Grand duke

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Heraldic Grand Duke's Crown

Grand Duke ( French Grand-duc , Latin magnus dux , English Grand duke , Italian Grandúca ) is a European title of nobility between duke and king . The ruled area is a grand duchy . The heir to the throne of a Grand Duke bears the title "Hereditary Grand Duke".

In English and French, the imperial princes and princesses of Russia, who from the 18th century until the fall of the tsarist rule in 1917, had the title of Grand Duke ( Veliki Kniaz ) or Grand Duchess ( Velikaya Kniagina ), were somewhat misleadingly called "Grand Duke" or " Grand-duc ”or as“ Grand Duchess ”or“ Grande-Duchesse ”, but also carried the title of“ Imperial Highness ”.

Origin and development

In the late Byzantine Empire , the title of Grand Duke existed as a megas doux in the military hierarchy.

Early modern age

In 1569, Pope Pius V awarded Duke Cosimo I of Florence the title of Grand Duke of Tuscany , with whom the title of Royal Highness had been associated since 1699 . Until the early 19th century, Tuscany was the first and only Grand Duchy in the world. After the Medici died out in 1737, the title and land fell to the previous Duke of Lorraine , Franz Stephan (the later Roman-German Emperor Franz I ), as a result of a resolution by the European powers . As the husband of the Habsburg heiress Maria Theresa , he became the progenitor of the Imperial House of Habsburg-Lothringen . After his death, from 1765, with interruptions until 1859, a second generation of this dynasty ruled the Grand Duchy of Tuscany before it became part of the United Kingdom of Italy in 1860 .

Modern times

It was only Napoleon I who made it possible to spread the title of Grand Duke in the early 19th century - especially in his German areas of influence, the Confederation of the Rhine established under his leadership . Initially, taking into account the claims of Caroline Bonaparte , Napoleon's sister, it was only envisaged that the Emperor's brother-in-law, Joachim Murat , Duke of Kleve and Berg since March 15, 1806 , would become Grand Duke when the Confederation of the Rhine was founded in summer 1806 von Kleve and Berg should accept. But the Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt , the Elector of Baden and the Elector of Würzburg then insisted on accepting this title as sovereign princes when the Rhine Confederation was founded. In 1810 another secular Grand Duchy of Frankfurt was created for the prince primate of the Rhine Confederation, the Regensburg prince- archbishop Karl Theodor von Dalberg . With the fall of Napoleon, the Grand Duchies of Berg and Frankfurt (1813) and Würzburg (1814) went under again, while the Grand Duchies of Hesse and Baden continued to exist until 1918.

The provisions of the Congress of Vienna also elevated other German princes to grand dukes in 1815 - the previous dukes of Saxony-Weimar-Eisenach , Mecklenburg ( Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburg-Strelitz ) and Oldenburg (the latter only actually used from 1829). Close dynastic ties to the Hohenzollerns in Prussia and the Romanovs in Russia were decisive for these ranks .

Furthermore, from 1815 the Emperor of Austria as the (non-ruling) Grand Duke of Tuscany and (from 1846) as the ruling Grand Duke of the annexed city of Krakow , the King of Prussia as Grand Duke of the Lower Rhine and of Posen , the Elector and sovereign Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel as Grand Duke of Fulda additional Grand Duke titles.

The king of the Netherlands served until 1890 in personal union as Grand Duke of Luxembourg , which until 1866 also the German Confederation belonged. Since a female line of succession came to the throne in the Netherlands in 1890, which was legally excluded in Luxembourg, the Grand Duchy received its own dynasty with another line of the House of Nassau (since 1964 actually Bourbon-Parma ).

Luxembourg has been the only remaining Grand Duchy in the world since 1918, when the monarchies of the German Empire were abolished in the November Revolution .


The title holder's salutation was the Tuscan title "Royal Highness".

It is sometimes claimed that the rulers of Hesse and Baden operated as “Grand Ducal Highness”, but by 1900 at the latest the predicate “Royal Highness” was also common here.

See also


  • Dorothee Mußgnug, Reinhard Mußgnug: His Royal Highness by God's grace Grand Duke of Baden 1818-1918 (= Miscellanea Juridica Heidelbergensia. Volume 9). Heidelberg 2018, ISBN 978-3-86825-340-5 .

Web links

Commons : Grand Dukes  - collection of images, videos and audio files