The monarchic title of grand duke (feminine: grand duchess) ranked in
order of precedence below emperor and king, and above that of
sovereign prince and sovereign duke. It is or was used in some
independent nations or states in Europe, particularly:
In present-day Luxembourg
Historically for the sovereigns of former independent countries such
Tuscany (from 1569 to 1860, now part of Italy); Baden, Oldenburg,
Saxe-Weimar, Mecklenburg-Schwerin, etc. — grand duchies from 1815 to
1918 and all now part of Germany
Formerly also for some nations in Eastern and Northeastern Europe,
Finland and Lithuania.
The monarchs of several micronations use the title.
Translations for grand duke include: in Latin, magnus dux; in
Luxembourgish Groussherzog; in German Großherzog; in French
Grand-Duc; in Spanish, Gran Duque; in Russian, великий
князь (velikiy kniaz, literally "grand prince"); in Italian Gran
Duca; in Portuguese grão-duque; in Finnish, suurherttua; in Polish,
wielki książę; in Hungarian, nagyherceg; in Swedish, storhertig; in
Dutch & Afrikaans, groothertog; in Danish, storhertug; in
Lithuanian, didysis kunigaikštis; in Latvian, lielhercogs; in Czech
velkovévoda or velkokníže; in Bulgarian велик херцог.
1 Western European grand dukes
2 Grand prince
3 Eastern European Grand Dukes
3.1 Byzantine Grand Dukes
3.2 Russian grand dukes
Grand Duke of Lithuania
4 Styles and forms of address
5 See also
Western European grand dukes
See also: Grand duchy
The term "grand duke" as a monarch reigning over an independent state
was a later invention (in Western Europe at first in 1569 for the
ruler of Tuscany) to denote either a particularly mighty
Duke or a
monarchy playing an important political, military and/or economic
role, but not large enough to be a Kingdom. It arose because the title
Duke had gradually lost status and precedence during the Middle
Ages by having been granted to rulers of relatively small fiefs
(feudal territories), instead of the large tribal regions or even
national territories to which the title was once attached.
One of the first examples occurred when
Gonçalo I Mendes of
Portucale (in northwest Portugal and considered as that country's
original nucleus) took, in 987, the personal title of Magnus Dux
Grand Duke of the Portuguese") and rebelled against
his feudal lord,
King Bermudo II of León. He was defeated by the
royal armies but nevertheless obtained a remarkable autonomy as a
Dux (Grand Duke), leading ultimately to Portuguese independence
from the Spanish Kingdom of Castille-León.
Another example was the line of self-proclaimed grand dukes (legally
dukes) of Burgundy in the 15th century, when they
ruled most of present-day north-eastern France as well as almost the
entire Low Countries. They tried -ultimately without success- to
create from these territories under their control a new unified
country between the Kingdom of France in the west and the Holy Roman
Empire (mainly present-day Germany) in the east. Philip III,
Burgundy (reigned 1419–67) assumed the subsidiary, legally void
style and title of "
Grand Duke of the West" in 1435, having previously
brought the Duchies of Brabant and Limburg as well as the counties of
Holland, Zeeland, Friesland, Hainaut and Namur into his possession.
His son and successor
Charles the Bold
Charles the Bold (reigned 1467–77) continued
to use the same style and title.
The title magnus dux or grand duke (Didysis Kunigas, Didysis
Kunigaikštis in Lithuanian) has been used by the rulers of Lithuania,
Jagiello also became Kings of Poland. From 1573, both the
Latin version and its Polish equivalent wielki ksiaze (literally
"grand prince"), the monarchic title of the rulers of
well as of (western) Russia, Prussia, Mazovia, Samogithia, Kiev,
Volhynia, Podolia, Podlachia, Livonia, Smolensk, Severia and Chernigov
(including hollow claims nurtured by ambition), were used as part of
their full official monarchic titles by the Kings (Polish: Krol) of
Poland during the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.
The first monarchs ever officially titled grand duke were the Medici
sovereigns of Tuscany, starting from the late 16th century. This
official title was granted by
Pope Pius V
Pope Pius V in 1569; arguably it was a
personal (Papal) title attached to a mere dukedom, though, because the
territory was under the vassalage of the Holy Roman Empire.
Napoleon I awarded the title extensively: during his era, several of
his allies (and de facto vassals) were allowed to assume the title of
grand duke, usually at the same time as their inherited fiefs (or
fiefs granted by Napoleon) were enlarged by annexed territories
previously belonging to enemies defeated on the battlefield. After
Napoleon's downfall, the victorious powers who met at the Congress of
Vienna, which dealt with the political aftermath of the Napoleonic
Wars, agreed to abolish the Grand Duchies created by Bonaparte and to
create a group of monarchies of intermediate importance with that
title. Thus the 19th century saw a new group of monarchs titled Grand
Duke in central Europe, especially in present-day Germany. A list of
these is available in the article grand duchy.
In the same century, the purely ceremonial version of the title "grand
Russia (in fact the western translation of the Russian title
"grand prince" granted to the siblings of the tsar) expanded massively
because of the large number of progeny of the ruling House of Romanov
during those decades.
In the German and Dutch languages, which have separate words for a
prince as the issue (child) of a monarch (respectively Prinz, Prins)
and for a sovereign prince (Fürst, Vorst), there is also a clear
linguistic difference between a sovereign
Grand Duke reigning over a
state of central and western Europe (Großherzog, Groothertog) and a
non-sovereign, purely ceremonial
Grand Duke of either the Russian
Imperial family or other non-sovereign territories which are de facto
dependencies of a major power (Großfürst, Grootvorst).
John III of Sweden
John III of Sweden added "
Grand Duke of Finland" to the
subsidiary titles of the Swedish kings, but without any political
Finland was already a part of the Swedish realm.
After the Russian conquests, the title continued to be used by the
Russian Emperors in their role as rulers of both (de facto
Lithuania (1793–1918) and the (equally non-sovereign)
Finland (1809–1917). The
Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire under the
House of Habsburg
House of Habsburg instituted a similar non-sovereign Großfürstentum
Siebenbürgen (Grand Principality of Transylvania) in 1765.
Main article: Grand prince
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Grand princes (or sometimes great princes) were medieval monarchs who
usually ruled over several tribes and/or were feudal overlords of
other princes. At the time, the title was usually translated as
"king", sometimes also as "Minor King" or "Little King" (German:
Kleinkönig). However, Grand Princes did not have the same monarchic
precedence as later Western European kings, and thus they were
considered lower in rank, particularly in later literature.
Grand Princes reigned in Central and Eastern Europe, notably among
Slavs and Lithuanians.
The title "Grand Prince" translates to Velikiy Knjaz (Великий
князь) in Russian. The Slavic word knjaz and the Lithuanian
kunigas (today translated as "Prince") are cognates of the word King
in its original meaning of "Ruler". Thus, the literal meaning of
Veliki Knjaz and Didysis Kunigas was more like "Great Ruler" than
With the growing importance and size of their countries, those
monarchs claimed a higher title, such as king or tsar (also spelled
"Czar" in English) which was derived from the
Latin Caesar ("Emperor")
and based on the claim to be the legitimate successors of the
Byzantine-East Roman Emperors.
Grand Prince Ivan IV of
Muscovy was the
last monarch to reign without claiming any higher title, until he
finally assumed the style
Russia in 1547.
The rulers of the Turkish vassal state of Transylvania (German:
Siebenbürgen) used the title of Grand Prince; this title was later
assumed by the Habsburgs after their conquest of Hungary. The Polish
Kings of the Swedish
House of Vasa
House of Vasa also used the grand-princely title
for their non-Polish territories.
In the late Middle Ages, the title "Grand Prince" became increasingly
a purely ceremonial courtesy title for close relatives of ruling
monarchs, such as the
Tsar of Russia, who granted his brothers the
Grand Duke of
Russia (veliki knjaz).
Eastern European Grand Dukes
Byzantine Grand Dukes
Further information: megas doux
Latin title dux (the etymological root of duke), which was
phonetically rendered doux (δούξ) in Greek, was a common title for
imperial generals in the Late Roman Empires (west and east), but note
it was lower in rank than comes (the etymological root of Count).
Under the latter, exclusively Byzantine theme system, the commander of
a theme was often styled a doux instead of the earlier strategos from
the 10th century on. The title of "Grand Duke" (megas doux) was
Alexios I Komnenos
Alexios I Komnenos and was conferred upon the commanding
admiral of the Byzantine navy. As such, it was an actual office rather
than a court rank (although it also became a grade in the court order
of precedence under the Palaiologan emperors), and was always held by
Russian grand dukes
Portrait of Grand
Duchess Maria Fiodorovna by Heinrich von Angeli
Saint Petersburg, Hermitage Museum
"Grand duke" is the traditional translation of the title Velikiy Kniaz
(Великий Князь), 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
as the grand duke for "all of Russia" until
Ivan IV of Russia
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.
Another translation of the Russian title would be grand prince. While
this term is a more precise translation, it 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.
From 1809 to 1917 the
Russia was also the
Grand Duke of
Finland, which he held as an autonomous state. Before the Russian
Finland had been held by the Kings of Sweden, first as a
royal duchy, since 1581 with the
King assuming the secondary title
Grand Prince of
Finland (Finnish: Suomen suuriruhtinas, Swedish:
Storfurste av Finland), also often translated as
Grand Duke of
Grand Duke of Lithuania
Throughout the history of
Lithuania from the middle 1200s to the late
1700s, most of its leaders were referred to as Grand Dukes of the
Grand Duchy of Lithuania, even when they jointly held the title King
Poland and other titles.
Styles and forms of address
Most often, a sovereign grand duke was, somewhat strangely, styled as
"Royal Highness" (HRH), possibly because of the connection of many
grand-ducal houses to royal ones or as the "highest style beneath"
that of a
King which would be "Majesty". The heir to the throne
(hereditary grand duke) was sometimes styled as "Royal Highness",
otherwise as "Grand Ducal Highness" (HGDH). Junior members of the
family also generally bore the lower title of prince/princess with the
Grand Ducal Highness (HGDH); a famous example is Empress
Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia, who was known as "Her Grand Ducal
Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine" (Ihre Großherzogliche
Hoheit Prinzessin Alix von Hessen und bei Rhein) before her marriage
Tsar Nicholas II. However, in other grand duchies (e.g.,
Oldenburg), junior members of the family bore the title of
duke/duchess, with the style of "Highness" (HH).
The Grand Ducal Family of
Luxembourg styles all its members as "Royal
Highness" since 1919, due to their being also cadet members of the
Royal and Ducal
House of Bourbon-Parma
House of Bourbon-Parma as male-line descendants of
Prince Felix of Bourbon-Parma.
The Habsburg grand dukes of Tuscany, being members of the imperial
family of Austria, were styled as "Imperial and Royal Highness"
Grand dukes and grand duchesses from
Russia were styled as "Imperial
Highness" (HIH), being members of the Russian Imperial Family.
Look up grand duke in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Grand Duchies.
List of Grand Duchesses of Russia
List of Grand Dukes of Russia
Royal and noble ranks
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