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Heraldic ducal crown

Herzog ( old high German  herizogo , originally leader, military leader in war) is a title of nobility . In French it corresponds to duc , in English to duke , in Spanish to duque , in Italian to duca and in Portuguese to duque . The names in the Romance languages ​​go back to the Latin dux "leader".


Originally dukes were Germanic military leaders who were chosen by the free men of a tribe for the duration of a campaign by election during a thing . Traditionally, warriors were chosen who had great experience and good standing in the community. Most of the time, the size and fighting strength of the following also played an important role. Well-known Germanic dukes were Ariovist , Arminius , Marbod and Widukind . In the Merovingian period , dukes were royal officials with predominantly military tasks in the Germanic and Romanic tribal areas conquered by the Franks , which the Merovingian kings could not subject to their direct royal rule without recognition from a local intermediate power. These include Alemannia , Baiern , Franconia (around Würzburg), Aquitaine and Brittany .

Early middle ages

In the early Middle Ages , hereditary tribal duchies emerged in the area of ​​the Frankish Empire , which were abolished by the Carolingians , but revived with the decline of the royal central authority at the end of the 9th century. The tribal dukes in Eastern Franconia at the time of Henry I were usually members of regional rulers dynasties who, in an area related to the respective tribe, exercised the rights of the king through the local counts and noblemen, e.g. As the militia led or provincial assemblies convened and held court.

High Middle Ages

In the 12th and 13th centuries, the tribal duchies of the Holy Roman Empire were increasingly split up into territorial and titular duchies . A duke was then ruler of certain, spatially often divided territories or the bearer of the title of nobility conferred by the king . Which counts and noblemen recognized his sovereignty was v. a. depends on the assertiveness of the respective duke. The ducal dignity was granted by the king as a fief and could also be withdrawn again (see Heinrich the Lion and his deposition in Saxony and Bavaria in 1180).

It all started with the Duchy of Bavaria , which was divided into the Duchies of Bavaria and Carinthia in 976 . Swabia followed in 1079 and 1098 respectively and was divided between the Zähringer and Staufer dynasties . Then in 1156 the margraviate of Austria was detached from Bavaria, elevated to a duchy and in 1180 the duchy of Styria was separated from Bavaria. The Duchy of Merania should also be seen in this context . Also originally related to a tribal area title of "Duke of Saxony" has been split in this way by 1180 and regional reassigned: The Archbishop of Cologne received the German king the title of Duke of Westphalia (a hitherto belonging to Saxony region, quasi West Saxony), while the royal house of the Ascanians received the title of Duke of Saxony for the eastern part of the previous tribal duchy, without being able to assert itself in this area against the local counts. They only prevailed with this title for their older fiefdoms and for the new fiefdoms around Lauenburg and Wittenberg and were named Electors of Saxony (based in Wittenberg ) since 1356 . After the Wittenberg Ascanians died out (1422), King Sigismund enfeoffed the Duke and Electorate of Saxony (Wittenberg) in 1423 to Margrave Friedrich the Arguable of Meissen, giving the Saxon electoral and duke title to the Wettins , the Margraves of Meissen, who were still much further east , came. The higher title of Duke and Elector of Saxony pushed the title of Margrave of Meissen into the second row. This is how the ducal title and state name , originally referring to what is today Lower Saxony , found its way into what is today Saxony around Dresden and Meißen , with which it had nothing at all until then. After the Battle of Mühlberg in 1547, the Ernestine Wettiners, who were now limited to Thuringia, added the term "Saxony" to their small states that were emerging there (until 1918 Saxe-Weimar and Eisenach, Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Saxe-Meiningen, Saxe-Altenburg).

While the tribal duke title in Bavaria has been limited to the lands of the Wittelsbachers since 1180, who have ruled it since then, the title of Duke of Swabia has been completely out of use since the Hohenstaufen dynasty died out in 1268. The prince-bishops of Würzburg received the honorary title "Duke of Franconia" in 1168 and ran it until 1802/03 for their prince-bishop's territories.

Late Middle Ages and Early Modern Times

At the same time came in the late Middle Ages by Rank surveys of various princes new dynastic territorially defined duchies added: It started with the 1180 of them formerly occupied duchies of Saxony and Bavaria forfeited previous Guelph , which in 1235 for their Erbbesitzungen in northern Germany the title of Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg received. In 1348 the Slavic princes of Mecklenburg , in 1339 the Count of Geldern , and in 1495 the Count of Württemberg were elevated to dukes by the king and emperor . The Duchy of Lower Lorraine was united with Brabant in 1190 , whose landgrave had held the title of duchy since around 1183. In the early modern period, this form of raising the rank ebbed; instead, some dukes have since tried to obtain the higher-ranking elector title (with the right to participate in the election of emperor), which the Duke of Braunschweig-Lüneburg succeeded in 1692, the rival Duke of Württemberg only in 1803.

Modern times

With the smashing of the Holy Roman Empire between 1801 and 1806 and Napoleon's rule over the German lands, another series of ranks was raised for German princes who were willing to adapt: ​​previous dukes - like that of Württemberg - were first promoted to electors, then to kings, previous princes - like the various lines of Anhalt - rose to become dukes. After the victory over Napoleon in 1815, the Vienna Congress of the victorious powers led to another, final wave of such ranks. Mostly due to kinship with powerful monarchs of Europe, especially with the Russian Emperor or the King of Prussia , some previous dukes in the German states rose to grand dukes in 1815 ( Saxony-Weimar-Eisenach , Oldenburg , Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburg-Strelitz , Luxembourg ). The Landgrave of Hessen-Darmstadt and the Margrave of Baden were also promoted to Grand Dukes in 1806. Grand dukes were primarily characterized by the right to exercise royal privileges (such as ennoblement ). Her title was therefore also Royal Highness. Today only the monarch of Luxembourg holds the title of Grand Duke of Luxembourg .

A special feature in Austria was the title of an archduke until 1918 . This was carried out from 1359 (fake Privilegium maius ); it was intended to symbolize the prominent position of the dukes of Austria compared to the other imperial princes and served as a counterpart to the dignity of an elector (but without the right to vote for a king). At first only the respective heads of the House of Habsburg held this title; but after it became customary to elect a Habsburg to be the German king and Roman emperor, from then on all Habsburg princes carried the title of archduke.

Ruling dukes in Germany (with the title of Highness ) were between 1815 and 1918: the Duke of Braunschweig (Wolfenbüttel line until 1884, Hanover line from 1913); the Duke of Anhalt (from 1863, before that several partial duchies); the Duke of Nassau , who ruled only until 1866, who inherited the sovereign Grand Duchy of Luxembourg in 1890; the King of Denmark, who ruled as Duke of Schleswig , Holstein and Lauenburg until 1864 (who was replaced in these three states by the King of Prussia, who also annexed Nassau) and the Wettin dukes of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (until 1826: Saxe-Coburg -Saalfeld ), Saxony-Meiningen and Saxony-Altenburg .

Dukes of Italy

Outside Germany, existed in Europe and sovereign duchies in Italy , such as Guastalla , Lucca , Modena and Parma . These states disappeared in 1859/60 in the course of the Italian unification and the former rulers became titular dukes. The Duchy of Genoa , created in 1815 in place of the former aristocratic republic of Genoa , was a dependent part of the Kingdom of Sardinia from the start .

Titular dukes

Ruling monarchs of higher rank could also raise nobles to the status of dukes (titular dukes). In 1818, Prince Metternich had been appointed Sicilian Duke of Portella .

In many European monarchies, royal princes were or are additionally awarded historical dukes' titles (with lands and income, but without rulership rights). This was true for France until the end of the monarchy in 1848/70 and for Portugal accordingly until 1910, and Italy accordingly until 1946; it is still valid today for Spain , Sweden , Great Britain and Luxembourg .


While it often happened that lower nobility were grafted or prince, the most famous elevation to Duke Otto von Bismarck to Duke of Lauenburg by Wilhelm II ; a title he did not use, however, in protest against the lender. In addition, Prince Victor zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst was elevated to Duke of Ratibor in Prussia in 1840 and Prince Hugo zu Hohenlohe-Oehringen to Duke of Ujest in 1861 . In 1900, Prince Hatzfeldt-Trachenberg was also raised to Duke zu Trachenberg in Prussia . King Max I Joseph of Bavaria appointed his son-in-law Eugène de Beauharnais as Duke of Leuchtenberg in 1817 .


The dukes raised during the Ancien Régime included those of Angoulême , Anjou , Auvergne , Bourbon , Broglie , Enghien , Guise , Montpensier , Orléans and Vendôme . In addition, a number of the marshals of France were elevated to dukes. Even Emperor Napoleon continued this tradition with his marshals continued, making it an inflationary increase in the title as the one Duke of Albufera , Auerstedt , Belluno , Castiglione , Conegliano , Dalmatia , Gdansk , Elchingen , Istria , Montebello , Ragusa , Reggio , Rivoli , Taranto , Treviso or Valmy existed. During the Second Empire , the Duke of Magenta was raised in 1859 .

United Kingdom

Dukes in the British Isles hold the title Duke and belong to the peerage . The Dukes are the highest nobility in the United Kingdom after the royal family.

In contrast to crowned or mediatized dukes of the continent, they were never recognized as equal to royal families , so the marriage of daughters of a duke with foreign royal princes was usually considered inappropriate in the past. British peers were never entitled to independently carry out ennobizations.

For the first time the title of duke was bestowed on Edward of Woodstock as Duke of Cornwall in 1337 . Today about 37 Duketitel still exist.

Today only the title of Duke of Cornwall ("Dukedom of Cornwall") is directly connected with ducal lands, the Duchy of Cornwall ("Duchy of Cornwall"); its owner is the heir to the throne, who draws the majority of his private income from it. In addition, there are the lands of the Duchy of Lancaster ("Duchy of Lancaster"), which are privately owned by the British monarch and from which he derives most of his private income. The independent peer title of the Duke of Lancaster expired in 1413 when it was merged with the crown and since then has no longer formally existed as "Dukedom".


Usually, in Portugal, dukes were first raised from among the members or relatives of the royal family. 1415 the appointment of the Duke of Coimbra and the Duke of Viseu took place . In 1453 the title of Duke of Beja was created for the king's second son. Other examples of Portuguese duke titles were those of Aveiro , Braganza , Cadaval , Palmela , Saldanha and Terceira .


Dukes in Spain are among the grandees . Examples of titles, some of which have been handed down since the late Middle Ages, are those of Alba , Alburquerque , Arcos , Arión , Benavente , Béjar , Cardona , El Infantado , Escalona , Fernán Núñez , Frías , Gandía , Híjar , Medina-Sidonia , Medinaceli , Montalto , Nájera , Osuna , Santisteban del Puerto , Segorbe and Villahermosa .

Within the Spanish royal family there are the Duchesses of Badajoz , Hernani and Soria , Lugo and Palma de Mallorca . Other ducal titles within the royal family were those of Segovia, Anjou and Madrid , Anjou and Cádiz, and Aquitaine .

The first democratically elected Prime Minister of Spain after the death of the dictator Francisco Franco received the title of Duke of Suarez after his resignation in 1981 .


The Chinese title of Gong is in the western translation mostly with the duke (duke) equated.


The title given to the owner of the title was "Your Highness".

See also


  • Matthias Becher : Rex, Dux and Gens. Investigations into the development of the Saxon duchy in the 9th and 10th centuries (= historical studies. Vol. 444). Matthiesen, Husum 1996, ISBN 3-7868-1444-9 (also: Paderborn, University, habilitation paper, 1994/95).
  • Hans-Werner Goetz : "Dux" and "Ducatus". Conceptual and constitutional studies on the emergence of the so-called “younger” tribal duchy at the turn of the ninth to the tenth century. Brockmeyer, Bochum 1977, ISBN 3-921543-66-5 (Bochum, University, dissertation, 1976).
  • Hans-Werner Goetz : Duke, Duchy. In: Lexicon of the Middle Ages . Volume: 5: Hiera means to Lucania. Artemis-Verlag, Munich et al. 1991, ISBN 3-8508-8905-0 , Sp. 2189-2193.
  • Herfried Stingl: The emergence of the German tribal duchies at the beginning of the 10th century. = Tribal duchies (= studies on German state and legal history. NF vol. 19). Scientia-Verlag, Aalen 1974, ISBN 3-511-02839-6 (Frankfurt am Main, University, dissertation, 1968).

Web links

Wiktionary: Herzog  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

supporting documents

  1. Wolfgang Pfeifer: Etymological dictionary. Online edition , version 1.0.78
  2. Walter Alison Phillips: Duke . In: Encyclopædia Britannica . Volume 8, London 1911, p. 651.