Thursday, March 29, 2012

The last descendant of the Byzantine emperors in Barbados

the grave of Ferdinandus Paleologus in Barbados.

At the Barbados islands there is a grave of a person called Ferdinadus Paleologus. The Paleologus was the last dynasty that ruled Byzantium.After Constantinople fell to the Ottomans in 1453 most of the Byzantine nobles fled either to the west or to Latin possessions in former lands of the Byzantine empire.

A member of the Paleologues called Theodoros married in 1594 in the island of Chios Eudoxia Comnenos( another name of a Byzantine imperial dynasty). They had a daughter named Theodora who in 1614 married  the prince Dimitrios Rhodocanakis in a Greek orthodox church in Napoli.

The grandson of Theodora called Demetrios Rhodocanakis migrated to London and after many efforts  he achieved to be recognised by the foreign office , the vatican and other european governments as a descendant of the Paleologues.

Let's go back to Theodoros Paleologos. He also migrated to London and married for a second time and married an English woman named Mary Balls. For many years he served as a mercenary for various English nobles.He died in January the 31rst of the year 1636 in Landulph. In 1795 his grave was opened and a corpse was found with a long white beard that reached its chest.
the crucial for the English civil war  battle of Naseby in which two of the sons of Theodoros Paleologus fought.

One of Theodoros' sons  called John fought and fell in the side of the king in the battle of Naseby during the civil war .His brother Ferdinandus also fought in the king's side and with the victory of the Parliamentarians he was self exiled to Barbados where his mother had land possessions.In 1649 he became  the head of the local church of Saint John and he died in 1678.

In 1831 a hurricane struck the Barbados church and Ferdinandus' coffin was revealed. To avoid the spread of mystery stories they opened the coffin in 1844.The body was buried upside down  with the head looking to the west and the legs to the east according to the Byzantine customs.

The current grave was built in 1909 and the inscription on it says:«Here lyeth ye body of Ferdinando Paleologus Descended from ye imperial lyne Of ye last Christian Emperors of Greece Churchwarden of this Parish 1655-1656, Vestryman, Twentye years Died Oct. 3 1678»

Here's what we read in the book  "The Strife of the Roses and Days of the Tudors in"

see also:

Imperial eagle! still with glance intent, 
Thy necks outstretched, and poising wings as yet, 
Claiming to rule o'er each vast continent,With feet upon their gateways firmly set; 
An empire's diadem hangs o'er thy brows,
 Yet rests on neither;--as if glory's aim Waited on fortune to inspire her vows,
 And ratify ambition's lofty claim;--
 But she smiled not,--death put the chaplet on Life's brave endeavour, and a hero's fate Awarded thee instead of victory won, The martyrs' halo, for the crown of state: When sank the Cross blood-stained in western sky, And in the east the Crescent flared on high.

Theodoro Paleologus appears to have married before coming to England, Eudoxia Comnena, and by her had a daughter called Theodora, born at Scio 6 July, 1594, and who was married 10 Oct., 1614, to Prince Demetrius Rhodocanakis, at the Greek church of SS. Peter and Paul, Naples. But he must have settled in England before 1600, for in that year, on May 1st, he wedded secondly at Cottingham, in the county of York, Mary, the daughter of William Balls of Hadleigh in Suffolk, gent. He appears to have sought public employment, military or civil, for among the _State Papers, Domestic_, Charles I., there is a letter from him to the Duke of Buckingham, dated Plymouth, 9 March, 1627-8, in which he thanks the Duke for the courtesy shewn him at Plymouth, and prays to be taken into his service. He further states that he is a gentleman, born of a good house, and in possession of accomplishments worthy of the name he bears, but unfortunate in the reverse of fortune experienced by his ancestors and himself; and that he has lived and shed his blood in war even from his youth, as the late Prince of Orange, and other noblemen, both English and French, have testified. He concludes by proffering himself both faithful and competent to serve the king, and ready to shew gratitude to the duke.[48] This was only eight years before his death, and when he was probably verging on old age.
[48] _Monumental Brasses of Cornwall_, by E. H. W. Dunkin.
Inheriting the military aptitude of their race, Theodoro, his eldest son, entered the service of the Parliament, as lieutenant in the regiment commanded by Lord St. John, in the army of the Earl of Essex. He was buried 3 May, 1644, in Westminster Abbey, and according to the Register of that edifice, "near the Lady St. John's tomb." But of the Lady St. John's monument, Dean Stanley says, "once in St. Michael's, now in St. Nicholas's Chapel,"--and further,--"in the Chapel of St. Andrew, close to the spot where now is the Nightingale monument, lies Theodore Paleologus."
Ferdinando chose the side of the King, and fought under Major Lower (probably a member of the Lower family of Clifton) at Naseby, 18 June, 1645, when Lower was killed, and it is supposed John Paleologus fell by his side. Ferdinando afterward emigrated to Barbados, where his maternal grandfather had an estate, and there he became proprietor of a plantation in the parish of St. John, and was for twenty years, 1649-69, surveyor of highways. He made his will in 1670, gives "_to my loving wife, Rebecca Paleologus, the one half of my plantation, and to my son Theodorus the other moiety_," to his sisters, "_Mary Paleologus and Dorothy Arundel each twenty shillings sterling_." He also names legacies of horses to Edward and Henry Walrond,--a Devonshire name, a Humphrey Walrond (query, of the Farringdon descent), being President of the island in 1660. He died about 1680, and was buried in the church of St. John's. Theodorus his son was a mariner on board the ship _Charles II._, and died at sea in 1693.
"The Greeks," says Dean Stanley, "in their War of Independence, sent to enquire whether any of the family remained, and offered, if such were the case, to equip a ship and proclaim him for their lawful sovereign. It is said that a member of the family still remains." This would relate to the descendants of Ferdinando. How strange would have been the circumstance had such an undoubted descendant been discovered, and the imperial eagle again arisen like a phoenix from the ashes of time, and strove to consolidate the shifting fortunes of this heroic and struggling people.
Maria, the elder daughter mentioned on the monument, died unmarried in 1674. Dorothy her sister became the wife of William Arundell of St. Mellion in 1657, and deceased in 1681.
Theodoro Paleologus, as the inscription informs us, died at Clifton, an old manor house in Landulph. This was originally the seat of a younger branch of the Arundells of Trerice, and built by Thomas Arundell (son of Sir Thomas Arundell by Anne Moyle) about the year 1500. From the Arundells it passed to the Killigrews, and successively to Sir Nicholas Lower and Sir Reginald Mohun, who married the daughters of Sir Henry Killigrew. Lysons describes it in his time as still existing,--"with its halls, chapel, &c., but much dilapidated, and then occupied as a farm house." It has since been wholly pulled down and rebuilt as a modern farm residence.
At the date of Paleologus' decease, Clifton was evidently in the occupation of Sir Nicholas Lower, and it is probable the imperial refugee, with such of his family as remained with him, found a home under the roof-tree of the knight. Great friendship apparently existed between the Lowers and the Paleologi, as in his will Sir Nicholas orders "_Item, I doe give unto Mrs. Maria Paleologus tenne pounds to be paied unto her within one quarter of a yeare after my decease_,"--this was the eldest daughter; two of his sons fought under Major Lower, and the father was buried in the Clifton aisle, and close by him the testator was himself afterward laid.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting article indeed. Amazing where the family ended up, you could not have predicted. Everybody thinks that there are no more members of this Byzantine family left - they are very wrong. There is a proportion of descendants of this family left, but under different names. I am one of their descendants. Our history and where we have ended up is also just as interesting. If any historians reading this are interested in filling in the missing gaps in the family whereabouts, they should do research and ask members of thia family, such as myself to come forward and to contribute more information.

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