What makes a family “Royal”?

Royal-Family-665174
The British Royal Family, the most famous and prestigious in the world

A royal family is the immediate family of a king or queen regnant, and sometimes his or her extended family. The term imperial family appropriately describes the family of an emperor or empress, and the term papal family describes the family of a pope, while the terms baronial family, comital family, ducal family, grand ducal family, or princely family are more appropriate to describe the relatives of a reigning baron, count, duke, grand duke, or prince. However, in common parlance members of any family which reigns by hereditary right are often referred to as royalty or “royals.” It is also customary in some circles to refer to the extended relations of a deposed monarch and his or her descendants as a royal family“. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_family

Just being related to a King or Queen doesn’t make a family necessarily royal or eligible to a royal title. Specially in Europe where is estimated that around 80% of the population descends from some European sovereign.

In the end, it all depends on the particular laws of succession of each Royal family.

For example, British Queen Elizabeth II‘s eldest grandson Peter Phillips (firstborn son of HRH Princess Royal Anne born in 1977) doesn’t even have a royal title due to the British Laws of succession. Although obviously considered to be part of the Royal Family,  he’s called just “master” and is currently the 13th in line to the British throne, however, no title. His cousin HRH Prince William was born in 1982 but due to those laws of succession has a royal title and is the 2nd in line to the throne. In contrast, the Saudi Royal family has thousands of princes due to their particular laws of succession since just the descent from a ruler entitles them to a royal title.

Still in the Middle East, if you ask any Lebanese, even historians, who’s “royal” for them, they’ll immediately think of the princely families that ruled the whole Mount Lebanon under the Ottoman empire (i.e. Shuf Emirate, Emirate of Jabal Druze, Emirate of Mount Lebanon, as well as Ma’an Emirate)

However, the Thesaurus’ definition of the word “Royal” is

of or relating to a king, queen, or other sovereign

But what does “sovereign” means?

1. a monarch; a king, queen, or other supreme ruler. 2. a person who has supreme power or authority.”

In the technical sense, the El Chemor family was also sovereign in Mount Lebanon as it was in Ghassan since their power was considerable autonomous and didn’t emanate from a higher authority. The family had to make deals with the Ottomans only in the last years of rule, to join the Iltizam system for some time culminating with the deposition.

According to accepted international law and its principle of “sovereign equality“, the Pope or the prince of Monaco is “as royal” as the Queen of England regardless of the size of their actual territories. That principle is one of the pillars of International Law itself.

By the aforementioned, the “sovereign” or “semi-sovereign” ruling Sheikh is the equivalent of a Prince. There are so many examples in the Arabian peninsula and Gulf like Kuwait, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Qatar, etc

“Besides the sovereigns referred to above, there are several oriental potentates who should be mentioned, the rulers of the Sultanates and Sheikdoms of East Africa and the Persian Gulf (…) The style of these Sheikhs is His Highness.” Titles: How the king became His Majesty”, L.G. Pine, New York, 1992 (Barnes & Noble) p. 137-138

“In the modern United Arab Emirates, however, none of the rulers of the constituent states are called emirs (princes); all are Sheikhs.”

  https://www.britannica.com/topic/emir

Even though all the Lebanese feudal titles were abolished by the Ottoman empire in 1858 CE, the empire could only do so with the titles bestowed by their own honor system. The El Chemor Family had both the Imperial and Royal Ghassanid titles and the ruling Sheikh titles by the “sui iuris” (by own right) legal principle, therefore, the revocation didn’t legally affect them.

However, both the empire and the subsequent Lebanese regimes have formally recognized all the feudal titles by printing them in the official documents like birth certificates, driver’s licenses and passports. No birth legal privilege attached to those titles, only the prerogative of using them publicly. Not much, but still a formal recognition.

As mentioned, the El Chemor family was ruling since 1211 CE, almost 80 years before the Ottoman empire was even founded and over 300 years before the first emirate was created with prince Fakhr al-Din I (1516–1544).

We can conclude that there’s a huge difference between the prestige of titles in Mount Lebanon and their actual legal value. Important to note that we’re not debating neither the prestige nor the historical deeds of a particular family, but the actual title’s legal pedigree. There are many families with a more active and glamorous participation in Lebanon’s history than the Sheikhs El Chemor, however, only the families that actually ruled before the Ottoman invasion can claim sovereign or semi-sovereign status along with the Maanid and the Shihab Emirs.

Another good example of the principle of sovereign equivalency is the fact that, without a single solitary doubt, the British Royal Family is the most famous and prestigious in the world. However, technically and legally, they’ve the very exact same value as the Tongan Royal Family that rules a small Polynesian archipelago with around 100,000 people. Also, although the British Royal Family is sovereign, famous and prestigious, they don’t hold much actual power. In contrast, the Sultan of Oman, as an absolute ruler has considerably more actual power than his British counterpart.

Important to notice that the El Chemor family has this name from the last king of Ghassan, Chemor (or Shummar, Shemir, Shemar, etc) Jablah VI Ibn Aiham  (ruled 632-638 CE). Therefore, they were known as the “Chemori” or “the descendants of King Chemor”. King Jablah VI, has received the name “Chemor” from a tradition started by King Jabalah IV (ruled 518-528 CE) who was also known by the “kunya” or teknonymy of “Abu Chemor” (or “the father of Chemor“) referring to the eldest brother to King Al-Harith V, the most famous Ghassanid King of all times (ruled 529-569 CE).

It is a reputed deep-rooted allegation that the heads of Al-Chemor tribe are rooted from Bani Chemor, who are the Christian Kings of Ghassan which belong to Al Jafna.” (Father Ignatios Tannos El-Khoury, Historical Scientific Research: “Sheikh El Chemor Rulers of Al-Aqoura (1211-1633) and Rulers of Al-Zawiye (1641-1747)”Beirut, Lebanon, 1948, p.38)

“The refugees of Al Ghassani and bani Chemor who seeked refuge to Al ‘Aqoura turned into Maronites because the town now only has Maronites Christians and because Al Chemor tribe are the princes and children of kings, the Maronites reigned them over the land where the document states that: “… and Al ‘Aqoura is their own village from a long time, they can do as they wish…” and Al Chemori family could have taken over the throne due to their relentless efforts, money or battles, no one knows.” (ibid p.42)

“Conclusion
This is the history of the Chemor family Sheikhs who are feudal rulers, a genuine progeny of the sons of Ghassan kings of the Levant… one of the most decent, oldest and noblest families in Lebanon.” (ibid p.125)     

To access historical documents of the El Chemor family, please click HERE

To learn more about the 1948’s book about the El Chemor family, please click HERE

To learn more about the book’s recent scholarly validation, please click HERE    

Also very important to notice that there are only two ancient families named Chemor/Shammar in the whole Middle East. One, has never set foot in Lebanese territory due to its background. They’re present in Iraq and the GCC countries, originating from the Tayy tribe and has Bedouin origin and is Muslim since its inception (its leader, Hatim Al-Tayy, have converted to Islam while Prophet Mohammad was still alive, therefore, before adopting the name “Shammar“). They have adopted to use the name Shammar/Shammari after the 14th century since they briefly inhabited the Jabal Shammar region. The El Chemor Sheikhs from Lebanon come from a sedentary Arab and Christian origin and it’s documented to use this name two centuries before the Bedouin tribe. When they’ve ruled the city of Akoura in 1211 CE they were already using the name Chemor/Shammar. There are no register of the Muslim Shammari family ever to even inhabited Mount Lebanon. Thus, by simple logic it’s easy to conclude that every family member of the El Chemor family belongs to the very same family and ancestry. The ramifications of the family only happened in the 18th and 19th centuries originating the Gharios, Habaki and Farhat families. So, there’s no need to be an expert genealogist or to hold a PhD in History to understand, again by simple logic, unless proven otherwise, that the legitimate members of these families can prove to belong to the El Chemor family by only evincing their connection to the last ancestor using the El Chemor last name, since going back to King Chemor Jablah it’s absolutely certain, since only his direct descendants that inhabited the Mount Lebanon – and none else – used this particular family name.

Of course, if we think in European terms, that might sound strange. How can we assert an unequivocal royal lineage simply by a surname? In Europe, there are dozens of families with the same surnames that are not even related. Also, by the restrictive European laws of succession (including Salic and semi-Salic laws, morganatic marriages, etc.) the observance of the particular position on the family tree is indispensable. Not in the Middle East, where the simple descent in male line from the last ruler is mandatory.

We also must compare the populations of Europe and Mount Lebanon.

Mount Lebanon late 1500’s
150,000 people (including all religions)
(According to A.N. Poliak, see “Lebanon, a History 600-2011”, Oxford, 2012, William Harris, p.73)

Europe 1500’s
– French Crown 16,250,000
– Holy Roman Empire 16,000,000
– Spanish Empire 8,550,000
– English Crown 2,750,000
– Portuguese Empire 3,000,000
– Papal States 2,000,000
– Kingdom of Naples 2,000,000
– Republic of Venice 1,500,000
– Republic of Florence 750,000

Reference here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_population_in_1500

So, it’s obvious that in Mount Lebanon everyone knew the origins of this or that family, specially a prestigious and noble one.

Going even further, according to the Ottoman census:

  • Mount Lebanon 1780’s around 300,000 (all religions)
  • Mount Lebanon 1911 around 414,000 (all religions)

(see “Lebanon, a History 600-2011”, Oxford, 2012, William Harris, p. 166)

We mention here “all religions” since each and very sect in Lebanon have been keeping their own history and customs separately. While in Europe you’ve only Christianity (even having Catholics and protestants), there’s a homogeneity.

So, it’s easy to conclude that it’s considerably simple to establish a royal line in the aforementioned scenario.

We’d like to suggest some complimentary reading to fully understand this article:

·        The El Chemor/Gharios family Vis-à-vis with the International Law

.        Why is the El Chemor/Gharios Family endowed with the Ghassanid Royal Titles?

·        The Middle Eastern Laws of Succession 

·        Primogeniture in the Royal Arab Succession

·        The Laws of Succession of the Ghassanids

·        Understanding the Royal Ghassanid family tree

·        The Sheikhs El Chemor: a legal study of titles

More about the Sheikhs El Chemor and the Ghassanid Kings HERE

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