The Palaiologos dynasty (pl. Palaiologoi;), also romanized as Palaeologus or Palaeologue, was the name of a Byzantine Greek family, which rose to nobility and ultimately produced the last ruling dynasty of the Byzantine Empire. Founded by the 11th-century general Nikephoros Palaiologos and his son George, the family rose to the highest aristocratic circles through its marriage into the Doukas and Komnenos dynasties. After the Fourth Crusade, members of the family fled to the neighboring Empire of Nicaea, where Michael VIII Palaiologos became co-emperor in 1259, recaptured Constantinople and was crowned sole emperor of the Byzantine Empire in 1261. His descendants ruled the empire until the Fall of Constantinople at the hands of the Ottoman Turks on May 29, 1453, becoming the longest-lived dynasty in Byzantine history; some continued to be prominent in Ottoman society long afterwards. A branch of the Palaiologos became the feudal lords of Montferrat , Italy. This inheritance was eventually incorporated by marriage to the Gonzaga family, rulers of the Duchy of Mantua, who are descendants of the Palaiologoi of Montferrat.
A younger son of Andronikos II became lord of Montferrat as heir of his mother. His feudal dynasty ruled in Montferrat, longer than the imperial branch did in Constantinople. This inheritance was eventually incorporated by marriage to the
Gonzaga family, rulers of the Duchy of Mantua , who descend from the Palaiologoi of Montferrat. Later, that succession passed to the Dukes of Lorraine , whose later head became the progenitor of the Habsburg-Lorraine emperors of Austria. The Paleologo-Oriundi, an extant line, descends from Flaminio, an illegitimate son of the last Palaiologos marquess John George.
The reconstituted realm was very weak compared with the pre-1204 Empire. The Palaiologoi emperors were not granted the earlier luxury of isolation. Imperial marriages became increasingly mercenary and royal princesses regarded as little more than merchandise. The future Michael VIII married Theodora Doukaina Vatatzina, a kinswoman of the Batatzes Lascaris family, in order to solidify his position in the Nicean Empire. Michael VIII's sister, Andronikos and Theodora's daughter Irene Palaiologina, was the mother of Maria Kantakuzenos, who married Constantine Tikh and Ivailo of Bulgaria in turn. Michael VIII was the father of Constantine, who in turn fathered John, who became the father-in-law of Stefan Dečanski of Serbia. Michael's daughter Irene married Ivan Asen III of Bulgaria , and another daughter, Eudokia Palaiologina, married John II Komnenos of Trebizond , and another daughter, Theodora, married David VI of Georgia. Andronikos II Palaiologos married Anna of Hungary, daughter of Stephen V of Hungary and Elizabeth the Cuman. They were parents of Michael IX Palaiologos, who predeceased his father but was a co-regent, as such sometimes numbered the ninth. This Michael married Rita of Armenia , a princess of Cilician Armenia as daughter of Leo III of Armenia and Queen Keran of Armenia. His son, the grandson of Andronikos II, was Andronikos III Palaiologos. Michael's daughter Theodora Palaiologina married Theodore Svetoslav and Michael Shishman , rulers of Bulgaria, in turn. A daughter Anna Palaiologina married first Thomas I Komnenos Doukas, Ruler of Epirus and then his successor Nicholas Orsini, already count of Kefalonia. By his second wife, Irene of Montferrat , Andronikos II had Simonis, later the wife of Stefan Milutin of Serbia. His son, Theodore I, Marquess of Montferrat, became lord of Montferrat as heir of his mother. Theodore' inheritance was eventually incorporated by marriage to the Gonzaga family, rulers of the Duchy of Mantua. Andronikos III married firstly Irene of Brunswick, who died without surviving issue, and secondly Anna of Savoy who was descended from Baldwin I of Constantinople. They were the parents of John V Palaiologos. John V was compelled to marry Helena Kantakouzene, a daughter of John VI Kantakouzenos. In order to obtain support to remove John VI, John V gave his sister Maria to Francesco I Gattilusio, who received the Duchy of Lesbos, an island which remained under the control of the Genoese until 1462. They founded the noble family who continued into Italian Genoese aristocracy, being ancestors of the princes of Monaco. Andronikos IV Palaiologos married Keratsa of Bulgaria. She was a daughter of Ivan Alexander of Bulgaria. Manuel II Palaiologos married Helena Dragaš, daughter of Constantine Dragaš who was a regional lord of the dissolved Serbian realm. Demetrios Palaiologos's daughter Helen was a member of the harem of Mehmed II for a period of time. Thomas Palaiologos' daughter Zoe married Ivan III of Russia. In 1446, Zoe's elder sister Helena Palaiologina was married to Lazar Branković, a Serbian prince. Their descendants continued for some time in the Balkans. Thomas's male-line descendants shortly became extinct.
The family had connections throughout Europe. They married into the Bulgarian,
Georgian and Serbian royal families, as well as the noble families of Trebizond,
Epirus, the Republic of Genoa , Montferrat , and Muscovy. Some of the dynasty remainedand prospered in Constantinople long after the Ottoman conquest; 15th- and 16th-century Ottoman documents identify tax-farmers and merchants called Comnenus bin Palaeologus, Yorgi bin Palaeologus, and Manuel Palaeologus.
Zoe Palaiologina who later changed her name to Sophia Palaiologina (1440/49 - 1503), was a Byzantine princess member of the Imperial Palaiologos family, by marriage Grand Princess of Moscow as the second wife of Grand Prince Ivan III. Through her eldest son Vasili III, she was also the grandmother of Ivan the Terrible, the first Tsar of All Russia. The formal wedding between Ivan III and Sophia took place at the Dormition Cathedral in Moscow on 12 November 1472. The ceremony was performed by Metropolitan Philip, although other sources state that was done by Hosea, Abbot of Kolomna. In the Kremlin Museum are stored several items related to her. Among them a few precious icons, who previously where placed in the Annunciation Cathedral, whose frame is created, probably in Moscow. According to the inscriptions showed there, can be assumed that they are in her power she came from Rome. For her in Moscow were built special mansions and gardens, but in 1493 they were burned, and during the fire was lost much of the treasure of the Grand Princess. In 1472, she was affected by the formal tributary gesture by which her spouse greeted the Mongolian representatives, and is believed to have convinced him to abandon the tributary relationship to the Mongols, which was completed in 1480. Sophia was apparently not obliged to follow the custom of traditional isolation which was expected of other Russian noble and royal women at the time; it is noted that she was not confined to the women's quarters, but greeted foreign representatives from Europe similarly as the queens of Western Europe. Before the invasion of Akhmad in 1480, Sophia, her children, household and treasury where sent firstly to Dmitrov and then on Belozersk; in the case, that Akhmad will finally take Moscow, she was advised to flee to further north to the sea. This precautions caused that Vissarion, Bishop of Rostov, warned the Grand Duke that the excessive attachment to his wife and children would be his destruction. The family returned to Moscow only in the winter. The Venetian ambassador Ambrogio Contarini says that in 1476 he had an audience with the Grand Duchess, who received him politely and kindly and respectfully asked about the Doge. There is a legend associated with the birth of Sophia's eldest son, the future Vasily III: that during one of her pious trips to Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, the Grand Princess had a vision of the Venerable Sergius of Radonezh , who " presented her the long-waited son between his arms ". Over time, the second marriage of the Grand Prince was one of the main sources of tension in the court, thanks to the "shrewd" character of the new Grand Princess, and for the increased rumours that her husband let himself be directed by her suggestions. It's thought that Sophia introduced grand Byzantine ceremonies and meticulous court etiquette in the Kremlin, the idea of Moscow as a Third Rome evidently pleasing her. In subsequent years, princely family increased significantly: between 1474 and 1490 the Grand Princess gave birth eleven children, five sons and six daughters. On 4 February 1498 at Dormition Cathedral in the atmosphere of great splendor, Prince Dmitry was crowned Grand Prince and co-ruler of his grandfather. Sophia and her son Vasili were not invited; only in mid-1499 they were restored in favor and returned to court. However, on 11 April 1502 the dynastic struggle came to an end. According to chronicles, Ivan III suddenly changed his mind and imprisoned both Grand Prince Dmitry and his mother Elena, and placed them under house arrest surrounded by guards. Three days later, on 14 April Vasili was crowned new Grand Prince and co-ruler; soon Dmitry and his mother were transferred from house arrest to prison. Thus, the winner of the dynastic conflict was Vasili. The downfall of Dmitry and Elena also determined the fate of the Moscow-Novgorod Reformation movement in the Orthodox Church: a council in 1503 finally defeated it, and many prominent and progressive leaders of this movement were executed. Elena of Moldavia died in prison (1505) a few years later her son Dmitry also died (1509) either by hunger and cold, or, according to others, suffocated by orders of his uncle. The triumph of her son was the last important event in Sophia's life. She died on 7 April 1503, two years before her husband (who died on 27 October 1505). She was buried in a massive white stone sarcophagus in the crypt of the Ascension Convent in the Kremlin next to the grave of Maria of Tver, the first wife of Ivan III. On the lid of the sarcophagus with a sharp instrument was scratched the word "Sophia". The Ascension Convent was destroyed in 1929, and the remains of Sophia, as well as other royal women, were transferred to the underground chamber in the southern extension of the Cathedral of the Archangel.
Helena Palaiologina (1428 - 1458) was a Byzantine princess of the Palaiologos family, who became the Queen consort of Cyprus and Armenia, titular Queen consort of Jerusalem, and Princess of Antioch through her marriage to King John II of Cyprus and Armenia. She was the mother of Queen Charlotte of Cyprus. She poisoned her son-in-law John of Portugal, and ordered the nose of her husband's mistress to be cut off. She did, however, welcome and assist many Byzantine refugees in Cyprus after the Fall of Constantinople in 1453. Helena was largely responsible for the revival of Greek influence in Cyprus due to the numerous members of the Byzantine court who arrived in her wake and were given positions at the Lusignan court. This led to a renewal of ties with the Byzantine Empire. After the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, she welcomed and gave assistance to many Byzantine refugees who had fled to Cyprus. She was described as having been "stronger in character than her husband". She took charge of the kingdom, and her policies in favour of the Orthodox faith and Greek culture enraged the Franks who looked upon her as a dangerous enemy; however she had become far too powerful for them to attack. Pope Pius II also condemned her for supporting the Orthodox Church, and her endowment of 15,000 ducats per annum to the monastery of Saint George of Mangana also drew much criticism as it was considered to have been "extravagant generosity in impoverished times". The Greek Cypriots, on the other hand, had always revered Helena as a great heroine due to her bold, decisive character in looking after their interests. In 1457, she poisoned her son-in-law, Infante John of Portugal, who had given his support to the Catholic party, thus incurring her wrath and enmity; also she wished for her daughter to marry Louis of Savoy. This second marriage Helena did arrange for her daughter, Charlotte; however, the marriage between Charlotte and Louis took place in 1459, when Helena and King John were both dead, and Charlotte by that time had succeeded her father as Queen Regnant of Cyprus. Helena died on 11 April 1458 in the fortress of Nicosia where she and King John had barricaded themselves during the insurrection of his illegitimate son, James. She was buried in the Royal Monastery of Saint Dominic's. John died the same year, and was succeeded by his only surviving legitimate child, Charlotte. As Charlotte's only child died in infancy, Helena has no surviving descendants.
Maria Asanina Palaiologina (1476/1477), better known as Maria of Mangup or Maria of Doros , was the second wife of Prince Stephen the Great (r. 1457–1504) and a Princess consort of the Principality of Moldavia (1472–1477). A descendant of imperial Bulgarian and Byzantine dynasties, Maria belonged to the ruling class of the small Crimean Principality of Theodoro. Stephen likely married her for political reasons, hoping to conquer the principality, though he lost interest in her when that proved impossible. Her elaborate burial shroud featuring her portrait is preserved in the Romanian Putna Monastery where she was buried.
Maria Palaiologina was an illegitimate daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos (ruled 1258-1282), the wife of the Mongol ruler Abaqa Khan, and an influential Christian leader among the Mongols. After Abaqa's death she became the leader of a Monastery in Constantinople which was popularly named after her as Saint Mary of the Mongols. Michael VIII, the Byzantine Emperor based in Constantinople, attempted to stay on friendly relations with both khanates. Hulagu had been negotiating for a lady of the imperial family of Constantinople to be added to his number of wives, and Michael selected his illegitimate daughter Maria. He also betrothed another of his daughters, Maria's sister Euphrosyne Palaiologina, to Nogai Khan, head of the Golden Horde. Both khanates maintained an attitude of tolerance towards the Christians. On her journey to marry Hulagu, Maria left Constantinople in 1265, escorted by the abbot of Pantokrator monastery, Theodosius de Villehardouin. Historian Steven Runciman relates how she was accompanied by the Patriarch Euthymius of Antioch. However, in Caesarea they learned that Hulagu had died, so Maria was instead married to his son, Abaqa Khan. She led a pious life and was quite influential on the politics and the religious outlooks of the Mongols, many of whom were already Nestorian Christians. They had previously looked to Doquz Khatun, Hulagu's wife, as a religious leader. When Doquz also died in 1265, this sentiment turned to Maria, who was called "Despina Khatun" by the Mongols (Greek for "Lady"). Maria resided in Persia at court of Abaqa for a period of 15 years, until her husband - follower of Tengri - died and was succeeded by his Muslim brother Ahmad. According to Orlean's manuscript, Baidu Khan was close to Maria during her time in Persia and frequently visited her ordo (nomadic palace) to hear interesting stories about Christianity. She eventually returned to Constantinople, but in 1307, during the reign of Andronicus II , she was offered again as bride to a Mongolian prince, Charbanda, the Mongol ruler of the Middle East in order to obtain an alliance against the rising power of the Ottomans, who at that time were threatening the Byzantine city of Nicaea. Maria went there, both to encourage its defense and to hasten the negotiations with the Mongols about her wedding. She met with the Ottoman Sultan, Othman, but her menacing behaviour aroused the spirit of the Ottomans. Before the 30,000 troops sent to her aid by the Mongols could reach the city, the Ottomans stormed the fortress of Tricocca, which was the key to Nicaea, and conquered it. Maria was then forced to go back to Constantinople once again, where she became the Ktetorissa of the Panagiotissa Monastery, and remained there for the rest of her life. The church of the monastery was officially dedicated to the Virgin Mary, but due to Maria's association with it, it became popularly known as the "Church of Saint Mary of the Mongols". Maria herself was never canonized. The Church is called by the Turks “the Church of Blood” (Kanli Kilise), as the building saw violent combat during the capture of Constantinople by the Turks. The Church is the only one in Constantinople to have never been converted to a mosque, following an order by Mehmet the Conqueror. It is located in Tevkii Cafer Mektebi Sok, in the quarter of Fener. There is a surviving mosaic portrait of Maria, from the narthex at the Chora Monastery (she appears as a nun, with an inscription with her monastic name of Melania), in the lower right hand corner of the Deesis scene.