Thursday, April 29, 2010

Come Together, Right Now, Dynasties (Succession Wars)

So I asked a few days ago what people wanted to read about and the only response that wasn't something I've already addressed was royal bastards. And while bastards are all well and good, they really mostly become important only in much larger issues, such as wars of succession.

If you've read more than three of my Dynastology blogs, I'm certain you've noticed that a lot of dynasties fall into the "War of the [enter country here] Succession" trap. It's inevitable, really, because no dynasty is completely flawless. Even if the succession law is perfectly sound, it doesn't take into account invasions (by potential claimants), religious issues (such as if the heir is the wrong religion), or dead-ended lines (like with the Habsburgs in 1740). Indeed, succession wars are likely to pop up in any hereditary monarchy where someone not in power has something to gain if they were in power. This is where bastard children can really become important because if a country has rather wishy-washy laws on the status of bastards, then they may claim the throne when the former monarch dies. But other legitimate relatives may not agree with that. Thus, BOOM: succession war.

"What really is a succession war, anyway?" you may ask yourself. Unfortunately, there is no clean-cut answer. In layperson's terms, it is a war to determine who should be the rightful successor to a throne after a monarch died. The problem is, the rightful monarch is often known and even accepted by the majority of the countries yet still becomes attacked just because. Pretty much any succession can prompt a war if there is even the slightest reason (the new monarch is a woman, child, minor, wrong religion, has land the neighbor wants, was too pushy as an heir, &c.). Thus succession wars are rather bothersome for aspiring new monarchs and they can often change the shape of regional borders by the time the war is over.

To illustrate these points, I've chosen some especially important succession wars that helped shape the political structure and shape of Europe today. Some are well known, while others are not:

The Anarchy (1135 –1154): When Henry I of England died, he left only one heir: his daughter Matilda. He had a few heirs, actually, but they all died in a tragic accident known as the White Ship incident in 1120. The only problem with Matilda was she was a woman, and England had never had a sole queen regnant prior to this point (it was a rather new concept in Europe at this time). Henry did have a sister, Adela, whose second son Stephen was conveniently poised to take control in England. And so he did, albeit rather poorly. Yet Stephen was borne to a sister of the previous king and, yes, he had an elder brother named Theobald who was currently Count of Blois in France. But who cares!? He got there first and was a man, right? Unfortunately, yes. Matilda ran to Scotland to enlist the help of her uncle, David I, but nothing much came of this brash alliance. Stephen actually managed to injure himself more than Matilda ever could when he alienated his barons. Matilda marched a small army into London, captured and imprisoned Stephen, and declared herself Lady of the English in 1141. Stephen's few supporters managed to rout the Lady and Stephen reclaimed the throne, but mostly just romped around for the next decade getting revenge and generally ravaging the countryside (hence, "anarchy"). When Stephen's son, Eustace, died in 1153, he knew the jig was up. Henry, son of Matilda, marched into England and Stephen agreed that Henry should be his heir. Stephen died the next year and Matilda's son became Henry II. This proved two things: English monarchs could succeed through female lines, and females were not yet able to rule in England. It would take another 400 years until Jane or Mary I (up for debate) became the first Queen Regnant of England in 1553.

The Hundred Years War (1337 –1453): Probably the most famous war of the Middle Ages, the Hundred Years War (which, in fact, lasted for 116 years off and on) was at its core a succession war. In 1316 the French king and his son died. For various reasons, the French barons decided to give the crown to the king's brother, Philip V, as opposed to his daughter, Joan (Joan became Queen of Navarre, which followed other laws). When Philip V died, the crown passed to his youngest brother, Charles IV, skipping Philip's daughters. Finally, when Charles IV died, there were no more brothers. What to do now? Well, the brothers had a sister, Isabella, whose son was Edward III of England. Following English custom, Edward should become the next king of France being the eldest living male descendant of a French king. The French didn't like this idea very much so handed the crown to the next male-only line (Salic Law, remember?) guy, Philip of Valois. Joan went on to have a son, pushing Edward III's claim aside, but who really cared at this point. Edward wanted France! The war lasted a very long time and had some major moments. Henry VI of England was crowned king of France at Notre Dame in 1422 but couldn't hold out against his French rival, Charles VII. Henry VI's long minority and multiple power plays between English princes strained England's ability to continue the war. Joan of Arc came in and helped get Charles VII crowned and pretty much everything fell apart for England after that. England lost all but Calais in France as well as any real chance at gaining the French crown. Meanwhile, France concluded six hundred years of consolidation resulting in a somewhat coherent state closely resembling the modern state of France.

The War of the English Succession (1688 –1697): More commonly known as the War of the Grand Alliance or League of Augsburg and dating from the Glorious Revolution (1688), this war helped establish a permanent Protestant line in Great Britain. Prior to 1688, Britain was prone to lapses of Catholic monarchs. Mary I Tudor was the first such monarch, reigning directly after the fervently Anglican Edward VI (well, his regents, at least). Charles II became a closet-Catholic after years of exile in France. When he died, his openly Catholic brother, James II, took over and even produced a child with his Catholic wife, strongly considered by the Protestant majority as a radical turn back toward a Catholic state. William of Orange, the James' nephew and son-in-law, decided it was time to take charge, depose his uncle, and guarantee that England would remain Protestant so that it could help in the war against France. Thus the Glorious Revolution deposes James II, places William III (of Orange) and his wife, Mary II, on the throne, and guarantees another decade of warfare to insure his Protestant ideals win the day in Great Britain. The war really didn't end until 1714 when the Protestant George I ascended the throne in opposition to more than 50 better, albeit Catholic, claimants. Great Britain dates the decline of monarchical power from this war.

War of the Portuguese Succession (1580 –1583): Portugal had a lot of things going for it in the 1570s. A new dynasty had taken the throne and they were represented by some of the finest royals in European history such as Henry the Navigator and João II. Then the inevitable problem occurred. Henry, the elderly Cardinal-King, died with no appointed heir. There wasn't even an obvious heir due to the various succession laws established in Portugal by that time. Since illegitimate lines had ascended before (their House of Aviz was an illegitimate branch of the House of Burgundy), a bastard named Anthony, the prior of Crato, assumed the throne was his since he was the last male of that branch. The only problem was, poor Anthony had some nasty cousins who wanted nothing more than to ring his illegitimate little neck. The oldest of the bunch was Philip II of Spain, legitimate son of the legitimate daughter of Manuel I. He had a huge army and navy and was in close proximity to Portugal from neighboring Spain. Another potential claimant, Catherine, and her potential claimant husband, João I of Bragança, decided to sit out the inevitable war and see who wins. Catherine was the daughter of the youngest son of the family, which stuck her quite forward in the line of succession. João was the representative of an older illegitimate male line that was the senior after Anthony of Crato. The war was short and decisive with Anthony's army crumbling and him running off to the Azores for a few years until Philip finally caught up. With Philip's victory, the Spanish and Portuguese Empires, the largest in the entire world still, became one for a period of sixty years (1580 – 1640). Portugal's decline in world status begins with this period.

War of the Spanish Succession (1701 –1714): No succession war is better known in world history than the War of the Spanish Succession. Its results may not be well known, nor its causes, but it was important nonetheless. In 1701, Charles II of Spain, the sickly and mentally ill child of too many inbred parents, died leaving all his titles and lands to Philip, grandson of Louis XIV of France. William of Orange and Louis had spent nearly four years trying to work out some compromise that would not leave France in possession of its neighbor, Spain. But with Charles' will, the stage was set for a horrendous war that would see the Early Modern Age begin its transformation into the Modern Age. France and Austria were the main combatants, with the majority of Europe siding with Austria to maintain the Balance of Power in Europe. France, though, had the support of much of Spain. The war was the first major conflict, though, that spread to America as well (under the name Queen Anne's War). The fighting was especially fierce and it ended as a marginal loss for France. France lost the Low Countries (Belgium), all of Italy, and Gibralter and Minorca. Philip, now Philip V of Spain, also had to renounce his rights to the French throne (which would later be an issue in the 1830 Revolution in France). Finally, Spain was officially unified, removing all dynastic unions such as King of Castile & León and becoming simply the Kingdom of Spain (with a few exceptions). Spain also began its slow decline because of this war.

War of the Austrian Succession (1740 –1748): I've mentioned this war in detail on the Habsburg case study, so I will just quickly summarize. Emperor Charles VI realized that the Habsburgs were dying so got everyone in Europe to agree to support his daughter and her husband as his heir. As soon as he died, though, Prussia reneged on the deal and Bavaria went crazy because the duke was married to the daughter of an elder branch of the Habsburgs. He won over the Imperial Electors and was elected Emperor as Charles VII but was killed in the war a few years later. That left the stage open for Austria to reclaim its heritage. Maria Theresa, the daughter of Charles VI, launched a campaign that ended with her husband being crowned Emperor as Francis I and her retaining most of her hereditary lands. Prussia ran away with Silesia (north of Bohemia) and a few neighbors took some pickings but most of Austria remained intact. Fighting occurred in North America under the guise of King George's War, so this too was an early world war. The important turn of events for this war, though, was that the German people, divided among more than a hundred provinces, began to see Prussia and Austria as the leaders of a future unified German state (which one was to lead had not yet been determined).

After the 1700s are over, succession wars mostly go to the wayside. Revolutionary wars then take the stage, where monarchies can be overthrown by discontented people rather than fought over after the monarchs die. The French Revolution, Revolutions of 1830, and Revolutions of 1848 all saw the deposition and ascension of monarchs regardless of the mortality status of said monarchs. After the revolutionary period of the 1800s, the 1900s saw the near-complete destruction of European monarchies through revolts during World War I and later popular uprisings.

In the end, succession wars provided a nice excuse to change the status quo in Europe (and sometimes the world). It allowed rival countries with rival claims to make grabs at their neighbors somewhat legitimately. Much of the current make-up of Europe can attribute itself to the results of some of these wars. Thus wars of succession, however poorly based, were a means of redrawing the boundaries and political balance of Europe in a way that is still felt even today.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Wittelsbach & the War for Southern Germany (The Wittelsbachs)

Greetings everyone and welcome back to another episode of Dynastology. After a rather poor turnout on my last Monarchy Poll, it came out as a tie between the Wittelsbach and Capetians. However, my girlfriend's sister had a standing vote for Wittelsbach so they win the day. Sorry Capetians, your massively extended and inbred family will have to wait for another poll. Now, onto one of the most important understated dynasties in European history:

As it has become rather clear from these case studies, there are many dynasties in European history and the majority of them are not well known by your average non-historian. The Wittelsbach are no exception. If you have heard of them, however, it was probably in their capacity as Kings of Bavaria during the 1800s and 1900s. That title, however, only appeared in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars. Indeed, today there are only two branches of this once-sprawling family remaining. The senior branch is known as the Zweibrücken branch while the younger branch is the Birkenfeld branch. They split way back in 1506.

Unlike many European dynasties, the Wittelsbach are important for many reasons. The foremost is that they provided monarchs to around a dozen different regions in Europe throughout their existence. Between 1180, when one became the Duke of Bavaria, and 1918, when the last king was forced to abdicate his titles, the Wittelsbach possessed at some point the titles of Holy Roman Emperor, King of the Romans, King of Hungary, Anti-King of Bohemia, King of Denmark & Norway, King of Sweden, King of Greece, King of Bavaria, Elector of Bavaria, Elector Palatine, Elector of Brandenburg, Elector of Cologne, Duke of Bavaria, Duke of Jülich & Berg, Count Palatine of the Rhine, Margrave of Brandenburg, Count of Holland, Count of Hainaut, and Count of Zeeland. Mind you, many of these titles were rather short-lived but those of Duke of Bavaria and Elector Palatine were their most important and provided the most definitive separation of the family.

For the most part, only Bavaria and the Palatinate matter in regard to the Wittelsbach. The other titles drifted in and out of the family at the Holy Roman Emperor's will or through marriage and different succession laws. For those of you who don't know where these two places are, allow me to assist. The County Palatine of the Rhine refers to an Imperial county (directly accountable only to the emperor, making it higher than all other counties) found north of Württemberg (in Germany), east of Luxembourg and south of Hesse (in Germany). Bavaria is the region east of the Palatinate with its capital at Munich. To make it really easy, look at a map of Germany: pretty much the entire eastern part of the region that kind of hangs low on the southwest side of Germany comprises the Palatinate and Bavaria.

Those two major branches of the family split in the Treaty of Pavia of 1329. Thus the family became divided and remained so until 1777. There were, however, some titles that were indivisible and those went to the senior line. While Count Palatine of the Rhine, the title inherited by the elder line, appears to be a lesser title than Duke of Bavaria, the first counts actually held the additional title of Dukes of Upper Bavaria (which was, of course, lower than Lower Bavaria, geographically speaking). In 1356 the Palatinate became an Imperial Electorate, meaning that they got a vote in all Imperial politics including the election of new Holy Roman Emperors. This solidly put this family in a leading position over their Bavarian cousins who didn't receive their electoral titles for two nearly hundred more years.

The problem with the Palatine Wittelsbach was that they just kept producing too many kids. In 1410 the family broke into six branches and never fully reunited again. Each son took with him a fragment of the Palatinate and the Count Palatine of the x title. Thus if you ever see a title somewhere that is Count Palatine of the x, it is one of these Wittelsbach lines. All except the Birkenfeld line have since expired but they all served to distract and divide the senior branch of the Wittelsbach. When the family went Protestant before the Thirty Years War and the Elector Palatine tried to get elected King of Bohemia, they earned an expulsion from the Empire by the Holy Roman Emperor. The Bavarian branch swept in and grabbed the electoral titles and all the lands of the Palatinate. At the end of the war, the Counts Palatine got their titles and lands back, but the Bavarians kept their electoral titles and the Emperor had to grant them a new issuance...conveniently lower in rank than the Bavarian Wittelsbach.

The Bavarian branch of the family was junior in status but descended from Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV. In addition, for a number of generations the branch possessed the title of Margrave of Brandenburg. In 1356, Brandenburg, alongside the Palatinate, became an Imperial Electorate, placing the still closely-related family in possession of two electoral titles. Unfortunately, within a few generations the Bavarian branch of the family lost Brandenburg and started its slow descent into obscurity. Early on, in 1349, the branch had sub-divided into four branches dispersing the Bavarian power-base. Fortunately for them, they were able to come back together by 1505, many years before the Palatine branch decentralized.

The Bavarian Wittelsbach were very influential in the region and championed themselves as protectors of the Catholic faith once the Reformation began in the 1520s. It was for this reason that they succeeded so well at the expense of their relatives during the Thirty Years War. Once they became an electorate with better status than the Palatine branch, they started to become more powerful in the Empire as a whole. So much so, in fact, that one of them was elected the only non-Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor since the 1400s in 1742. But that was their high point. In 1777, the last male member of the Bavarian Wittelsbach died, leaving the electorate in the hands of the Palatine line.

Following the short War of the Bavarian Succession, it was determined that the Palatine branch would inherit the entirety of the Bavarian estates. In 1799, all but one of the other Palatine sub-branches died off, leaving the entire Wittelsbach estate in the hands of Maximilian, who would be crowned the first king of Bavaria in 1806 with permission from Napoleon. The Palatinate and Bavaria were now one and were independent, the Holy Roman Empire being dissolved that same year. Unfortunately the next seven decades were not kind to them. Ludwig I abdicated during the 1848 revolutions. His son, Maximilian II, sided with the wrong side in the Austria-Prussia conflict that dominated Germany in the mid-1800s. His son, Ludwig II, was considered "Mad" and spent most of his time building fairy-tale castles in the Bavarian Alps, leaving rule to his relatives. From 1871, Bavaria became a client kingdom in the new, Protestant-run German Empire. Having adopted the Catholic faith following the merger of the family back in 1777, the Wittelsbach were looked on with suspicion by the German Emperors. When the Bavarian king attempted to secede from the German Empire during World War I, it only validated those suspicions. The king failed, though, and was forced to abdicate in 1918 at the end of the war. The family which had ruled in Bavaria for 738 years was finally without a throne.

The Wittelsbach family still exists today in many branches but all descended from the royal family save one. The senior line call themselves Dukes of Bavaria while the junior line, the Birkenfeld branch which split off way back in 1506, call themselves Dukes in Bavaria…to not confuse things, ya know? The current titular king is still quite wealthy and still lives in Munich today, his family having returned to Germany a generation ago.

Overall, the dynastological importance of the House of Wittelsbach cannot be overlooked. The size and extent of their family and its holdings throughout the past 850 years is enough alone to merit it some importance in dynastological research. However, the sheer amount of daughters married off to prominent other royal families, as well as the number of wives from those families who married Wittelsbach suggest that this family was, without question, a central part of the European royal marriage scheme in the Early Modern era. The House of Hanover in Great Britain descended through a Wittelsbach princess, Sophia, who was the only Protestant member of all the Stuart distaff (female) lines. While today their territories may have been consumed in the larger German Republic, their legacy remains in the culture and heritage of the Bavarian region of Germany which still considers, both legally and culturally, its capital to be the former royal city of Munich.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Imperial Ducal Kings of the Comital March (Terms)

With stewards being covered last week, it seems only appropriate to move on to the broader topic on hand – titles. There are literally hundreds, or even thousands, of titles that have circulated throughout royal and noble circles since records were first kept around 6000 years ago. Yet the patterns and trends have devolved into a slightly more organized series of titles that exist today or in recent history.

This will be a slightly longer post than usual, but it should also be better organized. I will explain the specifics as I go along, but to begin, there are three tiers of ranks in the issuance of titles. No rule is universal so there are exceptions everywhere, but generally speaking the royal titles are self-appointed or granted by a higher level royal, while the noble and gentry titles are granted by a bearer of a royal title. There are also other titles that don't quite fit into the three-tier hierarchy and are thus placed in a fourth "Other" category for further analysis.

Titles have been around probably since before people could speak and they continue today even in non-hierarchical societies where hereditary right doesn't necessary denote a succession. "President" and "Premier" are still titles roughly equivalent to "King" - the context has just changed. Below, in rough hierarchical order, are the major and some minor titles used by royalty and nobility in the last 2000 years:

Grade 1 – Royal Titles: Royal titles usually derive from inheritance and usually are created when a noble upgrades him- or herself. Generally speaking, a royal title-holder is sovereign—as in holds power independently of any other power—although certain other titles may officially or titularly have power over it (such as the Holy Roman Empire over the King of Bohemia). Royalty can appear at many levels, but only the following four titles are traditionally associated with sovereign royal control:
  • Emperor & Empress (including Tsar, Shah, Augustus, Khagan, Maharajah, Kaiser): An Emperor or Empress is truly the highest title anyone can hold. In most languages, it is defined as the "King of Kings", which virtually defines itself. Emperors rule empires, but an empire is not always ruled by an emperor (the British Empire was not ruled by an Empress until 1876, and even then the title only applied to India). Emperors also almost always divide their lands into domains which may or may not be ruled by other lesser royal and noble titles. Emperors also usually have many sub-titles which may include kings, dukes, counts, &c.
  • King & Queen (including Sultan, Khan): Kings and Queens are the most popular and well-known rulers on earth. They are almost always sovereign unless they are under an Emperor. They rule kingdoms or, in the case of hereditary queenships which have not been known in the last 2000 years, queendoms. Most noble titles are granted by a king or an emperor working in the capacity of king.
  • Imperial Elector & Electress: Unique to the Holy Roman Empire and formed in the 1200s, Imperial Elector is a hereditary title that usually accompanies other titles such as the Duke & Elector of Bavaria. Electors are sovereign rulers who help elect the Holy Roman Emperor and make decisions within the Empire. They are always just beneath kings in the European hierarchy regardless of any titles the electors may hold within their lands (the Elector of Brandenburg was technically only a Margrave: a type of count). An elector rules an electorate.
  • Sovereign Prince & Princess (including Grand Duke, Duke, Emir): Princes come in many shapes and sizes but the sovereign prince is an independent ruler. Sovereign princes usually begin life as a dependent vassal of a kingdom but break off at some point in time. The Dukes of Austria began life as the Margraves of the Bavarian Eastern Lands (Österreich: East Lands) dependent to the Carolingian kings of Germany. At some point, they broke free and many centuries later came to rule the Holy Roman Empire themselves. Sovereign princes can include virtually any people not mentioned above that have hereditary sovereignty over their land, including almost any of the titles in the next category. But beware of the generic term "Prince" as it has dual meanings. While a sovereign prince can fairly well be the ruler of their own land (Prince of Monaco, for example), they can also be a simple term denoting little more than a relationship to royalty (see below).
Grade 2 - Noble Titles: Nobility are the vassals of a higher lord, at least officially. In some countries like Great Britain and France, nobles had little power in the last 500 years outside of royal and parliamentary circles. In other countries, though, like Germany and Italy, nobles were often completely independent from their technical royal overlords and were even considered to be such by the other European powers. Regardless, almost all noble titles were granted by royalty, usually a king, for use in perpetuity by the family of someone. There is the most variety of titles here, so I have just chosen some of the more important ones:
  • Hereditary Duke & Duchess: The highest level of nobility is the plain and simple duke. Not sovereign in their own right but not necessary related to royalty either, the hereditary duke gained his title from some ancestor and will pass it on to some relative. If the duke is the son of royalty, his hereditary status isn't assured until he dies and the title gets passed on. If a hereditary duke breaks off or goes independent, officially or not, then he becomes a sovereign duke (see above). The easiest way to tell if the duke is hereditary or not is to see if he has land. A hereditary duke always has hereditary land, otherwise he probably falls into the "Royal Duke" category below. A duke rules a duchy.
  • Marquess & Marchioness (or Marquis, Margrave, Marcher Lord): The title of Marquis is the highest of the comital (count) titles. In concept, a Marquis is a count who lives on the fringes of a kingdom, which is called the "March". They were more powerful titles than regular counts because Marquis often had to fight against angry neighbors, meaning they had to be stronger than the soft, safer counts. A Marquis rules a margraviate.
  • Landgrave: Landgrave is a title mostly unique to Germany. It is actually a rather simple title, but it says a lot. A landgrave is a count who owes fealty directly to the Holy Roman Empire, not any other noble or royal. They usually had a lot more land than a count but weren't as important militarily as a marquis. A landgrave rules a landgraviate.
  • Count & Countess (including Earl, Count Palatine): A Count rules a county. A county is smaller than a landgraviate but bigger than a viscounty. In reality, though, it can still be quite large. There is very little special that separates a count from any other title except the title itself. The term Earl was an Anglo-Saxon term that fell into common English usage but is equivalent to a count in the British peerages.
  • Viscount & Viscountess: A Viscount is, in reality, just a lesser count; it literally means vice-count, as in the companion of a count. A viscount rules a viscounty which is smaller than a county.
  • Baron & Baroness (including Freiherr): Barons are the lowliest of nobles and often considered rather generic. A barony is usually quite small, sometimes no larger than a large mansion and its surrounding lands, but it is still considered a prestigious title compared to the lesser gentry titles below. They are the most common noble title in Europe and the most likely to be associated with "Lord".
Grade 3 – Gentry Titles: The gentry has been around for a long time and is rather like the middle-class of medieval times. If you got a posh government job back in the 1200s, you were probably a member of the gentry class, which was above the peasants. Different countries deal with the gentry in different ways, but a rough hierarchy did develop, although not all the titles proved to be hereditary.
  • Baronet & Baronetess (including Nobile): Baronets are mostly a British phenomena from the 1600s to provide a new source of revenue from, basically, selling titles. Unlike noble titles, a baronet cannot sit in the House of Lords and is thus the only British hereditary title not allowed to do so. It also doesn't outrank Knights who are members of certain Chivalric orders, although they do outrank all other knights. The lands of a baronet are called a baronetcy, although that often doesn't include more land than the property the family has always owned. Baronetcies are not usually landed titles (which means they have nothing to do with hereditary land).
  • Seigneur (or Knight of the Manor): A seigneur is a term mostly unique to France. It basically is a hereditary knight whose land is linked to the title. The land may not be very large but the Knight is lord of that land. Most people actually know this title through its function in the feudal system. In medieval times, a lord of some sort usually had a number of knights who ruled smaller regions within his land. Those were seigneurs and their lands were seigneuries, which is the same as a fiefdom. Except on the small Norman island of Sark in the English Channel, seigneurs don't really exist anymore.
  • Hereditary Knight & Dame: Very similar to the seigneur but without the land attached to the title, a hereditary knight is just that: a knight who can pass on his title. These were just as common in Early Modern times as Medieval, and these types of knights were not always required to fight like the standard knights. No land was attached to their titles.
  • Knight & Dame: These titles are the first non-hereditary titles in peerages. That means they can't be automatically passed on to the next generation (although the lord may confer them on a child). They also are not linked to any land.
  • Esquire: Traditionally a title given to the assistant of a knight, noble or royal, an esquire has come to mean many things including: son of a knight, younger son of a noble, a landholder, a justice (judge), a lawyer, or even a military officer. In the peerages of Britain, it is generally the lowest gentry rank associated with a land owner.
  • Gentleman & Gentlewoman: Thus a gentleman is someone who doesn't necessarily own land but has a good enough connection to someone important to possibly be important himself one day. They were more likely the attendants of royalty and nobility in the Early Modern era, the esquires having moved out of that role by acquiring land.
  • Yeoman: Yeoman are really hardly gentry. In medieval times, they were simply people who owned their own land, although they still were on another person's territory (usually multiple people's). Yeomen also had a say in government, mostly in the House of Commons. Now it is mostly used in its other context: a highly praised aide (butler) in a noble or royal household, such as the Yeoman of the Guard at the Tower of London.
Grade 4 – Non-Sovereign Royal Titles (includes Royal Prince, Princess, Duke, Duchess, &c.): I forgot to include this group. In all honesty, they aren't that important except for the fact that they are so well known. Royalty obviously had produced a lot of children through the years. The problem is, a sovereign isn't very likely to give up power to a child just because they exist. Thus an entire series of non-sovereign royal titles have appeared over the past millenia to account for this. A great example is the title Prince of Wales. The title means absolutely squat. The Prince of Wales is not, in fact, in charge of Wales; the sovereign is! Likewise, the Prince of Asturias, Dauphin of France, Duke of Bragança, and dozens of other titles designate the crown prince but don't grant any actual lands to him or her. In all fairness, the Prince of Wales is also the Duke of Cornwall, and those lands he has historically been in charge of.

The other famous example of non-sovereign titles is that of Archduke of Austria. Technically, the title Archduke should trump any other duke in Europe. The problem is the title has been given to all members of the House of Habsburg, male or female, regardless of whether they have any ruling power in the hereditary Austrian lands. In virtually all cases, the title itself is insignificant compared to other titles they may hold. It is the equivalent to the commonly held definition of a prince or princess as the child of a king or queen. Thus non-sovereign titles may sound flashy and important, but they hold no actual clout in most cases and are generally not hereditary or related to any actual land. A Royal Prince is nothing except the child of a sovereign unless they are given some better title, something that has actual power. Virtually all Disney princess movies focus on a powerless prince or princess falling in love with a non-royal commoner who will become upon marriage a princess or a prince.

Other Titles: Finally, let's just rush through some random titles that aren't on this list but still are hereditary and have been held by some important people in history:
  • Patriarchs & Matriarchs: Generally not hereditary, there have been cases such as in the Republic of Florence where a patriarch (one of the Medicis) ruled in a somewhat hereditary, unofficial capacity. Hereditary patriarchies usually disappear after a few decades/centuries of rule or get upgraded to one of the titles above. Non-hereditary patriarchies are often religious in nature (like the Pope).
  • Caliph: In Sunni Islam, there was for many centuries a person who was both the religious and secular leader of the people. The title Caliph was said to have passed to the first rulers of Islam and then it fell to two dynasties before crumbling between rival factions and being usurped by the Ottomans in the 1400s. In reality, it was the equivalent to an Emperor and religious Patriarch combined. A Caliph ruled a Caliphate.
  • Tetrarch: These dudes ruled Palestine during Biblical times (well, Roman times) so everyone will recognize the King Herod who sent Jesus to die around 30 CE. He was in fact the Tetrarch of Galilee which simply meant the ruler of a quarter of the Herodian inheritance, meaning there at least should have been three other rulers (there rarely were).
  • Ethnarch: Pretty similar to a patriarch really, an Ethnarch was the patriarch of a specific ethnic group. One could say that Moses was the ethnarch of the Israelites during the 40 years of wandering. The Byzantines liked to call the rulers of local barbarian tribes ethnarchs, though the leaders probably thought of themselves as kings. It is now generally used as a religious title by some Greek Orthodox leaders.
  • Exilarch: A rather mystical title given to the senior descendant of King David, the exilarchs continued the Babylonian exile after their kin returned to the Holy Land. They served as Jewish advisers to regional rulers for nearly a millenia, long into the Muslim age, before quietly disappearing into obscurity. It is thought the descendants of the last exilarch escaped to Spain but no one really knows. For all intent and purposes, an exilarch is a patriarch with only a claim to land (like a titular ruler that no one listens to anymore).

That's it! Huge list, huh? If you made it this far you're awesome. I won't say anymore except we will have another poll later this week to see which family is the case study for next Saturday. Have a great week!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Stewarts, Stewards or Stuarts? .:. le sigh .:. (The Stuarts)

As the winner of this week's poll, the Stewarts are a rather fun subject. Dynastically, they are a very odd family and I will spend the majority of this blog explaining just why. Last week we discussed the various terms used to designate different types of the same titles. Next week I will talk about the Monarchic Imperial System. So let's just continue this trend by introducing a term no one really understands, including them! I now present you with:


What the heck is a steward? you may ask. Put quite simply, it is somebody put in charge of a household or estate. Royalty was awash with these people and every royal house has some form of steward. They are rather like overglorified butlers except they usually were related to the nobility or royal family. Oh, they also didn't really do any butler work. For the most part, a steward watches over the property of a sovereign while the sovereign is away, busy, doesn't want to deal with it, recently died, has a tummy ache, or is just generally "distant".

If the term sounds slightly familiar, a British chap named John Tolkien included one of these people into the third portion of his Lord of the Rings trilogy. Denethor II was his name. According to Middle Earth mythology, Denethor's ancestors had served the kings of Gondor (the southern kingdom of Dúnedain) until their line ran dry. They then maintained their hereditary position of steward until the "Return of the King". In other words, they were regents (see last week's blog) as well as stewards.


To bring us back to the point, the Scottish kings also had stewards. In the 1100s, a man named Alan FitzFlaad came to England from Brittany, France, where he had held the title High Steward of Dol. His family became well established in Shropshire where a branch of the family became shire reeves (sheriffs) and later the English earls of Arundel. But no one really cares about that branch because they never took the name Stewart. Around 1150, a member of the family named Walter FitzAlan used his position to support the claims of Matilda, daughter of Henry I, over Stephen of Blois to the kingship of England. Stephen won, but Matilda's uncle was the king of Scotland and thought pretty highly of Walter. When Walter fled England (because Stephen was angry, of course), King David I of Scotland granted him lands and the title of Lord High Steward of Scotland. David's successor, Malcolm IV, made that title hereditary.

Things went pretty well for the Stewarts for the next hundred and fifty years. Each steward was already an adult when his father died. They were all respected military commanders and councilors. Then the royal line died out, leaving a questionable succession in 1290. Alexander Stewart, foreshadowing later developments, sided with Robert Bruce (the famous king's grandfather) during the royal election. When John Baliol was overthrown and Edward I of England took direct control of Scotland, Alexander joined with William Wallace's rebellion (see Braveheart) and continued to support the Bruce claim to the throne. Two decades later, after Robert the Bruce had become Robert I of Scotland, Alexander's son, Walter, distinguished himself so well to the king that he was given young Marjorie Bruce, the king's daughter, as his bride. Marjorie died two years later but left a son, Robert, who would spawn the subsequent royal dynasty.

The Royal House of Stewart begins with tragedy, defeat, pain, misery, and death. And this trend pretty much continues all the way to 1807. Put simply, the Stewarts are a very sad house. It started well enough. Robert II seems to have been a decent king — he allowed his lords to attack English properties in Scotland — but his reluctance to declare outright war with England prompted two palace coups by his sons. Robert III was kicked by a horse a few years before he became king. It showed. His son took over as lieutenant (regent) until he was killed mysteriously. A few years later, Robert III died leaving his only son, James I, to lead from imprisonment in England.

I said the family was really messed up! James I was imprisoned for 18 years. When he returned from England, he seemed more English than Scottish, liked centralized rule a là the House of Lancaster, and so was assassinated by dissident nobles. The only good thing he did was give all his daughters to important English nobles and European royalty. His son, James II, was only a kid when he became king. After ten years of regent-rule, James II came of age and fought the powerful Douglas family until his advisers thought he had gone power crazed. He fought and fought and fought until a cannon exploded killing him. James III, his son, was also a kid when he became king and nothing really improved from there. He preferred English to Scottish politics which got him imprisoned by his own nobility for a year. Once out, he went as power crazed as his ol' man and his own nobles killed him at the Battle of Sauchieburn in 1488. The fourth James felt bad for helping kill his dad and, despite being underage, forewent his regency and decided to make peace with England. Things went very Renaissance-y for the next decade until the English invaded due to past grievances. James IV died in the Battle of Flodden Field, the last British monarch to ever die in combat, leaving yet another niño on the throne. His only long-lasting achievement was the fact that his son was born to Margaret Tudor, eldest daughter of Henry VII of England. James V was a worthless king. The first seventeen years of his reign were ruled by regents. Like pretty much all his ancestors, he declared war on England, got sick from depression (he lost a battle), and dropped dead leaving Scotland in the hands of an infant girl, Mary.

Up to this point, most people probably weren't that familiar with the history of the Stewart family. Mary I, Queen of Scots, is the turning point. She had a long and tumultuous reign that spanned from a regency to a marriage to the king of France, François I, to his death and her subsequent marriage to her cousin Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley. Following his mysterious murder and her marriage to his murderer, even the Spanish who supported her claim to the English throne after Mary I of England's death in 1588 started to question things. In 1567, Mary was deposed by her nobles, fled to England, imprisoned by the English for nineteen years, and finally beheaded in 1587 after three attempts at assassinating Queen Elizabeth I. Her legacy was her son, James VI, who was the spawn of the two senior lines to the English throne after the Tudors died out in 1603. With Elizabeth's death that year, the Stuarts became the first royal family to rule both England and Scotland in a personal union.


Most people don't notice the oddity that Mary Stuart died yet the Stuart name lived on. When Mary was the Queen consort of France, she re-stylized her surname as Stuart due to the French spelling of the word "steward". When she returned to Scotland, she mandated the change across her family. Her second husband, Lord Darnley, was also a member of the House of Stewart. His line descended far back into the 1300s from one of Alexander Stewart's younger sons. For the past few generations, Darnley's ancestors had been earls of Lennox. Darnley's grandfather married Margaret Tudor after her first husband, James IV, had died. Thus Darnley was second-in-line to the English throne after Mary. When they married, the Stuarts had consolidated their claim to the throne in the form of their joint son, James. Despite Darnley's later death and Mary's exile and execution, James survived to rule first in Scotland, taking power only a few years before his mother's execution, and later in England until 1627.

The English Stuarts were a slightly better designed family but they really couldn't get over the Catholic-Anglican problem. James was a staunch Presbyterian (in Scotland) and Anglican (in England) whose tenets were almost all Catholic. Charles I, his son, was mostly Anglican (which got the Scots mad) but not very good at it (which got the English mad), especially since he appeared more Catholic than anything (which made the Puritans mad). He had to fight a civil war for much of his reign, ending in his execution in 1649. His son, Charles II, fled to Scotland, failed to lead an uprising, fled to France, failed to restore his throne, and then was given it back by Parliament in 1660. The remainder of his reign saw a strong increase in Parliamentary power while Charles did little more than produce illegitimate children. His brother, James II, proved the most problematic English Stuart of all, declaring himself Catholic, of all things. After only two years in power, his nephew, William of Orange, tromped on over from the Netherlands (Dutch Republic) and took control. William was married to James II's daughter, Mary II, and the two of them ruled England and Scotland thereafter. William didn't really care much about Britain, though, and left it in control of the Parliament as per agreed in the "Glorious Revolution" settlement of 1689. When Willie died, Mary's sister Anne took over but she had been viewed as more of a drama queen than a good politician. After that, a scion (pronounced sigh-on; it means a branch) of James VI (of Scotland) or I (of England) became king of Great Britain as George I and the story of the Stuarts ended...

Okay, that's mostly true. Starting almost immediately after James II was overthrown, a movement of Jacobites (pro-James-ites) formed that sought the restoration of the senior Stuarts. James died in 1701 leaving his son, James the Old Pretender, to try and reclaim the throne. James let his own son, Bonnie Prince Charles, do most the fighting but, honestly, none of the Stuarts had much going for them. After 1745, the Stuarts slowly drifted into obscurity. Charlie died in 1788 leaving his brother, Cardinal Henry, as the pretender. But Henry really didn't have the fighting spirit of his predecessors. In fact, King George III even paid him a pension during the French Revolutionary Wars. When Henry died in 1807, the Jacobites were over, even if the pretenders continued. Various branches of the Stuarts and Stewarts still exist today in Scotland, Ireland, and the United States and Canada, but they won't be claiming the British throne anytime soon.

The Stuarts are viewed quite deservedly as one of the most depressing royal families in European history. Their successes were short-lived and their defeats were deeply felt. In the end, they were overthrown by one of their own who then made sure that they never returned again. Rather. Sad. Indeed.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Regnants and Consorts and Regents, Oh My! (Terms)

With a case study two weeks in a row, it's time to return to some simple terminology. Today's should be quite straightforward, as well, since many people may know at least two of the terms. Without further ado, let's just jump into the discussion:

Royalty has a lot of rather interesting and odd facets that don't always mesh with the status quo. Things like the husband of a queen...doesn't that make him a king? Or, can a 5-year old king need help to rule? How does one exactly define a "monarch"? Let's answer these in reverse order.

A monarch is regnant. That sentence is intentionally vague since regnant is, in fact, an adjective. It needs to be qualified by a title such as queen regnant. Ah, there we go. Still don't understand? It's really rather a silly thing and it is the reason why monarchs are never really called "regnants". In fact, it is usually only applied to females because it is generally assumed that if a king is the monarch, he is a king regnant. Queens, however, are rarely regnant because hereditary rules generally favors men over women. Thus "queens regnant" is a convenient term to emphasize that the queen rules in her own right. Queen Elizabeth I of England is a great example of a queen regnant, primarily because she never wed. You see, just like kings, she doesn't have to be called a queen regnant because there is no husband to contrast her with. Mary II, wife of William III, though, is more likely to get the "queen regnant" title since she ruled in her own right with her husband.

The term has an odd way of being written in the plural: queens regnant. The "regnant" gets no "-s" for some reason; probably because it never entered the world of nouns. Anyway, a regnant is the somewhat formal adjective for a monarch who rules in their own right. It contrasts with our next term:

Consort. Somewhat oddly, while regnant has never diverged out of the adjective category, consort has. A statement like "Most queens regnant have a consort" is proper English, but "All Prince Consorts have a regnant" just looks dirty. Technically, they were both to be adjectives but the consorts just got excited. Anywho, a consort is what a regnant is not. For virtually all regnant monarchs, there is a consort involved in the capacity of "spouse". So when you hear someone say Queen Catherine of Aragon with King Henry VIII, they are calling Catherine the queen consort, and just skipped using the term. In fact, most "queens" and "princesses" in the world and in fantasy and literature are such due to their marriages, not their heredity. Thus, Cinderella is no "princess", she is a "princess consort" (the wife of a prince). Since it is more likely that a male is to rule than a female, females are designated as "queens consort" when they DO rule. Likewise, males are more likely to rule than not rule, so are called "prince consort" or "king consort" to emphasize the LACK of their right to rule. As with queens regnant, though, there have been many prince consorts in the world. Their role, though, has changed significantly since medieval times.

In the earliest times, prior to around 1400, women rarely ruled if they were married. Even if they had the hereditary right to a title, their husbands would usually rule de facto (take or be granted the power by the legal barer of the title: his wife) or jure uxoris (be constitutionally allowed to rule in right of his wife). Thus the use of a "prince consort" was rather rare in that time. The only hint that the wife held the power was that her death often precipitated the transfer of power from the husband to the heir even if the husband were still alive. A great example of this was Eleanor of Aquitaine. She was the legal Duchess of Aquitaine, a huge swath of land in western France. She first married Louis VII of France, who jure uxoris became Duke of Aquitaine. But 15 years later and after no children, Louis divorced her and she married Henry II of England and took all her lands with her. Sure Louis tried to keep them but Henry and his son, Richard the Lionheart, took most of them back.

Once the Renaissance came around and medieval was on the way out, women began to reignwith their husbands than sit by the sidelines. Basically, the husband would be crowned ruler with the wife, but decisions would be discussed together and both of them would be noted as the proper rulers. Juana of Castile, from 1504 to 1506 before she went "Mad", ruled with her husband, Philip the Handsome. However, the trend continued to change in this era. England has one reported case of a "king consort" in history: Mary I (popularly known as Bloody Mary) married Philip II of Spain in 1555. When they wed, he was crowned the first and only king consort of England, and he retained at least some authority within the English government alongside Mary. Since there has never been another "King" Philip in England since, it is unclear whether he should be included in the kings lists of the country.

Today, we live in the golden age of consorts. With the deconstruction of male-preference succession systems in the Low Countries and Scandinavia, the number of male consorts is on the rise. Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom has a prince consort, Philip of Edinburgh, while Queen Victoria married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Queen Margarethe of Denmark didn't even marry royalty! Of course it could be argued that since most monarchs have little actual power, the term consort or regnant is really valueless, but it does denote at least the de jure legitimacy of their right to rule.

Lastly, the term regent must be discussed. It is a confusing and often-times contradictory word that has been lumped historically with these other terms despite the fact that it doesn't have much to do with them. A regent is simply someone who rules for someone else. There are many reasons for a regent — a minor is the de jure monarch, the ruler is unwell, the ruler is out of the country, there is no ruler — but they all end with the same conclusion: a regent is someone who ISN'T the legal ruler. In many cases, a regent is a relative of the legal ruler or a council of a bunch of people appointed by the ruler. Regents are also almost never numbered in kings lists because, well, they aren't kings.

Let's get some examples to better work this out. The number one reason for full-time regencies is because the ruler is a minor. In most countries, a ruler has to be at least 18 or 21 to rule the country; until that time, someone else has to do the formal ruling while the kid just does whatever it is kids do. Catherine the Great of Russia was suppose to be a regent for her infant son but she claimed the throne instead. Naughty regent! Miguel of Portugal in the 1820s was suppose to be regent for his niece, Maria II, but took the throne while she was away. Bad regent! The Duke of Suffolk was the regent for Edward VI of England but, when Edward died, he placed his own daughter, Jane Grey, on the throne instead of the rightful heir, Mary. I'm starting to note a trend here... Regents aren't always good people and they often are at their worst when a minor is on the throne. Generally, though, the do give up their power when the kid reaches his or her majority and then things go back to normal.

Ruling for sick monarchs is more of a normal function for a regent. A monarch gets sick, the regent is appointed, he usurps the throne in a coup, and kills the king. Oh wait! Crap, that's not right. No actually, there haven't been too many coups led by regents against a sick monarch. I guess Juana of Castile, after she went MAD was overthrown by her father and then son, but she still technically kept her titles. When George III got sick in the 1790s, his son George became regent and was known formally as the Prince Regent until he became king in 1820. Regents actually like sick kings because they can basically rule however they like and claim that the king said it was okay. It's harder to do that when the king is a 2-year old toddler.

When a king is out of the country, anything can happen. In Britain, they established long ago that a regency council or a spouse is a better regent than any family member (see War of the Roses). Courageous family members know that when the ruler is away, people can play. The only thing that really works for the rulers in this situation is that he or she is an adult and is usually respected outside the country. A usurping family member may not be trusted as much and the coup-ed monarch is still alive. Neither are good things for an overzealous family member.

The worst situation to be in is a monarchy without a regent. A regency council is almost always formed in this case, and guess who makes up that council? All the people who want to be the next ruler. It truly is like a game of Russian roulette. The claimants fight and bicker until war breaks out, they reach a compromise, or everyone dies except one (they sometimes all happen). Sometimes, though, a regent appears from outside this group. Prior to the Scottish War of Independence, Edward I of England claimed the regency of Scotland (without permission) while the dozen or so claimants figured out who should be king (and who could suck up to Edward the best). The Hundred Years War was fought when the House of Capet died out leaving two females and two males as the potential new rulers. The French chose one male, the English (who ruled half of France at the time) chose the other. Fight! Indeed, almost every country has had some succession dispute and some regent or council has to try and rule the country while everyone fights over who should rule it. I know. It's weird.

That's about it for today. These terms will come up and some already have. Next week we shall have another case study and I will post a poll for it sometime midweek. Cheers!


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