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Fürst (German pronunciation: [ˈfʏʁst] ( listen ), female form Fürstin, plural Fürsten; from Old High German furisto, "the first", a translation of the Latin princeps ) is a German word for a ruler and is also a princely title. Fürsten were, since the Middle Ages, members of the highest nobility who ruled over states of the Holy Roman Empire and later its former territories, below the ruling Kaiser (emperor) or König (king).
A Prince of the Holy Roman Empire was the reigning sovereign ruler of an Imperial State that held imperial immediacy in the boundaries of the Holy Roman Empire.The territory ruled is referred to in German as a Fürstentum (principality), the family dynasty referred to as a Fürstenhaus (princely house), and the (non-reigning) descendants of a Fürst are titled and referred to in German as Prinz (prince) or Prinzessin (princess).
The English language uses the term "prince" for both concepts. Latin-based languages (French, Italian, Romanian, Spanish, Portuguese) also employ a single term, whereas Dutch as well as the Scandinavian and Slavic languages (Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, Serbian, Croatian, etc.) use separate terms similar to those used in German (see knyaz for the latter).
An East Asian parallel to the concept of "ruling prince" would be the Sino-Xenic word 王 (pronounced wáng in Mandarin, wong4 in Cantonese, ō in Japanese, wang in Korean and vương in Vietnamese), which commonly refers to Korean and non-East-Asian "kings", but usually refers to non-imperial monarchs (who would go by 皇帝 ("emperor" or "empress regnant") instead) in ancient China and Vietnam and therefore is frequently translated to "prince", especially for those who became rulers well after to the first adoption of the title 皇帝 by Qin Shi Huang. Some examples include China's Prince Wucheng and Vietnam's Prince Hưng Đạo. On the other hand, the son of a monarch would go by different titles, such as 皇子 ("imperial son"), 親王 ("prince of the blood") or 王子 ("royal son"). A "European sovereign prince" may have the same title as a "duke", namely 公, and "principality" is translated to the same word as "duchy", namely 公国.
Since the Middle Ages, the German designation and title of Fürst refers to:
The title Fürst (female form Fürstin, female plural Fürstinnen) is used for the heads of princely houses of German origin (in German a Fürstenhaus). From the Late Middle Ages, it referred to any vassal of the Holy Roman Emperor ruling over an immediate estate. Unless he also holds a higher title, such as grand duke or king, he will be known either by the formula "Fürst von + [geographic origin of the dynasty]", or by the formula "Fürst zu + [name of the ruled territory]". These forms can be combined, as in "...von und zu Liechtenstein".
The rank of the title-holder is not determined by the title itself, but by his degree of sovereignty, the rank of his suzerain, or the age of the princely family (note the terms Uradel, Briefadel, altfürstliche, neufürstliche; and see German nobility). The Fürst (Prince) ranked below the Herzog (Duke) in the Holy Roman Empire's hierarchy, but princes did not necessarily rank below dukes in non-German parts of Europe. However, some German dukes who did not rule over an immediate duchy did not outrank reigning princes (e.g. Dukes of Gottschee, a title held by the Princes of Auersperg. Gottschee was not an Imperial state but a territory under the Dukes of Carniola. However, Princes of Auersperg held imperial immediacy for their state of Tengen). Likewise, the style usually associated with the title of Fürst in post-medieval Europe, Durchlaucht (translated as "Serene Highness"), was considered inferior to Hoheit ("Highness") in Germany, though not in France.
The present-day rulers of the sovereign principality of Liechtenstein bear the title of Fürst, and the title is also used in German when referring to the ruling princes of Monaco. The hereditary rulers of the one-time principalities of Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, and Albania were also all referred to in German as Fürsten before they eventually assumed the title of "king" (König).
Fürst is used more generally in German to refer to any ruler, such as a king, a reigning duke, or a prince in the broad sense (compare Niccolò Machiavelli's Il Principe ). Before the 12th century, counts were also included in this group, in accordance with its usage in the Holy Roman Empire, and in some historical or ceremonial contexts, the term Fürst can extend to any lord.
The descendants of a Fürst, when that title has not been restricted by patent or custom to male primogeniture, is distinguished in title from the head of the family by use of the prefix Prinz (prince, from Latin : princeps; female: Prinzessin).
A nobleman whose family is non-dynastic, i.e. has never reigned or been mediatised, may also be made a Fürst by a sovereign, in which case the grantee and his heirs are deemed titular or nominal princes, enjoying only honorary princely title without commensurate rank. In families thus elevated to princely title (usually as a reward for military or political services) in or after the 18th century, the cadets often hold only the title of Graf (Count), such as in the families of the princes of Bismarck , Eulenberg and Hardenberg . However, in a few cases, the title of Fürst is available to all male-line descendants of the original grantee (mostly descendants of dukes, for example, the families of Hohenberg , Urach , but also descendants of a simple Fürst, like Wrede ).
Several titles were derived from the term Fürst:
The word Fürst designates the head (the “first”) of a ruling house, or the head of a branch of such a house. The “first” originates from ancient Germanic times, when the “first"” was the leader in battle.
Various cognates of the word Fürst exist in other European languages (see extensive list under Prince), sometimes only used for a princely ruler. A derivative of the Latin princeps (a Republican title in Roman law, which never formally recognized a monarchic style for the executive head of state but nominally maintained the Consuls as collegial Chief magistrates) is used for a genealogical prince in some languages (e.g., Dutch and West Frisian, where a ruler is usually called vorst, West Frisian: foarst), but a prince of the blood is always styled prins; and Icelandic where fursti is a ruler, and a prince of the blood royal is prins (in these languages no capital letters are used in writing titles, unless, of course, they occur as the first word of a sentence), while in other languages only a princeps-derived word is used for both irrespectively (e.g., English uses prince for both). In any case the original (German or other) term may also be used.
Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen was a principality in southwestern Germany. Its rulers belonged to the senior Swabian branch of the House of Hohenzollern. The Swabian Hohenzollerns were elevated to princes in 1623. The small sovereign state with the capital city of Sigmaringen was annexed to the Kingdom of Prussia in 1850 following the abdication of its sovereign in the wake of the revolutions of 1848, then became part of the newly created Province of Hohenzollern.
Styles represent the fashion by which monarchs and noblemen are properly addressed. Throughout history, many different styles were used, with little standardization. This page will detail the various styles used by royalty and nobility in Europe, in the final form arrived at in the nineteenth century.
A prince-bishop is a bishop who is also the civil ruler of some secular principality and sovereignty. Thus the principality or prince-bishopric ruled politically by a prince-bishop could wholly or largely overlap with his diocesan jurisdiction, but some parts of his diocese, even the city of his residence, could be exempt from his civil rule, obtaining the status of free imperial city. If the episcopal see is an archbishop, the correct term is prince-archbishop; the equivalent in the regular (monastic) clergy is prince-abbot. A prince-bishop is usually considered an elected monarch.
A prince is a male ruler or a male member of a monarch's or former monarch's family. Prince is also a title of nobility, often hereditary, in some European states. The feminine equivalent is a princess. The English word derives, via the French word prince, from the Latin noun prīnceps, from primus (first) and capio , meaning "the first, foremost, the chief, most distinguished, noble ruler, prince".
A duke (male) can either be a monarch ranked below the emperor, king, and grand duke ruling over a duchy or a member of royalty or nobility, historically of highest rank, below princes of nobility and grand dukes. The title comes from French duc, itself from the Latin dux, 'leader', a term used in republican Rome to refer to a military commander without an official rank, and later coming to mean the leading military commander of a province. In most countries, the word duchess is the female equivalent.
Grand Duke is a European hereditary title, used either by certain monarchs or by members of certain monarchs' families. In status, a Grand Duke traditionally ranks in order of precedence below an emperor, king or archduke and above a sovereign prince or sovereign duke. The title is used in some current and former independent monarchies in Europe, particularly:
A principality can either be a monarchical feudatory or a sovereign state, ruled or reigned over by a regnant-monarch with the title of prince and/or princess, or by a monarch with another title considered to fall under the generic meaning of the term prince.
A grand duchy is a country or territory whose official head of state or ruler is a monarch bearing the title of grand duke or grand duchess.
Margrave was originally the medieval title for the military commander assigned to maintain the defence of one of the border provinces of the Holy Roman Empire or of a kingdom. That position became hereditary in certain feudal families in the Empire, and the title came to be borne by rulers of some Imperial principalities until the abolition of the Empire in 1806. Thereafter, those domains were absorbed in larger realms or the titleholders adopted titles indicative of full sovereignty.
Graf (male) or Gräfin (female) is a historical title of the German nobility, usually translated as "count". Considered to be intermediate among noble ranks, the title is often treated as equivalent to the British title of "earl".
Traditional rank amongst European royalty, peers, and nobility is rooted in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Although they vary over time and among geographic regions, the following is a reasonably comprehensive list that provides information on both general ranks and specific differences.
Grand prince or great prince is a title of nobility ranked in honour below king and emperor and above a sovereign prince, and debatably ranked below an archduke.
The Mediatized Houses were ruling princely and comital-ranked houses which were mediatized in the Holy Roman Empire during the period of 1803–1815 as part of German mediatization, and were later recognised in 1825–1829 by the German ruling houses as possessing considerable rights and rank. With few exceptions, these houses were those whose heads held a seat in the Imperial Diet when mediatized during the establishment of the Confederation of the Rhine in 1806–07, by France in 1810, or by the Congress of Vienna in 1814–15. The Mediatized Houses were organised into two ranks: the princely houses, entitled to the predicate Durchlaucht, which previously possessed a vote on the Bench of Princes (Furstenbank); and the comital houses which were accorded the address of Erlaucht, which previously possessed a vote in one of the four Benches of Counts (Gräfenbank). Whilst some form of mediatization occurred in other countries, such as France, Italy and Russia, only designated houses within the former Holy Roman Empire legally comprised the Mediatized Houses.
His/Her Serene Highness is a style used today by the reigning families of Liechtenstein, Monaco, and Thailand. Until 1918, it was also associated with the princely titles of members of some German ruling and mediatised dynasties and with a few princely but non-ruling families. It was also the form of address used for cadet members of the dynasties of France, Italy, Russia and Ernestine Saxony, under their monarchies. Additionally, the treatment was granted for some, but not all, princely yet non-reigning families of Bohemia, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania and Russia by emperors or popes. In a handful of rare cases, it was employed by non-royal rulers in viceregal or even republican contexts.
Prince-Primate is a rare princely title held by individual (prince-) archbishops of specific sees in a presiding capacity in an august assembly of mainly secular princes, notably the following:
Prince of the Holy Roman Empire was a title attributed to a hereditary ruler, nobleman or prelate recognised as such by the Holy Roman Emperor.
Princely abbeys and Imperial abbeys were religious establishments within the Holy Roman Empire which enjoyed the status of imperial immediacy (Reichsunmittelbarkeit) and therefore were answerable directly to the Emperor. The possession of imperial immediacy came with a unique form of territorial authority known as Landeshoheit, which carried with it nearly all the attributes of sovereignty.
The house von der Leyen is an ancient German noble family of princely and historically sovereign rank. As a former ruling and mediatized family, it belongs to the Hochadel.