The Dracopolis

My great-grandmother Katharine Navarre Chance met her husband Nicolas Dracopoli in Pont-Aven, Brittany in July 1881.  She had been to France and Italy two years before, chaperoned by a Mrs Lane; to visit the important cultural places of Paris and then Italy.

This time she was there with her brother Wilberforce.  They stayed at the same hotel as Nicolas Dracopoli and then later had to take shelter in his studio from the rain.  Apparently after seeing her walking across the square he decided that she was the woman that he would marry (according to my grandmother, "without having seen her face"). They were married in April the following year. Fortunately for him she was both good looking and had a wealthy father who gave them the money to build a villa at the Cap d’Antibes in 1883, and there my grandmother Katie was born and her brothers and sisters.  Nicolas Dracopoli had left Chios in 1869 and spent around 7 years in America.  He came back to Europe and was for about 2 years in Montenegro helping his friend Prince Nicolas (who he had met at college in Paris) as an aid-de-camp, in his war against Turkey. Well rewarded for his efforts in the victory, Nicolas went to Paris to study art under Leon Pelouse. He turned out to be a competent painter somewhat in the style of Corot.  The Dracopolis were originally from Genoa so thought of themselves as Italian rather than Greek.  My great-grandmother got to know her sister-in-law Mathilde in the years following her husband’s death in 1906 but did not know the family very well. There was once a Marquis Dracopolo on the island of Chios in about 1346 who was descended from Balk Dracopolo, Prince of Moldovia which at that time was a Danubian principality ruled by Turkey and which is now part of Romania. As children we were told that the origin of the name Dracopoli was Del Drago and that Dracopoli meant ‘Dragon of the city’. It seems that it's origin might date from the Crusades and that it meant specifically 'Dragon of Jerusalem".