Dynasties and Clans of Europe

Author: Robert W. Penry @ 2024

The maps on this page are from World History Encylopedia using the Attribution-noncommerical- Sharealike 4.0 International Deed.  Thank you World History Encylopedia, whose help makes this page possible!  The dynasty images and comments are from Wikipedia Commons.  Thanks Wiki!

A dynasty is defined as a succession of people from the same family who play a prominent role in business, politics, or another field.  There were many royal dynasties in Europe.  Their immediate relatives were considered to be part of that dynasty. 
Do we have dynasties in the United States?  Yes, we do.  You may belong to one.  Occasionally you may get together with other members of your dynasty.  This is called a Family Reunion!
Synonyms and connected words for dynasty include clan, bloodline, line, ancestral line, lineage, house, family, empire, sovereignty or ascendancy. If we are talking about a dynasty in Scotland, we normally use clan instead of dynasty.
The boundaries of historic dynasties seldom match today’s country boundaries.  It is often hard to even clearly define a dynastic region. 
The map of Europe today bears no resemblance to Europe of a thousand years ago.  Instead of countries, vast areas of land were ruled over by dynastic families.  The Medieval regions of Francia, Neustria, Austrasia, Aquitaine, Almania, and Bavaria were ruled over by the Merovingian Dynasty (The Franks).  From the various dynasties, the countries of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, etc. eventually came into existence.  
A dynasty had a dominant family but also had many other families of prominence.  These were called cadet dynasties. An example is the Hapsburg dynasty.  It was in central Europe and was broken up into Austria, Czechia, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia and Bosnia. Its cadet branches ruled Peru, Spain and Mexico!  Sometimes dynasties overlapped and families intermarried, and new dynasties emerged. 
If a female from one dynasty marries into another, there is no fast rule.  She could be listed as a member of either dynasty (or both). However, children from the marriage would normally be considered to be the father’s dynasty. 

Dynasties of Europe

Houses of the British Empire

Although the various houses (dynasties) were located throughout the world, eventually the head or ruler of each dynasty would sit on the throne of England.


Merovingian Dynasty (France).The Merovingian dynasty was the ruling family of the Franks from the middle of the 5th century until 751. They first appear as “Kings of the Franks” in the Roman army of northern Gaul. By 509 they had united all the Franks and northern Gaulish Romans under their rule. They conquered most of Gaul, defeating the Visigoths and the Burgundians, and also extended their rule into Raetia. In Germania, the Alemanni, Bavarii and Saxons accepted their lordship. The Merovingian realm was the largest and most powerful of the states of western Europe following the fall of the Western Roman Empire.



Carolingian Dynasty (France).The Carolingian dynasty was a Frankish noble family founded by Charles Martel with origins in the 7th century AD. The dynasty consolidated its power in the 8th century becoming the de facto rulers of the Franks as the real powers behind the Merovingian throne. In 751 the Merovingian dynasty which had ruled the Germanic Franks was overthrown with the consent of the Papacy and the aristocracy, and a Carolingian Pepin the Short was crowned King of the Franks. The Carolingian dynasty reached its peak in 800 with the crowning of Charlemagne as the first Emperor of Romans in the West in over three centuries. His death in 814 began an extended period of fragmentation of the Carolingian empire and decline that would eventually lead to the evolution of the Kingdom of France and the Holy Roman Empire.
Capetian Dynasty (France).  The House of Capet also known as the House of France, is a dynasty of Frankish origin, founded by Hugh Capet. It is among the largest and oldest royal houses in Europe and the world and consists of Hugh Capet’s male-line descendants. The senior line ruled in France as the House of Capet from the election of Hugh Capet in 987 until the death of Charles IV in 1328. That line was succeeded by cadet branches, the Houses of Valois and then Bourbon, which ruled until the French Revolution. A cadet branch is a line of descent from another line than the senior-most.
Capetian Cadet Branches:
  •  House of Bourbon (Spain & Sicily).
  •  House of Anjou (France).
  •  House of Dreux (France).
  •  House of Courtenay.  Note:  there were two Houses of Courtenay. One was not Capetian.


Bagrationi Dynasty (Georgia).The Bagrationi is a royal dynasty which reigned in Georgia from the Middle Ages until the early 19th century, being among the oldest extant Christian ruling dynasties in the world. The kingdom of Georgia, a country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia and borders the Black Sea.

House of Savoy (Italy). The House of Savoy is a royal family that was established in 1003 in the historical Savoy region. Through gradual expansion, the family grew in power from ruling a small county in the Alps north-west of Italy to absolute rule of the kingdom of Sicily in 1713 to 1720.

 House of Liechtenstein (Liechtenstein).The House of Liechtenstein, from which the principality takes its name, is the family which reigns by constitutional, hereditary right over the nation of Liechtenstein. Only dynastic members of the family are eligible to inherit the throne.

House of Nassau (Germany).  The House of Nassau is a diversified aristocratic dynasty in Europe. It is named after the lordship associated with Nassau Castle, located in present-day Nassau, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany.  The current head of the dynasty is the Grand Duke of Luxembourg.The House of Nassau sub-divided into three Cadet Branches:
  • House of Nassau-CorroyThe house of Nassau-Corroy is a bastard branch of the House of Nassau. Unlike the main branch of the House of Nassau, this bastard branch was faithful to the king of Spain and was Roman Catholic.
  • House of Orange-Nassau (Netherlands). The House of Orange-Nassau, a branch of the European House of Nassau, has played a central role in the politics and government of the Netherlands and Europe especially since William the Silent organized the Dutch revolt against Spanish rule, which after the Eighty Years’ War led to an independent Dutch state.

Piast Dynasty (Poland).The Piast dynasty was the first historical ruling dynasty of Poland. The first documented Polish monarch was Prince Mieszko I. The Piasts’ royal rule in Poland ended in 1370 with the death of king Casimir III the Great.

House of Braganza (Portugal).The Most Serene House of Braganza, also known as the Brigantine Dynasty, was a dynasty of emperors, kings, princes, and dukes of Portuguese origin which reigned in Europe and the Americas. The House ended with the death of John VI King of Portugal, Brazil and the Algraves in 1922.
MAP OF PORTUGAL                                            LOCATION OF BRAGANZA. 
Note that Bragranza also held territories in South Africa and in the Americas.  Included were Ceylon, Brazil, Saint Thomas in the West Indies, and Angola.  Braganza was involved in trade throughout the world.

House of Romanov (Russia). The House of Romanov was the reigning royal house of Russia from 1613 to 1917.  After the murder of Czar Nicholas and his family by the Bolsheviks in 1917, the House  has continued in dispute largely due to disagreements in the validity of dynasts’ marriages, thus 1917 is considered the end of the House of Romanov.

House of Osman. Ottoman Dynasty (Turkey).  The Ottoman Dynasty was made up of the members of the imperial House of Osman, also known as the Ottomans. According to Ottoman tradition, the family originated from the Kayı tribe branch of the Oghuz Turks, under Osman I in northwestern Anatolia in the district of Bilecik Söğüt. The Empire is considered to have ended in 1922 because of civil conflicts within Turkey.  The sultanate was abolished in 1922 and the last sultan left the country that year.

Habsburg Dynasty (Austria). The House of Habsburg and alternatively called the House of Austria, was one of the most influential and distinguished royal houses of Europe. The throne of the Holy Roman Empire was continuously occupied by the Habsburgs from 1438 until their extinction in the male line in 1740. The house also produced emperors and kings of Bohemia, Hungary, Croatia, Galicia, Portugal and Spain with their respective colonies, as well as rulers of several principalities in the Netherlands and Italy. From the 16th century, following the reign of Charles V, the dynasty was split between its Austrian and Spanish branches. Although they ruled distinct territories, they nevertheless maintained close relations and frequently intermarried.
Cadet Branches of the Habsburg Dynasty
Agnatic: (branch through male line only)
Habsburg-Spain (Spain) 1560-1700 (extinct). The Habsburgs sought to consolidate their power by the frequent use of consanguineous marriages. This resulted in a cumulatively deleterious effect on their gene pool. Marriages between first cousins, or between uncle and niece, were commonplace in the family. A study of 3,000 family members over 16 generations by the University of Santiago de Compostela suggests that inbreeding directly led to their extinction.
Habsburg-Laufenburg (Switzerland) 1322-1408 (extinct). The House of Habsburg-Laufenburg was from 1232/34 to 1408 a side line of the Habsburgs , but never gained the importance and power of their relatives.In Switzerland and in today’s South Baden, the counts of Habsburg-Laufenburg acquired a certain importance.
Habsburg-Kyburg  (Swabia & Switzerland) 1264-1417  (extinct). During 1180–1250, the counts of Kyburg existed as a separate cadet line of the counts of Dillingen. The county was ruled by Hartmann V, nephew of the last count of Kyburg in the agnatic line, during 1251–1263. It then passed to the House of Habsburg as possession of the counts of Neu-Kyburg (also Kyburg-Burgdorf) after the extinction of the agnatic line of the House of Kyburg, until the extinction of Neu-Kyburg in 1417.
Cognatic: (Branch can be through male or female descendants)
  • House of Habsburg-Lorraine. (Austria-Hungary).Habsburg-Lorraine inherited the Habsburg Empire, ruling the Austrian Empire and Austria-Hungary until the dissolution of the monarchy in 1918
  • House of Habsburg-Iturbide (Mexico).The House of Iturbide (Spanish: Casa de Iturbide) is the former Imperial House of Mexico. 1822-1867. It ended when Mexican Emperor Maximillan was deposed and executed on the orders of Benito Juárez who became President of Mexico.


Although the various houses (dynasties) were located throughout the world, eventually the head or ruler of each dynasty would sit on the throne of England.

The house of Godwin (England). The House of Godwin was an Anglo-Saxon (in later generations Anglo-Danish or Anglo-Norse) family, one of the leading noble families in England during the last 50 years before the Norman Conquest. Its most famous member was Harold Godwinson, king of England for nine months in 1066 until killed during Norman invasion under William the Conqueror.

House of Godwin
Hanover (Germany & England).  Houseof Hanover, whose members are known as Hanoverians, is a German royal house that ruled Hanover, Great Britain, and Ireland at various times during the 17th through 20th centuries. The house originated in 1635 as a cadet branch of the House of Brunswick-Lüneburg, growing in prestige until Hanover became an Electorate in 1692. George I became the first Hanoverian monarch of Great Britain and Ireland in 1714.  The house continued until the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 when the ruling line changed to the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
House of Hanover
House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (Germany & England).The House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha is a German dynasty that ruled the duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, which was one of the Ernestine duchies. It is a cadet branch of the Saxon House of Wettin. it has been the royal house of several European monarchies. Agnatic branches currently reign in Belgium through the descendants of Leopold I and in the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms through the descendants of Prince Albert. Due to anti-German sentiment in the United Kingdom during World War I, George V changed the name of his branch from “Saxe-Coburg and Gotha” to “Windsor”
House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Windsor is the reigning royal house of the United Kingdom and the other commonwealth realms.  The dynasty is originally of German paternal descent and was a branch of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, itself derived from the Housew of Wetlin, which succeeded the House of Hanover to the British monarchy following the death of Queen Victoria, wife of Albert, Prince Consort.  The name was changed from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the English Windsor (from Windsor Castle) in 1917 because of anti-German sentiment during World War I.
Arms of the House of Windsor
The British Commonwealth
House of Plantagenet (France and England).  The House of Plantagenet was a royal house which originated from the lands of Anjou in France.  The name Plantagenet is used by modern historians to identify four distinct royal houses, the Angevins, who were also counts of Anjou, the main body of the Plantagenets following the loss of Anjou, and the Plantagenets’ two cadet brances, the Houses of Lancaster and York.  The family held the English throne from 1154, with the accession of Henry II, until 1485, when Richard III died in battle.
Plantagenet Coat of Arms

House of Knytlings (aka House of Canute, Denmark or Jelling Dynsasty)

DanishHouse of Knýtlinga English royal house in Middle Age Scandanavia and England.  Its famous king was Cnut the Great. Other notable member were Cnut’s father Sweyn Forkbeard, grandfather Harald Bluetooth and songs Harthacnut, Harold Harefoot and Svein Knutsson.

Cnut's Dynasty in Red
Cnut Family Tree
Images above:  1st is House of Angevin, the next is the 1st and 2nd Houses of Lancaster, the third is the House York, the 4th are the Red Rose of Lancaster and the White Rose of York, the rose emblems were displayed, with both housed claiming the throne of England through descent from Edward III.
Cadet Branches
  • Anjevins (France & UK).  The Angevins (“from Anjou”) were a royal house of French origin that ruled England in the 12th and early 13th centuries; its monarchs were Henry II, Richard I and John.  In the 10 years from 1144, two successive counts of Anjou in France, Geoffrey and his son, the future Henry II, won control of a vast assemblage of lands in western Europe that would last for 80 years and would retrospectively be referred to as the Angevin Empire. As a political entity this was structurally different from the preceding Norman and subsequent Plantagenet realms. Geoffrey became Duke of Normandy in 1144 and died in 1151. In 1152 his heir, Henry, added Aquitaine by virtue of his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine. Henry also inherited the claim of his mother, Empress Matilda, the daughter of King Henry I, to the English throne, to which he succeeded in 1154 following the death of King Stephen
  • House of Lancaster (England). (1267-1361) There were two Houses of Lancaster – two cadet branches of the royal House of PlantagenetThe Houses became extinct in the male line upon the murder in the Tower of London of Henry VI, following the battlefield execution of his son Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales, by supporters of the House of York in 1471.
o   First – The first house of Lancaster was created when Henry III of England created the Earldom of Lancaster—from which the house was named.
o   Second –The second house of Lancaster was descended from John of Gaunt, who married the heiress of the first house, Blanche of Lancaster.
  • House ofYork (England).The House of York was a cadet branch of the English royal House of Plantagenet. Three of its members became kings of England in the late 15th century. The House of York was descended in the male line from Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York. The reign of this dynasty ended with the death of Richard III of England at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. It became extinct in the male line with the death of Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick, in 1499.
  • House ofTudor (England).  The House of Tudor was an English royal house of Welsh origin, descended in the female line from the Tudors of Penmynydd. Tudor monarchs ruled the Kingdom of England and its realms, including their ancestral Wales and the Lordship of Ireland (later the Kingdom of Ireland) from 1485 until 1603,
In Wales, a royal house descended from the Tudors of Penmynydd.  During the War of Roses, Henry Tudor defeated Richard III at the battle of Bosworth and took the throne as Henry VII.  The significance to Wales comes with his son, Henry VIII.
Henry VIII was born in 1491 and died in 1547. He did away with the laws of Hywel Dda, and only English law remained.  All legal matters had to be done in the English language. His actions led to diminishing the Welsh language which almost ended with the Welsh language becoming extinct. The reason for the legal change, was that the Welsh counties in the border region (the Marches) were troublesome for his father Henry VII. Henry felt that putting all courts under English jurisdiction would help in governing Wales. At first the Welsh welccomed Henry VII as one of their own.  He was a descendent of Glyn Dwr. After all, the Tudors were Welsh, you know! This was the real end of any chance of Welsh independence. From this point forward, Wales would be considered as a region of England, a part of the Commonwealth.  
Henry VIII, broke away from the Catholic Church and formed the Church of England, a protestant church. This opened the gate to eventual nonconformist religions in Wales. This is highly significant in history, because nonconformity established the religious culture in Wales that exists to this day. The music, the pageantry, the very fabric of Welsh life is ingrained in Henry’s break with Rome.
Henry’s daughter, Elizabeth I brought Catholicism back. This pleased the Welsh who had been largely Catholic. This change was not to last. When Oliver Cromwell and parliament eliminated the king, Catholics were persecuted in Wales. The Puritan movement had begun. Eventually, this was replaced by a Calvinist Methodist movement.  
The Protestant Reformation
In the 16th-century, a movement began that was the result of changes in ideas.  Cultures and politics began to change.  Intellectuals began to question values and religion.  The religion of Europe was Roman Catholic.  These intellectuals, often religious leaders such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Penry started to question papal authority.  Henry VIII took advantage of the movement, which allowed him to break with Rome and Pope.   
This movement was not peaceful.  It caused wars and persecution.  In areas that still adhered to Catholicism, it even necessary to protect the Catholic clergy.  In my own ancestral home in Wales, we had a Priests Hiding Hole.  A hidden room where the local Priest took shelter from Cromwell’s army.  The interesting fact is that my ancestor, Hugh Penry of Llangamarch, who hid the priest was the local Anglican Vicar of Devynock!
On the European continent, there was a backlash and Catholics often put Protestants to death in a period called the Counter-Reformation. The acceptance of both Catholics and Protestants coexisting took many, many years with events such as the Thirty Year’s War and the Treaty of Augsburg which allowed Lutherans and Catholics to coexist in Germany.  This difference is often highly political and still exists in Ireland.  The “Troubles” in Northern Ireland lasted from the 1960s until the Good Friday agreement of 1998!  It was a period of murders, bombings, and riots.  Even today, Catholics usually stay in their homes on Ulster Day.  
This Protestant/Catholic antagonism was evident when I lived in Scotland in the 1960s.  This cultural warfare even took place during football games.  The stadium in Glasgow separated the fans by a barbed-wire fence.  The Rangers were Protestant, the Celtic were Catholic.  A popular folk song of the period had these lyrics “So don’t wear a green scarf in Brigton, or a blue scarf in Cumberland Street, unless your a heavy-weight champion or a hell of quick on your feet!”  
I had a personal experience with the rivalry.  I had a Celtic band in Edinburgh in the 1960’s “The Gatekeepers”.  We had finished our gig and it was late, nearly midnight.  I boarded a double-decker bus to home in Kirknewton, about 8 miles from Edinburgh.  There had been a Ranger and Celtic football game that day in Edinburgh.  The bus had about 20 Celtic fans heading toward Glasgow.  They were in very “high” spirits, singing and having fun.  About six miles from Kirknewton, we stopped and a group of Ranger fans came aboard.  I looked at the conductress, she looked at me, and we both knew what was about to happen.  We both stepped off the bus in the middle of the countryside and began walking.  As the bus disappeared into the distance, we could see it swerving and rocking!  About two files further down the road, we came across the bus and several Black Maria’s (police vans), hauling our rioting footballers away.  We got back on the bus and continued our journey
Religion in Wales
Wales was much more liberal than England in religious tolerance.  The Welsh have a history of freethinking and nonconformity.  
The following is an excerpt from the Wikipedia article, Religion In Wales
Nonconformity, membership and revival
Nonconformity grew rapidly and came to dominate the religious life of Wales from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. The Welsh Methodist revival of the 18th century was one of the most significant religious and social movements in the history of Wales. The revival began within the Church of England in Wales and at the beginning remained as a group within it, but the Welsh revival differed from the Methodist revival in England in that its theology was Calvinist rather than Arminian. Welsh Methodists gradually built up their own networks, structures, and even meeting houses (or chapels), which led eventually to the secession of 1811 and the formal establishment of the Calvinistic Methodist Presbyterian church of Wales in 1823. Emotionalism had free rein; in contrast to Scotland with its four universities, good schools, and a strong theological tradition, Wales had no universities and widespread illiteracy.
The Welsh Methodist revival also had an influence on the older nonconformist churches, or dissenters – the Baptists and the Congregationalists – who in turn also experienced growth and renewal. As a result, by the middle of the nineteenth century, Wales was predominantly a nonconformist country.
Statistics of membership between 1680 and 1840 demonstrate that the established Church of England lost one-fifth of its membership. In addition, an ever-increasing number of nominal Anglicans also ceasing to practise. Nonconformity more than quadrupled, mainly from 1760 and especially after 1800. In 1800 there were twice as many Anglican churches as Nonconformist chapels; in 1850, chapels outnumbered churches by a ratio of 5 to 2. Roman Catholicism kept pace with demographic growth, but, even reinforced by Irish immigration, remained a limited force in 1840. Judaism and overt irreligion were both rare.
In 1910, the nonconformist bodies numbered 550,000 members, as against 193,000 in the established Church of England. Nonconformists, led by Liberal David Lloyd George, increasingly controlled the politics of Wales, although the elite sectors were still dominated by the Anglicans.The 1904-1905 Welsh Revival was the largest full scale Christian Revival of Wales of the 20th century. At least 100,000 people became Christians during the 1904–1905 revival. Even so, it did not put a stop to the gradual decline of Christianity in Wales, only holding back slightly. By 2011, South Wales and especially settlements in the former coalfield area showed the highest proprortion of no religion in the country, rising in places to over 50%.
Disestablishment – creation of the Church in Wales:
In reaction to the rise of nonconformity, some Anglicans came to recognise the weaknesses of the established church and its failure to counteract the popular aspects of nonconformity. The rigidity of the parish system and the distance between churches were quoted as examples of the failure of the church to adapt. The Welsh Church Act 1914 provided for the separation of the four dioceses of the Church of England located in Wales (known collectively as the Church in Wales) from the rest of the Church, and for the simultaneous disestablishment of the Church. The Act came into operation in 1920. Since then there has been no established church in Wales. 
Present-day Roman Catholicism
Catholics are served by the Ecclesiastical Province of Cardiff, which exists out of the Archdiocese of Cardiff, the Diocese of Menevia and the Diocese of Wrexham. The bishops of these dioceses are part of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
The Sabbatarian temperance movement was strong among the Welsh in the Victorian period and the early twentieth century, the sale of alcohol being prohibited on Sundays in Wales by the Sunday Closing Act of 1881. This remained in parts of Wales until 1996.

A monastic community was founded by Saint David at what is now St David’s. The present building of St David’s Cathedral was started in 1181.
Saint David is the patron saint of Wales

The largest non-Christian faith in Wales is Islam, with about 46,000 adherents in 2011. Most Muslims live in Cardiff (23,656 in 2011, 6.8% of the population), but there are also significant numbers in Newport (6,859 in 2011) and Swansea (5,415 in 2011).
There has been a Somali and Yemeni Islamic community in Cardiff since the mid-1800s, founded by seafarers to Cardiff Docks

Old building of the Cardiff United Synagogue.
Judaism has quite a long history in Wales, with a Jewish community recorded in Swansea from about 1730. In August 1911, in a period of public disorder and industrial disputes, Jewish shops across the South Wales coalfield were damaged by mobs. Since that time the Jewish population of that area, which reached a peak of 4,000–5,000 in 1913, has declined. In 2011 there were a total of 2,064 Jewish adherents in Wales, including 802 in Cardiff.
Hinduism and Buddhism each have about 10,000 adherents in Wales, with the rural county of Ceredigion being the centre of Welsh Buddhism. Govinda‘s temple & restaurant, run by the Hare Krishnas in Swansea, is a focal point for many Welsh Hindus. There are about 3,000 Sikhs in Wales, with the first purpose-built gurdwara opened in the Riverside area of Cardiff in 1989. In 2011 some 13,000 people classified themselves as following Other religion including a reconstructed form of Druidism, which was the pre-Abrahamic religion of Wales (not to be confused with the Druids of the Gorsedd at the National Eisteddfod of Wales).
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Wales has had a significant impact in the History Wales.  Thousands of Welsh families immigrated to America forming communities in Vermont, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Up-State New York beginning in 1630.  After 1830 Many Welsh descendants joined the LDS church and migrated to the Western United States.  During the 1840’s over 5,000 Welsh joined the church and immigrated to the United States. These Welsh significantly affected the culture of the Western United States, especially Utah and Idaho. the Mormon Tabernacle Choir started as a Welsh Choir in the Salt Lake Valley and the choir today has many Welsh descendants. The Welsh brought their musical heritage to America and greatly influenced the singing in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Some of the hymns are Welsh. Welsh Latter-day Saints also immigrated to Argentina, New Zealand, and Australia.
In those locations, they also formed communities such as Trelew and Trevelin in Argentin.


Scottish and Irish dynasties differ in that they are usually not extinct.  Besides being a dynasty, they are usually a clan also and even though they may no longer hold royal titles or a crown, they often have Clan Chiefs.  Although a dynasty can be a clan, in most cases clans are not defined as dynasties even though they are dynastic in nature..  A clan is usually composed of descendants of a single man, usually not a king, where most dynasties originate with a ruling monarch.  
House of Alpin also known as the Alpínid dynasty, Clann Chináeda, and Clann Chinaeda meic Ailpín, was the kin-group which ruled in Pictland, possibly Dál Riata, and then the kingdom of Alba from the advent of Kenneth MacAlpin in the 840s until the death of Malcolm II in 1034. Wikipedia  Named after King Alpin II of Dalrida The House of Alpin brought together the crowns of the Scots and the Picts – King Alpin had previously been called ‘King of the Picts and Scots’, as well as King of Dál Riata (Dalriada).  He reigned from around  833-840.  King Alpin II was the first tribal leader on record and held land  in Kintyre, and in Northern Ireland.    From evidence which exists he appears to have died in a battle against the Picts in Galloway.  Legend says he was married to a Pict princess which allowed his son Kenneth to unite the the Kingdoms, that of the Pictish and Celtic thrones. With the Picts succession went through the female line.  
House of Dunkeld is a historiographical and genealogical construct to illustrate the clear succession of Scottish Kings from 1034 to 1040 and from 1058 to 1286.  It is also referred as the Canmores and MacMalcom.  
House of Sverre was a Norwegian dynasty that rules in Scotland for  short time from 1286 to 1290.  
House of Balliol (de Bailleul) was a family from village of Bailleul in Picardy who held English estates.  One family member, John Balliol was named King of Scotland following extinction of the Dunkeld line.  He was deposed which led to the First War of Scottish Independence.  His son Edward briefly controlled the Scottish throne during the Second War of Scottish Indpendence.  Since he had no children, his line went extinct.  
House of Bruce was a lowland Scottish Clan and was a royal house in the 14th century with two kings of Scotland, Robert the Bruce and David II of Scotland.  The family originated in Normandy, and descended from Robert de Brus, 1st Lord of Annandale.  After Balliol, Scotland had no monarch.  Robert the Bruce rebelled against King Edward I and joined a Scottish revolt.  He then succeeded William Wallace as a Guardian of Scotland.  He killed his rival John Comyn and was crowned King of Scotland in 1306.  He was forced by the English to retreat to Argyll. Through a series of battles and intrigue his family stayed in power until succession passed to House of Stewart (Stuart). the Bruce family continued as Earls of Elgin.
House of Stuart (Scotland).  (1150-1807)The House of Stuart, originally Stewart, was a European royal house of Scotland with Breton origin. They had held the office of High Steward of Scotland since Walter FitzAlan in around 1150. The royal Stewart line was founded by Robert II whose descendants were kings and queens of Scotland from 1371 until the union with England in 1707. Mary, Queen of Scots was brought up in France where she adopted the French spelling of the name Stuart.  The family continues as Clans Stewart and Stuart.


There were many Irish families who could be considered dynastic or clans.  The four below are the most prominent in Irish history being royal lines.
O’Donnell Dynasty (Ireland)The O’Donnell dynasty (Irish: Ó Dónaill derived from the Irish name Domhnall, which means “ruler of the world were an ancient and powerful Irish family, kings, princes and lords of Tyrconnell (Tír Chonaill in Irish, now County Donegal) in early times, and the chief allies and sometimes rivals of the O’Neills in Ulster. The family originated in the 5th century and still exists as Clan O’Donnell.  The current head of the O’Donnell clan is a Franciscan Priest in Dublin. He is referred to as “The O’Donnell.”
O’Neill Dynasty (Ireland). The Ó Néill dynasty is a lineage ultimately all of IrishGaelic origin, that held prominent positions and titles in Ireland and elsewhere. As Kings of Cenél nEógain, they are historically the most prominent family of the Northern Uí Néill, along with the Ó Dónaill, Ó Dochartaigh and the Ó Donnghaile dynasties (the head of the Ó Donnghaile lineage being the hereditary Marshal of the O’Neill forces). The Ó Néills hold that their ancestors were Kings of Ailech during the Early Middle Ages, as descendants of Niall of the Nine Hostages.  They still exist as clan O’Neill lead by a sept Chief.
O’Brien Dynasty (Ireland).The O’Brien dynasty) is a royal and noble house founded in the 10th century by Brian Boru of the Dál gCais or Dalcassians. After becoming King of Munster, through conquest he established himself as Ard Rí na hÉireann (High King of Ireland). Brian’s descendants thus carried the name Ó Briain, continuing to rule the Kingdom of Munster until the 12th century where their territory had shrunk to the Kingdom of Thomond which they would hold for just under five centuries.
In total, four Ó Briains ruled in Munster, and two held the High Kingship of Ireland (with opposition). After the partition of Munster into Thomond and the MacCarthy Kingdom of Desmond by Tairrdelbach Ua Conchobair in the 12th century, the dynasty would go on to provide around thirty monarchs of Thomond until 1542. During part of this period in the late 13th century they had a rivalry with the Norman de Clare house, disputing the throne of Thomond. The last Ó Briain to reign in Thomond was Murrough Ó Briain who surrendered his sovereignty to the new Kingdom of Ireland under Henry VIII of the House of Tudor, becoming instead Earl of Thomond and maintaining a role in governance. Today the head carries the title of Prince of Thomond, and depending on succession sometimes also Baron Inchiquin.
House ofFitzGerald (Ireland).The FitzGerald / FitzMaurice dynasty is a Cambro-Norman and Anglo-Norman, and later Hiberno-Norman, aristocratic and royal dynasty. They have been peers of Ireland since at least the 13th century.  The dynasty has also been referred to as the Geraldines. They achieved power through the conquest of large swathes of Irish territory by the grandsons (the Fitzmaurices) of Gerald FitzWalter of Windsor (c. 1075 – 1135). Gerald was a Norman castellan in Wales and is the male progenitor of the FitzMaurice and FitzGerald dynasty (“fitz”, from the Anglo-Norman fils indicating “sons of” Gerald).
Gerald’s Welsh wife Nest ferch Rhys (c. 1085 – before 1136) is the female progenitor of the FitzGeralds and Fitzmaurices. She was the daughter of Rhys ap Tewdwr, last King of Deheubarth and through her the FitzGeralds and Fitzmaurices descend from the Welsh rulers of Deheubarth claim kinship with the Tudors who descended from the same Welsh royal line. Consequently, the Fitzmaurices and FitzGeralds are cousins to the Tudors (Tewdwrs) through Nest and her Welsh family.


The basic interpretation of a clan is: a group of close-knit and interrelated families.  As we normally think of clans it would be defined as: A Celtic group especially in the Scottish Highlands comprising a number of households whose heads claim descent from a common ancestor.  A clan is like a dynasty, except a dynasty usually descends from a King or Emperor.  A clan usually descends from a landowner in the Scottish Highlands.  This person, by virtue of owning a piece of territory becomes the leader of those living there, usually relatives.  Eventually, he becomes known as the Clan Chief, sometimes referred by the name itself, such as The MacDonald.
Clan Murray.  Some clan chiefs are also nobility.  For example, the head of the Clan Murray is Bruce George Ronald Murray, 12th Duke of Atholl. He is the only person in Europe permitted to have a legal private army, the Atholl Highlanders, a Scottish ceremonial infantry regiment and he is their commander.  (The author of this website – Bob Penry – is a member of the Clan Murray.  He is a descendant of a Clan Murry sept – the Flemings with Scottish, Irish, and Welsh connections.
What is a sept?  In the context of Scottish clans, septs are families that followed another family’s chief, or part of the extended family and that hold a different surname. These smaller septs would then be part of the chief’s larger clan.  Example.  My Great-Grandmother’s surname was “Fleming.”  Her family were from Scotland, but they were a sept of the clan of Murray of Atholl.  They wore the Murray tartan and had allegiance to the Clan Chief who was also the Duke of Atholl.
Did clans exist elsewhere?  Yes, clans also existed in Ireland
What defines the clan other than the name?  It would be the appearance.  Each Scottish clan designed and had a crest (a badge), a tartan which was a woven wool cloth with a pattern unique to the clan. This tartan was displayed as a pattern on a Kilt.  In addition, there were additions to the kilt such as the sporran, a type of purse worn on a belt (Kilts don’t have pockets).  Special hats, socks and shoes and ceremonial knifes may be included.  Here are examples of kilts:
Did other countries wear kilts or have a tartan.  Yes, the kilt was worn in other countries such as Ireland, Greece, Albania, Turkey and the Balkans.  Roman soldiers wore a type of leather kilt. .
Tartans exist in countries other than Scotland.  For instance, regional tartans of Canada, the U.S. Air Force Pipe Band, West Virginia University, etc.
The Welsh have a green national tartan. However, it is not ancient.  It was designed in Cardiff Wales in 1967 as a marketing gimmick.  The Welsh did not wear kilts, nor did they have tartans.  They wore the same clothing as their English neighbors, except for rural women who wore an arrangement of clothing peculiar to Wales.
To view information about specific clans and their tartans use the internet.  This link will give you a list of existing clans:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Scottish_clans.  You can view their badges and where the clans are located.  By either clicking an internal link to a specific clan, you can then view information about that clan to include its Coat-of-Arms when it has one.  To see a clan’s tartan, you usually use Google.  For instance:  Google “Tartan of Clan Abernethy”.  If you do you will several different tartans.  Why?  Each clan had several variations of the tartan.  One for formal wear, one for hunting, one for day-to-day work.
There are over 500 existing clans and family associations registered around the world who regularly gather to celebrate their Scottish heritage.  There are far too many to even consider listing them and showing pictures of their tartans in this article.  However, a few that are considered among the great clans of Scotland.  This information was found on https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofScotland/The-Great-Clans-of-Scotland/
 BRUCE: The Bruces are descended from a Norman Knight who arrived in England with William the Conqueror in 1066. The name Bruce derives from an area of land in Normandy, France, now called Brix. The Bruces held important lordships in the north of England and a branch of the family settled in Annandale in the 12th century. King Robert the Bruce (1274 – 1329), was crowned King of Scotland in 1306. In that same year he was defeated at Methven, and took refuge in Rathlin. From 1307 he was actively engaged harrying the English, and in 1314 won a decisive victory over Edward II at Bannockburn. Bruce consolidated his kingdom and the war with England was closed by the Treaty of Northampton in 1328. Bruce died at Cardross the following year. Family motto – Fuimus (We have been).
 CUNNINGHAM: The family takes its name from the district of Cunningham in Ayrshire. The name derives from the Saxon “cuinneag” meaning “milk pail” along with “ham” meaning “village”. In the 12th century, the lands of Kilmaurs in Ayrshire were granted to a Norman named Warnebald, whose descendants adopted the territorial name Cunningham. The Cunninghams received additional lands thanks to their support of Robert the Bruce. It was King James III that granted Sir William Cunningham the titles of Lord Kilmaurs in 1462 and later earl of Glencairn in 1488. In 1653, the 9th Earl of Glencairn raised an army in support of Charles II. After the Restoration in 1660, Charles II appointed him Lord Chancellor.Family motto – Over Fork Over.
  DOUGLAS: One of the most powerful families in Scotland, the first documented Douglas was a William de Douglas in the 12th century in Morayshire. Although a much earlier origin of the name is thought to derive from the Gaelic dubhghlais meaning ‘black water’. In 1330 “Good Sir James Douglas” was killed in Spain, attempting to take Robert the Bruce’s heart on a crusade to the Holy Land. In the 14th century the Earldom of Douglas was created, and William, the first holder was also Earl of Mar. From his son were descended the Earls of Angus and the Queensbury branch. James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton succeeded to the title and estates in 1553. He was prominent in the assignation of Rizzio, and joined forces against Mary Queen of Scots. In 1572 he was elected Regent of Scotland, but in 1581 was beheaded for his alleged part in the Darnley Conspiracy. Family motto – Jamais arrière (Never behind).
  ELLIOT: The Elliots are one of the great ‘riding clans’ of the Scottish Borders. Their arrival in Teviotdale can be traced back to the reign of Robert the Bruce. James the 15th Chief was killed with James IV at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. From 1565, a bloody clan feud developed between the Elliots and the Scotts, after Scott of Buccleugh executed four Elliots for stealing cattle. The Elliot family held the lands of Reheugh, Larriston, Arkleton and Stobs. From the Stobs branch were descended Lord Heathfield, and Gilbert Elliot who was Governor-General of India. George Armstrong Eliott was appointed Governor of Gibraltar in 1775, and his four years’ defence of the Rock (1779 – 1783) is one of the most glorious achievements in British history. In 1787 he was created Lord Heathfield and Baron Gibraltar. Family motto – Fortiter et recte (With strength and right).
  ERSKINE: The family takes its name from the lands of Erskine in Renfrewshire, just south of the River Clyde, which was held by Henry de Erskine in the reign of Alexander II. The Erskines were supporters of Robert the Bruce, and it was Bruce’s son, David II, that appointed Sir Robert de Erskine Keeper of Stirling Castle. Robert later became Lord Great Chamberlain of Scotland 1350 – 1357. His grandson was created Lord Erskine and from this branch was descended the Earls of Kellie. The 6th Lord Erskine was granted the Earldom of Mar in 1565, known as “Bobbing John” for his regular switching of loyalties; after raising an army of over ten thousand for James VIII, he led the Jacobite Rising of 1715. Family motto – Je Pense Plus (I think more).
  HAMILTON: This family is said to be descended from Walter Fitz Gilbert, who was granted the lands of Cadzow by Robert the Bruce. James of Cadstow was created Lord Hamilton in 1445, and married Princess Mary, the daughter of James II in 1474.Their son was created Earl of Arran in 1503, and stood next in line to the crown of Scotland. The 4th Earl of Arran became the keeper of both Edinburgh and Stirling Castles, and was created a Marquess in 1599. For his support of King Charles I, the third Marquess was created a Duke in 1643. In 1648 the Duke led a Scottish Army into England, but was defeated at the Battle of Preston by the troops of Oliver Cromwell. Together with his king he was beheaded in London in 1649. Family motto – Through.
  LENNOXLennox was one of the ancient divisions of Scotland, and comprised the present county of Dumbarton, with portions of Stirling, Perth and Renfrew. The Sheriffdom of the district was granted to Mathew, Earl of Lennox in 1511. Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley (1545 – 1567) was the second son of the Earl of Lennox. He was created Duke of Albany and in 1565 he married Queen Mary, who had him proclaimed King of Scotland. The marriage was an unhappy one, and his part in the murder of Rizzio estranged him from the Queen. He was on the point of leaving the country when he was murdered at the Kirk-o’-Field in 1567. He was the father of the future King James VI and I. Family motto – I’ll defend.
  MACDONALDMacDonell or MacDonald of Clanranald: The largest of the Highland clans, the Norse-Gaelic Clan Ranald was descended from Ranald, son of John, Lord of the Isles. The Lord of the Isles had its own parliament and at one time was powerful enough to challenge the kings of Scotland. Their territory was principally along Scotland’s northwest coast. In the Wars of Scottish Independence the MacDonalds fought alongside Robert the Bruce. Following the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, King Robert the Bruce proclaimed that Clan Donald would always occupy the honoured position on the right wing of the Scottish army. The MacDonalds were involved in both the 1715 and 1745 Jacobite Uprisings. Bonnie Prince Charlie even landed in Clanranald territory in 1745, and it was Flora MacDonald who helped him escape to Skye after his crushing defeat at the Battle of Culloden the following year. Family motto – Per mare per terras (By sea and by land), also My hope is constant in thee.
  MALCOLM: The family of Malcolm had settled in the counties of Stirling, Dumbarton and Argyll by the 14th century. The name however, derives from a much earlier date, to the followers of the Irish Saint Columba who established the first monastery on the Scottish Isle of Iona. ‘Maol’ derives from the gaelic meaning ‘shaven head’ or ‘monk’, and so ‘Maol Chalum’ is a monk, or disciple of Columba. In the 18th century the chief of the Clan MacCallum, Dugald MacCallum of Poltalloch adopted the name Malcolm. It is unclear why Dugald did this, but it could be that he considered the two names interchangeable, perhaps through distant ancestral links. Admiral Sir Pulteney Malcolm entered the Royal Navy in 1778, and in 1798 captured three Spanish gunboats in Manila Bay. While Commander-in-Chief of the St.Helena Station, 1816-17, he won the ‘warm regard’ of Napoleon. Family motto – In ardua petit (He aims at difficult things).
  NAPIER:  Tradition says the Napiers were descended from the old Celtic Earls of Lennox. It is thought that the name derives from the occupational name of “naperer”, one who looked after the linen in the royal household. John de Napier is first named in a land charter of 1280.These lands at Kilmahew in Dunbartonshire were subsequently held by Napiers for 18 generations, before finally being sold in 1820. John assisted in the defence of Stirling Castle in 1303, and a descendent went on to become Governor of Edinburgh Castle in 1401. The 7th Laird of Merchsiton, John Napier, (1550-1617) is famous for inventing a hydraulic screw for clearing coal pits of water, a calculating machine, a battle tank or two, and the system of logarithms that so revolutionised mathematics. His son Archibald accompanied James VI to London in 1603 when he became king of England. Family motto – Sans tache (Without stain).
  WALLACE: The Wallace family originates from the Scottish Lowland area of Strathclyde, near to Glasgow. Family members can also be traced across Ayrshire and Renfrewshire. Like other Lowland families it appears that they had taken to the new Norman fashion of adopting a surname. The first recorded use of the name can be dated to the signing of a land charter by Richard Walensis in 1160. The most famous son of the family is of course Scotland’s patriotic and romantic leader, Sir William Wallace, “the Hero of Scotland”, who was born at Elderslie in 1274. In 1297 he led the Scots patriotic forces against King Edward I of England. He won the Battle of Stirling Bridge and drove the English garrisons out of Scotland, but was defeated at Falkirk in 1298. He kept up a guerrilla war until 1305 when he was captured by treachery and executed. Family motto – Pro Libertate (For liberty)

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