because of its Basque origins, Navarre had accepted the tenets of cognatic succession even if it never used such laws. The crown passed to a French lord, Thibaut IV, count of Champagne, whose mother had been the sister of the last Jiménez king, Sancho VII. For the next 80 years, the Champagnois ruled Navarre.

The kings and queens of Navarre, 1150 – 1643
Jeanne I, queen of Navarre and countess
of Champagne and Brie
In 1274, the last Champengois ruler, Jeanne I, married the future Philippe IV of France, thereby unifying Navarre with the French crown for the next 54 years. Philippe adopted the title of king at the time of his marriage, and their son Louis became the next king of Navarre in 1305 when Jeanne died. His brothers, Philippe and Charles, and then his daughter, Jeanne II, all held the royal title during their lifetime. But with Jeanne, the title once again was held alongside her husband, Philippe III. When she died in 1349, her son, Charles II, and then grandson, Charles III, followed her on the throne.

Yet another upheaval came in 1425 when Charles III's daughter, Zuria I, succeeded him. Her husband, Juan II (future king of Aragón) seized the royal title more decisively than was usual and when she died in 1441, he kept the royal title against her will, depriving his son and eldest daughter their due rights. Their younger daughter, Leonor, succeeded briefly in 1479 only after he had died. Her grandson, François Phoebus, reigned for four years after her death, and then her daughter, Catherine, became the next queen, ruling alongside her husband, Jean III d'Albret. During their reign, most of the kingdom was conquered by Aragón, leaving only a small portion on the northern side of the Pyrenees for them to rule.

Jeanne III d'Albret, queen of Navarre and
countess of Foix
Catherine died in 1517 leaving the crown to her son, Henri II. He, in turn, left yet another daughter, Jeanne III, as his heir. Jeanne took the throne in 1555 alongside her husband, Antoine de Vendôme, who ruled briefly until 1562. When Jeanne died in 1572, their son, Henri III, succeeded and began the ultimate end of Navarrese independence. Shortly after succeeding, he became the heir to the French throne through their laws of strict agnatic primogeniture. He became king of France as Henri IV in 1589, unifying for a second time the French and Navarrese crowns. But this time, it became permanent. His son, Louis XIII of France, permanently ended Navarre's independence in 1620, permanently unifying the kingdom to France. Thus, when the titular Louis XVII died in a French revolutionary prison in 1795, the claim to Navarre did not pass to his sister, but rather to his uncle, Louis XVIII, and subsequent French kings. France and Navarre, united twice, became bound together permanently due to cognatic succession.

The Itinerant French County
The case of cognatic succession can get just as extreme, if not more so, when impacting a county. The tiny county of Boulogne on the French side of the English Channel is one such case. Originally granted to Baudouin II of Flanders as a fief, it passed through a series of men until the line came to an end with Mathilde I in 1125. Mathilde was married to none other than Stephen of Blois, the future king of England. Stephen never became count of Blois, but he did assert his wife's titles from 1125 until 1151, when Mathilde died. At this point, the title passed to two of his sons in succession before falling to his eldest surviving daughter, Marie I. Like Mathilde, Marie ruled alongside her husband Mathieu of Alsace, but their marriage was not amicable. In 1170, they divorced, but Mathieu continued to claim the comital title until his death in 1173 (she lived until 1182). While this practice was unusual, it was not unheard of and paralleled the usurpation of Juan II of Aragón, above.

The rulers of Boulogne and later rulers of Auvergne, 1087 – 1653
Mathieu and Marie had a daughter, Ida, who became one of the most highly desirable heiresses in northern France. She married four times and each of her four husbands took her titles as his own. Her final marriage to Renaud, count of Aumâle, was forced upon her by the king against her wishes. Her husband proved a recalcitrant vassal, too, and fought against Philippe II Auguste of France until he was ultimately imprisoned. Ida's daughter by Renaud, Mathilde II, succeeded her in 1216 and was almost immediately betrothed to Philippe Hurepel, Philippe's son of questionable legitimacy. Suddenly, the Capetian family had taken hold of Boulogne through cognatic marriage.

Jeanne II, duchess of Berry and countess of Boulogne
Philippe Hurepel, though, did not live more than a decade and in 1235, Mathilde married the future king of Portugal, Afonso [III]. But both marriages proved childless and the succession passed to her nearest senior heir, who happened to be another woman: Adelaide, wife of Guillaume III of Auvergne. For the next four generations, Boulogne and Auvergne would be linked together via a succession of male rulers. However, both titles were transmittable via cognatic primogeniture and eventually fell to Jeanne I, who married in 1338 Philippe, son of the duke of Burgundy. She later married, after his death, King Jean II of France, once again binding the fate of Boulogne to that of the Capetians. But the county escaped outright annexation through sheer dynastic bad luck when her son, Philippe, died young in 1461. Her titles then passed to her paternal uncle, Jean II. Jean's granddaughter, Jeanne II, almost dragged the dynasty into the Capetian fold for a third time since she was married to Jean, duke of Berry, an uncle of King Charles VI. Indeed, the county was elevated to a duchy at this time (although the duchy was, oddly, separate from the county). But their childlessness allowed the titles to be transmitted to yet another female relative, Marie II, whose husband had already died by the time she succeeded to Boulogne and Auvergne.

Catherine de' Medici, queen of France
and countess of Auvergne
For the first time in Boulogne's history, there was a female regnant countess not beholden to her husband's whims or the demand that she be married again after being widowed. Marie lived until 1437, at which point her male progeny succeeded her, members of the House of La Tour. The county of Boulogne was annexed to the royal domain in 1501 after the last male of the line died, but the county of Auvergne passed to his daughter, Anne, whose husband was so preoccupied with Scottish affairs that she, too, had virtually full control over her ancestral county. When she died in 1524, the Auvergne title passed to her niece, Catherine de' Medici, who became queen of France through her marriage with Henri II and served as regent for her three sons, who reigned in succession, the last of the Valois kings of France. Auvergne became an embattled title from this point forward. The title was claimed by her son-in-law, Charles III, duke of Lorraine, until 1608, when it was seized by Catherine's daughter Marguerite, who had been married to Henri IV of France until they divorced in 1599. When Louis XIII of France became king in 1610, his government seized the Auvergne title claiming next-of-kin, although there were others who had a better claim. Concurrently in 1589, the Auvergne lands (but not titles) went to Charles, the illegitimate son of King Charles IX, who claimed them invariably until his death in 1650, after which his son, Louis-Emanuel claimed them for a few more years. At his death, the lands were seized by Louis XIII. The long history of cognatic descent in Boulogne and Auvergne saw it pass through numerous major and minor noble houses before it ultimately was appended to the many claims of the House of Bourbon, just as Navarre had been annexed slightly earlier.

Cognatic succession, therefore, can work in opposition to the generally clean successions provided by male-dominated modes. While from a gender standpoint it should make no difference whether a title passes to a son or a daughter, the geo-political situation in Western Europe until recently meant that most titles were held and descended through male lines to stop rogue cognatic titles such as Navarre and Boulogne-Auvergne from causing trouble. Their capacity to briefly attach themselves to others' titles meant that polities allowing cognatic succession such as these proved difficult to permanently attach to any one dynasty for more than a few generations.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Succession to Burgundy in 1461

The Burgundian state under
Philip the Bold, 1363 – 1404
In 1461, Philippe de Rouvres, the last duke of the senior line of the Capetian house of Burgundy, died leaving no obvious heir. He had no sisters, uncles, or aunts, although he did leave behind a wife, Marguerite III, countess of Flanders, Artois, Burgundy, Nevers, and Rethel. This came at a time of crisis in France. The Hundred Years War had only just paused the previous year and tensions were still high. Philippe, the young duke, was expected to live a long life and continue a dynasty that had existed since the eleventh century. Yet over the course of that century, almost every cadet line had ended after only a few generations, the most recent having ended in 1298.

In lieu of an obvious heir, the Burgundians had to figure out who should come next. There were two obvious candidates and an arguably more rightful, albeit overlooked option. The obvious choices were Carlos II, king of Navarre, and Jean II, king of France.

Carlos II the Bad, king of Navarre
Both Carlos and Jean were descended from sisters of Philippe's grandfather, Odo-Eudes IV. The elder sister was Marguerite, who married Louis X of France, had a daughter with him, the future Jeanne, and then promptly fell into ill-repute for sneaking off with a knight (the Tour de Nesle affair). She died under mysterious circumstances in 1315 while in a French prison, allowing her husband to remarry and promptly die shortly afterwards. That daughter, though, survived and became queen of Navarre in 1328. Carlos II, Jeanne's son and heir, bases his claim on her descent. Carlos, however, had become infamous in France as one of the most dangerous and recalcitrant vassals in French history. Due to his royal descent, he occasionally claimed the French throne, and he also stirred up all sorts of trouble in Paris between 1356 and 1360, when King Jean II was sitting comfortably in the Tower of London in England, a prisoner of Edward III. Although Carlos and Jean patched things up in 1360, they still were hardly friends. Nonetheless, Carlos could legitimately claim male-preference primogeniture as the reason for why he should become the next duke of Burgundy. The descent of his grandmother, as the eldest sister of Duke Robert II, should take precedent over a younger line.

Jean II the Good,
king of France
Jean II, however, was not about to allow the quarrelsome Navarrese king become the major power in both the south and east of France. Jean's mother was Jeanne the Lame, the younger daughter of Duke Robert II of Burgundy. This made him one degree closer to a previous duke. Jean was also the senior agnate of the entire Capetian dynasty and, as king of France, he was suzerain over Burgundy. Thus, he could use any or all of these excuses to claim Burgundian throne. Indeed, he won the debate, but he used his weakest argument to assert his claim. He argued that he was the head of the family and, as such, the title should revert to him since he was seniormost of the line. But there are two problems with this. First, Burgundy had never been a French apanage duchy. Indeed, Burgundy first joined the royal line through the merger of the former Burgundian royal line in the tenth century to a Capetian cadet branch. Therefore, women could inherit the throne and pass it on to their descendants through a process called substitution. The next agnate in line, then, was Carlos of Navarre. Following this same logic, Carlos also held the proximity of blood according to Roman and Burgundian law since he represented his deceased mother and grandmother. Jean may appear closer, but Carlos represents his grandmother, who was older than Jean's mother. Naturally, Carlos resisted Jean's encroachment on his rights, but to no effect. The recent treaties he had signed bound him to French authority and he essentially had no ability to adequately assert his case.

Pedro I the Just
king of Portugal
Second, while Jean may be the head agnate of the Capetian dynasty, there is still a single cadet branch of the Burgundian tree extant in 1361 and this line should get precedent over any of Jean's agnatic claims. Agnatic law says that when a male line goes extinct, one goes back in time along that line until another male line is found. In 1361, that line would have fallen squarely on Pedro I, king of Portugal, the agnatic heir to Philippe I of Burgundy. When Robert the Old, the first Capetian duke of Burgundy, died, his youngest grandson ventured into Castile, married a Castilian princess and was given the county of Portugal as a dowry. His son, Afonso, declared himself king of Portugal and fought a short war against León to assert his title. He and his legitimate descendants continued to rule Portugal until 1383, when Pedro's son Fernando I died leaving behind a daughter who was inconveniently married to the king of Castile. But in 1361, Pedro was still quite alive, making him the senior agnate of the Burgundian branch of the Capetian dynasty and the heir general to Philippe de Rouvres. Following Jean II's own logic, Pedro should become duke of Burgundy.

The obvious problem with this is that Pedro was in Portugal and was also, annoyingly, close allies with the English. There was no chance Pedro would be traveling to Burgundy anytime soon to claim his birthright. Instead, Jean seized the duchy and subsumed it within his royal title. When he died in 1364, his son, Charles V, granted it to his brother (following the will of his father), who became Philip the Bold, the first duke of the house of Capet-Valois-Burgundy. The duchy was now securely under dynastic control again. Philip married Marguerite III of Flanders in 1369 and received all her lands when her father died in 1384. Meanwhile, the legitimate Portuguese line went extinct in 1385, causing it to descend upon the illegitimate house of Aviz. The Iberian kings had lost their claim to Burgundy. Philippe could now rest assured that his claims were secure and his future bright. The rest is history.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Scotland Gone Wild!

The rumour is that Scotland will be voting for independence in the next few days. This sounds like a perfect opportunity to discuss the Scottish royal system.

If the Scottish vote for independence, it would serve them well not to name Elizabeth II "Queen of Scots". There are multiple reasons for this:

  • First, the Scots are an ethnic group. That's right, they actually are a group of people that migrated to Scotland from Ireland in the fifth and sixth centuries. They founded a kingdom along the Western Isles called Dal Riata and eventually conquered/merged with the indigenous people of Scotland—or more appropriately, Alba—the Picts. Second, the ruler of Scotland was never truly the "King" or "Queen of Scots" because the nation was multinational. It included Scots, Picts, Norwegians, Anglo-Saxons, and Britons. The united kingdom by around 800 was quite multiethnic and multilingual. After the Norman Conquest in 1066, many French and Norman settlers found homes in territories that would soon fall into the Scottish fold. 
  • Second, there are a lot of modern-day immigrants to Scotland that would not even remotely consider themselves "Scots" such as Africans, Indians, Asians, and the English. None of these would really be "Scots" so naming Elizabeth such would alienate them.
  • Third, some may argue that "Scot" is more a political term than an ethnic term. I disagree. "Belgian" is a political term. Belgium did not exist until 1830 and really has no roots in, well, anything. It is a political construct. For that matter, "Niederlander" (a person from the Netherlands) is also a political term since that nation came up the same way and the term simply means "Low Lander" anyway. "Scot" refers to a very specific ethnic group from which the royal family derived. Elizabeth certainly has some Scots blood. Heck, she even has the "Scot" blood, but it would serve her well to not call it out anyway. There are a lot of non-Scots in Scotland.
  • Fourth, "Queen of Scotland" just makes sense. It's a geographical area that is internationally recognised. No one would really dispute its existence. People who are citizens of Scotland would be "Scottish" because that's the name of a citizen. Notice, it's not "Scot". That's because Scots are an ethnic group. The Scottish are a geopolitical entity. There is a difference. I could never be a Han, a member of the dominant Chinese ethnic group, but I could become Chinese if I became a citizen of China (or Taiwan). One is an ethnic group, one is a geopolitical entity.
  • Finally, Scotland really needs to redefine itself if it gains independence. Falling back to "Queen of Scots" would be trying to reverse 307 of union with England. That can't be undone, I hate to tell you. Scotland and England have been joined for three centuries and no revision of history will successfully deny that. Heck! Both countries technically ceased to exist—they became "Great Britain" and later the "United Kingdom" once Ireland got in on the game (read was forcibly coerced with threats of violence). Scotland is the modern entity. There is no need to go back three hundred years and try to start where you left off. There are reasons you unified back then. Remember?

On some further points regarding the queen and Scottish independence, let's bring up her regnal number: II. Queen Elizabeth is the second Elizabeth to rule England. When England and Scotland unified in 1707, it was decided that monarchs would take the next number from either the English or the Scottish lists of kings and queens, whichever number were higher. Thus a King Henry would be Henry IX rather than Henry II, as he would have been in Scotland. Meanwhile, King Malcolm would be Malcolm V rather than Malcolm I as he would be in England. This system, so far, has only be used four times, once with William IV (he would be William III of Scotland), twice with Edward VII and Edward VIII (who would have been Edward I and Edward II of Scotland, claims of Edward Balliol notwithstanding), and once with Elizabeth II (who would be Elizabeth I of Scotland). As can be seen, Scotland has been shafted with none of the British monarchs continuing the Scottish numbering. Neither England nor Scotland had its own Georges or Victorias, and all the Jameses came before the Act of Union in 1707 so have both numbers. Elizabeth has kept her II in the British Commonwealth, but Scotland may choose to reverse the Act of Union by renumbering her Elizabeth I, thereby confusing history students forevermore. We'll see, I suppose.

Then there is the succession to consider. Scotland would naturally want to keep Elizabeth as its queen, assuming they choose to stay in the Commonwealth or keep a monarch at all. Either situation is possible, though Elizabeth does so love her Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh. .:.sigh.:. Anyway, technically Elizabeth isn't really the heir to the Scottish throne, though. There are various claimants with arguably better rights. First, there is the Jacobite claimant, Franz, titular duke of Bavaria. He has a brother, Max-Emanuel Ludwig Maria, and a niece, Sophie Elisabeth Marie Gabrielle of Bavaria, who is married to the crown prince of Lichtenstein. Together, these three individuals have the senior genealogical right to the throne as successors of James II who was deposed in 1688 in the Oh-So-Overglorified Revolution that saw England briefly conquered by the military dictator of the Netherlands, William of Orange. To be honest, though, they aren't going to rule in Scotland unless some dynastic marriage brings the families together again (hook Prince George up with Sophie's future child!).

The better contender is actually the senior heir to the house of Hamilton, the family that was next in line to claim the Scottish inheritance after all other Protestant families were eliminated from the succession. The first family was Sophia of Hanover's. Her son inherited Great Britain in 1714 after Anne died and just a few months after Sophia died. The Scots tried desperately in 1704 to bypass Sophia and go for the next heir via the Act of Security, but the heir, James, 4th Duke of Hamilton, wasn't really interested in the title and there were no other Scots with a decent claim to the throne alive. It was a rather disappointing situation. When the Act of Union was voted on in the Scottish Parliament in 1707, James absented himself claiming to have the sniffles. His senior heir, according to British succession standards, is a bit difficult to pinpoint, but the dowager duchess of Hamilton, Kay Carmichael, supports independence just for the sake of Scottish identity. Smartly, the actual Hamilton heir, Alexander, 16th duke, has not made a statement

I should go back and show a bit of a progression of royal arms in England and Scotland. 

England began in 1603 with three lions resplendent in the top-right and bottom-left quarters with fields of fleur-de-lis in the opposite corners. This reflected the two proclaimed realms of England: England and France. Wales was subsumed into England as a territory, so had no independent status, while Ireland was a lordship until the 1530s and afterwards was a client kingdom. The fleurs-de-lis got reduced to simple trios in 1406, but remained until 1800.

Meanwhile, Scotland's flag went relatively unchanged for four hundred years until the physical merger of the crowns in 1603 under James VI/I. 

Things got complicated under James I. He wanted to properly represent all his kingdoms, so added Scotland and Ireland to the grid. That sent the old English/French flag to the corners. But he kept them quartered within their two quarters, so we get little mini arms everywhere. The French claims were still maintained during his reign, so they stayed on the arms.

After the 1707 act of union, Scotland and England became united, so they moved Scotland into the quarters with England, and pulled France out to be its own quarter again. Bloody nice of them since France had its own secure monarchy for about 250 by that date.

The Hanoverians in 1714 switched out the bottom-right corner to put their own German territories on the arms, but I'm not going to bother putting that one up since it doesn't matter here.

In 1801, Ireland joined the union as the third kingdom of the "United Kingdom" with the name "Great Britain" becoming reduced to a component of the longer name. At the same time, all claims to France were finally dropped since France wasn't even a kingdom in 1801, it was a republic. Thus England and Scotland got their own quarters again. And just to be nice, in Scotland, the Scottish lion gets the two quarters and England takes the one.

An independent Scotland would once again screw up heraldry but getting knocked off the royal flag. In fact, Britain may well boot Ireland off too since the remaining bit, Northern Ireland, isn't even legally a kingdom so doesn't really belong on the flag to begin with.

That brings me to my last point. An independent Scotland means an independent England. The United Kingdom would be over officially (rather than its unofficial breakup after most of Ireland seceded) and England's claim to being "Great Britain" would end. England would be England again (with that Welsh bit still hanging on) and Scotland would be Scotland again. Ireland is a bloody bugger of a confusing state, but that's a different rant. With the breakup of 307 years of union, both countries would have to enter the world anew. England would retain residual rights over many international things, but both states may have to reapply for entry into organisations and legal names may have to change. For the Conservative Party in England, they will also lose their coalition and the country will vote and replace them.

Many things may change with Scottish independence and not all of them are good. Scotland is an ancient kingdom but it will be better off as a part of Great Britain. It doesn't lose its heritage in either case, that's something that globalisation will inevitably do. If you can vote, vote no because Scotland will truly revert to a time before England would come and save it, and that's not good for anybody.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Piasts and Polish Succession Rules

Today begins a new phase of Dynastology articles based on my ever- expanding series of genealogies I have been creating...for no apparent purpose. What can I say: I'm devout! That being said, welcome to the confusing and problematic genealogy of the Piast Dynasty which ruled over Poland from at least 960 CE to 1370 CE, the majority of the Medieval Era. The Piasts faced Vikings invasions from Scandinavia, Magyar and Slav invasions from Hungary and Bohemia, and Mongol invasions from the Russias. In the end, though, it was the unique characteristics in their hereditary succession laws that allowed the dynasty to end its leadership of Poland.

First though, let's examine the primary ruling line:
For a high-resolution version in PDF, go here.
The early succession of the Piast line followed normal conventions of the time. It was nominally elective and somewhat agnatic in nature. To remind everyone, an agnatic succession law follows male-line descent when possible (Salic Law, an extreme, follows it until the male line is extinct). The early Piasts were all males—indeed, few females fit into the line and the Polish language never had a term for "queen regnant"—and the descent of the Piasts followed mostly normal succession laws of the time. The eldest member of the family generally succeeded to the throne while granting his male siblings subsidiary titles. Indeed, Poland's monarchy was dependent on the Holy Roman Empire until it became permanent with Władysław I. Three kings of Poland reigned during the first century of the country's existence, though none of them passed the title down to their successor.

Bolesław II the Generous
Things went sour, though, when in 1138 Bolesław II died, dividing the lands between his five sons. He created a truly elective monarchy in which the only requirement seemed to be that the High Duke (the holder of the city of Krakow and the titular leader of the Poles) be a male-line member of the Piast Dynasty. This, at least, held until the elevation of the duchy to a kingdom. But such a vague succession system broke down almost immediately. Poland was fragmented for over 200 years with many parts never reuniting with the mother country. The sheer number of titles some members of the family bore during their reigns were ridiculous, with Konrad I of Oleśnica holding jointly the titles Duke of Namysłów, Ścinawa, Żagań, Poznań, Gniezno, Kalisz, Oleśnica, Koźle, and Bytom (many of these falling under the overarching title, Duke of Silesia).

During this time, the High Dukeship was to pass to the senior-most capable member of the family. But when the family is divided between literally a dozen or more branches of people, all technically in the same generation, such a system does not hold up. Scotland had a similar system known as tanistry, and it failed miserably with only three rival lines of descent. In Poland, the first to get the shaft was the Silesian line, which not surprisingly outlived all the others. The family was so expansive that it took three PDFs just to draw the entire family into the tree:

For a high-resolution version in PDF, go here.
For a high-resolution version in PDF, go here.

For a high-resolution version in PDF, go here.
The Silesian Piasts suffered greatly during the time of Poland's division. Because of the succession practices of the day, the family was forced to divide and subdivide their individual properties until some were no larger than a town. A somewhat unusual system was also in place that allowed surviving wives of dukes to inherit, in both title and fact, one of her husband's former domains. Thus you have multiple instances of women that are not descended from the Piasts, often of noble German families, inheriting for their lifetimes duchies. Naturally, upon their deaths, these passed to their surviving sons or, lacking such heirs, to close male-line relatives of the deceased duke. Like the kingship itself, there was no title for a duchess regnant, but the term oprawa wdowia (widow's land) was used heavily to describe the situation.

Jerzy Wilhelm, Duke of Legnica
Over the decades and centuries, the Silesian Piasts were forced to cede and forfeit much of their land to Bohemia or the rulers of Bohemia, the House of Luxemburg (who were also Holy Roman Emperors much of this time). Indeed, the last member of the family to rule a portion of Silesia was not Jerzy Wilhelm, the duke of Legnica and Brzeg, but rather his mother, Louise, the duke of Oława and Wołow. Another interesting thing happened to the longest-surviving branch of the family, their frequent marriages into German nobility, specifically the Hohenzollern dynasty of Brandenburg, changed the very nature of their names. No longer were people named Władysław, Bolesław, Mieszko, and Kazimierz. Now they were named Jerzy (Georg), Jaochim Fryderyk (Joachim Friedrich), Jan Chyrstian (Johann Christian), Ludwig (Ludwig), Henryk (Henry), and Wilhelm. These were German names, ones very frequent especially in the Hohenzollern family. The rulers spoke German as much as married Germans, and their lands were considered just as much German as Polish. It came as no surprise that Austria and Bavaria both fought to take over Silesia in later wars with Poland. The lands were, to a large extent, German through multiple generations of intermarriage.

Back to the royal lines, though. With the Silesian Piasts mostly out of the picture (they claimed the High Dukedom a few times, but never for long), the other branches of the family were able to consolidate power. The two rival lines that fought over the tiles ruled, among other things, Greater Poland and Masovia respectively. The Greater Poland branch succeeded in having three High Dukes, with the last, Przemysł II, securing the kingship for himself. Unfortunately for him, not only did he not have any heirs, but he also lacked close cousins. He tried desperately to secure the throne for his son-in-law, Wenceslaus II of Bohemia (as Wacław II) but the reign was short-lived and attempts to enthrone his son (from a non-Piast wife) failed.

Kazimierz III the Great
The Masovia line succeeded where the rival line did not. Indeed, the title "High Duke" almost became hereditary, though it did pass to a cadet line briefly. That cadet line, like its Silesian cousins, outlived the senior Masovia line and even had one of its members elected King of Galicia, a small neighboring kingdom east of Poland (and later incorporated into Poland). From Władysław I to the end of the dynasty, the title remained with the Masovia line. Władysław's son, Kazimierz managed to negotiate with the Holy Roman Empire for a permanent title of king, which he succeeded in obtaining. Regretably, he was the last of his line to rule, though. His cousin, Władysław of Gniewkowo, was the next closest male-line relative but was passed over in favor of Kazimierz's nephew, Louis I, a member of the French House of Capet-Anjou. Louis himself failed to sire a son and the title passed to his own daughter, Hedwig, who took the Polish name Jadwiga and became the first female king of Poland. Her husband, Jogaila of Lithuania, brought together the Polish and Lithuanian crowns and it is from him that the next two century's kings descent. When Jogaila died, he did marry Kazimierz's granddaughter, Anna, but no further dynastic unions were necessary to justify his claim to the Polish throne.

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth at the time of its creation, 1436. Poland is in red (dark and light) and Lithuania is in pink (both dark and light). They were formally unified in 1440.
Kazimierz IV
Thus, dynastic politics ruined Poland, allowing an outsider to take both the throne and the lands from the Polish people. While the resulting Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, officially established by Jogaila's son, Kazimierz IV, unified two neighboring lands and created one of the largest Early Modern state in Europe, it did so at the expense of the Piast Dynasty, which continued to live for another two centuries as vassals of Polish, Bohemian, and Imperial rulers. The many failures of the family demonstrates the need for firm succession rules that are both easy to follow and acceptable to all parties. Had Bolesław III in 1138 realized the chaos that would ensue because of his succession system, perhaps he would have divided his lands differently and accepted that a unified country is stronger than dividing lands to satisfy one's sons.

Monday, December 31, 2012

[December 31] Commodus, emperor of Rome

Full Name: Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus
Parents: Marcus Aurelius, emperor of Rome, and Faustina the Younger
Date of Birth: 31 August 161
House: Antonine
Spouse(s): Bruttia, daughter of Gaius Bruttius Praesens, consul of Rome
Predecessor: Marcus Aurelius
Reign: 180 – 192
Brief: Commodus was one of few heirs born to a reigning emperor before the era of Constantine in the 300s. His elder twin, Titus, died at the age of four and Commodus became sole heir. He was elected caesar with his younger brother in 166. In 175, Commodus joined the college of pontiffs and entered public life. Marcus Aurelius elevated his son to Augustus (co-emperor) in 177 and nominated him consul,  the youngest such Senator in history to the time. Marcus Aurelius died in 180 while fighting on the Danubian front, after which Commodus took control over the Roman Empire. Though often portrayed as a weak and selfish ruler, Commodus' reign is, in fact, poorly documented and it did not lead directly to the fall of Rome nearly two centuries later. His reign was externally peaceful, signing a treaty with the Danube tribes and relegating the government to loyal advisors. Throughout his reign, Commodus dealt with assassination attempts, attempted coups, and upstart usurpers, forcing him to become more directly involved in his government. Until 188, Commodus left the government under the management of a man named Cleander, whose mismanagement of affairs led to famine and his eventual beheading by Commodus. Commodus' megalomania peaked in 191 following a fire that destroyed much of the city of Rome. The emperor proclaimed a new Rome and himself, a new Romulus. He renamed the city, the months of the year, the legions, the fleet, the Senate, and even the people. On 31 December 192, after a failed poisoning, Commodus was strangled to death in his bath by a former wrestling partner. The city and everything was restored to Rome, though Commodus was later, under Septimus Severus, deified as per the standard procedures of the day. His death prompted the Year of the Five Emperors in 193.
Date of Death: 31 December 192
Successor: Pertinax

Other Monarchs Who Died Today:
  • St. Silvester I, pope of Rome (335)
  • Ottokar III, margrave of Styria (1164)
  • Leopold V, duke of Austria (1194)
  • Frederick III, duke of Lorraine (1302)
  • Shimazy Tadayoshi, daimyo in Japan (1568)
  • Dorgon, emperor of China (1650)
  • Charles III Philip, count palatine of the Rhine (1742)
  • Sabah III Al-Salim, emir of Kuwait (1977)


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