The Anglo-Dutch Moment: the Bentinck dukes of Portland

The year 1688-1689 has been called by historians the ‘Anglo-Dutch Moment’, as the year when the ideas of English and Dutch limited monarchy came together in the person of William, Prince of Orange: King William III. Over three centuries later, one family, the Bentincks, still benefit from this relatively brief merging of national interests. HansContinue reading “The Anglo-Dutch Moment: the Bentinck dukes of Portland”

A Highland fling with the Dukes of Gordon

If you visit the northeast corner of Scotland, Aberdeenshire or the Moray Coast, you cannot help but bump into castles built or towns founded by some member of Clan Gordon. Today they are represented in the Scottish peerage by the marquesses of Huntly and of Aberdeen, but in the 18th century the clan was ledContinue reading “A Highland fling with the Dukes of Gordon”

The House of Lancaster in Portugal: Dukes of Aveiro and Abrantes

Lancaster is a very English place name, and the name used by dynastic historians for one side of the epic struggle for the English throne known as the Wars of the Roses. Curiously, as ‘Lencastre’ it is also a surname used by one of the few Portuguese noble families to hold ducal rank. Aveiro wasContinue reading The House of Lancaster in Portugal: Dukes of Aveiro and Abrantes

Dukes of Saxe-Meiningen

Where would you go if you wanted an incredible musical or theatrical experience in the later 19th century? One of Europe’s great music capitals—Vienna, Paris? The theatres in London? The capital cities of several small German principalities had either an orchestra or a theatre that punched well above its relative weight, like Weimar or Detmold,Continue reading “Dukes of Saxe-Meiningen”

Princes of Powys Fadog and Maelor

Until very recently I had never heard of Maelor, despite it being just over an hour’s drive from my home in Manchester. I’ve now become slightly obsessed with its curious history, as an exclave of Welshness jutting into the English countryside. For a small geographical space, it is complex, with two roughly equal parts: ‘Saxon’Continue reading “Princes of Powys Fadog and Maelor”

Piombino: A sovereign principality for the Appiani, Ludovisi and Boncompagni

Renaissance Italy is known for its complex political geography, with numerous small duchies and principalities punching above their weight in terms of the generation of political and philosophical ideas and staggeringly beautiful works of art. Mantua, Ferrara, Parma are all well known. There were also several much smaller principalities whose histories are not as known,Continue reading “Piombino: A sovereign principality for the Appiani, Ludovisi and Boncompagni”

Dukes of Luynes, Chaulnes and Chevreuse

One of the grand families of the court of Versailles in the 17th century, and possessors of some of finest châteaux in France still today, the dukes of Luynes are not in fact by origin French. The surname Albert was originally Alberti, from Florence. At least this is the traditionally accepted story—some historians and genealogistsContinue reading “Dukes of Luynes, Chaulnes and Chevreuse”

Princes of Transylvania (Part II)

The seventeenth century was a century of great conflict in Transylvania, but also so its longest periods of stable autonomy and the emergence of its most famous national heros. Prince Gábor Bethlen’s 15-year reign, 1613 to 1629, and the 18 years of the reign of György I Rákóczy, 1630-1648, are seen as islands of respiteContinue reading “Princes of Transylvania (Part II)”

Princes of Transylvania

(Part I) Transylvania. The name conjures up images of vampires and werewolves, and the most famous vampire of all, Count Dracula. But really, his story is part of the Principality of Wallachia and the Carpathian mountains which separate that region from Transylvania. The potential historic inspiration for Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, thus belongs to anotherContinue reading “Princes of Transylvania”