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Royalty in New Mexico: Vigil family related to Charlemagne

No need to look to supermarket tabloids for a dose of gossip about the royals.

How’s this for local royal trivia: New Mexico is loaded with people who can trace their lineage to European Emperor Charlemagne.

According to Henrietta Christmas, president of the New Mexico Genealogical Society, people in New Mexico who have the surname Vigil most likely have a common ancestor who is a descendant of Charlemagne.

That makes these New Mexicans descendants of the man who is credited with uniting most of Western and Central Europe under the Roman Catholic Church and who was himself declared the Holy Roman Emperor during the early Middle Ages by Pope Leo III.

The Genealogical Society announced the link last week.

While scouring the archives of Spain and Mexico to learn more about the Vigil family genealogy, researchers came across information indicating that one of those ancestors was a descendant of Charlemagne, said Jose Antonio Esquibel, one of the New Mexico genealogical researchers.

“The research, which began in the 1950s, was continued in

This portrait of Emperor Charlemagne appears on an oil and tempera on wood panel painting by German artist Albrecht Durer (1471-1528). The image is posted on the website of The Order of the Crown of Charlemagne. (Courtesy of Marietta Vigil Gonzales)

This portrait of Emperor Charlemagne appears on an oil and tempera on wood panel painting by German artist Albrecht Durer (1471-1528). The image is posted on the website of The Order of the Crown of Charlemagne. (Courtesy of Marietta Vigil Gonzales)

to the 1990s by several researchers, including myself, in order to extend the genealogy of the Vigil family of New Mexico into Europe,” Esquibel said. “The Vigil family name was just one of many we were looking into because there are so many descendants of that family in New Mexico.”

Thank Juan Montes Vigil, the common ancestor and descendant of Charlemagne, for the New Mexico connection, but thank Colorado-based researcher Brent Alexander Cruz for finding the link between the Montes Vigil ancestry and the prominent Ponce de León family descended from Alfonso IX (1171-1230), King of León, who was a descendant of Charlemagne. Cruz’ research looked at documents dating from the 700s to the 1300s.

Juan Montes Vigil was a native of Vega de Poxa, in the region of Asturias in northern Spain. In 1611, he traveled to Mexico City and married Catalina de Herrera Cantillana. They had a son, also named Juan Montes Vigil, who later settled in Zacatecas, Mexico. He, in turn, fathered a son named Francisco Montes Vigil.

In 1665, Francisco traveled north into what is now New Mexico as a settler, along with his wife, María Jiménez de Anciso, and their five children. Francisco and María established the Vigil family of New Mexico, Esquibel said.

That Vigil connection “ties the New World to the Old World,” Christmas said. Thousands of people in New Mexico are in that line of descent, and the Vigil surname is the first ancestor of Hispanics in the United States to be approved by the Order of the Crown of Charlemagne, a lineage society whose mission, in part, is to “collect and preserve documents, manuscripts, relics, records and traditions relating to Emperor Charlemagne and his successors.”

Membership in the order, which is by invitation only, requires proof of descent and a $775 application fee, Christmas said.

Robert D. Martinez, state historian of New Mexico, said it’s historically and genealogically significant that the Order of the Crown of Charlemagne has recognized Juan Montes Vigil, the ancestor of many New Mexicans and Mexicans, as a gateway ancestor to Charlemagne.

“Francisco Montes Vigil was a true colonial of the Spanish Empire,” Martinez said in a news release. “He was born in the New World and lived, married and fathered children in places such as Zacatecas and Aguascalientes in what is today Mexico.”

The Vigil Quiñones family crest from about 1380 that belonged to Diego Fernández Vigil and his wife, Leonor Suárez de Quiñones. A stone version of the crest appears on an exterior wall of La Torre de Vigil, a restored manor house located outside of Pola de Siero, Asturias, in northern Spain.

The Vigil Quiñones family crest from about 1380 that belonged to Diego Fernández Vigil and his wife, Leonor Suárez de Quiñones. A stone version of the crest appears on an exterior wall of La Torre de Vigil, a restored manor house located outside of Pola de Siero, Asturias, in northern Spain.

For all those Vigil descendants of Charlemagne now armed with this information about their royal lineage, a little perspective is in order.

Charlemagne, also called Charles I or Charles the Great, had a great sexual appetite. He fathered no less than 18 children, and had five wives and several mistresses. Researchers have repeatedly made the case that nearly everyone with northern European DNA is in some way related to him, Esquibel said.

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