I recall reading in a few books that during the early to mid 19th century, the Greeks where trying to find European nobles who had genealogies linked to the dynasties of the old Byzantine Empire (Paleologus, Laskaris, Doukas etc). The idea being that they could be potentially persuaded to join the cause of the Greeks in their plight to create a Christian empire centered in Constantinople.

My question was, were they ever able to find any? if so, who were these people? if not, are there any details on where they tried to look?

Edit: To the best of my knowledge the most recent person to claim to be a descendant of the Paleologos dynasty (the last Byzantine Dynasty) was a man named Ferdinando Paleologos who died in 1678, Barbados

7 Answers 7


They looked in England, but nothing came of it.

During the Greek War of Independence, a commission investigated Cornwall, England for descendants of the Palaiologan dynasty. Supposedly, a certain Theodore Palaiologos of Pesaro in Italy died there in 1636. The Ferdinando Palaiologos mentioned in the question was one of his sons, and he died at Barbados on 3 October 1678. A grandson died serving in the Royal Navy in 1694.

However, there is no reliable evidence that this Theodore Palaiologos really is a descendent of the Imperial House of Byzantine. According to local sources, Theodore traces his descent to Thomas Palaiologos, the last Despot of Morea and brother to Constantine XI the last Emperor, through a son called John. History however only knows Thomas to have two sons: Manuel, who surrendered to the Turks, and Andreas, who is considered to have died childless.

Unfortunately, the chain of descent of the Cornish Palaiologi is questionable at is first link, for there is no independent evidence that the Despot Thomas ever had a son with the name of John. His line, and so the descendants of the Emperor Michael VIII who founded the dynasty of Palaiologos, became extinct with the death of Andrew in 1502, or at least with the death of Andrew's alleged son Constantine.

- Nicol, Donald M. The Last Centuries of Byzantium, 1261-1453. Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Any Greek delegation would presumably have known this well. The fact is that the Palaiologi were very extensive, being numerous within Greece herself even after the fall of Byzantium. Although the legitimate Imperial line died out by the early 16th century, this did not deter many of them from conveniently "discovering" a connection.

The male line of the house of Palaiologos, the collateral descendants of the last Christian Emperor Constantine, was thus extinct by the beginning of the sixteenth century. This demonstrable fact has never deterred claimants to the Byzantine imperial title from appearing in various parts of Europe to the present day.

- Nicol, Donald M. The Immortal Emperor: The Life and Legend of Constantine Palaiologos, Last Emperor of the Romans. Cambridge University Press, 2002.

  • What about the Phanariotes, some of whom came from noble Greek families that had included emperors (Kantakouzenos?) and were ruling princes in Wallachia and Moldavia when the Greek war for independence started? Were they ever considered?
    – user8690
    Jan 2, 2019 at 22:14
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    @cipricus I suspect there was too much present political angles for any of them to be in serious contention. Kapodistrias, the architect of the modern Greek state, did not have good relations with the Greek elites.
    – Semaphore
    Jan 3, 2019 at 5:20

To add another answer. Yes, there were plenty of nobles in Europe who could trace their ancestry to various Byzantine emperors.

For example, Emperor Francis I of Austria was the heir through the house of Lorraine and the Gonzagas of Mantua of the junior branch of the Palaiologos dynasty who were Margraves of Montferrat descended from a younger son of Andronicus II. He also had a descent from a French nobleman who was a claimant to the Latin Empire of Constantinople and planned to send an expedition to free Greece but was stopped by the outbreak of the Thirty Years War.

I shouldn't have to tell you this, you should just assume that the head of he Habsburg dynasty would have some sort of claim (not necessarily the best one, but still a claim) to the throne of each and every realm in Europe west of Russia. Thus if the people of country A wanted to unite with some of their countrymen who were ruled by Austria, they could have simple deposed their current monarch and made the Austrian Emperor their monarch, and thus would have reunited without fighting a bloody war.

Emperor Alexios III Angelos, mentioned in my previous post as an ancestor of Michael VIII, the first Palaiologos emperor, deposed his brother Emperor Isaac II Angelos. Isaac II had a daughter who married Philip, King of the Romans, whose three daughters married the King of Castile, the King of Bohemia, and the Duke of Brabant and had many descendants. The heir of Isaac II could be considered to have a better claim than the heir of Alexios III who usurped his throne, and thus perhaps a better claim than the heir of the Palaiologos dynasty.

Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos was elected co emperor and regent for the child emperor Saint John IV Lascaris (1250- c. 1305) but deposed him and blinded him on his eleventh birthday - which was also Christmas - and imprisoned him. There are descendants of John's sister Eudoxia Lascarina who married Pietro I, Count of Ventimiglia and Tende, whose descendants used the family name Lascaris. Descent from the Lascaris family is very common among Western European royalty and nobility.

Emperor Thodore Komnenos Doukas ruled briefly with his capital at Thessaloniki and had a daughter Irene who married Ivan Asen II, Emperor of the Bulgarians and the Romans, whose female line descendants eventually included Thomas Palaiologos, heir to the Palaiologos dynasty.

So this brief discussion shows a few of the many possible claims to the Byzantine throne.

You can find most of those people mentioned in Wikipedia articles. As for the Tocco heirs of the Palaiologos dynasty, a good source is William Miller Latins in the Levant: a History of Frankish Greece 1204-1566. Pages 452 to 455 tell of the fate of the Palaiologi after the fall of the Morea in 1460, and pages 485 to 489 tells of the Tocco in exile in Italy And how their heir was Carlo Capece Galeotto, Duke of Regina.



  • Also, Constantine XI supposedly bequeathed the Imperial title to Ferdinand , so the Hapsburgs would have a claim that way. The Spanish Habsburgs died out , so the Austrian line would have picked that up.
    – Spencer
    Jul 7, 2023 at 11:19

Male line descent from previous emperors, or any descent from previous emperors, was not legally necessary to become emperor. There were Emperors who seized the throne, and officials who were elected emperor when there was no obvious heir to the throne.

Almost every single Emperor after Alexios I Komnenos (reigned 1081-1118) was descended from him either in the male line, like the Emperors at Trebizond, or else through female lines of descent.

The Komneni of Trebizond became extinct in the male line, but the Safavid Dynasty of Persia was descended from them through females, and there are many families descended from the Safavids through female lines.

Almost every emperor after 1204 (except for the rulers of Trebizond and a few others) was descended from Constantine Angelos who married Theodora Komnene, a daughter of Emperor Alexios I, in either male or female lines of descent.

There are no known descendants of the Palaiologos Dynasty in legitimate male lines. There are many families who use the name Palaiologos who may be descended from relatives of Michael VIII, the first Palaiologos emperor, or from illegitimate sons of emperors, or descended from emperors through female lines, or descended from unrelated families which simply took the high prestige name of Palaiologos. Due to loss of records there is no Palaiologos family with any known connection to the dynasty.

Michael VII, the first Palaiologos emperor, had no descent from previous emperors except his father's mother's mother's father was a son of Emperor John II Komnenos and his mother's mother's father was Emperor Alexios III Angelos. If he could become emperor due to descent through female lines, someone can become the rightful heir of the Palaiologos dynasty through female line descent.

Despot Thomas Palaiologos (1409-1465) was recognized in western Europe as the rightful emperor after the fall of Constantinople. His younger son Manuel (1455-1512) returned to Constantinople and had children who became Muslims and their descendants can't be traced.

Andreas Palaiologos (1453-1502), Thomas's older son, also claimed to be the titular emperor but did not have any proven children, legitimate or otherwise. Maria, who married Prince Prince Vasily Mikhailovich of Vereya-Belozersk, may have been a daughter of Andreas.

Zoe/Sophia, daughter of Thomas Palaiologos, famously married Ivan III of Moscow. Her last known descendant, Maria of Staritsa, died in 1610.

Thomas's older daughter Helena married Despot Lazar Brankovic of Serbia. Her daughter Milica Brankovic married Leonardo III Tocco of Epirus and became the ancestor of the Tocco family of southern Italy. The Tocco family became extinct in the male in the 19th century but many of their daughters married into the Neapolitan nobility, so it would be rather simple for experts in the genealogy of the Neapolitan nobility to find the rightful heir of the Tocco family and thus of the Palaiologos Dynasty.

Of course there were many earlier imperial dynasties who had different heirs than the Palaiologos dynasty.

  • 5
    While we appreciate you taking the time to answer, we would all benefit from documented resources. Aug 25, 2015 at 21:57
  • There are many people in Greece with the surname Paleologos. They could potentially be descendants of the last dynasty as well. but i guess my main question was whether there where any known nobles in Europe that where aware of some ancestral connection to the byzantine dynasties.
    – Notaras
    Aug 26, 2015 at 3:43
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    pretty much all european houses could claim some type of ancestral connection to the byzantine throne, some better than others.
    – ed.hank
    Jan 3, 2019 at 3:34

The first governor of Greece, Ioannes Kapodistrias, was a descendant if the Comnenus family from his mother, Diamanto Gonemi, a Cypriot family. There are several direct male descendants of the Comnenus family in Cyprus, being the descendants of Andronikos Comnenus and Theodora Comnenus. In several occasions they intermarried with the Lusignian family and so the Lusignian descendants are also Comnenus descendants

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    It would be useful if you included your source(s) for this information.
    – Steve Bird
    Jan 2, 2019 at 22:42

Still another answer:

Wikipediia's article on the palaeologus dynasty says about the Montferrat branch:

The Paleologo-Oriundi, an extant line, descends from Flaminio, an illegitimate son of the last Palaiologos marquess John George.


Unfortunately Illegitimate sons didn't have any inheritance rights according to Byzantine law. But the Y chromosome of the Paleolog-Oriundi line can be used to determine which other Palaeologos families are not in the same male lineage and which are, even if it can't determine which families are legitimate and which are illegitimate, nor which Palaeologos families are descended from which members of the Palaeologos dynasty.

So if you can tell which Palaeologos families are at least members of the same male lineage as the imperial Palaeologos, you could arrange for the next female line heiress of the Palaeologos dynasty to marry some member of those Palaeologos familes and return the heirship to a male lineage Palaeologos family.

Of course, there were many earlier imperial dynasties with many other and rival claims to the eastern imperial throne with many different heirs today.

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    This doesn't answer the question of where the Greeks were looking for these decendants in the first part of the 19th Century.
    – Steve Bird
    Jun 3, 2016 at 5:15

As a very short answer I could say that the present day heir, according to male-preference primogeniture, of the Palaiologos dynasty is Lugi Serra 11th Duke of Cassano.

And other persons have claims to be the heirs of other Byzantine Dynasties.



It would have been impossible for the Greeks of the 19th century to look for the descendants of The Byzantine Empire, since the last descendant of the Byzantine imperial line died in Barbados 150 plus years earlier.

There was, however, a tiny, but vibrant Greek community who lived-(and still reside), in The Veneto-(Northeast Italy), specifically, in the cities of Venice and Trieste. The Greeks of the Veneto date back to the 1400's, whereby many Byzantine Nobility, as well as Intellectuals and Merchants, had abandoned Constantinople on or near the eve of its conquest by the Ottomans and had relocated to The Republic of Venice.

When the Greek War of Independence began in the 1820's, it was led, to a great extent, by the Modern Greek state's First President, Ioannis Kapodistras, who originally came from the Veneto-(and all in likelihood, his ancestors may have been one of the tiny few who relocated to the Veneto shortly before The Fall of Constantinople). Kapodistras, was very much of an Aristocratic background and while he probably did not have any direct genealogical connection to the last of the Byzantine Dynasties...(The Paleologus family), he most likely would have had some direct genealogical connection to high ranking Byzantine Nobility or Aristocracy, since the vast majority of the Greeks who relocated to the Veneto in the 1400's primarily came from an Aristocratic background.

The Presidency of Ioannis Kapodistras, would have been, perhaps the closest thing to a 19th century Greek nationalistic nostalgia and search for....a Byzantine imperial descendancy.

(Incidentally, Ioannis Kapodistras is buried on the Greek island of Corfu...which, for centuries, was also part of the greater/(imperialistic)...Republic of Venice).

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