Spare Dukes, Part II, or, What does one do with so many younger brothers?

The violence and in-feuding of royal brothers in the Middle Ages hardly ceased as the histories of England and Scotland transitioned into the Early Modern period. When we last left the Stewarts in Scotland, Robert III, the old king, had died in 1406; his eldest son and heir, the 1st Duke of Rothesay, was alsoContinue reading “Spare Dukes, Part II, or, What does one do with so many younger brothers?”

Spare Dukes: What to do with a younger brother in 1,000 years of English and Scottish royal history (Part I)

Dad: “Why would he do a ridiculous thing like that?”Wally: “‘Cause he wanted to be like you, Dad.”Dad: “But Wally, when I said 20 miles a day, I was just using a round figure.”Wally: “Yeah, well, you and I know that, Dad, ‘cause we’re grown up, but gee, the Beaver, he’s just a kid.” MillionsContinue reading “Spare Dukes: What to do with a younger brother in 1,000 years of English and Scottish royal history (Part I)”

Lost Princes of France: The Courtenays, from Latin Emperors to Earls of Devon

This is the story of a family that rose to great heights as princes and emperors in the eastern Mediterranean, then slowly declined over several centuries in rural France, before attempting to restore their former position in the line of succession to the French throne in the 17th century. An offshoot branch had established itselfContinue reading “Lost Princes of France: The Courtenays, from Latin Emperors to Earls of Devon”

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”

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”

Sackville dukes of Dorset

The Dukedom of Dorset is mostly forgotten today, a title that had only five holders between 1720 and 1843. Yet their surname, Sackville, is well remembered, particularly as borne by Vita Sackville-West, one of the leaders of the Bloomsbury Group of the early 20th century. The surname also probably inspired Tolkien in his choice ofContinue reading “Sackville dukes of Dorset”

The Herberts & the Duke of Powis

Last summer I drove the lush green valleys of eastern Wales, in the region that was once the ancient Kingdom of Powys, ruled in the early Middle Ages by the Gwerthrynion dynasty until the 850s, then as divided principalities. As we passed by the market town of Welshpool, one of the former princely capitals, weContinue reading “The Herberts & the Duke of Powis”