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| Imperial, royal, noble,
gentry and chivalric ranks in Europe
King is the title given to a male monarch in a variety of contexts. A king is an absolute monarch if he holds the powers of government without control, or the entire sovereignty over a nation; he is a limited monarch if his power is restrained by fixed laws; and he is an absolute, when he holds the whole legislative, judicial, and executive power, or when the legislative or judicial powers, or both, are vested in other people by the king. Kings are hereditary sovereigns when they hold the powers of government by right of birth or inheritance, and elective when raised to the throne by choice.
The term king may also refer to a king consort, a title that is sometimes given to the husband of a queen regnant, but the title of prince consort is more common.
The English term king is derived from the Anglo-Saxon cyning, which in turn is derived from the Common Germanic *kuningaz. The Common Germanic term was borrowed into Estonian and Finnish at an early time, surviving in these languages as kuningas . It is a derivation from the term *kunjom "kin" (Old English cynn ) by the -inga- suffix. The literal meaning is that of a "scion of the [noble] kin", or perhaps "son or descendant of one of noble birth" (OED).
The English term translates, and is considered equivalent to, Latin rēx and its equivalents in the various European languages. The Germanic term is notably different from the word for "King" in other Indo-European languages (*rēks "ruler"; Latin rēx , Sanskrit rājan and Irish ríg ; however, see Gothic reiks and, e.g., modern German Reich and modern Dutch rijk).
The English word is of Germanic origin, and historically refers to Germanic kingship, in the pre-Christian period a type of tribal kingship. The monarchies of Europe in the Christian Middle Ages derived their claim from Christianisation and the divine right of kings, partly influenced by the notion of sacral kingship inherited from Germanic antiquity.
The Early Middle Ages begin with a fragmentation of the former Western Roman Empire into barbarian kingdoms. In Western Europe, the kingdom of the Franks developed into the Carolingian Empire by the 8th century, and the kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England were unified into the kingdom of England by the 10th century.
With the breakup of the Carolingian Empire in the 9th century, the system of feudalism places kings at the head of a pyramid of relationships between liege lords and vassals, dependent on the regional rule of barons, and the intermediate positions of counts (or earls) and dukes. The core of European feudal manorialism in the High Middle Ages were the territories of the former Carolingian Empire, i.e. the kingdom of France and the Holy Roman Empire (centered on the nominal kingdoms of Germany and Italy).
In the course of the European Middle Ages, the European kingdoms underwent a general trend of centralisation of power, so that by the Late Middle Ages there were a number of large and powerful kingdoms in Europe, which would develop into the great powers of Europe in the Early Modern period.
|Part of the Politics series
Currently (as of 2023 [update] ), seventeen kings are recognized as the heads of state of sovereign states (i.e. English king is used as official translation of the respective native titles held by the monarchs).
Most of these are heads of state of constitutional monarchies; kings ruling over absolute monarchies are the King of Saudi Arabia, the King of Bahrain and the King of Eswatini.
|Harald V, King of Norway
|Kingdom of Norway
|January 17, 1991
|Carl XVI Gustaf, King of Sweden
|Kingdom of Sweden
|September 15, 1973
|Felipe VI, King of Spain
|Kingdom of Spain
|June 19, 2014
|1978 / 1479
|Willem-Alexander, King of the Netherlands
|Kingdom of the Netherlands
|April 30, 2013
|Philippe , King of the Belgians
|Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
|koning / roi / König
|Kingdom of Belgium
|July 21, 2013
|Salman, King of Saudi Arabia
|Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
|January 23, 2015
|Abdullah II, King of Jordan
|Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
|February 7, 1999
|Mohammed VI, King of Morocco
|Kingdom of Morocco
|July 23, 1999
|Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, King of Bahrain
|Kingdom of Bahrain
|February 14, 2002
|Vajiralongkorn, King of Thailand
|Kingdom of Thailand
|October 13, 2016
|Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, King of Bhutan
|འབྲུག་རྒྱལ་པོ་ druk gyalpo
|Kingdom of Bhutan
|December 9, 2006
|Norodom Sihamoni, King of Cambodia
|Kingdom of Cambodia
|October 14, 2004
|1993 / 1953
|Tupou VI, King of Tonga
|king / tu'i
|Kingdom of Tonga
|March 18, 2012
|Letsie III, King of Lesotho
|king / morena
|Kingdom of Lesotho
|February 7, 1996
|Mswati III, King of Eswatini
|Kingdom of Eswatini
|April 25, 1986
|Charles III, King of the United Kingdom
|United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Commonwealth realms
|September 8, 2022
|927 / 843
|Frederik X, King of Denmark
|Kingdom of Denmark and its autonomous territories
|January 14, 2024
The word emperor can mean the male ruler of an empire. Empress, the female equivalent, may indicate an emperor's wife, mother/grandmother, or a woman who rules in her own right and name. Emperors are generally recognized to be of the highest monarchic honor and rank, surpassing kings. In Europe, the title of Emperor has been used since the Middle Ages, considered in those times equal or almost equal in dignity to that of Pope due to the latter's position as visible head of the Church and spiritual leader of the Catholic part of Western Europe. The emperor of Japan is the only currently reigning monarch whose title is translated into English as "Emperor".
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 oneself monarch, which may be backed and legitimated through acclamation, right of conquest or a combination of means.
A monarchy is a form of government in which a person, the monarch, is head of state for life or until abdication. The political legitimacy and authority of the monarch may vary from restricted and largely symbolic, to fully autocratic, and can span across executive, legislative, and judicial domains.
The Holy Roman Emperor, originally and officially the Emperor of the Romans during the Middle Ages, and also known as the Roman-German Emperor since the early modern period, was the ruler and head of state of the Holy Roman Empire. The title was held in conjunction with the title of king of Italy from the 8th to the 16th century, and, almost without interruption, with the title of king of Germany throughout the 12th to 18th centuries.
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 coronation is the act of placement or bestowal of a crown upon a monarch's head. The term also generally refers not only to the physical crowning but to the ceremony wherein the act of crowning occurs, along with the presentation of other items of regalia, marking the formal investiture of a monarch with regal power. Aside from the crowning, a coronation ceremony may comprise many other rituals such as the taking of special vows by the monarch, the investing and presentation of regalia to the monarch, and acts of homage by the new ruler's subjects and the performance of other ritual deeds of special significance to the particular nation. In certain Christian denominations, such as Lutheranism and Anglicanism, coronation is a rite. As such, Western-style coronations have often included anointing the monarch with holy oil, or chrism as it is often called; the anointing ritual's religious significance follows examples found in the Bible. The monarch's consort may also be crowned, either simultaneously with the monarch or as a separate event.
An elective monarchy is a monarchy ruled by a monarch who is elected, in contrast to a hereditary monarchy in which the office is automatically passed down as a family inheritance. The manner of election, the nature of candidate qualifications, and the electors vary from case to case. Historically, it was common for elective monarchies to transform into hereditary ones over time or for hereditary ones to acquire at least occasional elective aspects.
In many historical societies, the position of kingship carries a sacral meaning; that is, it is identical with that of a high priest and judge. The concept of theocracy is related, although a sacred king does not need to necessarily rule through his religious authority; rather, the temporal position itself has a religious significance behind it.
King of the Romans was the title used by the king of Germany following his election by the princes from the reign of Henry II (1002–1024) onward.
King of Italy was the title given to the ruler of the Kingdom of Italy after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The first to take the title was Odoacer, a barbarian warlord, in the late 5th century, followed by the Ostrogothic kings up to the mid-6th century. With the Frankish conquest of Italy in the 8th century, the Carolingians assumed the title, which was maintained by subsequent Holy Roman Emperors throughout the Middle Ages. The last Emperor to claim the title was Charles V in the 16th century. During this period, the holders of the title were crowned with the Iron Crown of Lombardy.
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. Distinction should be made between reigning families and the nobility – the latter being a social class subject to and created by the former.
Basileus is a Greek term and title that has signified various types of monarchs in history. In the English-speaking world it is perhaps most widely understood to mean "monarch", referring to either a "king" or an "emperor" and also by bishops of the Eastern Orthodox Church and Eastern Catholic Churches. The title was used by sovereigns and other persons of authority in ancient Greece, the Byzantine emperors, and the kings of modern Greece.
Germanic kingship is a thesis regarding the role of kings (*kuningaz) among the pre-Christianized Germanic tribes of the Migration period and Early Middle Ages. The thesis holds that the institution of feudal monarchy developed, through contact with the Roman Empire and the Christian Church, from an earlier custom of sacral and military kingship based on both birth status and consent from subjects.
The Lands of the Bohemian Crown were the states in Central Europe during the medieval and early modern periods with feudal obligations to the Bohemian kings. The crown lands primarily consisted of the Kingdom of Bohemia, an electorate of the Holy Roman Empire according to the Golden Bull of 1356, the Margraviate of Moravia, the Duchies of Silesia, and the two Lusatias, known as the Margraviate of Upper Lusatia and the Margraviate of Lower Lusatia, as well as other territories throughout its history. This agglomeration of states nominally under the rule of the Bohemian kings was referred to simply as Bohemia. They are now sometimes referred to in scholarship as the Czech lands, a direct translation of the Czech abbreviated name.
East Francia or the Kingdom of the East Franks was a successor state of Charlemagne's empire ruled by the Carolingian dynasty until 911. It was created through the Treaty of Verdun (843) which divided the former empire into three kingdoms.
The Kingdom of Germany or German Kingdom was the mostly Germanic-speaking East Frankish kingdom, which was formed by the Treaty of Verdun in 843, especially after the kingship passed from Frankish kings to the Saxon Ottonian dynasty in 919. The king was elected, initially by the rulers of the stem duchies, who generally chose one of their own. After 962, when Otto I was crowned emperor, East Francia formed the bulk of the Holy Roman Empire, which also included the Kingdom of Italy and, after 1032, the Kingdom of Burgundy.
In the European history, Monarchy was the prevalent form of government throughout the Middle Ages, only occasionally competing with communalism, notably in the case of the maritime republics and the Swiss Confederacy.
The monarchy of Italy was the system of government in which a hereditary constitutional monarch was the sovereign of the Kingdom of Italy from 1861 to 1946.
The order of precedence among European monarchies was a much-contested theme of European history, until it lost its salience following the Congress of Vienna in 1815.