Grand duchy

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A grand duchy is a form of principality, monarchy which has a Grand Duke or a Grand Duchess as head of state.

Today Luxembourg is the only remaining grand duchy. It has been a grand duchy since 1815, when the Netherlands became an independent kingdom and Luxembourg was handed over to the King of the Netherlands, William I. Luxembourg remained a Dutch dominion until 1890, when William III, King of the Netherlands and Grand Duke Luxembourg, died without leaving a male heir, so that in the Netherlands he was succeeded by a female and in the Luxembourgian Grand Duchy by a distant male cousin, Duke Adolf of Nassau who became HRH Grand Duke Adolf I. The present Grand Duke of Luxembourg is Henri.


The title and origins of grand duchies

The title Grand Duke (Latin, Magnus Dux; German, Großherzog, Italian Gran Duca, French Grand-Duc) ranks in honour below King but higher than a sovereign Duke (Herzog) or Prince (Fürst). A sovereign Grand Duke's territory is called a Grand Duchy.

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

The title of sovereign Grand Duke and it as translation of Grand Prince thus have clearly different meanings.

Grand Prince

Grand Princes were medieval monarchs which ruled a nation or several tribes, and were usually at the time translated as kings. However, a grand prince was usually only primus inter pares within a dynasty, other princes of the dynasty were approximately as entitled to succession as the then ruler (succession was for example through agnatic seniority or rotation), and often other members of the dynasty ruled parts of the same realm as some sort of "sub-princes". Such was usual in Eastern Europe, for example among Russians and Lithuanians. As the position of current ruler was not as elevated as that of Western kings, they have been treated more like great princes than full kings. Velikiy Kniaz was from the 11th century was at first the title of the leading Prince of Kievan Rus' (head of the Rurikid House), 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.

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

An established use of the title was in Grand Duchy of Lithuania (since 14th century) and Grand Duchy of Moscow.

These countries moved slowly towards primogeniture or their rulers obtained another Kingdom, whereby the position of the head of the dynasty became more elevated compared to other dynasts. 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 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 (veliki knjaz) in Russia's imperial era. The title Velikiy Kniaz, finally formalized by Alexander III, 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 &mdash - 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.

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, 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 (Siebenburgen) in 1765.

The title Didysis kunigaikštis (in Lithuanian) was 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 territories. It is said that the Latinized translation of Lithuanian rulers was sometimes Magnus Dux or Grand Duke.

Western Grand Dukes and their sovereignties

The proper term of "Grand Duchy" was a later invention, probably originating in Western Europe, to denote lands of a particularly mighty duke, as the duchy had around the end of Middle Ages inflated to belong to rulers of a middle-sized town or a shire or similar relatively small fiefs, instead of the big provinces it once belonged to.

One of the first examples was the unofficial use of Grand Duke by the Dukes of Burgundy during the 15th century, when they ruled a vast tract of modern-day eastern France as well as most of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. The first monarchy ever officially titled "Grand Duchy" was the Medici sovereignty of Tuscany, which received the title in 1569 from the Holy Roman Emperor. Tuscany became a grand duchy in 1569, and remained one until 1860, when it was annexed by Piedmont-Sardinia as part of Italy's reunification.

Expanded use of the term lapsed until the early nineteenth century, when Napoleon used the title "Grand Duchy" for several territories given to his allies. The elevation of these figures to the title of Grand Duke usually accompanied an expansion of their fiefs with additional lands obtained from defeated powers such as Prussia. Though Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo and his vassal territories like the Grand Duchy of Berg were erased from the European map, the representatives assembled at the Congress of Vienna consented to yet more uses of the title by restored dukes and princes, especially those in the lands that had constituted the Holy Roman Empire. As a result, the 19th century saw a new group of monarchies titled Grand Duchy around Central Europe, such as the Grand Duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt.

At the same time, the courtesy use of the title "Grand Duke" in Russia expanded because of the births of several male dynasts. The new set of grand dukes afforded the Romanovs a respite from the continued issue of the male succession that plagued it during the 18th century.

Within Germany, use of the title expanded after 1815, but its application was not universal. This is somewhat ironic, given that a Burgundian ruler in what were once Germany's western border regions first adopted the title, and considering that it was a German overlord, the Holy Roman Emperor, who first granted the official title to an Italian prince. However, in the German language (which has separate words for royal prince, "Prinz", and for sovereign prince, "Furst"), the Grand Dukes of Lithuania and historic Russian states, as well as other Eastern European princes and later Russian dynasts, were referred to with the title "Grossfurst", rather than the more direct translation "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 rulers from the Jagiello dynasty became kings of Poland, it was later found among the titles used by kings of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Polish kings of the Swedish Vasa dynasty also used this grand princely title for their non-Polish territories.

Abundance of grand duchies

Between the Napoleonic Wars and World War I there were eight grand duchies in Europe: Baden, Finland, Hesse-Darmstadt, Luxembourg, Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Oldenburg, and Saxe-Weimar.

The title was also used in some short-lived Napoleonic creations:

Particularly following the Congress of Vienna, grand duchies became fairly common within the Germanic Confederation:

Today Luxembourg is the only remaining grand duchy.

Note that a Grand Duke or Grand Duchess is not necessarily associated with a Grand Duchy; see the relevant articles for more information.

Styles and forms of address

Most often, a reigning Grand Duke 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.

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

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

See also

fi:Ruhtinaskunta nl:Groothertog


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