Grand duke

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Grand duke (feminine: grand duchess) 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, as an approximate equal of 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:


Western and Central European

The term grand duke as a monarch reigning over an independent state was a later invention (in Western Europe at first in 1569 for the ruler of Tuscany) to denote either a particularly mighty duke or a monarchy playing an important political, military and/or economic role, but not large enough to be a kingdom. It arose because the title of duke had gradually lost status and precedence during the Middle Ages by having been granted to rulers of relatively small fiefs (feudal territories), instead of the large tribal regions or even national territories to which the title was once attached.

One of the first examples occurred when Count Gonçalo I Mendes of Portucale (in northwest Portugal and considered as that country's original nucleus) took, in 987, the personal title of Magnus Dux Portucalensium ("Grand Duke of the Portuguese") and rebelled against his feudal lord, King Bermudo II of León. He was defeated by the royal armies but nevertheless obtained a remarkable autonomy as a Magnus Dux (Grand Duke), leading ultimately to Portuguese independence from the Spanish kingdom of Castille-León.

Another example was the line of self-proclaimed grand dukes (legally dukes)[ citation needed ] of Burgundy in the 15th century, when they ruled most of present-day northeastern France as well as almost the entire Low Countries. They tried—ultimately without success—to create from these territories under their control a new unified country between the Kingdom of France in the west and the Holy Roman Empire (mainly present-day Germany) in the east. Philip III, Duke of Burgundy (reigned 1419–67) assumed the subsidiary, legally void style and title of "Grand Duke of the West" in 1435, having previously brought the duchies of Brabant and Limburg as well as the counties of Holland, Zeeland, Friesland, Hainaut and Namur into his possession. His son and successor Charles the Bold (reigned 1467–77) continued to use the same style and title.

The title magnus dux or grand duke (Kunigų kunigas, Didysis kunigaikštis in Lithuanian) has been used by the rulers of Lithuania, who after Jagiello also became kings of Poland. From 1573, both the Latin version and its Polish equivalent wielki ksiaze (literally "grand prince"), the monarchic title of the rulers of Lithuania as well as of (western) Russia, Prussia, Mazovia, Samogithia, Kiev, Volhynia, Podolia, Podlachia, Livonia, Smolensk, Severia and Chernigov (including hollow claims nurtured by ambition), were used as part of their full official monarchic titles by the Kings (Polish: Krol) of Poland during the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.

The first monarchs ever officially titled grand duke were the Medici sovereigns of Tuscany, starting from the late 16th century. This official title was granted by Pope Pius V in 1569; arguably it was a personal (Papal) title attached to a mere dukedom, though, because the territory was under the vassalage of the Holy Roman Empire.

Napoleon I awarded the title extensively: during his era, several of his allies (and de facto vassals) were allowed to assume the title of grand duke, usually at the same time as their inherited fiefs (or fiefs granted by Napoleon) were enlarged by annexed territories previously belonging to enemies defeated on the battlefield. After Napoleon's downfall, the victorious powers who met at the Congress of Vienna, which dealt with the political aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, agreed to abolish the Grand Duchies created by Bonaparte and to create a group of monarchies of intermediate importance with that title. Thus the 19th century saw a new group of monarchs titled grand duke in central Europe, especially in present-day Germany.

1860 postage stamp of the Grand Duchy of Finland StampFinland1860Scott5.jpg
1860 postage stamp of the Grand Duchy of Finland

In the same century, the purely ceremonial version of the title grand duke in Russia (in fact the western translation of the Russian title "grand prince" granted to the siblings of the tsar) expanded massively because of the large number of progeny of the ruling House of Romanov during those decades.

In the German and Dutch languages, which have separate words for a prince as the issue (child) of a monarch (respectively Prinz, Prins) and for a sovereign prince (Fürst, Vorst), there is also a clear linguistic difference between a sovereign grand duke reigning over a state of central and western Europe (Großherzog, Groothertog) and a non-sovereign, purely ceremonial grand duke of either the Russian imperial family or other non-sovereign territories that are de facto dependencies of a major power (Großfürst, Grootvorst).

In 1582, King John III of Sweden added "Grand Duke of Finland" to the subsidiary titles of the Swedish kings, but without any political consequences, as Finland was already a part of the Swedish realm.

After the Russian conquests, the title continued to be used by the Russian emperors in their role as rulers of both (de facto non-sovereign) Lithuania (1793–1917) and the (equally non-sovereign) autonomous Finland (1809–1917). The Holy Roman Empire under the House of Habsburg instituted a similar non-sovereign Großfürstentum Siebenbürgen (Grand Principality of Transylvania) in 1765.


Byzantine grand dukes

The Latin title dux (the etymological root of duke), which was phonetically rendered doux (δούξ) in Greek, was a common title for imperial generals in the Late Roman Empires (west and east), but note it was lower in rank than comes (the etymological root of Count).

Under the latter, exclusively Byzantine theme system, the commander of a theme was often styled a doux instead of the earlier strategos from the 10th century on. The title of "Grand Duke" (megas doux) was created by Alexios I Komnenos and was conferred upon the commanding admiral of the Byzantine navy. As such, it was an actual office rather than a court rank (although it also became a grade in the court order of precedence under the Palaiologan emperors), and was always held by one individual.

Bosnian grand dukes

Grand Duke of Bosnia (Serbo-Croatian : Veliki Vojvoda Bosanski; Latin : Bosne supremus voivoda / Sicut supremus voivoda regni Bosniae) [1] [2] was a court title in the Kingdom of Bosnia, bestowed by the King to highest military commanders, usually reserved for most influential and most capable among highest Bosnian nobility. [3] [4] [5] [6] To interpret it as an office post rather than a court rank could be even more accurate. [7] [8] Unlike usage in Western Europe, Central Europe, or in various Slavic lands from Central to North-East Europe, where analogy between Grand Duke and Grand Prince was significant, with both titles corresponding to sovereign lower than King but higher than Duke, in Bosnia title Grand Duke corresponded more to Byzantine military title megas doux . [8] [9] It is possible to register some similarities with equivalent titles in neighboring Slavic lands, such as Serbia, however, in neighboring countries, the title Duke, in Slavic Vojvoda, also had military significance, but in that sense "Grand Duke" was specifically, even exclusively, Bosnian title. [7]

Eastern European

Lithuanian grand dukes

Painting of Vytautas the Great, Grand Duke of Lithuania. King Vitoldo.png
Painting of Vytautas the Great, Grand Duke of Lithuania.

Throughout the history of Lithuania from 1230s to 1795, most of its leaders were referred to as Grand Duke of Lithuania, even when they jointly held the title King of Poland and other titles. [10]

Russian grand dukes

Portrait of Grand Duchess Maria Fiodorovna by Heinrich von Angeli (1874)
Saint Petersburg, Hermitage Museum Maria Fyodorovna of Russia by H. von Angeli (1874, Hermitage).jpg
Portrait of Grand Duchess Maria Fiodorovna by Heinrich von Angeli (1874)
Saint Petersburg, Hermitage Museum

"Grand duke" is the traditional translation of the title Velikiy Kniaz (Великий Князь), which from the 11th century was at first the title of the leading Prince ( Kniaz ) of Kievan Rus', then of several princes of the Rus'. From 1328 the Velikii Kniaz of Muscovy appeared as the grand duke for "all of Russia" until Ivan IV of Russia in 1547 was crowned as tsar. Thereafter the title was given to sons and grandsons (through male lines) of the Tsars and Emperors of Russia. The daughters and paternal granddaughters of Russian emperors, as well as the consorts of Russian grand dukes, were generally called "grand duchesses" in English.

Another translation of the Russian title would be grand prince. While this term is a more precise translation, it is neither standard nor widely used in English. In German, however, a Russian Grand Duke was known as a Großfürst, and in Latin as magnus princeps.

From 1809 to 1917 the Emperor of Russia was also the Grand Duke of Finland, which he held as an autonomous state. Before the Russian conquest Finland had been held by the Kings of Sweden, first as a royal duchy, since 1581 with the King assuming the secondary title Grand Duke of Finland (Finnish: Suomen suuriruhtinas, Swedish: Storfurste av Finland).

Grand prince

Grand princes (or sometimes great princes) were medieval monarchs who usually ruled over several tribes and/or were feudal overlords of other princes. At the time, the title was usually translated as "king", sometimes also as "Minor King" or "Little King" (German : Kleinkönig). However, Grand Princes did not have the same monarchic precedence as later Western European kings, and thus they were considered lower in rank, particularly in later literature.

Grand Princes reigned in Central and Eastern Europe, notably among Slavs and Lithuanians.

The title "Grand Prince" translates to Velikiy Knjaz (Великий князь) in Russian. The Slavic word knjaz and the Lithuanian kunigas (today translated as "priest") are cognates of the word King in its original meaning of "Ruler". Thus, the literal meaning of Veliki Knjaz and Didysis kunigaikštis was more like "Great Ruler" than "Grand Duke".

With the growing importance and size of their countries, those monarchs claimed a higher title, such as king or tsar (also spelled "Czar" in English) which was derived from the Latin Caesar ("Emperor") and based on the claim to be the legitimate successors of the Byzantine-East Roman Emperors. Grand Prince Ivan IV of Muscovy was the last monarch to reign without claiming any higher title, until he finally assumed the style Tsar of Russia in 1547.

The rulers of the Turkish vassal state of Transylvania (German : Siebenbürgen) used the title of Grand Prince; this title was later assumed by the Habsburgs after their conquest of Hungary. The Polish Kings of the Swedish House of Vasa also used the grand-princely title for their non-Polish territories.

In the late Middle Ages, the title "Grand Prince/Grand Duke" became increasingly a purely ceremonial courtesy title for close relatives of ruling monarchs, such as the Tsar of Russia, who granted his brothers the title Grand Duke of Russia (veliki knjaz).

Styles and forms of address

Most often, a sovereign grand duke was, somewhat strangely, styled as "your/his/her royal highness" (abbreviated "HRH"), possibly because of the connection of many grand-ducal houses to royal ones or as the highest style beneath that of a king (which would be "your/his/her majesty", though "royal highness" is also used for such persons). The heir to the throne (a hereditary grand duke) was sometimes styled as "royal highness", otherwise as "your/his/her grand ducal highness" (HGDH). Junior members of the family also generally bore the lower title of prince or princess with the style of "grand ducal highness"; a famous example of which is Empress Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia, who was known as "Her Grand Ducal Highness Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine" (in German, Ihre Großherzogliche Hoheit Prinzessin Alix von Hessen und bei Rhein) before her marriage to Tsar Nicholas II. However, in other grand duchies (e.g. Oldenburg), junior members of the family bore the title of duke or duchess, with the style of "your/his/her highness" (HH).

The Grand Ducal Family of Luxembourg styles all its members as "Royal Highness" since 1919, due to their being also cadet members of the Royal and Ducal House of Bourbon-Parma as male-line descendants of Prince Felix of Bourbon-Parma.

The Habsburg grand dukes of Tuscany, being members of the imperial family of Austria, were styled as "Imperial and Royal Highness" (HI&RH).

Grand dukes and grand duchesses from Russia were styled as "Imperial Highness" (HIH), being members of the Russian Imperial Family.

See also

Related Research Articles

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 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 female equivalent is a princess. The English word derives, via the French word prince, from the Latin noun prīnceps, from primus (first) and caput (head), meaning "the first, foremost, the chief, most distinguished, noble ruler, prince".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Duke</span> Noble or royal title in some European countries and their colonies

Duke is a male title either of a monarch ruling over a duchy, or of a member of royalty, or nobility. As rulers, dukes are ranked below emperors, kings, grand princes, grand dukes, and sovereign princes. As royalty or nobility, they are ranked below princes 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.

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.

The Grand Ducal Family of Luxembourg constitutes the House of Luxembourg-Nassau, headed by the sovereign Grand Duke, and in which the throne of the grand duchy is hereditary. It consists of heirs and descendants of the House of Nassau-Weilburg, whose sovereign territories passed cognatically from the House of Nassau to the House of Bourbon-Parma, itself a branch of the Spanish Royal House which is agnatically a cadet branch of the House of Capet that originated in France, itself a derivative dynasty from the Robertians and the founding house of the Capetian dynasty.

Fürst is a German word for a ruler as well as a princely title. Fürsten were, starting in 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).

<i>Knyaz</i> Template (table) of early Slavic status

Knyaz, kniaz or knez is a historical Slavic title, used both as a royal and noble title in different times of history and different ancient Slavic lands. It is usually translated into English as prince or duke, depending on specific historical context and the potentially known Latin equivalents of the title for each bearer of the name. In Latin sources the title is usually translated as princeps, but the word was originally derived from the common Germanic *kuningaz (king).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Duchies in Sweden</span>

Duchies in Sweden have been allotted since the 13th century to powerful Swedes, almost always to princes of Sweden and wives of the latter. From the beginning these duchies were often centers of regional power, where their dukes and duchesses had considerable executive authority of their own, under the central power of their kings or queens regnant. Since the reign of King Gustav III the titles have practically been nominal, with which their bearers only rarely have enjoyed any ducal authority, though often maintaining specially selected leisure residences in their provinces and some limited measure of cultural attachment to them.

Grand Duke of Finland, alternatively the Grand Prince of Finland, was, from around 1580 to 1809, a title in use by most Swedish monarchs. Between 1809 and 1917, it was the official title of the ruler of the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland, who was also the Emperor of Russia. The anachronistic female form of the title in English would be Grand Duchess of Finland. The only women to have used the title were the Swedish queens regnant Kristina and Ulrika Eleonora. A few crown princes of Sweden also were called Grand Duke of Finland.

Grand prince or great prince is a title of nobility ranked in honour below emperor, equal of king or archduke and above a sovereign prince.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Serene Highness</span> Style of address

His/Her Serene Highness is a style used today by the reigning families of Liechtenstein, Monaco and Thailand. Over the past 400 years, it has also used as a style for senior members of the family of Hazrat Ishaan, who lead Naqshbandi Sunni Islam and the Naqshbandi Sufi Order today. 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.

Duke of Finland was an occasional medieval title granted as a tertiogeniture to the relatives of the King of Sweden between the 13th and 16th centuries. It included a duchy along with feudal customs, and often represented a veritably independent principality. Grand Duke of Finland was a nominal royal title used by Swedish monarchs from the 1580s until 1720, which was revived again briefly from 1802 to 1805 and was also used by Russia's monarchs until 1917.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Duchy of Franconia</span> Medieval Frankish stem duchy

The Duchy of Franconia was one of the five stem duchies of East Francia and the medieval Kingdom of Germany emerging in the early 10th century. The word Franconia, first used in a Latin charter of 1053, was applied like the words Francia, France, and Franken, to a portion of the land occupied by the Franks.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Names and titles of Władysław II Jagiełło</span>

Jogaila, later Władysław II Jagiełło (ca.1351/1361–1434), was a Grand Duke of Lithuania and from 1386 King Jadwiga's husband and jure uxoris King of Poland. In Lithuania, he held the title Didysis Kunigaikštis, translated as Grand Duke or Grand Prince.

Herzog is a German hereditary title held by one who rules a territorial duchy, exercises feudal authority over an estate called a duchy, or possesses a right by law or tradition to be referred to by the ducal title. The word is usually translated by the English duke and the Latin dux. Generally, a Herzog ranks below a king and above a count. Whether the title is deemed higher or lower than titles translated into English as "prince" (Fürst) has depended upon the language, country and era in which the titles coexisted.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Grand Duchy of Moscow</span> Principality of the Late Middle Ages centered around Moscow

The Grand Duchy of Moscow, or simply Muscovy, was a Rus' principality of the Late Middle Ages centered on Moscow, and the predecessor state of the Tsardom of Russia in the early modern period. It was ruled by a branch of the Rurik dynasty, which had reigned in Kievan Rus' since its foundation.

Grand Duke of Bosnia, was a court title in the Kingdom of Bosnia, bestowed by the monarch to highest military commanders, usually reserved for most influential and most capable among highest Bosnian nobility. To interpret it as an office post rather than a court rank could be more accurate, although it was not hereditary it served both purposes and was retained for life by a noblemen who gained it.


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