Lamballe and Penthièvre: Riches upon Riches

One of the most prominent characters in the recent television drama about Marie-Antoinette is her loyal friend and the superintendent of her household, the Princess of Lamballe. There was no actual principality of Lamballe, but the bearer of the name was indeed a princess, by virtue of her birth into the royal house of Savoy,Continue reading “Lamballe and Penthièvre: Riches upon Riches”

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”

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”

Polignac dukes and princes

In the world of the old aristocracy, the primary duty of a noble family was to maintain and hopefully augment status, wealth and power. The granting of a dukedom was a symbol of a noble family having reached the very top. Some, in circumstances of exceptional royal favour, achieved this in just one lifetime, whileContinue reading “Polignac dukes and princes”

Dukes of Mortemart: the Rochechouarts

Madame de Montespan—one of the most famous women in French history, one of the most archetypal maîtresses en titre of the court of Louis XIV at Versailles. She was not a duchess, unlike many other women in her position, though she was given the equivalent rights at court as a mark of her unparalleled royalContinue reading “Dukes of Mortemart: the Rochechouarts”

Dukes of Elbeuf, another branch of the House of Lorraine

One of the most well-known ducal families in French history is the House of Guise, an interesting example of a cadet branch of a family being more famous (or infamous) than the senior branch, the sovereign dukes of Lorraine. The dukes of Guise dominated French politics and diplomatic and religious policy for much of theContinue reading “Dukes of Elbeuf, another branch of the House of Lorraine”

Savoy and Dauphiné Driving Tour: The Ancient Trans-Rhodanian Principalities

In the early Middle Ages, if you traveled from Paris to Rome, once you crossed the Rhône River at Lyon, you were no longer in France, but in French-speaking principalities that were component parts of the Holy Roman Empire. After 1349, the first of these you’d encounter on crossing the river, the Dauphiné, was propertyContinue reading “Savoy and Dauphiné Driving Tour: The Ancient Trans-Rhodanian Principalities”

Dukes and Abbeys in the Midi: A Circular Drive around the Centre of France

Driving tours in France often include visits to the country’s periphery, the seacoast, the Alps, the Pyrenees. This long circular drive I did in the summer of 2000, to allow me to dig in to some regional archives for my dissertation about the Lorraine-Guise family, instead took me deep into France’s interior. Aside from exploringContinue reading “Dukes and Abbeys in the Midi: A Circular Drive around the Centre of France”