A brief history of the Kingdom of Mann & the Isles -- From Crovan to the Present.  >>> more

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Regular American Family to Suddenly Royals -- The Howe family; A story so good they had to make a critically acclaimed TV show about them. >>> more

The Most Important Thing You Should Read : The Barony Strange & John Drummond, 15th Baron Strange >>> more

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The Isle of Man

The Isle of Man is an ancient island Kingdom rich with history and tradition.  The Kingdom was originally founded by the Vikings and boasts the oldest existing parliament known as the Tynwald created in the early 9th century AD.

 

Some Quick Facts: 

  • Capital: Douglas

  • Population: 80,058 (2006 Census)

  • Land Area: 572 sq. km/ 227 square miles

  • Location: The centre of the Irish Sea - 50 km (31 miles) from Ireland and 50 km (31 miles) from the U.K. 

  • Head of State: Her Majesty the Queen

  • Lieutenant Governor: Sir Richard Gozney

  • Chief Minister: Hon Howard Quayle, MHK

Stained glass representation of Godred Crovan

Tynwald Chambers, Douglas

The earliest days of the Kingdom of Mann and the Isles is marked by upheaval, invasions and battles.  Some of the details have been lost in antiquity.  However, what is known is that the creator of the Kingdom was the Norse-Gael warrior Godred Crovan.  Godred founded the Kingdom of Mann and the Isles after his victory over the Earl of Orkney at the Battle of Skyhill in 1079.  Shortly thereafter, Godred conquered and became King of Dublin as well as Mann.

 

The Kingdom of Mann continued to be ruled by the sons of Godred and their descendants until the annexation by Alexander III of Scotland in 1265.   

From 1265 to 1333 the Isle of Man lost it's independence and entered a confusing period.  It was sometimes part of Scotland and sometimes part of England.

 

Finally, in 1333, staking a claim to the Kingdom as a descendant in the female line to King Olaf II of Mann, and under the control of England, William de Montacute, 1st Earl of Salisbury received a grant from Edward III of England.  The Island was recognized as a fully independent Kingdom under King William's rule and, according to the grant, reunified the Island with a direct descendant of Godred Crovan.

Castletown, Isle of Man

Shortly after King William II, 2nd Earl of Salisbury succeeded his father, he sold his rights to the Isle of Man to William le Scrope, 1st Earl of Wiltshire.  However, le Scrope was later executed by Henry IV of England.  Henry later granted the Island and it's royal title to Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland.  This too proved to be short-lived as Henry IV once again found it necessary to take the Isle of Man back after Percy's rebellion against him.

Sir John Stanley,

first House of Stanley King

King Thomas II,

1st Earl of Derby  

In 1405, the Isle of Man began it's most stable period with Henry IV granting the Kingdom of Mann to Sir John Stanley.

 

Roughly one hundred years later Prince George Stanley, the son and heir apparent to King Thomas II,  once again brought about the reunification of the island with the House of Crovan as  George was also a direct descendant of King William I, 1st Earl of Salisbury.  Unfortunately, Prince George died before his father and the throne passed to his son Thomas III.

After succeeding his grandfather, Thomas III renounced the title King in favour of the title of Lord of Mann.  It isn't completely clear what motivated Lord Thomas' actions however, he was a member of his step-uncle's, Henry VII of England, court and it is believed that Thomas considered it politic to adopt the title of Lord.  

 

In the eyes of supporters of the Kingdom, Thomas' actions reduced the Island from a Kingdom to that of a barony or even less.  It continued to be the contention of many historians that the Isle of Man remained a Kingdom.  Lt. Governor Sir James Gell, in the early part of the twentieth century, wrote and maintained that the Island never ceased being a Kingdom and the proper title of the sovereign has always been that of King or Queen.  Nevertheless, the title remained Lord and has been used by succeeding Lords ever since.

The Lords of Mann, Earls of Derby, continued in an unbroken line until 1736 with the death of James Stanley, 10 Earl of Derby.  James left no heirs and so both the Earldom and the Lordship of Mann were temporarily left vacant.

 

The Earldom of Derby, an English / British peerage,  entitled the successor to a seat in the House of Lords.  It was therefore necessary for it to pass to a male line descendant.  As a result, the peerage was succeeded by a distant relative, Edward Stanley, as a male line descendant of Sir James Stanley the younger brother of Thomas III, 2nd Earl of Derby (some 240 years later).  From this point on, the Earls of Derby gave up any claim to the Isle of Man.

James Stanley, 10th Earl of Derby

James Murray, 2nd Duke of Atholl

As the succeeding Earl of Derby made no claim to the Isle of Man, it was granted to the only claimant, James Murray, 2nd Duke of Atholl.  James was a descendant in the female line to William Stanley, 7th Earl of Derby.  His claim passing free of any contending claimants, James was granted the Isle of Man becoming the Lord of Mann.

 

During James' reign as the Lord of Mann, several attempts were made by England to purchase the Island and James refused all offers.  In 1764, James died and the Island passed to his nephew and son-in-law, John Murray, 3rd Duke of Atholl.  Perhaps seeing an opportunity to capitalize from the newly appointed Lord of Mann, England increased it's pressure.  Trade was blocked around the Island and goods coming into the Isle of Man were seized.  Left with little choice, and under great duress, Lord John agreed to the sale of the Island to the British crown.

In 1765 George III of the United Kingdom became the Lord of Mann  His take over of the Isle of Man brought great fear to the Manx and created civil unrest.  Many historians consider George III's seizure of the Island not dissimilar to much of his reign, as he is remembered for a number of military and economic conflicts; chief among them is the American Revolutionary War.

 

Since the reign of George III all succeeding monarchs in the United Kingdom have also succeeded as the Lords of Mann.  Today, HM Queen Elizabeth II is also known as the Lord of Mann in her role as the de facto sovereign of the Isle of Man.

George III of the United Kingdom

In 2006, David Drew Howe, just "Drew" to his friends and family, began extensive research on his family's ancestry.  Initially Drew began looking into his American Civil War ancestors.  Shortly after, remembering the stories he heard growing up, he started research on his deButts / Dulany family ancestors.  One of the earliest colonial families in Virginia and Maryland, he discovered the family's close ties to several of the founding fathers, including the first American president George Washington.  

NOTE: Drew's great, great.. grandmother, Elizabeth French Dulany, lived with the Washington's at Mount Vernon during her teen years. George Washington gave her away at her wedding to Col. Benjamin Tasker Dulany in 1773.  Blueskin, one of two horses used by Washington during the American Revolutionary War, belonged to Elizabeth. Washington returned the horse to her at the end of the war. Her letters to and from George Washington are held at the U.S. National Archives.

Washington Receiving a Salute on the Field of Trenton by John Faed, featuring Blueskin

As he progressed, Drew's research led him back hundreds of years and to many historically significant ancestors, including most of the royal and noble families throughout Europe.  In late 2006, Drew started a blog for his family to follow.  As he found new information he frequently updated his blog with new posts.  His blog post eventually caught the attention of a genealogist and historian located in England who reached out to Drew.  Due to several historical ambiguities and ancient laws never abolished or amended, the genealogist believed Drew had a claim to the abeyant titles and de jure kingship of the ancient Kingdom of Mann.

It goes without saying that this news came as a bit of shock to Drew and his family; wife Pam and their daughter Grace.  Up to that point in 2006, the Howes had been a pretty average American family.  Drew and Pam owned and operated a small business together in their town of Frederick, Maryland, and they were just starting to make plans for Grace to attend school.  Growing up in the sub-burbs of Washington, DC, in average middle class families, Drew and Pam knew very little about the world of Kings and Queens.  That all soon changed.

Drew's new genealogist friend assembled several colleagues to assist him with forming an early group of supporters.  Their intention was to formulate a basis for a claim to present to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (Drew's cousin, as it turns out), in hopes of receiving formal recognition and, hopefully, a Gazetting of his claim officially making him the de jure King.

The Gazetting

Outside, and even inside, of the United Kingdom, there are probably few things as misunderstood as to the nature of The London Gazette.  For starters, it's not a regular newspaper.  It is the Queen's official paper of record.  The Gazette is published by TSO (The Stationery Office) under the superintendence of Her Majesty's Stationery Office (HMSO), part of The National Archives. And, in the days before the internet and social media, even before the advent of television and radio, The London Gazette served as the main form of official legal notices to an exclusive subscriber list.  More widely available today, The London Gazette still remains the primary publication for notices such as:

Granting of royal assent to bills of the Parliament of the United Kingdom or of the Scottish Parliament. The issuance of writs of election when a vacancy occurs in the House of Commons.  Appointments to certain public offices.  Commissions in the Armed Forces and subsequent promotion of officers.  Corporate and personal insolvency.  Granting of awards of honours and military medals. Changes of names or of coats of arms, and Royal Proclamations and other Declarations.

Three other important details regarding The London Gazette found on the official website at https://www.thegazette.co.uk/about 

1) As an official public record, notices can only be placed in The Gazette by registered and verified persons acting in an official capacity, who have the authority to create an official record of fact. 

2) Notices printed in The Gazette are afforded legal standing.

3) The granting of a peerage, royal title or honour is official on it's publication date in The Gazette.

A British Crown Dependency, matters regarding the regalities of the Isle of Man legally requires assent of the Crown.  It has been widely reported that David Drew Howe's claim to the Kingship of Mann was officially Gazetted on 16, January 2007.  This is the only notice of its kind regarding a Crown dependency ever gazetted by the Queen's paper of record.

 

Suddenly Royal

Drew Howe's story made international headlines beginning in 2008.  Having kept his story mostly quite for a year, the news eventually broke that his de jure (by right of law) claim to the ancient throne of the Kingdom of the Isle of Man had officially been gazetted in the London Gazette - The Official Paper of Record for the British Crown.  Up until that time, Drew had been just your average American family man.  "Nothing particularly special," as he would say.

 

Drew, and his small group of supporters in London, kept his gazetting a bit of an inside secret.  Drew wasn’t sure how an American heir-general to his ancestral kingdom would be received.  When the story finally broke a year after his gazetting, the news and Drew were met with mixed results.  The would be American-born King was ill prepared for the “welcoming,” and the advice he was receiving from his early London based supporters only helped to fuel the controversy.

 

Despite his rocky initiation, Drew and his family remained positive about the prospect that one day they would get the chance to travel to the Isle of Man.  From the beginning they wanted to learn more about his ancestors, and get the opportunity to meet people and learn about the Island’s culture that is so rich in history and tradition.  

 

The Howe family finally got their opportunity with their first visit in the Spring / Summer of 2015.  With a full film crew and production company in tow, courtesy of  the Discovery / TLC network, the Howe family's inaugural 8 week visit to the Isle of Man was captured up close and personal for viewers.

Suddenly Royal, as it was titled in the United States / Canada / United Kingdom, tells the story of the Howe's visit and their reception over 7 one hour episodes.  Labeled as a docu-series, Suddenly Royal captured the light-hearted personalities of Drew, his wife Pam and their daughter Grace.  The show aimed to answer the question, "So, just how does a regular American family cope with becoming royalty?"  

First airing on September 9, 2015 on the TLC network in the United States, the critically acclaimed Suddenly Royal has since been broadcast worldwide with a total reach of 431 million homes in 170 countries.  In 2019, Screen Rant named Suddenly Royal #7 in it's 10 Best TLC Shows Of All Time.

 

Suddenly Royal is available for viewing on the popular streaming services iTunes, Amazon and Google Play.

Recent events

RECENT EVENTS

  •  November 4, 2019, David Drew Howe received a commission as a Kentucky Colonel by Governor Matt Bevin, in recognition for his contributions and achievements.  As is customary for all Colonels, Colonel Drew Howe serves as an honorary aide-de-camp and member of the Governor's staff. 

  • In August 2019, Screen Rant named Suddenly Royal #7 in it's 10 Best TLC Shows Of All Time. 

 

John Drummond, 15th Baron Strange

& The Real King of the Isle of Man

                                                                                                       by Drew Howe

If you've ever sort of "stepped in it" in any kind of a big way, like missing an opportunity on your own international television series to show some well deserved respect and humility for a person and their legacy, well then you may appreciate the feeling I had after we wrapped on Suddenly Royal and the thought I'd fallen a little short had some time to sink in a bit.  Now, don't misunderstand, this really isn't about me so much but there is a need to set the significance a little on what I'm presenting.

Though a little historically confusing and ambiguous in it's own right, the English Barony Strange has been synonymous with the Kings / Lords of the Isle of Man dating back to the late 1400's.  George Stanley, son of Thomas Stanley, King of Mann, 1st Earl Derby, became an early holder of the title through right of his wife in 1482.  The title continued to be passed down, sometimes falling into abeyance, and even accidentally created twice in the House of Lords.  Nevertheless, there is no question that over a significant part of the history of the Isle of Man, the holder of the Barony Strange was also either the King or the Lord of Mann.

Arms of George Stanley,

9th Baron Strange

In 1957, on the death of James Stewart-Murray, 9th Duke of Atholl, 14th Baron Strange, the Barony once again fell into abeyance.  In 1964, John Drummond, the great grandson of Lady Charlotte, the daughter of the 4th Duke of Atholl, had the abeyance terminated in his favor by HM Queen Elizabeth II, calling the newly minted 15th Baron Strange to serve in the House of Lords.

In the House of Lords, John Drummond (Lord Strange) is said to have been somewhat controversial and entertaining.  His speeches drew large crowds that were anxious to see him bring life to the debate in his own very unique way.  Lord Strange no doubt pulled from his vast experience as a successful restaurateur, recording executive, and innovative organic farmer at his 15th century Scottish estate, Megginch Castle.

In 1965 Lord Strange went to live in the Isle of Man.  He continued in the House of Lords as an independent where he acted as voice for the Isle of Man which had no formal representation.  Back home in the Isle of Man, he was active and well liked in the community.  He also authored 10 books, both novels of fact and fiction.  And, I know I'm not really doing justice to the man, as there is so much more that should be said.  But, clearly to the Manx, Lord Strange personified all of the attributes one would want from their modern King.  He passed in 1982, leaving behind three daughters and several grandchildren.  

I knew a great deal of this history at the time we were shooting our show.  And, in as much as it was my show, I didn't really run the show.  We had a production team that did all that.  We went where they told us to go, and we all hoped that I'd create a little drama along the way.  That wasn't too hard to do as, by design, we usually had no idea what the day would bring.  Fun and a little stressful at times, it made for some good TV moments.

So, naturally, one of our best and most uncomfortable TV moments was in episode 3 when we sat down for tea with one of Lord Strange's daughters, The Honorable Heather Currey, and her son Robert and grandson Cosmo.  We didn't know where we were going that afternoon or who would be meeting; we were only told we were going to meet some important people on the Island that we really needed to impress.  No one was more surprised than I was with that episode's reveal moment, I can promise you that.   

Now, regardless of what anyone thinks about my claim and Gazette notice, it's legality and significance, or lack there of, others can debate all that, what I can tell you is just how honestly ridiculous I felt sitting across from the Curreys the first time we all met.  I did not feel that my Gazette notice was suit of armor that provided me with confidence and justification.  In fact, quite the contrary.  I don't have any universally recognized thing I can really compare it to in order to make it easy for anyone to understand what I was thinking at the time, but I certainly felt like a backyard squatter faced with the reality of trying to justify to the rightful property owners how I had rights to their 221 square miles, simply because I'd hung a picture of it up on my bedroom wall for a few months.  It was that kind of a feeling and the internal dialogue, how does my family and I gracefully exit when we are summarily and rightly dressed down and invited to leave...the Island...and never come back.

Of course, what I quickly and probably undeservedly discovered was that this simply wasn't the family's style.  Really, if there was ever to be a royal family for the Isle of Man again, these are the folks.  And, yet, they were entertained with the idea that I was attempting to resurrect the kingship.  Meritless or something a little more, they felt, as did I, the publicity surrounding my claim could help the Isle of Man.  And, really, they were nothing short of amazing to me and my family.

We came to have the fortune of considering the Currey family our friends.  Through them, I'd like to think I've learned a little about the quality of a person John Drummond was too.  I think you can see it in all of them.  They are after all Lord Strange's living legacy.  Through them, I now have a much greater appreciation and understanding of some shared ancestry. 

I certainly have been educated and become more sensitive to the importance of preserving one's heritage.  Had we gone back for a second season, we most certainly would have had to capture my very real concern on how to shift the focus back where it belonged, away from me and back to the people, places and legacy of the Barony Strange.  Sure, I'd be there for the beer, the tin bath race and a never ending supply of dumb dad jokes.  You never can have too many dumb dad jokes, but usurpers be warned, you can't rewrite over 600 years of well documented history nor the eventual conclusion that John Drummond, 15th Baron Strange, was also undoubtedly deserving of the title King of the Isle of Man.  In my estimation, a title and right that also belongs to his family more than anyone else.

 
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