Grand prince

Last updated

Grand prince or great prince (feminine: grand princess or great princess) (Latin : magnus princeps ; Greek: megas archon ; Russian : великий князь, romanized: velikiy knyaz) is a title of nobility ranked in honour below king and emperor and above a sovereign prince, and debatably ranked below an archduke.[ citation needed ]


Grand duke is the usual and established, though not literal, translation of these terms in English and Romance languages, which do not normally use separate words for a "prince" who reigns as a monarch (e.g., Albert II, Prince of Monaco) and a "prince" who does not reign, but belongs to a monarch's family (e.g., Prince William, Duke of Cambridge). Some Slavic (Królewicz), Germanic, Dutch, and Scandinavian languages do use separate words to express this concept, and in those languages grand prince is understood as a distinct title (for a cadet of a dynasty) from grand duke (hereditary ruler ranking below a king).

The title of grand prince was once used for the sovereign of a grand principality . The last titular grand principalities vanished in 1917 and 1918, the territories being united into other monarchies or becoming republics. Already at that stage, the grand principalities of Lithuania, Transylvania and Finland had been for centuries under rulers of other, bigger monarchies, so that the title of grand prince was superseded by the titles "king" and "emperor" there. The last sovereign to reign whose highest title was velikiy knyaz was Ivan IV of Moscow in the 16th century, until he assumed the rank of Tsar of Russia. "Velikiy knyaz" is a Russian title that is often translated as "grand prince" because there are no better equivalents in European languages. When Ivan IV's pre-tsarist title is referred to in English, however, it is usually as grand duke.

Velikiy knjaz is also a Russian courtesy title for members of the family of the Russian tsar (from the 17th century), although the people who owned this title were not sovereigns.

Terminology in Slavic and Baltic languages

Velikiy knyaz (Meaning closest to Grand Prince but was generally translated as Grand Duke in state documents written in Latin), used in the Slavic and Baltic languages, was the title of a medieval monarch who headed a more-or-less loose confederation whose constituent parts were ruled by lesser knyazs ( often translated as "princes" ) . Those great knyazs' (grand princes') title and position was at the time sometimes translated as king, though kings, princes, and dukes seemingly initially did not exist amongst proto-Slavs and Balts with Knyaz being a Germanic loanword adopted by tribal chieftains. [1] Although, the Slavic knjaz and the Baltic kunigaikštis (nowadays usually translated as prince) are similar to kings in terms of ruling and duties. However, a velikiy knyaz (grand prince) was usually only primus inter pares within a dynasty, primogeniture not governing the order of succession. All knyazs (princes) of the family were equally eligible to inherit a crown (for example, succession might be through agnatic seniority or rotation). Often other members of the dynasty ruled some constituent parts of the monarchy/country. An established use of the title was in the Kievan Rus' and in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (from the 14th century). Thus, Veliki Knjaz has been more like a regional high king (but without international recognition as such) than "grand duke", at least, originally and were not subordinated to any other authority as more western (for example Polish) Grand Dukes were.[ citation needed ] As these countries expanded territorially and moved towards primogeniture and centralization, their rulers acquired more elevated titles.

Use in the Middle Ages


Grand Prince (Hungarian : Nagyfejedelem) was the title used by contemporary sources to name the leader of the federation of the Hungarian tribes in the 10th century. Constantine VII mentioned Árpád in his book De Administrando Imperio as megas Turkias arkhon, while Bruno of Querfurt referred to Géza in his Sancti Adalberti Pragensis episcopi et martyris vita altera as Ungarorum senior magnus. It was used by Géza and his son and heir Stephen of Hungary.


In the Middle Ages, the Serbian veliki župan (велики жупан) was the supreme chieftain in the multi-tribal society. The title signifies overlordship, as the leader of lesser chieftains titled župan . [2] It was used by the Serb rulers in the 11th and 12th centuries. [3] In Greek, it was known as archizoupanos (ἄρχιζουπάνος), megazoupanos (μεγαζουπάνος) and megalos zoupanos (μεγάλος ζουπάνος). [3]

In the 1090s, Vukan became the veliki župan in Raška (Rascia). [4] Stefan Nemanja expelled his brother Tihomir in 1168 and assumed the title of veliki župan, [5] as described in the Charter of Hilandar (и постави ме великог жупана). [6] A Latin document used mega iupanus for King Stefan the First-Crowned (Stephanus dominus Seruie siue Rasie, qui mega iupanus). [7] Afterwards, it was a high noble rank with notable holders such as Altoman Vojinović (fl. 1335–59).

Kievan Rus and Successor States

Великий князь (Velikiy Knyaz ; literally, great prince) was, starting in the 10th century, the title of the leading Prince of the Kievan Rus', head of the Rurikid House: first the prince of Kiev, and then that of Vladimir and Galicia-Volhynia starting in the 13th century. Later, several princes of nationally important cities, which comprised vassal appanage principalities, held this title (Grand Prince of Moscow, Tver', Yaroslavl', Ryazan', Smolensk, etc.). From 1328 the Grand Prince of Moscow appeared as the titular head of eastern Rus' and slowly centralized power until Ivan IV was crowned tsar in 1547. Since then, the title grand prince ceased to be a hereditary office and became a generic title for members of the Imperial family until the Russian Revolution of 1917.

Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth

The Lithuanian title Didysis kunigaikštis was used by the rulers of Lithuania, and after 1569, it was one of two main titles used by the monarch of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. The kings of Poland from the Swedish House of Vasa also used this title for their non-Polish territories. This Lithuanian title was sometimes latinized as Magnus Dux or Grand Duke.

Modern use

In 1582, King Johan III of Sweden added Grand Prince of Finland to the subsidiary titles of the Swedish kings, however without any territorial or civic implications, Finland already being a fully integrated part of the Swedish realm.

The Holy Roman Empire ruling house of Habsburg instituted a similar Grand Principality in Transylvania (Siebenburgen) in 1765.

After the Russian conquests, the title continued to be used by the Russian emperor in his role as ruler of Lithuania (1793–1918) and of autonomous Finland (1809–1917) as well. His titulary included, among other titles: "Grand Duke of Smolensk, Volynia, Podolia", "Lord and Grand Duke of Nizhni Novgorod, Chernigov" etc.

A more literal translation of the Russian title than grand duke would be great prince — especially in the pre-Petrine era — but the term 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.

Grand prince remained as a dynastic title for the senior members of the Romanov dynasty in Russia's imperial era. The title Velikiy Knyaz , its use finally formalized by Alexander III, then belonged to children and male-line grandchildren of the emperors of Russia. The daughters and paternal granddaughters of the emperors used a different version of the title (Великая Княжна, Velikie knyazhna) from females who obtained it as the consorts of Russian grand princes (Великие Княгини, Velikie knjagini). In modern times a Russian Grand Duke or Grand Duchess is styled Imperial Highness.

The title grand prince was also used for the heir apparent to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.

See also

Related Research Articles

A monarch is a head of state for life or until abdication, and therefore the head of state of a monarchy. A monarch may exercise the highest authority and power in the state, or others may wield that power on behalf of the monarch. Usually a monarch either personally inherits the lawful right to exercise the state's sovereign rights or is selected by an established process from a family or cohort eligible to provide the nation's monarch. Alternatively, an individual may proclaim themself monarch, which may be backed and legitimated through acclamation, right of conquest or a combination of means.

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 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.

Fürst 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).

<i>Knyaz</i> Historical Slavic title

Knyaz or knez (князь) 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, duke or count, 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 comes or princeps, but the word was originally derived from the common Germanic *kuningaz (king).

Tsarevich is a Slavic title given to tsars' sons. Under the 1797 Pauline house law, the title was discontinued and replaced with Tsesarevich for the heir apparent alone. His younger brothers were called Velikiy Knjaz, meaning Grand Prince, although it was commonly translated to English as Grand Duke. English sources often confused the terms Tsarevich and Tsesarevich.

Imperial, royal and noble ranks Legal privilege given to some members in monarchical and princely societies

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.

Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia Kingdom in Central Europe

The Kingdom or Principality of Galicia–Volhynia, also known as the Kingdom of Rus from 1253, was a medieval state and vassal of the Golden Horde in the Eastern European regions of Galicia and Volhynia that existed from 1199 to 1349. Its territory was predominantly located in modern-day Ukraine and Belarus. Along with Novgorod and Vladimir-Suzdal, it was one of the three most important powers to emerge from the collapse of Kievan Rus. The main language was Old East Slavic, a predecessor to Ukrainian, Belorussian and Russian, and the official religion was Eastern Orthodoxy.

Grand, Great or Chief Župan is the English rendering of a South Slavic Serbian title which relate etymologically to Župan like a Russian Grand Prince to a Knyaz.

Names and titles of Władysław II Jagiełło

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

Grand Duchy of Moscow Rus principality of the Late Middle Ages centered around Moscow

The Grand Duchy of Moscow, Muscovite Russia, Muscovite Rus' or Grand Principality of Moscow 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 the Rurik dynasty, who had ruled Rus' since the foundation of Novgorod in 862. Ivan III the Great titled himself as Grand Prince of all Rus'.

The Serbian monarchs and royalty have assumed several regnal titles and styles throughout history.

Tsar Title given to a male or female monarch in some Slavic countries

Tsar, also spelled czar, tzar, or csar, is a title used to designate East and South Slavic monarchs or supreme rulers of Eastern Europe, originally the Bulgarian monarchs from 10th century onwards, much later a title for two rulers of the Serbian Empire, and from 1547 the supreme ruler of the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire. In this last capacity it lends its name to a system of government, tsarist autocracy or tsarism. The term is derived from the Latin word caesar, which was intended to mean "emperor" in the European medieval sense of the term—a ruler with the same rank as a Roman emperor, holding it by the approval of another emperor or a supreme ecclesiastical official —but was usually considered by western Europeans to be equivalent to king, or to be somewhat in-between a royal and imperial rank.

In the Medieval Serbian state, a range of court and honorific titles were used.


  1. "" (PDF).
  2. Francis William Carter; David Turnock (1999). The States of Eastern Europe. Ashgate. p. 252. ISBN   978-1-85521-512-2.
  3. 1 2 Сима Ћирковић; Раде Михальчић (1999). Лексикон српског средњег века. Knowledge. p. 73. ВЕЛИКИ ЖУПАН - 1. Титула српског владара у XI и XII веку. Гласила је велнм жупднк и била превођена одговарајућим терминима, грчки арџ- ^огтагот, игуа^огтауге, цеуаХа? ^огтожх, латин- ски те^ајирапиз, та§пиз ...
  4. John Van Antwerp Fine (1991). The Early Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Sixth to the Late Twelfth Century. University of Michigan Press. pp. 225–. ISBN   0-472-08149-7.
  5. Paul Stephenson (29 June 2000). Byzantium's Balkan Frontier: A Political Study of the Northern Balkans, 900-1204. Cambridge University Press. pp. 267–. ISBN   978-0-521-77017-0.
  6. Jovo Radoš (2000). Počeci filozofije prava kod Srba. Prometej.
  7. Radovi. 19. 1972. p. 29.