GHICA, Ghika or Ghyka, a family which played a great part in the modern development of Rumania, many of its members being princes of Moldavia and Walachia. According to Rumanian historians the Ghicas were of very humble origin, and came from Kiupru in Albania.
1. George or Gheorghe (c.1600-1664), the founder of the family, is said to have been a playmate of another Albanian known in history as Küpruli Aga, the famous vizier, who recognized George while he was selling melons in the streets of Constantinople, and helped him on to high positions. George became prince of Moldavia in 1658 and prince of Walachia in 1659-1660. He moved the capital from Tîrgovishtea to Bucharest. From him are derived the numerous branches of the family which became so conspicuous in the history of Moldavia and Walachia.
2. The Walachian branch starts afresh from the great ban Demetrius or Dumitru Ghica (1718-1803), who was twice married and had fourteen children (see Rumania: History). One of these, Gregory (Grigorie), prince of Walachia 1822-1828, starts a new era of civilization, by breaking with the traditions of the Phanariot (Greek) period and assisting in the development of a truly national Rumanian literature. His brother, Prince Alexander Ghica, appointed jointly by Turkey and Russia (1834-1842) as hospodar of Walachia, died in 1862. Under him the so-called règlement organique had been promulgated; an attempt was made to codify the laws in conformity with the institutions of the country and to secure better administration of justice. Prince Demetrius Ghica, who died as president of the Rumanian senate in 1897, was the son of the Walachian prince Gregory.
3. Another Gregory Ghica, prince of Moldavia from 1775 to 1777, paid with his life for the opposition he offered when the Turks ceded the province of Bukovina to Austria.
4. Michael (Michail) (1794-1850) was the father of Elena (1827-1888), a well-known novelist, who wrote under the name of Dora d'Istria. Brought up, as was customary at the time, under Greek influences, she showed premature intelligence and literary power. She continued her education in Germany and married a Russian prince, Koltsov Mazalskiy, in 1849, but the marriage was an unhappy one, and in 1855 she left St Petersburg for Florence, where she died in 1888. In that city she developed her literary talent and published a number of works characterized by lightness of touch and brilliance of description, such as Pèlerinage au tombeau de Dante, La Vie monastique dans les églises orientales (1844), La Suisse allemande, etc. One of her last works was devoted to the history of her own family, Gli Albanesi in Roumenia: Storia dei Principi Ghika nei secoli XVII-XIX (Florence, 1873). Her sister was Sophia, Countess O'Rourke.
5. Scarlat Ghica (1750-1802) was twice prince of Walachia. His grandson John (Ioan) Ghica (1817-1897), a lifelong friend of Turkey, was educated in Bucharest and in the West, and studied engineering and mathematics in Paris from 1837 to 1840; returning to Moldavia he was involved in the conspiracy of 1841, which was intended to bring about the union of Walachia and Moldavia under one native prince (Michael Sturdza). The conspiracy failed and John Ghica became a lecturer on mathematics at the university which was founded by Prince Sturdza in Jassy. In 1848 he joined the party of revolution and in the name of a provisional government then established in Bucharest went to Constantinople to approach the Turkish government. Whilst there he was appointed Bey of Samos (1853-1859), where he extirpated piracy, rampant in that island. In 1859 after the union of Moldavia and Walachia had been effected Prince Cuza induced John Ghica to return. He was the first prime minister under Prince (afterwards King) Charles of Hohenzollern. His restless nature made him join the anti-dynastic movement of 1870-1871. In 1881 he was appointed Rumanian minister in London and retained this office until 1889. He died on the 7th of May 1897 in Gherghani. Besides his political distinction John Ghica earned a literary reputation by his "Letters to Alexandri" (2nd edition, 1887), his lifelong friend, written from London and describing the ancient state of Rumanian society, fast fading away. He was also the author of Amintiri din pribegie, "Recollections of Exile in 1848" (Bucharest, 1890) and of Convorbiri Economice, discussions on economic questions (Bucharest, 1866-1873). He was the first to advocate the establishment of national industry and commerce, and also, to a certain extent, principles of "exclusive dealing."
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)