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The Ludwell Blog

News and research on the life, community, and worldview of Colonel Philip Ludwell III.
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The Ludwells: From Charlemagne’s Court to the Heavenly Kingdom

The life of Philip Ludwell III, as that of all of us, is not one that stands in isolation. It is part of a much longer continuum of consciousness that in turn places the residents of early modern America in a much broader context that includes their European antecedents and contemporaries. From a Christian perspective it places Ludwell’s embrace of Orthodox Christianity as a considered response to the gradual fragmentation of western Christendom that finally came to a head in the early sixteenth century in what we typically call the Reformation. I hope that this brief excursus into earlier Ludwell family history may illustrate this.

Following the Clues: A Sword and an Eagle

sword of emperor charles v
Sword of Emperor Charles V

At the end of the summer of 2016 I was able to spend some time in Spain and to visit the enchanting Andalusian city of Granada in the south of the country. As a practical souvenir I purchased a letter opener: a replica of the sword of the Emperor Charles V (1500 – 1558). Charles was the most powerful monarch in the world of that time. His realm stretched from Austria to the Netherlands and from Spain to her emerging colonial empire in the New World. It was Charles who convened the Diet at Worms in 1521 to refute Martin Luther’s 95 Theses and eight years later confronted the forces of the Ottoman Turkish Emperor Süleyman the Magnificent at the gates of Vienna. Adding to this ecumenical resume of countering both incipient Protestantism and expansive Islam, in 1527 Charles’s army would sack Rome in an orgy of destruction.

In the same decade of Charles’s reign, in 1521,  the Aztec Empire of central America and its capital Tenochtitlàn fell to Cortès and his conquistadors  and eleven years later in 1532 Pizarro would conquer the Inca empire of Peru. After these and many other conflicts Charles would abdicate his thrones and retire to a monastery in Spain to live out the final two years of his life in prayerful contemplation.

The Ludwells: In Service to the Emperor?

All very interesting you may say but what does any of this have to do with Colonel Philip Ludwell III of Williamsburg, Virginia, who lived two hundred years after Charles V? When I was first researching Ludwell’s life I came across a short article entitled The Ludwell Family by W.G. Stanard, published in the William and Mary Quarterly, Vol 1, No. 2 dated October 1892. It begins:

The accounts of the Ludwell family of Virginia, which have been published, state that Thomas and Philip Ludwell [Great uncle and grandfather respectively of Philip Ludwell III] the immigrants, were natives of Bruton, Somerset, England, and grandsons of James Cottington, who was a son of Philip Cottington, of Godminster, and brother of Lord Cottington.

William Lee, son-in-law of Philip Ludwell III
William Lee, husband of Hannah and son-in-law of Philip Ludwell III

Several paragraphs later Stanard continues:

William Lee states in his accounts in Meade’s “Old Churches and Families of Virginia,” that the Ludwells were of German origin. Perhaps they were Protestant refugees.

The William Lee to whom Stanard refers was both the son-in-law and nephew of Philip Ludwell III. Two years after Lee’s marriage to Ludwell’s oldest daughter Hannah, in September 1771, he would write a fourteen-page history of the Ludwell and Lee families. It is to this document that Stanard is indirectly referring. Lee wrote regarding the family:

The original of them many ages since coming from Germany.

Lee’s chronological imprecision as to when the Ludwells came from Germany to England most likely stems from the lack of information available to him. Thankfully one more piece of this particular puzzle is available to us and brings us back to Charles V.

The Ludwells’ Origins in Germany

When I was researching the Ludwell and Barziza family connection in the State Archives in Venice I was shown a family crest of the Barziza family, a noble family recorded in the Golden Book.  Philip Ludwell III’s grand- daughter Lucy Paradise married Count Antonio Barziza of Venice in 1787.

As can be seen in the illustrations the figure of a single-headed eagle traverses the Barziza crest at the top. The same single-headed eagle is repeated several times in the diagonal band in the center of the Ludwell family crest. It would later be  transformed into a double-headed eagle by Philip Ludwell III.

The man who was assisting me in Venice explained that the single-headed eagle on these family crests indicated that someone in the family had been a retainer of the Emperor Charles V in Aachen. Aachen today is Germany’s westernmost city, with its suburbs straying into the Netherlands and Belgium. It has a long and illustrious history and at the end of the 8th century AD Charlemagne made it the seat of the emerging Holy Roman Empire. The stunning ceiling of the early 9th-century cathedral built during his reigns bears witness to the beauty of early Christian worship in the West at that time.

Aachen Cathedral dome interior
Aachen Cathedral – dome interior

It was in Aachen cathedral in October 1520 that Charles was crowned Emperor of Germany and simultaneously became Emperor-elect of the Holy Roman Empire. If my Venetian informant was correct it seems most likely that it would have been in Aachen that an antecedent of both the Ludwell and Barziza family would have served Charles V as a retainer.

Aachen Eagle fresco
Aachen Eagle fresco

Last October I was able to visit Aachen for the first time. As I visited different historical sites I realized that the city was replete with images of single-headed eagles. The explanation of this is simple: This is the symbol of the city of Aachen.

The early Christian heritage of Aachen is as much a part of our own sacred inheritance as are the glories of ancient Constantinople or medieval Moscow. In the person of Philip Ludwell III these are all brought together and testify to the plenitude of Christian truth, both East and West. His ancestor/s served at the throne of a great earthly monarch whose realm straddled three continents. As for Philip Ludwell III he strove to serve an infinitely greater King, translating (or perhaps writing) in this prayer:

Aachen Eagle door
Aachen Eagle door

The Memorial of thine abundant

Kindness shall be shewn that

thy Power, thy Glory, & mightyness

of thy Kingdom might be known

unto Men. Thy Kingdom is an

everlasting Kingdom & thy Dominion

endureth throught all Ages.

Lord remember me when thou

 comest in thy Kingdom

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