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A principality (or sometimes princedom) can either be a
monarchical A monarchy is a form of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state. In the case of its broad associative definition, government normally consists of legisl ...
feudatory A vassal or liege subject is a person regarded as having a mutual obligation to a lord Lord is an appellation for a person or deity who has authority, control, or power (social and political), power over others, acting as a master, a chief, ...
or a
sovereign state A sovereign state is a political entity that is represented by one centralized government that has sovereignty over a geographic area. International law defines sovereign states as having a permanent population, defined territory, one government ...
, ruled or reigned over by a regnant-
monarch A monarch is a head of stateWebster's II New College DictionarMonarch Houghton Mifflin. Boston. 2001. p. 707. Life tenure, for life or until abdication, and therefore the head of state of a monarchy. A monarch may exercise the highest authority a ...

monarch
with the title of
prince A prince is a Monarch, male ruler (ranked below a king, grand prince, and grand duke) or a male member of a monarch's or former monarch's family. ''Prince'' is also a title of nobility (often highest), often hereditary title, hereditary, in som ...

prince
and/or
princess Princess is a regal rank and the feminine equivalent of prince (from Latin ''princeps'', meaning wiktionary:principal, principal citizen). Most often, the term has been used for the consort of a prince, or for the daughter of a king or prince. ...
, or by a monarch with another title considered to fall under the generic meaning of the term ''prince''.


Terminology

Most of these states have historically been a Body politic, polity, but in some occasions were rather territories in respect of which a princely title is held. The prince's estate and wealth may be located mainly or wholly outside the geographical confines of the principality. Generally recognised surviving sovereign principalities are
Liechtenstein Liechtenstein ( ; ), officially the Principality of Liechtenstein (german: link=no, Fürstentum Liechtenstein), is a German language, German-speaking microstate located in the Alps between Austria and Switzerland. Liechtenstein is a constituti ...

Liechtenstein
,
Monaco Monaco (; ), officially the Principality of Monaco (french: Principauté de Monaco; Monégasque dialect, Monégasque Ligurian: ''Prinçipatu de Mu̍negu''), is a Sovereign state, sovereign city-state and European microstates, microstate on the ...

Monaco
, and the co-principality of
Andorra Andorra (, ; ), officially the Principality of Andorra ( ca, Principat d'Andorra), is a sovereign Sovereign is a title which can be applied to the highest leader in various categories. The word is borrowed from Old French ''souverain'', whi ...
. Extant royal
primogenitures Primogeniture ( ) is the right, by law or custom, of the firstborn legitimate child to inherit the parent's entire or main estate in preference to shared inheritance among all or some children, any illegitimate child or any collateral relative ...
styled as principalities include
Asturias Asturias (, ; ast, Asturies ), officially the Principality of Asturias ( es, Principado de Asturias; ast, Principáu d'Asturies; Galician-Asturian Galician–Asturian or Eonavian (autonym Autonym may refer to: * Autonym, the name used by ...
(Spain). The
Principality of Wales The Principality of Wales ( cy, Tywysogaeth Cymru) existed between 1216 and 1536, encompassing two-thirds of modern Wales during its height between 1267 and 1277. For most of its history it was ’annexed and united’ to the Kingdom of England ...

Principality of Wales
existed in the northern and western areas of Wales between the 13th and 16th centuries; the Laws in Wales Act of 1536 which legally incorporated
Wales within England
Wales within England
removed the distinction between those areas and the March of Wales, but no principality covering the whole of Wales was created. Since that time, the title
Prince of Wales Prince of Wales ( cy, Tywysog Cymru, ) is a title traditionally and ceremonially granted to the heir apparent An heir apparent is a person who is first in an order of succession An order of succession or right of succession is the line of ...

Prince of Wales
has traditionally been granted to the heir apparent to the reigning monarch of the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shortha ...

United Kingdom
, but it confers no responsibilities for government in Wales. The
Principality of Catalonia A principality (or sometimes princedom) can either be a monarchical feudatory or a sovereign state A sovereign state is a political entity that is represented by one centralized government that has sovereignty over a geographic area. Intern ...
existed in the north-eastern areas of Spain between 14th and 18th centuries, as the term for the territories ruled by the Catalan courts, until the defeat of the Habsburgs in the Spanish succession war, when these institutions were abolished due to their support for the Habsburg pretender. Principality of Asturias is the official name of autonomous community of
Asturias Asturias (, ; ast, Asturies ), officially the Principality of Asturias ( es, Principado de Asturias; ast, Principáu d'Asturies; Galician-Asturian Galician–Asturian or Eonavian (autonym Autonym may refer to: * Autonym, the name used by ...
. The term principality is also sometimes used generically for any small monarchy, especially for small sovereign states ruled by a monarch of a lesser rank than a king, such as a
Fürst ' (, female form ', plural '; from Old High German ', "the first", a translation of the Latin ') is a German language, German word for a ruler and is also a princely title. ' were, since the Middle Ages, members of the highest nobility who ruled ...
(usually translated in English as "prince"), as in Liechtenstein, or a
Grand Duke Grand Duke (feminine: Grand Duchess) is a European hereditary title Hereditary titles, in a general sense, are nobility Nobility is a social class normally ranked immediately below Royal family, royalty and found in some societies that ...
. No sovereign
duchy A duchy is a medieval In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of Europe s ...
currently exists, but
Luxembourg Luxembourg ( ; lb, Lëtzebuerg ; french: link=no, Luxembourg; german: link=no, Luxemburg), officially the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, ; french: link=no, Grand-Duché de Luxembourg ; german: link=no, Großherzogtum Luxemburg is a landlocked ...

Luxembourg
is a surviving example of a sovereign grand duchy. Historically there have been sovereign principalities with many styles of ruler, such as
Countship Count (feminine: countess) is a historical title of nobility Nobility is a social class normally ranked immediately below Royal family, royalty and found in some societies that have a formal aristocracy (class), aristocracy. Nobility ...
, Margraviate and even
Lord Lord is an appellation for a person or deity who has authority, control, or power (social and political), power over others, acting as a master, a chief, or a ruler. The appellation can also denote certain persons who hold a title of the Peerag ...

Lord
ship, especially within the
Holy Roman Empire The Holy Roman Empire ( la, Sacrum Imperium Romanum; german: Heiliges Römisches Reich) was a multi-ethnic complex of territories in Western Europe, Western and Central Europe that developed during the Early Middle Ages and continued until its D ...
. While the preceding definition would seem to fit a
princely state A princely state, also called a native state, feudatory state or Indian state (for those states on the subcontinent), was a vassal state A vassal state is any state that has a mutual obligation to a superior state or empire, in a status sim ...
perfectly, the European historical tradition is to reserve that word for native monarchies in colonial countries, and to apply "principality" to the Western monarchies.


European


Development

Though principalities existed in antiquity, even before the height of the
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Roman Republic, Republican period of ancient Rome. As a polity it included large territorial holdings aro ...

Roman Empire
, the principality as it is known today developed in the
Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted approximately from the 5th to the late 15th centuries, similarly to the Post-classical, Post-classical period of global history. It began with the fall of the Western Roma ...
between 750 and 1450 when
feudalism Feudalism, also known as the feudal system, was the combination of the legal, economic, military, and cultural customs that flourished in Medieval Europe In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted from the 5t ...
was the primary
economic An economy (; ) is an area of the Production (economics), production, Distribution (economics), distribution and trade, as well as Consumption (economics), consumption of Goods (economics), goods and Service (economics), services by different a ...
and social system in much of Europe. Feudalism increased the power of local princes within a king's lands. As princes continued to gain more power over time, the authority of the king was diminished in many places. This led to political fragmentation as the king's lands were broken into mini-states ruled by princes and dukes who wielded absolute power over their small territories. This was especially prevalent in
Europe Europe is a continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven regions are commonly regarded as continents. Ordered from largest ...

Europe
, and particularly with the
Princes of the Holy Roman Empire Prince of the Holy Roman Empire ( la, princeps imperii, german: Reichsfürst, cf. '' Fürst'') was a title attributed to a hereditary ruler, nobleman or prelate recognised as such by the Holy Roman Emperor. Definition Originally, possessors o ...
. During the
Late Middle Ages The Late Middle Ages or Late Medieval Period was the period Period may refer to: Common uses * Era, a length or span of time * Full stop (or period), a punctuation mark Arts, entertainment, and media * Period (music), a concept in musical comp ...
from 1200 to 1500, principalities were often at war with each other as royal houses asserted sovereignty over smaller principalities. These wars caused a great deal of instability and economies were destroyed. Episodes of
bubonic plague Bubonic plague is one of three types of Plague (disease), plague caused by the plague Bacteria, bacterium (''Yersinia pestis''). One to seven days after exposure to the bacteria, flu-like symptoms develop. These symptoms include fever, headach ...
also reduced the power of principalities to survive independently. Eventually, agricultural progress and development of new trade goods and services boosted commerce between principalities. Many of these states became wealthy, expanded their territories and improved the services provided to their citizens. Princes and dukes developed their lands, established new ports and chartered large thriving cities. Some used their new-found wealth to build palaces and other institutions now associated with sovereign states.


Consolidation

While some principalities prospered in their independence, less successful states were swallowed by stronger royal houses. Europe saw consolidation of small principalities into larger kingdoms and
empire An empire is a "political unit" made up of several territories and peoples, "usually created by conquest, and divided between a dominant center and subordinate peripheries". Narrowly defined, an empire is a sovereign state called an empire and w ...

empire
s. This had already happened in
England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to its west and Scotland to its north. The Irish Sea lies northwest of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. En ...

England
in the first millennium, and this trend subsequently led to the creation of such states as
France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a country primarily located in Western Europe, consisting of metropolitan France and Overseas France, several overseas regions and territories. The metro ...

France
,
Portugal Portugal, officially the Portuguese Republic ( pt, República Portuguesa, links=yes ), is a sovereign state, country whose mainland is located on the Iberian Peninsula, in Southern Europe, Southwestern Europe, and whose territory also includ ...

Portugal
, and
Spain , * gl, Reino de España, * oc, Reiaume d'Espanha, , , image_flag = Bandera de España.svg , image_coat = Escudo de España (mazonado).svg , national_motto = , national_anthem = , image_map = , map_caption = , image_ ...

Spain
. Another form of consolidation was orchestrated in
Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of a Northern Italy, continental part, delimited by the Alps, a Italian Peninsula, peninsula and List of islands of Italy, se ...

Italy
during the Renaissance by the
Medici The House of Medici ( , ) was an Italian banking family and political dynasty that first began to gather prominence under Cosimo de' Medici in the Republic of Florence during the first half of the 15th century. The family originated in the Mugel ...

Medici
family. A banking family from
Florence Florence ( ; it, Firenze ) is a city in Central Italy and the capital city of the Tuscany Regions of Italy, region. It is the most populated city in Tuscany, with 383,084 inhabitants in 2013, and over 1,520,000 in its metropolitan area. Flor ...

Florence
, the Medici took control of governments in various
Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Republic ** Italian language, a Romance language *** Regional Italian, regional variants of the ...

Italian
regions and even assumed the
papacy The pope ( la, papa, from el, πάππας, translit=pappas, "father"), also known as the supreme pontiff () or the Roman pontiff (), is the bishop of Diocese of Rome, Rome, chief pastor of the worldwide Catholic Church, and head of state o ...
. They then appointed family members as princes and assured their protection.
Prussia Prussia, , Old Prussian Distribution of the Baltic tribes, circa 1200 CE (boundaries are approximate). Old Prussian was a Western Baltic language belonging to the Balto-Slavic branch of the Indo-European languages The Indo-Europe ...

Prussia
also later expanded by acquiring the territories of many other states. However, in the 17th to 19th centuries, especially within the Holy Roman Empire, the reverse was also occurring: many new small sovereign states arose as a result of transfers of land for various reasons. Notable principalities existed until the early 20th century in various regions of
Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 250px , capital = Berlin , coordinates = , largest_city = capital , languages_type = Official language , languages = German language, German , demonym = Germans, German , government_ ...

Germany
and
Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of a Northern Italy, continental part, delimited by the Alps, a Italian Peninsula, peninsula and List of islands of Italy, se ...

Italy
.


Nationalism

Nationalism Nationalism is an idea and movement that holds that the nation should be congruent with the State (polity), state. As a movement, nationalism tends to promote the interests of a particular nation (as in a in-group and out-group, group of peop ...
, the belief that the nation-state is the best vehicle to realise the aspirations of a people, became popular in the late 19th century. A characteristic of nationalism is an identity with a larger region such as an area sharing a common language and culture. With this development, principalities fell out of favour. As a compromise, many principalities united with neighbouring regions and adopted constitutional forms of government, with the monarch acting as a mere figurehead while administration was left in the hands of elected parliaments. The trend in the 19th and 20th centuries was the abolition of various forms of monarchy and the creation of republican governments led by popularly elected presidents.


Ecclesiastical principalities

Several principalities where genealogical inheritance is replaced by succession in a religious office have existed in the
Roman Catholic Church The Catholic Church, often referred to as the Roman Catholic Church, is the List of Christian denominations by number of members, largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide . As the world's old ...

Roman Catholic Church
, in each case consisting of a feudal polity (often a former secular principality in the broad sense) held ''ex officio'' — the closest possible equivalent to hereditary succession — by a
Prince of the church The term Prince of the Church is today used nearly exclusively for Catholic The Catholic Church, often referred to as the Roman Catholic Church, is the List of Christian denominations by number of members, largest Christian church, with ap ...
, styled more precisely according to his ecclesiastical rank, such as
Prince-bishop A prince-bishop is a bishop who is also the civil ruler of some Secularity, secular principality and sovereignty. Thus the principality or Hochstift, prince-bishopric ruled politically by a prince-bishop could wholly or largely overlap with his ...
,
Prince-abbot A Prince-abbot (german: Fürstabt) is a title for a cleric Clergy are formal leaders within established religion Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, behaviors and practices, morality, ...
or, especially as a form of crusader state,
Grand Master Grandmaster or Grand Master may refer to: People * Grandmaster Flash, Joseph Saddler (born 1958), hip-hop musician and disc jockey * Grandmaster Melle Mel, Melvin Glover (born 1961), hip-hop musician * "Grandmaster Sexay", nickname for profession ...
. Some of these instances were merely religious offices without sovereign power over any territory, while others, such as
Salzburg Salzburg (, ; literally "Salt Castle"; bar, Soizbuag, label=Bavarian language, Austro-Bavarian) is the List of cities and towns in Austria, fourth-largest city in Austria. In 2020, it had a population of 156,872. The town is on the site of the ...
and Durham, shared some of the characteristics of secular princes.


Asia

Prior to the European colonialism,
South Asia South Asia is the southern region of Asia, which is defined in both geography, geographical and culture, ethno-cultural terms. The region consists of the countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lan ...

South Asia
and
South East Asia Southeast Asia or Southeastern Asia is the southeastern subregion of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and Northern Hemisphere, Northern Hemisphere of the ...
were under the influence of
Indosphere Indosphere is a term coined by the linguist James Matisoff for areas of Indian linguistic and cultural influence in South Asia South Asia is the southern region of Asia, which is defined in both geography, geographical and culture, ethno-cult ...
of
greater India Greater India, or the Indian cultural sphere, is an area composed of many countries and regions in South and Southeast Asia Southeast Asia or Southeastern Asia is the United Nations geoscheme for Asia#South-eastern Asia, southeastern su ...
, where numerous Indianized principalities and empires flourished for several centuries in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Cambodia and Vietnam. The influence of Indian culture into these areas was given the term ''indianization''.
George CoedesGeorge may refer to: People * George (given name) George (in English or in Romanian) is a masculine given name derived from the Greek language, Greek Georgios, Geōrgios (; ). The name gained popularity due to its association with the Christian ...
defined it as the expansion of an organized culture that was framed upon Indian originations of royalty,
Hinduism Hinduism () is an Indian religion and ''dharma'', or way of life. It is the Major religious groups, world's third-largest religion, with over 1.2 billion followers, or 15–16% of the global population, known as Hindus. The word ''Hindu'' is ...

Hinduism
and
Buddhism Buddhism (, ) is the Major religious groups#Largest religions, world's fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers, or over 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists. Buddhism encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and ...
and the Sanskrit dialect. This can be seen in the spread of Hinduism and
Buddhism Buddhism (, ) is the Major religious groups#Largest religions, world's fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers, or over 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists. Buddhism encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and ...
.
Indian honorificsIndian honorifics are honorific An honorific is a title that conveys esteem, courtesy, or respect for position or rank when used in addressing or referring to a person. Sometimes, the term "honorific" is used in a more specific sense to refer to an ...
also influenced the
Malay Malay may refer to: Languages * Malay language or Bahasa Melayu, a major Austronesian language spoken in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore ** History of the Malay language#Old Malay, the Malay language from the 4th to the 14th century ** ...
,
Thai Thai or THAI may refer to: * Of or from Thailand, a country in Southeast Asia ** Thai people, the dominant ethnic group of Thailand ** Thai language, a Tai-Kadai language spoken mainly in and around Thailand *** Thai script *** Thai (Unicode block) ...
,
Filipino Filipino may refer to: * Something from or related to the Philippines The Philippines (; fil, Pilipinas or ''Filipinas'' ), officially the Republic of the Philippines ( fil, Republika ng Pilipinas), * bik, Republika kan Filipinas * ceb, ...
and
Indonesian Indonesian is anything of, from, or related to Indonesia, an archipelagic country in Southeast Asia. It may refer to: * Indonesians, citizens of Indonesia ** Native Indonesians, diverse groups of local inhabitants of the archipelago ** Indonesian w ...
honorifics.Krishna Chandra Sagar, 2002, An Era of Peace, Page 52. In the colonial context, the term
princely states A princely state, also called a native state, feudatory state or Indian state (for those states on the subcontinent), was a vassal state A vassal state is any state that has a mutual obligation to a superior state or empire, in a status simi ...
was used, especially for those that came under the sway of a European colonising power: for example the
British India The Provinces of India, earlier Presidencies of British India and still earlier, Presidency towns, were the administrative divisions of British governance in the Indian subcontinent. Collectively, they have been called British India. In one ...

British India
n and neighbouring or associated (e.g., Arabian) princely states were ruled by monarchs called Princes by the British, regardless of the native styles, which could be equivalent to royal or even imperial rank in the
Indigenous Indigenous may refer to: *Indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as First people, Aboriginal people, Native people, or autochthonous people, are culturally distinct ethnic groups who are native to a particular place. The term ' ...
cultures.


Other principalities


Other

Principalities have also existed in ancient and modern civilizations of
Africa Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven regions are ...

Africa
, Pre-Columbian America and
Oceania Oceania (, , ) is a Region, geographic region that includes Australasia, Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. Spanning the eastern hemisphere, Eastern and Western Hemispheres, Oceania has a land area of and a population of over 41 million. Wh ...

Oceania
.


Micronational principalities

Several
micronation A micronation is a political entity whose members claim that they belong to an independent nation or sovereign state lacking legal recognition by world governments or major international organizations. Most are geographically very small, but ra ...
s, which ''de facto'' have few characteristics of sovereign states and are not recognized as such, more or less seriously claim the status of sovereign principalities. Examples are Sealand, a former military fort in the
North Sea The North Sea is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean between Great Britain (specifically England and Scotland), Norway, Jutland (in Denmark), Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Hauts-de-France (in France). An epeiric sea, epeiric (or "shelf") sea on ...

North Sea
; Seborga, internationally considered a small town in
Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of a Northern Italy, continental part, delimited by the Alps, a Italian Peninsula, peninsula and List of islands of Italy, se ...

Italy
; and Hutt River and Principality of Wy in
Mosman Mosman is a suburb The Swedish suburbs of Husby/Kista/Akalla are built according to the typical city planning of the Million Programme. A suburb (or suburban area or suburbia) is a mixed-use or residential area, existing either as part o ...

Mosman
, internationally considered to be in
Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous List of islands of Australia, smal ...

Australia
.


See also

*
Grand prince Grand prince or great prince (feminine: grand princess or great princess) ( la, magnus princeps; Greek: ''megas archon ''Archon'' ( gr, ἄρχων, árchōn, plural: ἄρχοντες, ''árchontes'') is a Greek word that means "ruler", frequ ...
*
Victory title A victory title is an honorific title adopted by a successful military commander to commemorate his defeat of an enemy nation. The practice was first used by Ancient Rome and is still most commonly associated with the Romans, but it was also adopt ...
*
Emirate An emirate is a political territory that is ruled by a dynastic Arabic or Islam Islam (;There are ten pronunciations of ''Islam'' in English, differing in whether the first or second syllable has the stress, whether the ''s'' is or , a ...


References

{{Authority control Constitutional state types Monarchy Types of administrative division