Archive for August 2011

Some Byzantine misconceptions

The reason for this article is to address some of the gross inaccuracies I’ve seen online, not the least of which are the dozens of claimants to the Byzantine throne that are running around parading the Palaiologos name.

Let’s get it clear: there are no proven, documented male line descendants of of the Palaiologos House alive today. Therefore, anybody claiming to be that is at best a fantasist and at worst a fraud. If one has the documentation, it would be a boon to historians and genealogists worldwide to examine it. Heck, they would probably become very wealthy by publishing a book (with documentation) on their family history from the Fall to the present.

As it is well known, the last Emperor of the Roman Empire of the East, better known as the Byzantine Empire, was Constantine XI Dragases (Κωνσταντίνος ΙΑ’ Δραγάσης) of the Imperial House of the Palaiologos (Παλαιολόγος). Emperor Constantine died valiantly with his troops defending his capital from the hordes of the Turk that were headed by Mehmet II. After the conquest of of Constantinople, Mehmet II was known as “The Conqueror”.

The fateful day that seat of Christianity in East found itself enslaved by the Muslim Turk was May 29, 1453 and the day the Emperor died.

After his death, the only Palaiologos left were:

  • His younger brother Demetrius, Despot of Morea, who died a monk in Constantinople
    • Demetrius had a single child, a daughter, named Helena who was taken along with her mother into the Sultan’s harem
  • His other younger brother Thomas who was the last ruler of Morea and as the last remaining male Palaiologos, the claimant to the Imperial throne. It is Thomas’ line that is of interest to us.

After Mehmet conquered the Despotate of Morea, Thomas fled to Rome for safety along with his children in 1461. Along with him, he brought the head of St. Andrew, the First Called, as a gift to the Bishop of Rome, Pope Pius II. However, he died in 1465 and his children (2 boys and a girl) were brought up by Cardinal Bessarion (a Greek Orthodox bishop who was a unionist and was made a Cardinal by the Pope after being persecuted by the anti-union forces of the Eastern Church).

The eldest of them was Andrew and was the legitimate heir to the Christian throne of the East. He styled himself in the European Courts as “Imperator Constantinopolitanus” and squandered both his inherited treasures as well as the salary he was paid by the Pope. He went so far as to sell his claims to the Byzantine throne to Their Most Catholic Majesties King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain! There are rumors that he sold the claims several times over, including to King Charles VIII of France. He did not have any children from his wife and died penniless in 1502.

The younger son, Manuel, who became the titular Emperor on the death of his older brother (and if we discount the sale of the titles), moved to Constantinople and sold his own claims to the throne to the same person who caused the destruction of his Imperial House, Sultan Mehmed II! In return, Manuel received a comfortable pension and a life of luxury. While in the City, he married and had two children: John and Andrew of whom no offspring are found in the historical record. It is also said that Manuel and his children converted to Islam, even serving in the Sultan’s navy. A slap in the face to the legacy of their Imperial House!

Thomas’ youngest child was a girl named Zoe. She married the Grand Prince Ivan III of Muscovy (Moscow) in 1472 and brought as part of her dowry the double-headed eagle. This is the basis for the claim of Moscow to be the “Third Rome”. As a side note, Zoe was the grandmother of Ivan the Terrible.

This is the end of the Imperial House of the Palaiologos. However, there is a cadet branch of the Palaiologos House created by Theodore, the first Marquess of Montferrrat. Theodore was born Theodore Komnenos Doukas Angelos Palaiologos in 1270, a son of Emperor Andronikos II. The last of this line was John George and died in 1533.

There were other Palaiologos, younger children from prior generations that presumably survived the conquest but, after a while, the record goes silent and many of the “bin Palaiologos” that can be found in the various Ottoman tax records are not necessarily related to the dynasty.

Another of the major inaccuracies I’ve seen online and also swept under the rug in Greece is related to the religious dogma of the late Emperor. Growing up in Greece, Emperor Constantine is hailed as the consummate Greek hero (and that part is 100% true) and also the “Defender of the Orthodox Faith” (this part is 100% untrue).

What apparently nobody wants to have known is that the Emperor died in communion with the Pope, as did his Patriarch, since they both had accepted the Councils of Ferrara and Florence. If it had not been for the Turkish conquest, the Eastern Orthodox Church would be in communion with the West today.

According to the historical record and what the noted Byzantine scholar John Julius Norwich, after the death of the Emperor, the Sultan wanted to control the Christians of his new empire by selecting a Patriarch that would not cause problems for him. Naturally, he would not choose someone who supported the union with the West and therefore selected the fiercely anti-unionist Gennadius.

Over the centuries, the almost apocryphal story of  the anti-unionists of the Eastern Empire being so anti-Papal that they supported the Turks. This is patently false!

The most “popular” quote is the one attributed to the Grand Duke Lucas Notaras (Λουκάς Νοταράς), a famous anti-unionist, where he allegedly said

κρειττότερον έστιν ειδέναι εν μέσῃ τη Πόλει φακιόλιον βασιλεύον Τούρκων ή καλύπτραν Λατινικήν

or, in English

better to see in the midst of the City the Turkish turban to reign than the Latin mitre

The Grand Duke remained true to his beliefs in that the Eastern Church could not re-unite with the West as per the two Councils but, he was 100% loyal to his Emperor and a hero to his Empire. He tried to protect the Empire to the utmost of his abilities and was an ardent supporter of the Emperor to solicit help from the Western Powers. He took on the defense of the City and, though the Turk was victorious, his organizational skills and rallying of the troops was exemplary.

Let’s not forget that it was the Grand Duke, his son and his son-in-law that were the three first “neo-martyrs” or martyrs under the Ottoman yoke. The were all beheaded for confronting the Sultan.

Not exactly the actions of a turcophile, is it?


Kingdoms within the Republic of Uganda

Typically, republics and kingdoms aren’t compatible and don’t coexist homewever, there are some notable examples around the world that are the exceptions proving the rule.

Some of the better known kingdoms that are part of a republic are those that are within the Republic of Uganda. The kingdoms of Buganda, Bunyoro-Kitara, Busoga and Toro are ancient traditional kingdoms of Africa that long enjoyed local and international recognition, even by the British colonial powers.

Unfortunately, with the political upheavel that Uganda experienced in the late 1960’s the new government of Milton Obote forcefully disbanded all the traditional kingdoms. The constitution introduced in 1967 went a step further and fully outlawed them.

The famously violent regime of Idi Amin of the 1970’s was no better and it wasn’t until the democratically elected government of 1993 re-established them. Then in 1995, the new constitution fully recognized these ancient kingdoms in law and the powers of their leaders or Kings. The 2005 amendment to the constitution re-affirmed the position of these Kings, further confirming their status in Ugandan society.

Though these Kingdoms are fully recognized in law, they are not fully sovereign politically. However, they do have considerable political influence and regularly meet with government leaders.

As mentioned above, the only four kingdoms recognized in Ugandan law are the following:

Buganda is the largest of the subnational kingdoms of Uganda and the namesake of the country and covers about 17% of the population of the country. The traditional title of the King of Buganda is “Kabaka” and the current Kabaka is Muwenda Mutebi II.

Bunyoro-Kitara is the second largest of the Ugandan kingdoms and the only one that was once an empire controlling a large swath of the land that is Uganda today. The traditional title of the King of Bunyoro-Kitara is “Omukama” and the current Omukama is Solomon Iguru I.

Busoga is another ancient Ugandan kingdom that is smaller than those above. The traditional title of the King “Kyabazinga” and the last one to hold the title was Henry Wako Muloki. Unfortunately, there has been strife among the leaders of the Kingdom and a successor has not yet been chosen.

Toro was once part of the Bunyoro Empire and was created in 1830 when the eldest son of the Omukama rebelled and founded his own kingdom. The Kingdom of Toro also names its King “Omukama” and the current holder of the title is Rukidi IV.


Links of interest:


Note: Images from Wikipedia


Genealogy and Oral History Department – Foundation of the Hellenic World

The “Ίδρυμα Μείζονος Ελληνισμού” or “Foundation of the Hellenic World” is an international organization trying to maintain and support the Hellenic traditions alive wherever Greeks are found, anywhere in the world.

Greeks have set forth and populated lands far and wide, away from the tiny peninsula that is Greece, following a tradition of immigration that started thousands of years ago. Most of the Mediterranean coast as well as that of the Black Sea was first colonized by Greek settlers and the Greek spirit remained vibrant, through religious and political upheavals for over 2500 years and well into the 20th century!

Greeks spread out far beyond the confines of the Mediterranean and into the New World, settling in the Americas, as well as all the other continents.

Considering the very tumultuous history of the region Greece is in, it is not surprising that there has been so much movement throughout the centuries. However, Greeks have always tried to maintain the Hellenic spirit alive, through the generations, regardless of distance from Greece.

There have been three major migrations of Greeks to foreign lands:

  • In antiquity, when the Greek city-states would colonize the Mediterranean and the Black Sea
  • Around the time of the fall of Constantinople in 1453
  • After the end of World War 2

As a result of all this movement, about half of the total world population that identifies itself as “Greek” (without counting those that are of Greek descent but identify themselves otherwise) resides outside of Greece.

The table below is a demonstration of the distribution of Greeks around the world. This table was taken from the Wikipedia article on Greeks and though it is fully referenced, the usual Wikipedia caveats apply.

Total population
at least. 14 – 17 million
Regions with significant populations


10,280,000 (2001 census)

 United States

1,390,439-3,000,000a (2009 est.)


792,604 (July 2008 Est.)

 United Kingdom

400,000 (estimate)


365,120 (2006 census)-700,000a


294,891 (2007 est.)


242,685b (2006 census)


approx. 200,000




91,500 (2001 census)


90,000c (estimate)

 South Africa

55,000 (2008 estimate)




35,000(2009 est.)


30,000 (2008 estimate)


15,742 (2007)




13,000 (est)


11,000 estimated


9,500 estimate


6,500 2002 census









By the way, notice how few Greeks are left in modern day Turkey: 2500. Whoever is familiar with the region’s history would realize what this means.

In recognition of this wide distribution around the world, the “Foundation of the Hellenic World” was created as a central organization to bring all these communities together and make sure contact with Greece is not lost.

As part of the work this foundation has undertaken is to record the oral histories of Greeks in their senior years and try to create some sort of genealogical reference database to assist those who are trying to find their roots. By making copies of documents, journals, periodicals and, most importantly, oral records of the senior most (in age) a database can be developed to be referenced by future generations.

As I have mentioned before, in my own genealogical research, finding records for Greek ancestors is a herculean task. Some of the highlights, in reverse chronological order:

  • Turkish invasion of Cyprus of 1974: All records of the norther half of the island are lost
  • Greek Civil War of 1945-1950: Government and Communist forces were destroying records to either take land or to hide family ties
  • Nazi Occupation of 1940-1944: Nazi forces and Nazi collaborators were destroying records so as to steal lands legally owned by others
  • The Greek Genocide of 1914-1923 by the Turks in modern day Turkey: Destroyed all remnants of Hellenism there (also check the table above to see how successful they were)
  • Ottoman rule 1400’s to early 1900’s: Destroyed records of Christians, had a formal plan of Islamization and also violently suppressed any attempts to teach Greek or Greek history in an organized matter.

This is why it is so important for organizations such as these to continue their work and get all the support they need both from individuals and the Greek government.

The link to the Foundation’s home page is:

The link to the Genealogy and Oral History department is:



The legend of Mostyn de Vaux and the Edwards family of Chile

As I have written many times before, I am a member of the extended Edwards family of Chile on my mother’s side. My maternal grandmother was a direct patrilineal descendant of the founder of the family in Chile, Jorge (George) Edwards Brown.

The Edwards family of Chile is of British origin and has a long and illustrious presence in that country, its members having been integral parts of Chile’s history, affecting it along the way at critical junctures.

As with any family, there are many legends surrounding the Edwards. The most prominant legend of them all is the one that links the Edwards to the Mostyn de Vaux family.

The legend has been repeated from generation to generation for a very long time. I remember, as a kid, my mother recounting the story and I know that all the family members took this legend as gospel.

So, what does this legend say?

According to the legend, George Edwards, the founder of the family:[1]

  • Was not just any British immigrant to Chile with a story of rags to riches.
  • Was not the (illegitimate perhaps?) son of John Edwards and Elizabeth Brown, born in Shoreditch, London.
  • Was the 4th son of Lord Hugh Mostyn, Baron de Vaux and of Elizabeth O’Higgins

It appears that this story was first published in the book “Linajes vascos y montañeses en Chile” by Pedro Javier Fernández Pradel, published in 1930.[2] This same story is then repeated in the book “Un alma cumbre: Juana Ross de Edwards” by Blanca Subercaseaux de Valdés, published in 1944.

On page 16 of the book by Subercaseaux de Valdés, we find that there’s more to the story:[1]

A diferencia de sus hermanos, [Jorge] no siguió la carrera de las armas sino que, apasionado por las ciencias naturales, estudió medicina en Eton, llegando a graduarse de médico en el Real Colegio de Físicos de Londres.

Pero Jorge Mostyn no vivía sólo para el laboratorio. A pesar de la oposición de sus padres, se casó con una célebre belleza, bailarina, o actriz, renunciando por ella, en pública escritura, a sus apellidos adoptando los muy comunes que usó desde entonces.

Habiendo fallecido a los pocos meses la esposa causante de eso graves trastornos familiares, y queriendo el joven distraer su pena y desengaño, se contrató de médico a bordo de una fragata rusa. Naufragada la fragata en las costas de Alaska, Lord Hugo pensó que se encontraba su hijo entre las víctimas del naufragio y así lo deja declarado en su testamento.

or in English

As opposed to his brothers, [George] did not follow a military career but instead, as he was passionate about the natural sciences, studied medicine at Eton and graduating as a medical doctor from the Royal College of Physicians in London.

However, George Mostyn had a life beyond the laboratory. Over his parents’ objections, he married a celebrated beauty, ballerina or actress renouncing, for her, in writing and publicly his family name and adopting the common surname he used ever since.

A few months later, the wife that caused this family turmoil died and the young man wanting to distract himself from the grief, joined the crew of a Russian frigate. This frigate shipwrecked on the Alaskan coast and Lord Hugh believed that his son was among the victims and states it in his will.

The source of the text above is the previously cited book by Fernández Pradel and the footnote include the following:[1]

Da alguna luz sobre el linaje de don Jorge el oficio que, el 12 de Noviembre de 1806, redacta el doctor Hipólito de Villegas, subdelegado de Coquimbo, acusando al fisco (sic) inglés, Jorge Edwards de los Valles por creerlo, erradamente, comprometido en un contrabando cometido en Totoralillo. Es posible que en uno de los muchos interrogatorios a que fue sometido se le preguntara por su nombre y

contestara: ‘Jorge Edwards’ ¿que más? inquiriría el oficial, refiriéndose al apellido materno, según es costumbre entre nosotros, y entonces el interesado, acordándose de su apellido solariego, repondría: ‘de los Valles’. Ahora bien en ‘Burkes Peerage’, edición de 1914-1915, se hace mención de los Edwards de Vaux, (de los Valles, en francés) oriundo de Gales, rama filial de Mostyn

in English:

Some light is shed on the lineage of George the official document dated November 12, 1806 where Dr. Hipólito de Villegas, subdelegate of Coquimbo, accuses the British doctor, George Edwards “de los Valles” [from the valleys] of erroneously believing he was engaged in smuggling in Totralillo. It is possible that in one of the many interrogations he [George] was submitted to, he was asked for his name and he would respond: “George Edwards”. “What else?” would ask the official, referring to the maternal surname, as is customary among us, and he would respond, remembering his illustrious surname: “de los Valles”. As a matter of fact, in “Burke’s Peerage”, edition of 1914-1915, there is a listing for the Edwards de Vaux (“from the valleys” in French) originally from Wales, a branch of the Mostyn family


So, now we know what the legend says.

Let’s investigate at each part separately and see if there is any truth to it.

The obvious starting point is, naturally, also the most important: the title of “Baron de Vaux”.

In looking at the the series of volumes of Burke’s Peerage, we discover that the title of Baron de Vaux was in abeyance starting in 1662.[3] It isn’t until 1838 that the title is restored in the person of George Mostyn, resident of Harrowden (a town close to Bedford, about 100klm from London).[3]

Burke’s Peerage is also very helpful in this research as it lists the ancestry of George Mostyn. In this genealogical record, there isn’t a Hugh to be found in any of the generations listed, clearly contradicting what Subercaseaux de Valdés wrote in her book.[3]

The logical conclusion here is that the core of the legend is not true because simply, there was no “Baron de Vaux” during the majority of the lifetime of George Edwards! George was born circa 1780 (120 years after the title became dormant and 60 before it was restored) and died circa 1848 (only 10 years after the restoration of the title).[4]

At this point, we have enough evidence to tear down this whole myth. However, I enjoy the mental exercise so, let’s dig some more.

Let’s look at the source Subercaseaux de Valdés used, the book by Fernández Pradel. From here is the footnote in the former’s book that says that George Edwards responded “from the valleys”. Fernández Pradel concludes that this response can be nothing else by a reference to “de Vaux” since it is the French translation of the response.

Apparently, Fernández Pradel discounted the fact that George Edwards was British and his primary language was English and not French or Spanish.

Ask anyone from England or Wales what “from the valleys” means and they’ll tell you that it’s a reference to the valleys in the south of Wales. Coincidentally, this region is known for its coal mines, though a very respectable profession, not exactly a hallmark of nobility or aristocracy. Also, let’s not forget that “Edwards” is one of the more common surnames in Wales.

The myth now completely busted, it would be a good place to call it a day.

But, perhaps there are still some doubters out there. I mean, we’re talking about a family legend that people have sworn by for almost a century!

Therefore, my question is this: How come the Edwards family, that has counted among them some of the wealthiest entrepreneurs, most powerful politicians, most noted academics, most celebrated genealogists and most influential diplomats in the history of Chile never decided to look into this? How come a family with close, personal ties to the political leadership of the United Kingdom that sent its children to the UK to study and had its members as ambassadors of Chile to that country never took on this project?

Well…. they did!

Gonzalo Vial Correa in his celebrated biography of Agustín Edwards MacClure (founder of the largest newspaper of Chile “El Mercurio”, Foreign Minister of Chile and Interior Minister of Chile among other highlights) says on pages 19 and 20 that at the time of death of Alberto Edwards Vives (noted historian, Minister of Finance, then Education, then Foreign Relations and finally Justice of Chile), an unsigned document appeared among his personal documents that detailed the alleged link of George Edwards with the de Vaux family.[5]

A bit further down, Vial Correa adds:[5]

La viuda de Alberto Edwards [Vives] hizo llegar el papel a nuestro biografiado [Agustín Edwards MacClure] – embajador entonces ante Gran Bretaña – que encargó investigarlo a un genealogista de fama, aunque de nombre casi impronunciable: Hargreaves-Mawdsley, el cual mediante una veintena de libra esterlina dictaminaría el año 1936. Los resultados de su investigación, dio, eran ‘notables’ pero lo ‘uniformemente negativos’. El documento anónimo no contenía nada verdadero.

in English:

The widow of Alberto Edwards [Vives] sent the document to the subject of this biography [Agustín Edwards MacClure], at the time ambassador to Great Britan, who took it to a famous genealogist with an almost unpronounceable name: Hargreaves-Mawdsley, and was charged 20 pounds sterling in 1936. The results of his [Hargreaves-Mawdsley’s] investigation were “notable” but “uniformly negative”. The anonymous document did not contain any truth.

I think that the legend has now been checked from all possible angles and it is completely clear that the story of George Edwards being a “Mostyn de Vaux” is complete and utter fantasy!

I’ve wanted to publish my research here for the longest time and only recently did I find the time to put all my notes together into a cohesive and comprehensible article.

The true history of George Edwards, or as he was known in Chile: Jorge Edwards Brown, is much more interesting. His life is an example of human tenacity and demonstrates that any person, regardless of their past or heritage or social status, can become wildly successful and conquer the highest peaks. Denying him the recognition of his achievements is an affront to his legacy and to the honor of the Edwards family, my family.


  1. Subercaseaux de Valdés, Blanca (1944). Un alma cumbre: Juana Ross de Edwards. Padre Las Casas: San Francisco. p. 16
  2. Fernández Pradel, Pedro Javier (1930). Linajes vascos y montañeses en Chile. Santiago de Chile: San Rafael.
  3. Burke, John Bernard (1852). A genealogical and heraldic dictionary of the peerage and baronetage of the British Empire (14 ed.). London: Colburn and Co. p. 1005.
  4. Barrios Barth, Juan (1993). “Extranjeros llegados a la Serena durante el siglo pasado (3a. Parte)”. Revista de Estudios Históricos 37: 274.
  5. Vial Correa, Gonzalo (2009). Agustin Edwards Mac Clure. Santiago de Chile: Aguilar Chilena De Ediciones (Mercurio Aguilar). pp. 19-20. ISBN 9789562396875.


Links of interest:



Heraldic privileges of Knights of the Order of St. Lazarus of the Grand Priory of Spain

Learning from the excellent publication of the Grand Priory of Spain of the Order of St. Lazarus I wrote about the other day, I decided to publish a concise list of heraldic privileges of the knights of the Order.

There are specific regulations that are applicable based on the rank as well as the specific office held by the knight.

Before going into the details, there are some rules that are applicable to all:

All knights may display the arms of the Order in either a chief or a canton. The arms of the Order are: Argent a cross Vert.

All knights may lay their shield on the cross of the order (a maltese cross vert).

Specific to the rank of the knight, the rules are:

  • Knights: May suspend the insignia of the order from the bottom of their shield
  • Commanders: May suspend the insignia from the flanks of their shield
  • Grand Crosses: May have their shield encircled with the insignia
  • Collared: Those who are either Grand Collars or have a collar of office may encircled their shield with the collar they are entitled too.

Specific to the office the knight may hold, the rules are:

  • Grand Masters: May quarter the arms of the Order with their personal arms. They may display two scepters in saltire behind their shield
  • Chancellors: May display a sword in pale behind their shield
  • Heads of a Grand Chapter: May display a scepter in pale behind their shield
  • Judges of Arms: May display a baton of office in pale and surmount their shield with the coronet of a king of arms
  • Grand Marshals: May display two batons of office in saltire behind their shields
  • Grand Auditors: May display a gold key in pale behind their shields
  • Grand Treasurers: May display two gold keys in saltire behind their shields
  • Grand Referendaries: May display a sword and a baton of office in saltire behind their shields
  • Coadjutors: May display a scepter and baton office in saltire behind their shields

All high dignitaries and members of the Council have the additional right to display their arms in the pavillion of the Order. The pavillion is black, to denote the loss of the holy land to the muslims, and is charged with the cross of the order on the sinister side. The pavillion is surmounted with a closed eastern crown, showing the founding of the Order in the east.



  • Images by Fernando Martínez Larrañaga and Wikipedia
  • I am not affiliated in any way with the Order of St. Lazarus