Grand Duke

From Academic Kids



The title Grand Duke (Latin, Magnus Dux; German, Groherzog, Italian Gran Duca; in French, Grand-duc; in Finnish, Suurherttua; in Swedish, Storhertig; in Dutch, Groothertog; in Danish, Storhertug) used in Western Europe and particularly in Germanic countries, ranks in honour below King but higher than a sovereign Duke (Herzog) or Prince (Frst). The feminine form is Grand Duchess. A Grand Duke's territory is called a Grand Duchy.

Grand Duke is the usual and established translation of Grand Prince in languages which do not have separate words meaning prince for (1) children of a monarch, and (2) monarch (sovereign or like) princes. English and French use Grand Duke in this way.

The title Grand Duke as translation of Grand Prince and the proper title Grand Duke have clearly different meanings and a separate background. Compare with the article Grand Prince.

Grand Prince

(for a fuller account, see Grand Prince)

Grand Princes were medieval monarchs which ruled usually several tribes and/or were overlords of other princes. At the time, they were usualy treated and translated as kings. However, a grand prince was not an elevated sovereign as Western kings, and perhaps thus they are treated lower as kings, particularly in later literature. Grand Princes were rulers usually in Eastern Europe, for example among Slavs, Balts and Hungarians.

The title Grand Prince is Velikiy Knjaz (Великий князь) in Russian. The Slavic word "knjaz" and the Baltic "kunigaitis" (today translated as Prince) is actually a cognate of King. Thus, "Veliki Knjaz" was more like high king than "grand duke".

These countries developed in a way that the position of the head of the dynasty became more elevated. In such situations, those monarchs assumed a higher title, such as Tsar or sole King.

The title Grand Prince (which in many of those lands already was in later medieval centuries awarded simultaneously to several rulers in the more expanded dynasty) continued, in modern times, as a courtesy title for all or several members of the dynasty, such as the Grand Duke of Russia (veliki knjaz) in Russia's imperial era.

Byzantine Grand Dukes

The Latin title dux, which was -phonetically- rendered δουξ in Greek, was a common title for imperial generals in the Late Roman Empires (west and east), but note it was lower in rank then Comes (the etymological root of Count). In the Eastern Empire, a dux ranked just below a strategos.

Under the later, exclusively Byzantine theme system (the new miltary circonscriptions, becoming more important then the provinces), the commander of a theme was styled a dux.

  • The title Megas Dux ( Μέγας Δουξ), occasionally translated Megaduke, first appears in the Comnenian period, and was conferred upon the admiral of the Byzantine navy. Among the recipients of this honor was Roger de Flor of the Catalan Company, who was given the title for his services against the Turks during the reign of Andronicus II.

By the time Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks, the office had become virtual chief minister, heading both civil and military administration.

Russian Grand Dukes

(for a fuller account, see Grand Prince)

"Grand Duke" is the traditional translation of the title Velikiy Kniaz, which from the 11th century was at first the title of the leading Prince 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.

A more accurate translation of the Russian title 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.

Western Grand Dukes

(See also Grand Duchy)

The proper term of Grand Duke was a later invention, probably originating in Western Europe, to denote a particularly mighty duke, as the title Duke has until the end of Middle Ages been inflated to belong to rulers of relatively small fiefs (such as a city state or a district), instead of the big provinces it once was attached to.

One of the first examples was the unofficial use of Grand Duke meaning the later Dukes of Burgundy, i.e in 15th century, when they ruled a portion of East France as well as all the Netherlands.

Apparently the first monarch ever officially titled Grand Duke was the Medici sovereigns of Tuscany beginning from the late 16th century. This official title was granted by Pope Pius V in 1569, but the lands in question apparently belonged to the Holy Roman Empire.

Napoleon used that title extensively: during his era, several of his allies were allowed to assume the title of Grand Duke, usually at the same time as their inherited fiefs were enlarged by additional lands obtained thanks to being Napoleon's allies. His conquerors, for example the Congress of Vienna, consented to yet more uses of the title. Thus, the 19th century saw a new group of monarchs titled Grand Duke all around Central Europe. A list of such is available at Grand Duchy.

At the same century, the courtesy use of translated Grand Duke, 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 term can be said to originate in Germany, in a sense that a ruler in then Germany's western borders was the first to be called so, and that it was a German overlord, the Holy Roman Emperor, whose vassal (however, an Italian) was first granted the official title, however, by the Pope.

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

The title Magnus Dux or Grand Duke (Didysis kunigaikštis in Lithuanian) is said to have been used by the rulers of Lithuania, and after Jagiello also became kings of Poland and was later found among the titles used by kings of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Polish kings of the Swedish Vasa dynasty also used the grand-princely title for their non-Polish territory.

In 1582 king John III of Sweden added Grand Duke 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, it 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. The Holy Roman Empire ruling house of Habsburg instituted a similar Grand Principality in Transylvania in 1765.

Further, Grand Duke is the translated form of the title Megas Doux, used in the Byzantine Empire during the Palaeologian dynasty (1259-1453).


Tuscany's sovereign obtained in 17th century the status of Royal Highness.

Most often, a reigning Grand Duke or Duchess was styled Royal Highness. Other members of the families differed in style. Junior members of the Grand Ducal Family of Luxembourg are also Royal Highnesses; however, this derives from their status apparently as cadet members of the dethroned royal house of Bourbon-Parma and not from the Grand Ducal title.

In Hesse-Darmstadt and Baden, however, junior members of the dynasty bore the style of Grand Ducal Highness (Groherzogliche Hoheit). For instance, prior to her marriage, Empress Alexandra of Russia was known as "Her Grand Ducal Highness Princess Alix of Hesse and by the Rhine" (Ihre Groherzogliche Hoheit Alix Prinzessin von Hessen und bei Rhein).

A Russian Grand Duke or Grand Duchess was an Imperial Highness.

Related topics

nl:Groothertog no:Storhertug ru:Великий князь sv:Storhertig


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