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”

Ansbach and Bayreuth: Secondogeniture lands for Hohenzollern princes

One of the benefits of the fragmentary nature of the German feudal states that made up the Holy Roman Empire was that small segments of a dynasty’s patrimony could be easily carved out to provide younger sons with a territory of their own to govern, a principality from which they could derive an income andContinue reading “Ansbach and Bayreuth: Secondogeniture lands for Hohenzollern princes”

Fouché d’Otrante: French Neapolitan dukes in Sweden

Some dukedoms are awarded to die-hard republicans, based on a territory not connected in any way to the grantee, the title formally removed by one country, then reclaimed by descendants living in another. Not often, it has to be admitted. But such is the story of the ancestors of one of the grandest Swedish aristocratsContinue reading “Fouché d’Otrante: French Neapolitan dukes in Sweden”