The Imperial House of Tchernetich
Prince of Montenegro and Macedonia



This family was sovereigns, princes, dukes, despots and grand voivodas of Montenegro, Serbia, Albania and Voivodina (then in Hungary, today in Serbia, whose name comes from the Voivode of Tchernetich). Some minor branches of the family converted from Orthodox Christianity to Roman Catholicism. The name "Montenegro" was given by the Venetians to the kingdom of the "Grand Voivoda and Despot of Zeta", Stephan Komnenos. He was also called "The Black" (Stephan Cernoe or Crnoje) as were other members of the family. Komnenos Palaiologos Angelos ruled in the Balkans where he was well-known to the Ottomans for his skills as a fearless warrior. In this family there have been many non-Slav surnames during centuries such as KomnenosAngelos Palaiologos Lascaris, Skanderbeg, Djuasevic, Černoević, Crnojević, Černović, Crnoević, Csernovics, Cernovichio, Zarnovicchio, Zarnović, Zernovich. These variations of the name are due to the difficulty in pronouncing the name for non-Slavic speaking people and as well as the fact that it was the custom to use the patronymic name rather than the surname during the Middle-Ages in the Balkans. Moreover, the different spellings, "Cern/Crn" are due today to the different pronunciations of the word "black" in ancient and modern Slav languages i.e., "cern" (ancient Slav), "crn" (modern Slav)

The different uses of the letter "c" in various languages has produced the variants Tchernetitch (French), Tschernetitsch (German), Tchernetich and Chernetich (English and Spanish), Zernovic, Zarnović, Csernetics e Csernovics (Hungarian), Crnoević, Crnojević, Černojević, Čarnoević (ancient and modern Slav), Cernovicchio, Zarnovichio e Zernovichio (Serenissima Republic of Venice).

As stated by authoritative sources and documents the direct descent of the line is from the Komnenos-Angelos-Palaiologos-Lascaris family of Albania and Montenegro; from the Byzantine imperial family and, before them, according to tradition they are descendent from Roman Emperors and Roman-Dalmatians (18 in total, among whom was Constantine the Great, born in Nissa, today's Nis in Serbia). They were Lords and Dukes of Montenegro and Sovereigns of Albania, with the name Skanderbeg II and others. Through consanguinity they were related to George Castriota (or Kastriotich) called Skanderbeg or Skenderberg who was Grand Voivoda and Despot, Stephan Tchernetich, married George's sister Maria (Mara). They are related in Venice to the Dogal families, Erizzo, Contarini, Dolfin, Mocenigo and others.

It has been assumed that the House originates from Emperor John II Porfirogenito Komnenos called "The Black" (1087 - 1143, Emperor of Byzantium from 1118 to 1143) who married Piroska (Irene) Princess of Hungary who in turn gave birth to 8 children one of whom, John II, re-conquered the Balkans for the Empire. His son Manuel I Porfirogenito Komnenos, Emperor and father of many illegitimate children, in 1167 re-conquered the Eastern Empire (Dalmatia, Bosnia and Croatia) probably putting one of his sons on Montenegro's throne.

The family have been Venetian Nobles since 1472; nobles of Dalmatia and Ragusa-Dubrovnik since time immemorial and definitely prospering there in the XIII century; nobles in Hungary, Austria, Slovakia, Croatia and Russia; high dignitaries and governors (Beg and Sangiak-Beg) in the Ottoman Empire in Albania and Epirus until the early years of the 1900s and the last emperors of Serbia in 1526

The famous Florentine humanist Leon Battista Alberti of the that Tuscan noble family married one of the Tchernetichs of Montenegro.

In 1700, the last sovereign of Montenegro, Stephan George IV Tchernetich, having to leave in the face of the Ottoman advance, left the government in the hands of the orthodox metropolitan, Petrovic Njegos (this family was formerly Hebrew merchants from the city of Njegos, who became Orthodox Christians), and lead his army to the safe region of Pannonia (Hungary). Since that time this region has been called Voivodina (from Grand Voivoda - Grand Duke - Tchernetich) This area now forms a part of Serbia as a self-governing region since 1919. In 1690 the Orthodox Patriarch, Arsene III Tchernetich, led a famous exodus of Serbians to Hungary, where he named as his capital the city of Szenthendre (St. Andrew) near Budapest. This land had been devastated by the Ottomans and was granted to him by Emperor Leopold I of the Habsburgs as a reward for his participation alongside the generals Piccolomini and Eugene of Savoia in the war against the Ottomans. More than 10 thousand Serbian troops and their families have been settled in Hungarian territory since 1500, thanks to the Tchernetich Emperors and the Orthodox Church Patriarchs. These Serbians are known as "Black Serbians" (from the root of the surname of the sovereign Tchernetichs of Montenegro).

Since 1472 the descendants of this family have been recorded in Venice as "Patricians" with the surnames Tchernetich, Černović, Černoević, Crnojević, Crnoević, Cernovicchio, Zernovichio, Zarnovicchio, Zarnoevic, Komnenos, Angelos, Palaiologos, Vukovich. As heirs-in-law to Komnenos Angelos Palaiologos Lascaris of Constantinople they obtained for themselves the Grand Mastery of the Constantine Order of Saint George along with the other Byzantine chivalric orders. Later, because of economic difficulties due to the wars against the Ottomans this order was unlawfully transferred to the Farnese family. Today this noble Order of St. George is said to be the most ancient in Christendom (possibly from the year 312). It has definitely been documented since 1190 and on July the 17th, 1551, the date when Pope Julius III, by the bull "Quod Alis" recognized the Order as belonging to Komnenos-Tchernetich. This order is also granted by the three Bourbon family branches, Spanish, Neapolitan and Parmesan for the Roman Catholic Church.

The last of the Serbian Emperors was Ivan, or Jovan Nenad Tchernetich called "the Black (or "Cerneo") in 1526, who was crowned in the capital of Voivodina, Subotitza where his statue remains to this day.

The family figured prominently among the princes, dukes, counts and barons in the Kingdom of Hungary (certificate of concession by Emperor Leopold I, 1688). They were nobles and princes in Russia among whom was the Austro-Hungarian General Prince Simon Tchernetich, who fought in the Napoleonic wars and who afterwards transferred to the Russian Imperial Guard. His daughter, Princess Anna Tchernetich, and her two children were painted by the famous painter of Louis XVI's court, Mosnier. This painting now hangs in the St. Petersburg Hermitage museum. A cadet branch of the Tchernetich family is the well-known line of the Counts of Podgorichan (Podgorichani), from Podgoritza, capital of Montenegro.

Many of the family were in the service of many sovereigns such as all the Habsburg Emperors; Louis XIV of France (In the "Croatian" regiment of Body Guards in Versailles, "inventors" of the necktie); Frederick II and many other sovereigns of Prussia (the regiment of Illyria and the regiment of Bosnia during Thirty Years' War, who wore the "Cravat" (necktie) thus introducing it to western Europe); for centuries they served as Hussars, Hajdukes and Huskoci until the First World War.

In the family there were many ambassadors, intellectuals and writers: just two examples, George Tchernetich, Sovereign Prince of Montenegro, founder of the first printing house in Walachia at Cettigne in 1494 a few years after Gutenberg's invention of movable type and Ivan Tchernetich, better known by his Latin name, Johannes Cernovicius, author of De Bello Pannonico, chronicle of the warlike events in Serbia and Hungary in the XVII century and author of other books. His portrait is preserved in the prints gallery of the Versailles palace.

The motto of their coat-of-arms reads "red on the golden two-headed eagle" (Komnenos of Constantinople). The eagle has been subjected to various changes during the centuries; adorned with a cross between the eagle heads, crowned, bestowed with scepter and globe, and so on. Conceded honours are: Imperial and Royal Highness, Serene Highness. Titles: Princes of Montenegro and Albania (from various Tchernetichs who ruled Albania and Epirus with the name Skanderbeg II, (Skanderbeg III, and so on), Imperial Princes and Emperors of Serbia, Dukes of Voivodina, Princes of Zeta, Princes of Macedonia, Princes of Moldavia and Walachia (as heirs of Radu The Great , Grand Voivoda of Walachia and Moldavia, who married Ekaterina Tchernetich), Dukes of Thessaly, Dukes of Durres and Illyria, Counts of Antivari, Venetian Patricians, Marquises of Monferrato (as heirs of Palaiologos), Knights of Weissenburg (Prussia) and many more.

Among the several imposing castles and fortress belonging to the family, a significant one is that of Mácsa (today Macea, Romania), which remained property of the family until the advent of the communist dictatorship in Hungary. It stands near Arad, Transylvania, haunted by the fearful presence of the ghost of "The Black Lady".

A point of interest is that the word "Montenegro" is the same in all western European languages, whereas in Slav languages it is called variously Cerna Gora, Crna Gora or Cerna Hora.


Documentary sources.
(1) Jiri Louda and Michael MacLagan, "Les Dynasties d'Europe" introduction by S.A.I. & R. Archduke Otto of Habsburg, at paragraph "Montenegro" page 290; the coat-of-arms Tchernetich is represented with silvery two-headed eagle, not golden, one of the various versions of the coat-of-arms of this family, ed. Bordas, Paris 1984.
(2) For example Aleksandar Solovjev's "Istorija Srpskog grba" (History of Serbian coat-of-arms), page 244, ed. Docije -\ University of Law of Belgrade, 2000.
(3) "Stemmario Veneziano" pag. 60, ed. Orsini De Marzo, Milano 2007.
(4) J. Siebmacher "Der Adel in Kaernten, Krain und Dalmatien" (Nobility in Carinthia, Carniola and Dalmatia, pag. IX; coat-of-arms Tchernetich described at par. 55 "Dalmatian Nobility" ed. Bauer & Raspe, Neustadt an der Aisch (Germany) 1980.
(5) Stojan Novakovic's "Istorija i Tradicija", pag. 376, ed. Srpska Knjizevna Zadruga, Belgrade 1982.
(6) idem, pag. 393
(7) AA.VV. "Rodoslovsne Tablice i Grbovi" (Family trees and coat-of-arms) pag. 145; Tchernetich's family tree from pag. 148 to pag. 152, ed. Nova Knjiga (Serbia).
(8) Diplomas and Letters patent granting Hungarian citizenship and Nobility and ducal title from Emperor Leopold I of Habsburg, archive of Tchernetich family, Turin.
(9) Recent studies, now accepted by most important historicists about Scanderberg, certify he was Slav ethnos and orthodox religion, and his ancestors and descendants bear Slav names. It seems that Scanderberg himself was George Tchernetich dei Comneni di Argirocastro (George Castriota or Kastriotich), noble of that city. Scanderberg descendants in 1600, asked by Habsburg why they bore Imperial two-headed eagle as coat-of-arms, replied that they bore for two reasons: because descending by Byzantine emperors and by Tchernetich of Montenegro (from Moklosich "Die Serbischen Dynasten Tschernetitsch" pag. 36, Wien 1886).
(10) It is not sure at all the fact that "His Imperial Highness John Vukovich (Jovan son of Vuk, John son of Wolf) Tchernetich Angelos Komnenos was a Komnenos for sure and one Tchernetich of Montenegro, as he declared. He probably was an adventurer, surely of Balkan's origin. Present Tchernetich descendants state that the grand majesty of an order of knighthood cannot be sold for money. Before selling the Constantinian order of St. George to the Farnese, He had previously offered to one Prince Caracciolo, from Naples, who changed his mind and gave up.
(11) From the letter of March the 22nd 1581 sent by Grand Duke of Tuscany to his ambassador at Naples' court, Marquis Leonardo Salviat: "Some time ago a certain Don Pietro Cernovicchio of Crovazia (Croatia) has granted Saint George's cross to filthy people for little money, and they did it with a shape such similar to ours of St. Stephan (actually the order is called "Sacro Angelico Ordine Costantiniano di San Giorgio e di Santo Stefano Martire" and this explains the St. Stephan's cross) that our knights of the reign feel much grudge, because St. George's one used to be very different. We expressed this grudge to Naples' Viceroy (Juan de Z˙˝iga-stress on 'u' tilde on 'n'), who promised to find a way out, but the truth is that His Blessedness (Pope Gregory XIII) would make that cross reduced to its original ancient shape, we want you to avoid this shame to our religion.
(12) From Diana Gilliland Wright's book, "The First Venetian Love Letter, The Testament Of Zorzi Chernovich", 2006, where she says "how to write the surname Tchernetich is a political decision".
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