Friday, August 24


Breaking News on the Palaeologue Succession

(In geologic time, anyway).

The handy-dandy Wikipedia points to the final living descendent of Constantine XI Palaeologus, Basileus of the Romans, to be Andreas Palaeologus, the one-time Despot of Morea, who died in penury in the Papal States in 1503. One of our alert readers comments:
According to Gibbon, the refugee Andrew Paleologue, son of the last Despot of the Morea, SOLD the purple to King Ferdinand... then he sold it AGAIN to the King of France.

Of course, someone will doubtless cry that Gibbon is a dirty nogood anti-Christian bigot, so we can't possibly believe anything he says.
Well, Gibbon did say St. George was a corrupt bacon salesman (nothing about dragons), so I tend to take some of his comments with a grain of salt, but it seems the Monkey-Man* was right, presuming Wikipedia isn't in on the conspiracy, or isn't simply copy-pasting Gibbon, which it probably is. But Gibbon most have gotten something right sometimes. In any case, the story is a wee bit more complex:
He was the nephew of Constantine XI Palaiologos, the last Byzantine Emperor of Constantinople. After Constantine was defeated and killed by the forces of Mehmed II on May 29, 1453, Andreas continued to live in Morea, which was ruled independently by Andreas' father Thomas Palaiologos, the younger brother of Constantine, until 1460. At this time he escaped to the Italian peninsula following an Ottoman invasion. Before entering Italy, Thomas and all his children made the conversion to the Roman Catholic religion. When his father died in 1465, Andreas stayed in Italy under the protection of the Papal States.

During his lifetime, Andreas is believed to have wasted enormous sums of money given to him by the Pope. However, modern historians now believe that the money received from the Pope was only enough for a meager standard of living.

Looking for money and a better life, Andreas tried to sell the rights to the Byzantine crown, which had fallen to him de jure since the death of his father Thomas. Charles VIII of France originally agreed to purchase the rights of succession from Andreas in 1494. However Charles predeceased him on April 7, 1498.

Andreas' younger brother Manuel Palaiologos arranged a deal with the Ottoman Sultan Bayazid II, exchanging his rights to the Byzantine throne for a comfortable pension.

Andreas died a pauper in 1502. According to his will his heirs were Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella of Castile. While most scholars believe Andreas left no descendants of his own, Donald M. Nicol's The Immortal Emperor recognises a Constantine Palaiologos who served in the Papal Guard and a Maria who married Russian noble Mihail Vasilivich as possible offspring of Andreas.
Thus Wikipedia. So he sold it. But at least he sold it again only after the King of France had died, for what its worth. Given the Bourbons now rule in Spain anyway, it may well be a moot point. Or possibly it means some Valois cab-driver in Marseilles is the inheritor of the Caesars.

Incidentally, I am told Constantine XI has a semi-official cultus among the Greek Orthodox under the title of St. Constantine the Ethnomartyr, which is interesting as I am also told he died a Catholic. Given the supreme weirdness that existed in the immediate post-Council of Florence East, just about anything is possible.

*It's a pun. Think about it. I'm not suggesting, however, we start referring to Edward Gibbon this way as it is likely to just cause confusion with his distant cousin Eddie "Screaming Gorilla" Gibbon, the winner of the 1747 World Wrestling Federation Championships held that year in a small provincial outpost of New Spain called Las Vegas.

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