A worthless prince? Andreas Palaeologus in Rome, 1465-1502

A worthless prince? Andreas Palaeologus in Rome, 1465-1502

By Jonathan Harris

Orientalia Christiana Periodica, Vol. 61 (1995)

Introduction: Andreas Palaeologus, the claimant to the Byzantine throne who died in Rome in 1502, has not been treated kindly by posterity. He has generally been portrayed as an immoral and extravagant playboy who squandered his generous papal pension on loose living and eventually died in poverty. As a result his career has been dismissed as being of little significance, George Finlay concluding that his fate and that of other members of his family `hardly merits the attention of history, were it not that mankind has a morbid curiosity concerning the fortunes of the most worthless princes’. Up to now, no one has ventured to question that judgement.

This article seeks to make a departure from the traditional view of Andreas in two ways. First, on the basis of evidence drawn from the Papal archives, it will be argued that there were other reasons for the financial difficulties of this exiled prince quite apart from any extravagance of his own and that the portrayal of him as a feckless wastrel is by no means entirely fair. Secondly, in view of this it would be wrong to dismiss him, as Finlay does, as an insignificant footnote to history. His years of exile in Rome represent, in fact, a continuation of the policy pursued by the Palaeologus family for a period of over a century and mark its ultimate failure.

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