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Grand Prince

From Academic Kids

The title Grand Prince ([Latin]], Magnus Princeps; German, Grofrst, Finnish Suuriruhtinas, Swedish Storfurste, Lithuanian Didysis kunigaikštis, Russian Великий князь) ranks in honour below Emperor and Tsar but higher than a sovereign Prince (Frst) or Royal Prince.

The usual and established translation, in languages which do not have separate words meaning prince for (1) children of a monarch, and (2) monarch (sovereign or like) princes, is Grand Duke. English and French use Grand Duke also in this meaning. (The titles Grand Prince and Grand Duke have however some clearly different meanings.) The title of sovereign Grand Duke and it as translation of Grand Prince thus have clearly different meanings.

Velikiy knjaz (Grand Prince, Grossfurst) is also the Russian courtesy title Velikiy Knjaz (grand prince) of Russia, which from 17th century belonged to members of the family of the Russian tsar, although those Grand Princes were not sovereigns.


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Medieval use

Grand Prince, used in the Slavic and Baltic languages, was the title of a medieval monarch who headed more or less loose confederation whose constituent parts were ruled by lesser princes, and which was at the time usually translated as king. In fact, the Slavic "knjaz" and the Baltic "kunigaitis" (nowadays usually translated as Prince) are cognates of king. However, a grand prince was usually only primus inter pares within a dynasty, other princes of the dynasty were approximately as much entitled to succession as the current ruler (for example, succession was through agnatic seniority or rotation), and often other members of the dynasty ruled the constituent parts. An established use of the title was in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (since 14th century) and the Kievan Rus'. As these countries expanded territorially and moved towards primogeniture and centralization, their rulers acquired more elevated titles.

Some of the first rulers of Hungary in the 10th century were grand princes: Geza, and, until his royal coronation, his son and heir Stephen of Hungary.

Великий князь (Velikiy Kniaz; literally, grand 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 starting in the 13th century. Later, several princes of nationally important cities, which comprised vassal appanage principalities, held this title (Grand Princes of Moscow, Tver', Yaroslavl', Ryazan', Smolensk, etc.). From 1328 the Grand Prince of Muscovy appeared as the titular head of all of Russia and slowly centralized power until Ivan IV was crowned as Tsar in 1547.

The title Didysis kunigaikštis (in Lithuanian) was used by the rulers of Lithuania, and after 1569, it was found among the titles used by the kings of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Polish kings of the Swedish Vasa dynasty also used this title for their non-Polish territories. However, this Lithuanian title was sometimes latinized as Magnus Dux or Grand Duke.

In 1582 king John III of Sweden added Grand Prince of Finland to the subsidiary titles of the Swedish kings, however without any factual consequences, Finland already being a part of the Swedish realm.

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 also, among other titles, the following: "Grand Duke of Smolensk, Volynia, Podolia", "Lord and Grand Duke of Nizhni Novgorod, Chernigov".

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

Modern use

The title Grand Prince (which in many of those lands already was in later grand princely epochs awarded simultaneously to several rulers in the more expanded dynasty) continued as a courtesy title for all or several members of the dynasty, such as the Grand Duke of Russia in Russia's imperial era. The title Velikiy Kniaz, finally formalized by Alexander III, then belonged 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 also accorded the title, in female form ((Velikie knjagin)).

A more accurate 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 Grofrst, and in Latin as Magnus Princeps.

In 1800's, that courtesy title use of Russia, expanded because of births of several male dynasts, instead of the earlier precarious situations when Russia barely had only one or two to succeed.

The German language (which has separate words for royal prince, "Prinz", and for sovereign prince, "Frst"), calls the Grand Princes of Lithuania, Russian states and other Eastern European higher princes, as well as the later Russian dynasts, with the term "Grofrst", not with "Groherzog".

Styles and forms of address

A Russian Grand Duke or Grand Duchess in modern times is an Imperial Highness.


Related topics

fi:suuriruhtinas ru:Великий князь sv:Storfurste

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