The House of Palaiologos ruled the Byzantine Empire from 1259 to its fall in 1453, the last of its reigning dynasties. The lineage seems to have continued until the end of the 17th century, and one of its last members is buried on the Caribbean island of Barbados.
Born in 1619, Ferdinand Paleologus was the youngest son of Theodore Paleologus, an Italian assassin who had moved to England in the late 16th century, coming from a family that claimed to have descended from the Byzantine dynasty. Ferdinand supported the royalists in the English Civil War, but fled to the Caribbean when he realized that he was on the losing side.
On Barbados, Ferdinand ran a large plantation and served the local St. John’s Parish Church as its churchwarden, becoming an influential figure in the colony. He was nicknamed the “Greek prince from Cornwall,” a title that would be remembered centuries after.
In 1670, Ferdinand died from some illness and was buried at the cemetery of St. John’s Parish Church. His grave was damaged during the hurricane of 1819, and later in 1906 his body was relocated and a new tombstone was erected, designed in Greek style and erroneously giving the date of his death as 1678.
Over the years, the gravesite has become a popular tourist attraction, often advertised as the oldest monument on Barbados. But, of course, the monument itself is relatively recent and Ferdinand’s genealogical claim remains unproven.
While Ferdinand is commonly said to be the last member of the Paleologus dynasty, his son Theodore went on to be a privateer aboard the Charles II, which was later taken over by the notorious pirate Henry Every and given the new name of Fancy. Theodore’s daughter, Godscall Paleologue, is technically the family’s last member, but surviving records are scarce.