Bluebloods, take note. Cincy is awash in noble connections — from czars to kings, lords to ladies, dukes to sovereigns, a countess here, a princess there, even a mad monarch or two.
And we don’t mean to sound imperial about this, but from where we sit — on a throne, natch — the city clearly lives up to its illustrious nickname.
We can actually thank the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow for our Queen City moniker. He penned “Catawba Wine” to memorialize the city’s vineyards; the last stanza describes Cincinnati as “the Queen of the West.” The expression took hold.

In the years since, the Queen City has had plenty of opportunities to revel in all things royal:

Believe it or not, there’s a direct Cincinnati link to Czar Nicholas.

Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovitch, Nicholas’ cousin, was thrown out of Russia in 1917 after he helped murder the czar’s henchman, Rasputin. Ironically, as the Bolshevik revolution erupted, that very exodus saved his life.

While exiled in Paris, Dmitri re-adopted his traditional family last name, Ilyinsky, and met Audrey Emery, a Cincinnati industrial heiress; they married in 1926.

Their only child, Paul Ilyinsky (born in the U.S. Embassy in London), moved his family to Cincinnati in 1963. Three of their four children — Anne Glossinger, Michael Ilyinsky and Paula Comisar — still live here today.

Paula Comisar — or her Serene Highness Paula Maria Pavlovna, Princess Romanovskaya-Ilyinskaya, as her friends like to call her — eventually married restaurateur Marc Comisar of Maisonette fame. For good measure, she and her siblings are also descendants of King Christian IX of Denmark.

The elder Ilyinsky, meanwhile, eventually retired to a small Florida town, where he ran for mayor and won. “Paul Ilyinsky was very charming,” notes Russian history expert Marilyn Swezey. “He described himself as the only Romanov ever to be democratically elected to public office.”
A few other Cincinnatians can trace their bloodlines to European castles and palaces. An online genealogy of the Princes of Rohan, heirs of the Duchy of Bouillon, list the Durrells and Osbornes of Cincinnati as relatives. The Maiers and the Frisches (yes, they of the Big Boy chain) have links to the Imperial House of Russia. The Zimmermans hooked up to British royalty by way of a marriage to the Duke of Manchester. And there’s always the Longworths, who are partnered to Parisian society by way of Clara Longworth, who became the Countess de Chambrun.

Cincinnati’s only professional NBA team held court in the Cincinnati Gardens beginning in 1957, courtesy of owner and local Realtor Robert Siegel. The team drafted University of Cincinnati basketball star Oscar Robertson, who immediately won Rookie of the Year. Crowned the “Big O,” Robertson would go on to lead the Royals through ups and downs until, finally, in 1972, a gaggle of Missouri kingmakers bought the team for $5 million and transplanted the squad, renaming it the Kansas City-Omaha Kings. Elected to the NBA Hall of Fame in 1979, Robertson is now the sole owner of Orchem, a Fairfield specialty chemical company. He’s been married to his wife Yvonne for 48 years, and they have three daughters. A few years ago, Robertson donated a kidney to save his daughter Tia’s life – making him truly a prince among men.

Cincy’s other royal team, the professional Cincinnati Kings soccer team, recently purchased the Town & Country sports facility in Wilder. The Kings are owned by Yacoub Abdallahi, the son of a North African fishing magnate.

It’s safe to say there aren’t too many Cincinnatians sitting in Britain’s House of Lords. But Newtown’s Doug Hall is as close as they come: He’s the Lord of Threshfield. Obtaining the English title, suggests Hall, involved “a huge fight to the death.” Pause. “With my checkbook.” The owner of the Eureka! Ranch think-tank routinely travels the globe (including an expedition to the North Pole) and appeared as one of three judges on ABC’s American Inventor a few seasons ago. A peer of the realm on an American reality TV series? Good chap, that simply isn’t done.

Anyone who caught George Clooney on this year’s Academy Awards broadcast knows that Hollywood brings with it as much glamour and clout as any royal court.

Clooney is just one Tristater to find himself on the silver screen. Others include Tyrone Power, Theda Bara, Roy Rogers, Sarah Jessica Parker, Rosemary Clooney, Woody Harrelson, Julie Hagerty, Carmen Electra, Patricia Wettig, Amy Yasbeck, Andy Williams, Ray Combs, Vicki Lewis, Dorian Harewood, Rod Serling and, of course, the court jester, Jerry Springer.

The undisputed queen of the box office? The west side’s Doris Mary Ann von Kappelhoff. You might know her better by her stage name: Doris Day.

“Kentucky Colonels” are Northern Kentucky’s own slice of aristocracy. No, not as in the “Dukes of Hazzard.” We’re talking people with names such as Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Babe Ruth and, yes, Col. Harland Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame — the ultimate colonel from the Bluegrass state. You can only earn the commissioned title by an executive order of the Kentucky governor, awarded for service to the state; other colonels include Winston Churchill, Tony Blair, Johnny Depp, Hunter S. Thompson, Cincy magazine editor Greg Loomis and Pope John Paul II (when’s the last time you saw these names in the same sentence?).

While there aren’t many castles to be found in Greater Cincinnati, you can stroll through Loveland Castle in Loveland. The castle’s story is as impressive as its environs: This one-fifth scale replica of a 10th-century Norman fortress is located on the estate of Sir Harry Andrews, who began building it in 1929. Today, a group of volunteers — calling themselves the Knights of the Golden Trail — operate and preserve the structure.
Other castles can be found on the grounds of Spring Grove Cemetery, and along Gilbert Avenue in Mt. Adams. The remains of Elsinore Castle, erected in 1883, currently serve as a valve house for the Cincinnati Water Works department. Originally, the full castle — designed by architect Samuel Hannaford to commemorate a Shakespeare festival being held in Eden Park — was connected to the Museum of Natural History. When the museum moved to Union Terminal, WCPO Channel 9 built its studios on the grounds, and actually incorporated some castle-like design elements in its contemporary headquarters.

The giant theme park takes its name from the King Powder Company, a gunpowder manufacturer that originally occupied much of the land along with the Peters Cartridge Company. The King Powder Company actually opened its own company town on the property in the 1890s, dubbing it Kings Mills. (The New York Times reported a terrible powder explosion in 1894 demolished the mills, killing 20 workers. Witnesses as far away as Loveland thought it was actually an earthquake.) The area is now served by the Kings Local School District’s Kings High School and Kings Junior High, which we imagine both have homecoming queens.
Finally, if you need yet another fix of nobility, you can check out this month’s production of King Lear at downtown’s Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. Actor Bruce Cromer, who plays Scrooge for the Playhouse in the Park’s Christmas Carol each year, takes a turn as the aging king of Britain, who’s finally driven mad while deciding how to break up his kingdom among his daughters.

Need a dinner recommendation for before or after the show? How ’bout The Palace restaurant just down the street? Or, you can down a slider at your local White Castle.
Want the chance to chat live with Queen Elizabeth? Before you think we’re just jousting you, listen up. Queen Elizabeth I is available every weekend for audiences during the annual Ohio Renaissance Festival, which runs August through October at Renaissance Park in Harveysburg (just north of Lebanon).  Ohio’s only replica of a medieval town, this 30-acre complex in Harveysburg comes complete with roving story-tellers, magicians, singers, fire-eaters, jugglers, jousting knights—adorned in full armor and riding horseback—and even a replica of the “Tower of London.” But the “star” of the festival has to be Elizabeth I. “Allison Davidson was chosen by an audition committee to play the part,” says Cheryl Bates, vice president of marketing, adding that—in real life—Davidson is assistant solicitor for the City of Cincinnati.

OK, Queen Elizabeth has gotten only as close as Churchill Downs. Princess Grace reportedly came to town while she was still the actress Grace Kelly, for the premiere of a Hitchcock flick. Princess Di came to nearby Dayton — in a sense — two years ago when the Dayton Art Institute opened the exhibition “Diana, A Celebration.” But we’ve been pretty scarce on any visits from Windsors, Tudors, Grimaldis, or other members of royal houses.
Maybe all this will change with the construction of the Great American Insurance Building, a 40-story tower that will become the city’s tallest skyscraper. St. Louis architect Gyo Obata was flipping through a coffeetable book when he came across a picture of Princess Diana wearing her tiara. He decided to design the building to have a “crown” shaped like Di’s tiara. A royal coming out party, anyone?
How did Empress Chili get its lofty brand name? Empress, the first chain to serve Cincinnati chili, opened its original parlor next door to the Empress burlesque theater on Third Street in 1922. Greek immigrants Tom and John Kiradjieff intended the chili merely as a topping for their hot dogs, which they quaintly called “coneys.”
What to drink with your chili? Why, a Little Kings cream ale, of course. Brewed by the Hudepohl-Schoenling Brewing Co., the pale golden concoction is one of the few cream ales traditionally brewed in the nation.