Fictitious Habsburg Genealogies

Genealogists today often think of genealogy as a search for the truth about family relationships and history. But, for our royal and noble ancestors genealogy was something different.

It was a two-pronged propaganda campaign. One goal was to prove they were an ancient and distinguished family. The other goal was to prove that they were entitled to whatever titles, territories, and privileges they claimed.

The Habsburgs are a particularly well-documented example of the way medieval genealogies changed over time.


When Count Rudolf von Habsburg (1218-1291) was elected Holy Roman Roman Emperor in 1273 the Habsburg family seems to have had no genealogical tradition about their origins. If they did have, it has since been lost.

Rudolf was avidly interested in genealogy. Very soon after he was elected he circulated the idea the Habsburgs were descendants of the Colonna family. The Colonna are an Italian noble family, said to be a branch of the Counts of Tusculum, who in turn were supposed to be descended from the Roman gens Julia, the family of Julius Caesar. So, at a stroke, a formerly obscure Swiss family was linked to ancient Rome. Not surprisingly, Rudolf’s new imperial dynasty also gained apparent legitimacy.

The idea that the Habsburgs were descended from the family of Julius Caesar gave them an opening to tag onto an older bit of political propaganda. Caesar himself claimed to be a descendant of the Trojan hero Aeneas, who was the son of a Trojan prince Anchises and the goddess Venus (Greek: Aphrodite), according to Homer’s Iliad. Virgil’s Aeneid tells the story of how Aeneas gathered the Trojan survivors along with the statues of the household gods of Troy, and eventually settled in Italy where he became the ancestor of Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, and his companions became the ancestors of the Romans.

So, this genealogy made the Habsburgs not only the heirs of Rome but also the heirs of the Trojans and the founders of Rome.

  • Chronik der 95 Herrschaften (Chronicle of 95 Seigneurs) by Leopold of Vienna (Leopold Stainreuter) (late 14th century). A compilation of the 95 rulers of Austria from Noah down to the present. In 1453 Frederick III used this compilation to have a memorial created in St. George’s church in the castle at Wiener Neustadt. The memorial shows 107 coats of arms, most of them the imaginary arms of fictitious Austrian rulers from Noah down to himself. Frederick had himself portrayed in the central field as ruler of the Austrian domains.


The Colonna story continued as the official history of the Habsburgs until the reign of Maximilian I (1459-1519), the next family genealogist.

In 1476 a Swiss monk, Heinrich von Gundelfingen, produced a new genealogy showing the Habsburgs were actually descendants of the Pierleoni family. This genealogy might have been prepared for Maximilian’s wedding the following year to Mary of Burgundy.

The Pierleoni, like the Colonna, were an Italian noble family. They claimed descent from gens Anicia through Roman Emperor Olybrius (died 472).and the counts of Aventine. The previous genealogy had underlined the legitimacy of the Habsburgs as an imperial dynasty. This one also emphasized their sanctity. St. Benedict (480-543), the founder the Benedictine order, and Pope Gregory the Great (c540-604) were Anicii. Other famous members included the philosopher Boethius (c480-524), author of Consolation of Philosophy, a very popular and influential work, and Roman Emperor Petronius Maximus (c396-455).

This version of the Habsburg genealogy was still being published as late as 1694, when it reached its peak of popularity under Leopold I (1640-1705). Unfortunately it turned out to be too good to be true, although the full extent of the fraud wasn’t understood until 1836 (Fürst Eduard Maria von LichnowskyGeschichte des Hauses Habsburg).

The Pierleoni were really descendants of Leo de Benedicto Christiano, a Jewish banker who had converted to Christianity in the 11th century.

Trojans and Merovingians

Maximilian I launched a search for his family’s origins, and promoted the production of illuminated manuscripts, illustrated genealogies, and treatises on heraldry. In 1498 he commissioned Dr. Konrad Turst in Zurich to search for documents in the family’s Swiss homeland. He also engaged many of the leading scholars of his age as consultants, including Konrad Celtis, Johannes Cuspinianus, Konrad Peutinger, Willibald Pirckheimer, and Johannes Stabius, as well as Abbot Trithemius, and his own historiographers Jakob Mennel (Manlius) and Ladislaus Sunthaim.

In his earlier years Maximilian was inclined to accept the Pierleoni descent. Later, he favored research that showed he was a descendant of the ancient Trojan kings through the Merovingians. The French kings claimed the same origin, but their line went through the Carolingian usurpers. Claiming a different version of the same line allowed Maximilian to present himself as the legitimate heir of the ancient kingdoms of Gaul and Germany, and provided a justification for his territorial expansion into France and Burgundy.

There were variations of the Trojan line, even during Maximilian’s lifetime. One version traced the line back to the Trojan hero Hector. Maximilian had this line published in a book prepared for Charles VIII of France when he was trying to convince Charles to marry his daughter. Other versions took the line back to the Egyptian god Osiris and to the biblical Noah. Konrad Celtis went a different direction — he traced the Habsburgs back to the Norse god Tuisco, the ancestor of the Teutons.

  • Trithemius (1495-1503): 1, Marcomir. 2. Anthenor. 3. Priamus. 4. Helenus. 5. Diocles. 6. Helenus. 7. Basanus. 8. Chlodomer. 9. Nicanor. 10. Marcomir. 11. Clodius. 12. Anthenor. 13. Clodomer. 14. Merodach. 15. Cassander. 16. Ancharius. 17. Franco (um Beginn unserer Zeitrechnung). 18. Clogius. 19. Herimer. 20. Marcomir. 21. Clodomir. 22. Anthenor. 23. Ratterius. 24. Richimer. 25. Odemar. 26. Marcomir. 27. Clodomer. 28. Favabert. 29. Sunno. 30. Childerich. 31. Berthar. 32. Clodius. 33. Walther. 34. Dagobert. 35. Clogio (died 309). 36. Clodomer. 37. Richimer. 38. Thedemer. 39. Clogio. 40. Marcomir. 41. Dagobert (died 385). 42. Genebald. 43. Faramund. 44. Clodius. 45. Merovech. 46. Childerich. 47. Chlodevech usw. (Chronicon Hirsaugiense)
  • Gebweiler (1530): 47. Chlodvech. 48. Chlothar. 49. Sigubert. 50. Childbert. 51. Theodebert. 52. Sigubert. 53. Otbert. 54. Bebo. 55. Robert. 56. Amprintus (Rampert). 57. Guntram. 58. Luthard. 59. Betzo. 60. Rapoto. 61. Berengar. 62. Otto. 63. Werner. 64. Albert I. 65. Albert II. 66. King Rudolf I.
  • Memorial of Maximilian I (1572), at Hofkirche, Innsbruck. The original plan for Maximilian I’s cenotaph was that it would be surrounded by 40 large statues of his famous ancestors, 100 smaller statues of the family’s patron saints, and 34 busts of Roman emperors who had been his predecessors.The work was never finished. The completed work included 28 statues of his ancestors, including King ArthurTheodoric the Great, and Clovis I; 23 statues of the family saints, including St. Morand; and only 21 busts of the Roman emperors.
  • Genealogy of Philip II of Spain (16th century), traces his ancestry to Adam through Hercules Lybius: 1. Adam. 2. Seth: 3. Henos: 4. Cainan: 5. Malaleel: 6. Iared: 7. Henoch: 8. Mathusalam: 9. Lamech: 10. Noe: 11. Iapeth: 12. Iauan: 13. Dodanin: 14. Hercules: 15. Thusco: 16. Altheo: 17. Blascon: 18. Cambo Blascon: 19. Dardano: 20. Ericthonio: 21. Troe: 22. Iilo: 23. Loomedonte: 24. Priamo: 25. Heleno: 26. Genger: 27. Franco: 28. Esdron: 29. Gelio: 30. Rasabiliano: 31. Plaserio: 32. Plesron: 33. Eliacor: 36. Gaberiano: 35. Plaserio: 36. Antenor: 37. Priamo: 38. Heleno: 39. Plesron: 40. Basabiliano: 41. Alexandre: 42. Priamo: 43. Getmalor: 44. Almadion: 45. Diluglio: 16. Heleno: 47. Plaserio: 48. Diluglio: 40. Marcomiro: 50. Priamo: 51. Heleno: 52. Antenor: 53. Marcomiro: 54. Antenor: 55. Priamo: 56. Heleno: 57. Diocles: 58. Basano: 59. Clodomiro: 60, Nicanor: 61. Marcomiro: 62. Clodio: 63. Antenor: 64. Clodomiro: 65. Merocado: 66. Casandre: 67. Antario: 68. Franco: 69. Clogion: 70. Marcomiro: 71. Clodomiro: 72. Antenor: 73. Paterio: 74. Richimero: 75. Odemara: 76. Marcomiro: 77. Clodomiro: 78. Faraberto: 79. Sunon: 80. Hilderico: 81. Baltero: 82. Clodio: 83. Valter: 84. Dagoverto: 85. Clogion: 86. Genebaldo: 87. Dagoverto: 88. Clodion: 89. Marcomiro: 90. Faramundo: 91. Clodion: his son, 92. Merobeo: 93. Childerico: 94. Clodoreo: 95. Clotario (or Olotario): 96. Sigisberto: 97. Thoeberto: 98. Bebo: 99. Roperto: 100. Amprinto: 101. Gontramo: 102. Luthardo: 103. Betgon: 104. Rapoto: 105. Berengario: 106. Othon: 107. Vernero: 108. Alberto Elrico: 109. Alberto, 2: 110. Rodulpho: 111. Alberto, 3: 112. Alberto Elsabio: 113. Leopoldo: 114. Ernosto: 115. Federico: 116. Maximiliano: 117. Don Philipe, 1:118. D. Charolus: 119. D. Philipe, 2: 120. D. Philipe, 3: 121. D. Philipe, 4: 122. D. Philipe, 5. (John O’Hart, Irish Pedigrees (1892)).
  • Arbor Monarchia (1698), a hand painted tree about 25 feet tall created for Leopold I to show the Habsburg descent from Adam, who is said to have died in the Year of the World 930 and was buried on Mount Calvary. This tree is now in the Vienna State Archives.


In 1649 French genealogist Jérôme Vignier advanced a new idea about the Habsburg origins. He based his theory on a manuscript fragment he found in Lorraine, but never produced the manuscript. He traced their ancestry back to Eticho, duke of Alsace in the 7th century, and from him back to Aegamajor domo of Clovis II in the 6th century.

At the time, this line had political implications. The Habsburgs were no longer the heirs of the ancient French kings, they were one branch of a subordinate family.

Then, in the early 18th century the Habsburgs had a succession crisis. Emperor Charles VI (1685-1740) was the last of the male line. His daughter and heiress, Empress Maria Theresa married Francis I Stephen, duke of Lorraine and later titular emperor.

The Habsburg family seized on Vignier’s research. Marquard Herrgott (1694-1762), a monk at Sankt Blasien, compiled a genealogy history at the request of Charles VI — The dukes of Lorraine were also descended from Eticho, so the Habsburg family wasn’t really extinct. Charles VI’s son-in-law was just a different branch of the same family (Genealogia diplomatica Augusta Gentis Habsburgicæ (1737)).

Yet, both Julien Havet and Horace Round later ridiculed Vignier’s research. Havet thought it was a “remarkable coincidence” that Vignier’s discovery “was full of genealogical details, that is to say, exactly what he wanted in order to prove his theory.” (Horace Round, “Our English Hapsburgs: a Great Delusion” in Studies in Peerage and Family History, pp. 216-249 (1901), quoting Julien Havet).

  • Jean-Jacques Chifflet (1650): As an agent for the Habsburgs in Spanish Netherlands, he wrote political tracts upholding the rights of the Habsburgs against France. In Stemma Austriacum annis abhic millenis(1650), he reversed his previous opinion about the Habsburg ancestry and accepted Vignier’s theory, Later, he discovered the tomb of Childeric I (died 480/1) at Tournai. He published an inventory of its contents (Anastasis Childerici I. Francorvm Regis, sive Thesavrvs Sepvlchralis Tornaci Neruiorum (1655)). This inventory was in fact a piece of political propaganda, written to discredit the Bourbon kings of France as heirs of the Merovingian dynasty (Anthony Wagner (1973)).
  • Kirchmair (1677): 1. Ethico. 2. Etho. 3. Alberich. 4. Ottbert. 5. Leutfrid. 6. Hunfrid. 7. Guntram der Reiche. 8. Landolus. 9. Radbot. 10. Werner I. 11. Otto. 12. Werner II. 13. Albert. 14. Rudolf. 15. Albert. 16. König Rudolf I.
  • David Blondelli bei Kirchmair (1677/80): Archinoald. 2. Leudesius. 3. Adalrich-Ethico. 4. Hetto. 5. Alberich. 6. Eberhard. 7. Hugo. 8. Guntram. 9. Landolus. 10. Radbot. 11. Werner. 12. Otto. 13. Werner. 14. Werner. 15. Albert. 16. Rudolf. 17. Albert. 18. König Rudolf I.
  • Eccard (1721): Leuthar, Herzog von Alamannien, d. 554. 2. Leudefred I. 3. Leudefred II. 4. Ethico I. 5. Ethico II. 6. Alberich (Bego I). 7. Eberhard I. 8. Bego II. 9. Eberhard II. 10. Eberhard III. 11. Hugo I. 12. Guntram. 13. Lanzelin usw.
  • Herrgott (1737): 1. Ethico. 2. Adalbert. 3. Liutfrid II. 4. Liutfrid III. 5. Liutfrid IV. 6. Hugo I. 7. Liutfrid V. 8. Hunfrid. 9. Guntram der Reiche. 10. Lantoldus. 11. Radbot. 12. Werner. 13. Otto II. 14. Werner III. 15. Albert III. 16. Rudolf. 17. Albert IV. 18. König Rudolf I.

Count Guntram

In 1889 Franz von Krones definitively put an end to the old myths (Grundriss der österreichischen Geschichtsforschung).

The majority view in modern times is that the Habsburgs are descended from Count Guntram the Rich, who held lands in the Aargau area of Switzerland. The Acta Murensia, a manuscript history written in the 12th century, was lost in the monastery library at Muri until its discovery in the 16th century. The annals give an account of the lives of the early Habsburgs, and prove they descend from this Guntram.

He might (or not) have been the same person as the Guntram who was duke of Upper Alsace (count of the Sundgau). This other Guntram had his lands confiscated in 952 as a punishment for rebelling against Emperor Otto the Great. His property was granted to the bishop of Constance in 962. If the two men were the same, he lost his lands in Alsace because it was part of the Holy Roman Empire but kept his lands in Aargau because it was part of the old Kingdom of Burgundy, not part of the Holy Roman Empire.

And, if the two men were the same then Guntram really was a descendant of Duke Eticho, although descent from Aega is now known to be fictitious.

  • Acta Murensius says he was a son of Theodebert, king of Helvetia and Alemannia.
  • The Vita Sancti Deicoli names “primogenitus Heberardus, secundus Hugo, tercio Guntramnus” as the three sons of Hugo [VI of Nordau].
  • The Notitiæ Altorfenses names “Guntramus filius Hugonis” in relation to a donation of property to the monastery “pro anime sue remedio”.
  • “Otto…rex” donated several named properties “in pago Elisaza…et in comitatu Bernhardi comitis…in villis Brumagad, et in Mumenheim et in Grioz et in Walahon et in Bernnesheim et in Moreseim”, confiscated from “Guntrammus”, to Kloster Lorsch by charter dated 11 Aug 953
  • Otto…rex” donated property “in ducatu Alamannico in comitatu Burchardi ducis Durgeuue…in villa Askinza” [Eschenz in Thurgau] which had been confiscated from “Gundranmus comes” to Kloster Einsiedeln by charter dated 6 Jan 958.
  • “Otto…rex” gave property in “Cholumbra et Hitinheim” which previously belonged to “Guntramnus in Hillisazaas” to “fideli nostro Rudolfo” by charter dated 14 Apr 959. This Rudolf was the son of Rudolf of Burgundy and Berta of Swabia.

Habsburg DNA Project

The organizers of the Habsburg DNA Project believe the Habsburgs have a very different origin.

See Harry Hoppes Hoax at Family Tree DNA . . .

Feilding Family

The English Feilding family, earls of Denbigh, had a tradition they were descended from Gotfrid, count of Habsburg-Laufenburg (died 1271), through a son also named Geoffrey who settled in England temp. Henry III and took the surname Feilding. The claim has been discredited.


  • Alphons Lhotsky, Das Haus Habsburg (1971)


Prepared as an overview for the Geni project of same name.

Habsburg Connection

I have been re-thinking the Habsburg legend, and have revised my previous opinion in certain respects.

To recap: The Hauris are said to be descended from an illegitimate branch of the Counts of Habsburg. As the story goes, the Count brought back a Muslim mistress from the Crusades. Their son took “Houri” as a surname. Houris are a kind of nymph who serve devout Muslims in Paradise. By extension, the word can be applied to any beautiful or seductive woman.

I heard this story for the first and only time about 1972 or 1973, when I was new to genealogy. I no longer have the letter. I thought I remembered who wrote it, but she denies it and courtesy requires me to accept her denial. I have asked several people who were early correspondents of mine about it. Most of them say they never heard the story. A few others have heard the story, but don’t know where they got it.

Undoubtedly more information will come out eventually about the origin and spread of the story. In the meantime, I have given it much thought over the years, and have looked for evidence for and against.

A Modern Invention

It seems unlikely that the story could be legitimately old. Legends of noble descent are common in many families, but this one is suspect because there is no evidence of a written source, however late. One would expect to find, for example, a 19th century collection of Swiss legends, or something of that sort, that mentions the story. If such a source exists, I haven’t found it. Indeed, it looks as though the story is found only among the family in North America, and then only as an oral tradition (at best).

Moreover, I find no evidence the modern Howerys and Howrys had any information about their European origins before some of them began doing genealogical research in the early 20th century. For example, at the turn of the 20th century my branch of the Howerys believed that our Howery ancestors were Scottish (and many still do). One of the earliest family historians, Charles Bowen Howry (1844-1928) mistakenly thought that the Howrys were French Huguenots, descended from the Horrys of South Carolina. Paper research since then has shown that the Howerys and Howrys are probably descended from the Swiss Hauris, and DNA testing has apparently confirmed it.

Finally, the medieval Hauris were wealthy farmers and millers living at a time when the Christian church pervaded everyday life and the far off Muslims were a demonic threat. The Hauris were prominent in their local communities, and pious enough that many served as priests. It seems rather unlikely (to me) that such a family would have preserved the story of a Muslim ancestor, even if the story were true. I also doubt that a loyal Swiss family living in the Aargau would have preserved a legend of descent from the Counts von Habsburg after the Swiss Confederates defeated them in 1415.

Improbable Elements

Setting aside the arguments against the age of the story, and granting it a very generous benefit of the doubt, the story itself contains several improbable elements:

Some of the early Counts of Habsburg and Habsburg-Laufenburg did go on Crusades, but I find no evidence that any of them had a Muslim paramour, even in legend.

The Muslim mistress has the appearance more of romance than of fact. I find a similar story in England: Rosea (or Maud) de Caen, the mother of Thomas à Becket (1118-1170), Archbishop of Canterbury, is said to have been a Muslim woman brought back from the Crusades by his middle-class father, Gilbert de Thierceville. The story is apocryphal. It seems to have been spread by his enemies, not by his own relatives.

There is no evidence that the word houri entered Germany or Switzerland until centuries after the setting of the story, which seems to be the late 13th century. The Crusades were waged 1095-1291. Ulrich Hauri first appeared at Beromünster in 1313. The word houri is first documented in French in 1654, and in English in 1737. It cannot be much older in German.

The improbable elements in the story are all connected with the Muslim mistress. The illegitimate descent from a Count of Habsburg, although seemingly unprovable, is neither impossible nor improbable on its face. However, I suggest that any descent from the Habsburgs is more likely to have come about through the seduction or rape of a peasant girl than of a Muslim mistress.

My Thoughts

Until recently, I have taken the position that the Habsburg story is probably a 20th century, North American invention, perhaps a misunderstanding from the geographic proximity of the early Hauris to the original home of the famous Habsburg family, or perhaps a garbled account of a real estate transaction involving the von Habsburgs in 1421 (see below). I have been inclined to date the story to the period 1940-1960, when the the family’s Swiss origins had become generally known to researchers but had not yet been widely explored.

I have been skeptical that an oral tradition of limited interest survived in one family from the 13th century to the 19th century apparently without being recorded in writing. However, many of my objections to the story would be weakened if my correspondent received it from someone in Switzerland. The story could be old there, even if not old enough to be authentic.

Family stories often become confused with the passage of time. A story meant to be about one ancestor gets shifted to a different ancestor. I have not been able to find a similar story applied to any other family from whom the Hauris might be descended, but I do find a straight shot that would make some sense of the story: the first Hauri could have been a member of the von Reinach family, who became confused in legend with a Count of Habsburg.

The von Reinach family were once thought to be a branch of the Counts of Habsburg, based on the similarity of their coat of arms. That theory is currently out of favor, but has not been adequately discredited. The family were ministerialen of the Habsburgs. They governed Reinach and the upper Wynental as Habsburg deputies. The Swiss Confederates conquered Aargau, including this area, from the Habsburgs in 1415.

The Hauris had early connections with the von Reinach family and with the village of Reinach. They later settled at Reinach and became the leading family there. Rechenza Hauri received the fief of the Stiftskeller at Beromünster in 1313, shortly after the death of Ulrich von Reinach, Prior of Beromünster. The Hauris were in Reinach by 1421, Heini Hauri was Untervogt of Reinach in 1512, and his descendants often held that office.

In brief, the Hauris replaced the von Reinach family in the village of Reinach, although not elsewhere. It is easy to see how a story might have arisen that the Hauris were an illegitimate branch of the von Reinachs. The story need not be true; it fulfills a human tendency to see continuity. And, once connected in legend to the von Reinachs, it is easy to see how the story might have been abbreviated into a story about an illegitimate descent from the Counts of Habsburg.

But, Is It True?

I don’t believe it is possible to determine whether the story is true. The story is improbable because it was probably a late invention, but it is not completely impossible. True or not, it lacks documentation even from late sources, much less primary sources.

One avenue of investigation is only now becoming possible — genetics. The male line of the Habsburg family died out in 1740 with the death of Charles VI, but the Barons de Reinach still exist. The remains of members of both families will certainly be tested someday, and the results could prove or disprove our Habsburg legend.

In the meantime, I note a very slender thread of speculation. Hauri males belong to a relatively rare genetic haplogroup, G2. Current thinking is that this haplogroup displays all the characteristics of a “Founder Event.” That is, G2 might have been introduced into Europe by a man whose social prominence allowed him to leave an unusually large number of descendants. One suggestion currently being debated is that one or more of the early Frankish families might have belonged to Haplogroup G2. This line of thought is relevant to the Habsburg story because the earliest suspected ancestor of the male line of Habsburgs was a Frankish duke who ruled Alemannia in the 7th century. Time will tell whether there is anything to it.

A True Connection

Whether or not the Habsburg legend has some element of truth, the Hauris do have a valid but tenuous connection to the Habsburgs. The Swiss Confederates conquered the Aargau in 1415 from the Habsburgs. On 23 June 1421 Johannes Hauri bought from Heinrich von Willberg land at Reinach that had been recently taken from the von Habsburgs who had pawned it [Aargau, No. 144]. This property might have been the mill there. The Habsburg legend might be a garbled account of that purchase.


Without taking a stand on the truth of the story, I believe that the story is likely to be older than I previously supposed. In its original form, I believe the story was that the first Hauri was an illegitimate son of one of the Knights von Reinach, and that they in turn were a branch of the Counts von Habsburg. My guess is that the story came from Switzerland in the mid-20th century to a researcher in North America. The story may or may not be true, but I believe it is a post-medieval invention intended to connect the Hauris at Reinach to their political predecessors.


Origin of the Habsburgs: Three Major Theories

There are three major theories of the Hapsburg ancestry, which are: (a) the Alsace theory, which would make them a branch of the Etichoni, who were themselves a branch of the Alaholfingians; (b) the Merovingian theory, which would make them a branch of the Merovingians; and, (c) the Colonna theory, which would give them an imperial descent from “the Forum Iulii”, descended from Julius Caesar’s cousin, Sextus.

The “Alsace theory” was the official theory of the House of Lorraine, which, after the extinction of the Hapsburgs in the male-line, its legacy was inherited through the Hapsburg-heiress, Empress Maria-Theresa, to her husband and her descendants by him, representing the House of Hapsburg-Lorraine. This theory was popularized by the House of Lorraine since it was a branch of the Etichoni, and would make Lorraine and Hapsburg collateral-lines. The Merovingian Theory was popular in the medieval times; and the Colonna Theory was popular during the Renaissance (David Hughes, The British Chronicles (2007), 338). This source must be treated with caution, but the information appears to be accurate.

The Mythological Origins: Colonna

The Habsburgs could not link their origins to the existing German dynasties of the era – i.e., the Saliens or the Staufens. So, from as early as the 14th century, Habsburg genealogists have attempted to trace their origins back to the Romans, through a Roman patrician family called Colonna, who claimed their descent via the counts of Tuscany to Julius Caesar (Berenger 8-9).

According to legend, the ancient and distinguished Colonna Family, descend through the Counts of Tusculum from Gens Julia, the family of Julius Caesar, and via Augustus the original Imperial Family of Ancient Rome. The name Colonna is said have been taken from Trajan’s Column. The style Colonna is first found in an official document of 1047, referring to the family castle in the Alban Hills. Their lands and possessions included vast estates lying south of Rome, as well as numerous properties within the city walls.

The Mythological Origins: Pierleoni

In the 15th century, the Habsburgs attempted to trace their origins to the Pierleoni and the counts of Aventine, who counted among their members Pope Gregory the Great and Saint Benedict, the founder of the Benedictine order. (Berenger 8-9).

“One Heinrich von Gundelfingen in 1476, wrote that the Habsburgs came from the Pierleone, Counts of Aventino, descendants of the Anicii of the late Roman empire, and related to pope Gregory I. In fact, there were no such counts of Aventino, and the the Pierleone family of twelfth century Rome descended from a converted Jewish banker, related to popes Gregory VI and Gregory VII, and to which the antipope Anacletus II belonged.

“Ferdinand Gregorovius, in Geschichte der Stadt Rom im Mittelalter Vom V. bis zum XVI. Jahrhundert, called this the right family, and mischievously twitted the Habsburg emperors in the mid nineteenth century about their Pierleone pretensions, saying that they were actually looking for ancestors in the ghetto of Rome. The full text of Gregorovius is available at

“Actually, if the original Habsburg castle is dated 1020, that probably would be too early for this Pierleone family” (Leonard Lipschutz,, Feb. 13, 2003).

The Pierleoni claimed descent from the Anicii, an old Roman gens. Other ancient sources, including Boethius’ own De consolatione philosophiae, give more details. Boethius belonged to the ancient Roman family of the Anicii, which had been Christian for about a century and of which Emperor Olybrius had been a member. Boethius’ father had been consul in 487 but died soon afterward, and Boethius was raised by Quintus Aurelius Memmius Symmachus, whose daughter Rusticiana he married. He became consul in 510 under the Ostrogothic king Theodoric. Although little of Boethius’ education is known, he was evidently well trained in Greek. His early works on arithmetic and music are extant, both based on Greek handbooks by Nicomachus of Gerasa, a 1st-century-AD Palestinian mathematician. There is little that survives of Boethius’ geometry, and there is nothing of his astronomy.

The Mythological Origins: Merovingian

Also during this century [the 15th], another legend surfaced tracing the “Frankish” origins of the Habsburgs back to the Carolingians, the Merovingians before them, and back further to the Trojans (Berenger 8-9).

The Historical Origins

Each of these mythological origins had a political purpose at the time of their dissemination – whether it be a connection to the imperial Roman past, the sacred descent from popes and saints, or the descent from the Frankish empires (Berenger 8-9).

In 1649, a theory developed by the French scholar Jerome Vignier proposed that the Habsburgs were descended from the dukes of Alsace – specifically, from Eticho in the 7th century and on through his ancestors who ruled over Alsace and Swabia. This theory was particularly embraced when Maria Theresa married the duke of Lorraine, Francis Stephen, presenting the new Lorraine dynasty as a restoration of the House of Alsace founded by Eticho (Berenger 9). This genealogy led unquestionably to Guntram the Rich, count of Alsace and the Breisgau, in the 10th century. He is believed to be the “count Guntrum” who was deprived of his estates in 952 by Otto the Great for treason. Part of his confiscated lands were returned as part of an amnesty. Situated within the kingdom of Burgundy, this Habichtsburg domain was allodial land – i.e., land that was the absolute property of its owners, free from feudal dues or taxes. The fact that Guntram was known as “the Rich” underscores the considerable extent of his holdings in Alsace, Breisgau, and the Aargau. So, from the beginning of this family’s known historical origin, the Habsburgs were well established in the heart of Europe and of medieval Christendom – a geographic location that became known as the “crossroads of Europe”, where political, intellectual, and cultural currents mingled (Wandruszka 25).