Curonian Kings

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"Curonian Kings" (German: Kurische Könige; Latvian: Kuršu ķoniņi: Russian: Куриш-Кениге) was a social and ethnic group of Latvians that lived in seven villages between Goldingen (Kuldīga) and Hasenpoth (Aizpute) in Courland.

They were descendants of Curonian nobility, first mentioned in a document of 1320 and lived in the villages of Ķoniņciems, Pliķu ciems, Kalējciems, Ziemeļciems, Viesalgciems, Sausgaļciems, and Dragūnciems (now in Kuldīga municipality). To "Curonian Kings" belonged such families (in modern Latvian spelling): Peniķis, Tontegode, Vidiņš, Dragūns, Sirkants etc.

They preserved special privileges during conquest by the Livonian Order (such as the right to hunt and exemption from taxes and military drafts), but lost these privileges in 1854. All of them were peasants (freeholders) possessing independent farms (did not belong to any lord), but they were not allowed to own their own serfs. They had only one landlord komtur of Kuldīga and they were related to him only by military service in case of war. Curonians usually served as a light cavalry in the Livonian Order army.

In the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia they lost some of their privileges, but they were still counted as separate class. They were not recognized landlords but maintained middle position between landlords and peasants. It is known that in the 17th century Curonian Kings had their own coat of arms.

In the 1854 they lost all of their privileges, but in the census of 1863 they still were counted as a separate nation, with a total number of 405. While the Curonian tribe had long been assimilated by the Latvians, the "Curonian Kings" preserved a separate identity by not inter-marrying with other ethnic groups. It was not until the 1920s that the "Curonian Kings" merged into the Latvians.

All of the families mentioned above still can be found in Latvia. Some of them can trace their origins back to the 14th century.