I have spent many years researching the ancestry of Machir Theodoric of Narbonne since I read about the work of Professor David Kelley in a book by Sir Iaian Moncrieffe entitled “Royal Highness- The Ancestry of the Royal Child” published for the birth of Prince William in 1981. It is only very recently that I discovered the identity of Hernaut de Gironde as King Harald Hildetand, ancestor of Rollo of Normandy from whom descends William the Conqueror. I had done a lot of research on the other lines and it was only as the information accumulated that I started to see it all clearly. Of course a lot more work needs to be done. I was shocked to discover that the Carolingian family were Jewish on their female lines, as at the same time many of them seemed to be devout Catholics.


The institution of the Babylonian Exilarchate came when King Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiachin, King of Judah captive to Babylon in c.597 B.C. After being imprisoned for 37 years Evilmerodach, King of Babylon, released Jehoiachin and "he spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat of honor higher than those of the other kings who were with him in Babylon" (2-Kings 25:28). Archeology has discovered the royal accounts recording the food allowance granted to Jehoiachin and his five sons in prison in Babylon. From Jehoiachin arose a royal Davidic dynasty in Babylon reigning from their own palace and court over the Jewish communities of the East. They reigned in regal splendor until the beginning of the fifteenth century when Tamerlane deposed them in 1401, and a branch of the family transferred to Baghdad to lead the Jewish community until 1700.


In the Talmud it says: "Hiyya states, 'The Messiah cannot appear until the Exilarchate at Babylon and the Patriarchate at Jerusalem have ceased'" (Sanhedrin 38a). The Babylonian Exilarchs were the Heads (Rosh Galuta) or Princes (Nasi) of the Royal House of King David of the lineage of King Solomon. The Patriarchate in Jerusalem was a branch of this dynasty as were the Western Exilarchs in Narbonne, France. In the 6th century the Babylonian Exilarch Mar Zutra II (508-520), the son of Huna-vi (484-508), had established an autonomous Jewish Kingdom called Mahoza in Mesopotamia. Mar Zutra II then became the king of Mahoza. After the overthrow of Mahoza seven years later, Mar Zutra's pregnant wife fled (with her son in the womb) to Palestine. The child was also known as Mar Zutra and in Palestine he was made 'Rosh Pirka' (head of the Sanhedrin) in 520 at Tiberias. He established the Davidic Patriarchate of Jerusalem. His descendants continued as Davidic Nasis or Patriarchs for 8 or 10 generations until the 8th century, when Ahunai's son Zakkai returned to Babylon and took the name of Judah re-establishing the old line of Exilarchs. He married the daughter of the Bustanoi Exilarch Hananiah ben David. After his death the Bustanoi line regained the Exilarchate in the person of Natronai ben Habibai in 771. He was succeeded by Moses ben Isaac Iskoi from another line of the Bustanoi. Natronai ben Habibai went into exile in Spain. Moses ben Isaac Iskoi was succeeded by his son Isaac Iskoi ben Moses, the 10th Exilarch since Bustanoi. The Exilarch Bustanoi had been married to the daughter of the King of Persia, Omar ibn Kattab, and this is why the line from Ahunai of Palestine (that was not descended from Bustanoi) was considered a purer line of Exilarchs by many.

Judah’s (Zakkai’s) son David regained the Exilarchate after Isaac Iskoi ben Moses, while his two brothers Gershom and Machir had earlier left for France, where Machir was to become the founder of a Western Exilarchate at Narbonne. David ben Judah was to be the forefather of many of the remaining Babylonian Exilarchs. However his family split into two competing dynasties for the Exilarchate. David ben Judah's grandson Zakkai was not an Exilarch but two of Zakkai's sons Josiah (Hasan) (930-933) and David (918-940) became Exilarchs. David ben Zakkai's descendant Hezekiah II ben David I (1021-1058) deposed Josiah ben Zakkai's great-grandson Daniel ben Azariah who had re-established the Jerusalem Patriarchate at the end of the 10th century. Daniel's son David fled to Egypt and established a rival Exilarchate in Egypt supported by the Fatimide Muslim Dynasty. Tamerlane removed the Exilarchs in Babylon in 1401 and the Royal House transferred to Baghdad. The Davidic Nasis princes of Bagdad ruled over the Jewish Community in Iraq until 1700.

To re-capitulate: The Patriarchate of Jerusalem (Palestine) had been founded by a son of the Babylonian Exilarch in 520 and his descendants ruled over the Jews of Palestine until the 8th century. The son of Ahunai of the Palestinian Patriarchial Family was Zakkai who returned to Babylon where he married the daughter of the Exilarch Hananiah ben David. After his father-in-law's death, Zakkai became the Babylonian Exilarch. Zakkai took the name Exilarch Judah. Two of his sons Gershom and Machir went to Narbonne and founded the Western Dynasty of Exilarchs there.
The Jewish Side of the Family in the West

The Western Exilarchs reigned in Narbonne (southeast France) until 1306 when they were expellled from France. From this Western Exilarchate came many Nasis of the Royal House as leaders of the Jewish Communities. The Beneveniste families were descendants of the Western Exilarch. They numbered important figures such as Isaac Benveniste, the Nasi of Aragon Jewry. In the early 1200's, Isaac Benveniste was the Royal Physician to King James I of Aragon (also a descendant of the Western Exilarch Machir Todros) and he was the prominent figure at the Jewish councils at Montpellier and Saint-Gilles in 1214 and 1215. Pope Honarius III acknowledged him in his position of leadership amongst the Jewish Communities. Isaac Benveniste was the great-grandson of Sheshet ha Nasi of Barcelona. His father was Sheshet Benveniste who served Raymond Berenger IV Count of Barcelona, and he continued to serve his son Alfonso II and grandson Pedro II both Kings of Aragon and Catholic descendants of Machir ben Judah of Narbonne. Sheshet ha Nasi the grandfather of Sheshet Benveniste was a member of the Western Exilarchic family of Narbonne. Isaac Benveniste's descendant Samuel Benveniste (died after 1356) was also a physician to the brother of King Pedro IV of Aragon. Samuel's descendant Abraham Benveniste (1406-1454) was the 'Court Rabbi' under King John II of Castile. From Abraham Benveniste descended the famous Marranoes Gracia Nasi (called ha Geveret or La Senora) and her nephew and son-in-law Joseph Nasi Duke of Naxos.
The Kings of Septimania Were Also Exilarchs!

Male descendants of David from the Middle East had come to Narbonne in southeast France and been given the Kingdom of Septimania. As well as being the temporaral rulers of this semi-autonomous region they were also the spiritual heirs of the Exilarchy. Like the Jewish Kingdom of Mahoza, the new Jewish Kingdom of Septimania in Southern France and Northern Spain did not last long. As a Kingdom or Principality Septimania was to last three generations or so but as the seat of the Western Exilarch it lasted for three centuries when the head of the male line transferred to Barcelona, Spain. The Jewish female line descendants continued in Narbonne until the expulsion in the 14th century. Ermengarde the Viscountess of Narbonne in the 12th century married into the Halevi family and from then on the Jewish leaders in Narbonne were only of the Davidic family on the female line. The male line of the Exilarchs continued in Barcelona and then Toledo and transferred to Portugal at the time of the expulsion in 1492. Joseph Nasi the Duke of Naxos was the last great Nasi Exilarch of the Royal House of David. Solomon Abenaes, Duke of Mytilene, succeeded him.
It was in the 11th century that the Catholic descendants of Machir and Gershom had conquered Palestine and established the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem.



Sir Iaian Moncrieffe refers to the work of Professor Arthur Zuckerman of Columbia University who wrote of the Jewish identity of Theuderic, Duke of Toulouse in his book 'A Jewish Princedom in Feudal France'. He explains how as a reward for the assistance of the Jews of Narbonne to King Pepin he granted them in the 8th century a Jewish principality in Septimania which acknowlegded Carolingian overlordship. Pepin installed Machir son of the Babylonian Exilarch as the Jewish King of Narbonne. In the French Chansons ballads he was called Aimeri but was known amongst the nobility as Theuderic or Thierry, Duke of Toulouse. Professor Zuckerman states that he was recognized by the Abbasid Caliph of Baghdad and by Pepin as 'The Seed of the Royal House of David'. Zuckerman also mentions an assertion that the Western Exilarchs were of purer blood than those in the East. Machir (Theuderic) married a sister of Pepin called Alda. His son Guillaume i.e. William d'Orange, is also famous in the French Chansons and was nicknamed 'Hook Nosed'. He was fluent in Arabic and Hebrew. The Heraldic device on his shield was the same as that of the Eastern Exilarchs — the Lion of Judah. Guillaume observed the Sabbath and Sukkot during his campaigns.

Review: The Nasi of Frankland
Reviewed Work(s):

* A Jewish Princedom in Feudal France, 768-900 by Arthur J. Zuckerman

Author(s) of Review: Solomon Grayzel
The Jewish Quarterly Review, New Ser., Vol. 65, No. 3 (Jan., 1975), pp. 196-199