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Prince is a general term for a ruler, monarch or member of a monarch's or former monarch's family, and is a hereditary title in the nobility of some European states. The feminine equivalent is a princess. The English word derives, via the French word prince, from the Latin noun princeps, from primus (first) + capio (to seize), meaning "the chief, most distinguished, ruler, prince".
The Latin word prīnceps (older Latin *prīsmo-kaps, literally "the one who takes the first "), became the usual title of the informal leader of the Roman senate some centuries before the transition to empire, the princeps senatus.
Emperor Augustus established the formal position of monarch on the basis of principate, not dominion. He also tasked his grandsons as summer rulers of the city when most of the government were on holiday in the country or attending religious rituals, and, for that task, granted them the title of princeps.
The title has generic and substantive meanings:
The original, but now less common use of the word, originated in the application of the Latin word princeps, from Roman, more precisely Byzantine law, and the classical system of government that was the European feudal society. In this sense, a prince is a ruler of a territory which is sovereign, or quasi-sovereign, i.e., exercising substantial (though not all) prerogatives associated with monarchs of independent nations, as was common, for instance, within the historical boundaries of the Holy Roman Empire. In medieval and Early Modern Europe, there were as many as two hundred such territories, especially in Italy, Germany, and Gaelic Ireland. In this sense, "prince" is used of any and all rulers, regardless of actual title or precise rank. This is the Renaissance use of the term found in Niccolò Machiavelli's famous work, Il Principe.
As a title, by the end of the medieval era, prince was borne by rulers of territories that were either substantially smaller than or exercised fewer of the rights of sovereignty than did emperors and kings. A lord of even a quite small territory might come to be referred to as a prince before the 13th century, either from translations of a native title into the Latin princeps (as for the hereditary ruler of Wales), or when the lord's territory was allodial. The lord of an allodium owned his lands and exercised prerogatives over the subjects in his territory absolutely, owing no feudal homage or duty as a vassal to a liege lord, nor being subject to any higher jurisdiction. Most small territories designated as principalities during feudal eras were allodial, e.g. the Princedom of Dombes.
Lords who exercised lawful authority over territories and people within a feudal hierarchy were also sometimes regarded as princes in the general sense, especially if they held the rank of count or higher. This is attested in some surviving styles for e.g., British earls, marquesses, and dukes are still addressed by the Crown on ceremonial occasions as high and noble princes (cf. Royal and noble styles).
In parts of the Holy Roman Empire in which primogeniture did not prevail (i.e. Germany), all legitimate agnates had an equal right to the family's hereditary titles. While this meant that offices, such as emperor, king, and elector could only be legally occupied by one dynast at a time, holders of such other titles as duke, margrave, landgrave, count palatine, and prince could only differentiate themselves by adding the name of their appanage to the family's original title. Not only did this tend to proliferate unwieldy titles (e.g. Princess Katherine of Anhalt-Zerbst and Karl, Count Palatine of Zweibrücken-Neukastell-Kleeburg and Prince Christian Charles of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Plön-Norburg), but as agnatic primogeniture gradually became the norm in the Holy Roman Empire by the end of the 18th century, another means of distinguishing the monarch from other members of his dynasty became necessary. Gradual substitution of the title of Prinz for the monarch's title of Fürst occurred, and became customary in all German dynasties except in the grand duchies of Mecklenburg and Oldenburg. Both Prinz and Fürst are translated into English as "prince", but they reflect not only different but mutually exclusive terms.
This distinction had evolved before the 18th century (in most families: Liechtenstein long remained an exception, cadets and females using Fürst/Fürstin into the 19th century) for dynasties headed by a Fürst in Germany. The custom spread through the Continent to such an extent that a renowned imperial general who belonged to a cadet branch of a reigning ducal family, remains best known to history by the generic dynastic title, Prince Eugene of Savoy. Note that the princely title was used as a prefix to his Christian name, which also became customary.
Cadets of France's princes étrangers began to affect similar usage but when, for example, the House of La Tour d'Auvergne's ruling dukes of Bouillon, attempted to use the same style, it was initially resisted by historians such as Père Anselme – who, however, willingly recognized use of territorial titles, i.e. he accepts that the ducal heir apparent is known as prince de Bouillon, but would record in 1728 only that the heir's cousin, the comte d'Oliergues was "known as the Prince Frederick" ("dit le prince Frédéric").
The post-medieval rank of gefürsteter Graf (princely count) embraced but elevated the German equivalent of the intermediate French, English and Spanish nobles. In Germany, these nobles rose to dynastic status by preserving from the Imperial crown (de jure after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648) the exercise of such sovereign prerogatives as the minting of money; the muster of military troops and the right to wage war and contract treaties; local judicial authority and constabular enforcement; and the habit of inter-marrying with sovereign dynasties. Eventually, these titles came to be more highly valued than that of Fürst itself, and by the 19th century, their cadets would become known as Prinzen.Prince of the blood
|This section may be confusing or unclear to readers. (June 2012)|
Currently, the husband of a queen regnant is usually titled prince or prince consort, whereas the wives of male monarchs take the female equivalent of their husbands' title—the same as is used when a female mounts the throne in her own right, such as empress or queen. In Brazil, Spain and Portugal, however, the husband of a female monarch was accorded the masculine equivalent of her title—at least after she bore him a child. In previous epochs, husbands of queens regnant often shared their consorts' regnal title and rank.
But in cultures which allow the ruler to have several wives (e.g. four in Islam) and/or official concubines, for these women sometimes collectively referred to as harem there are often specific rules determining their hierarchy and a variety of titles, which may distinguish between those whose offspring can be in line for the succeesion or not, or specifically who is mother to the heir to the throne. (E.g. in English language the title "The Prince/Princess" refers to sons/daughters of the ruling monarch)
To complicate matters, the style His Royal Highness, a prefix normally accompanying the title of a dynastic prince, of royal or imperial rank, that is, can be awarded separately (as a compromise or consolation prize, in some sense).
Although the definition above is the one that is most commonly understood, there are also different systems. Depending on country, epoch, and translation, other meanings of prince are possible.
Over the centuries foreign-language titles such as Italian principe, French prince, German Prinz (son of a king or emperor) Fürst (peer), Russian kniaz, etc., are usually translated as prince in English.
Some princely titles are derived from that of national rulers, such as tsarevich from tsar. Other examples are (e)mirza(da), khanzada, nawabzada, sahibzada, shahzada, sultanzada (all using the Persian patronymic suffix -zada, meaning son, descendant).
However, some princely titles develop in unusual ways, such as adoption of a style for dynasts which is not pegged to the ruler's title, but rather continues an old tradition (e.g. grand duke in Romanov Russia), claims dynastic succession to a lost monarchy (e.g. prince de Tarente for the La Trémoïlle heirs to the Neapolitan throne, or is simply assumed by fiat (e.g. prince Français by the House of Bonaparte).Specific titlesJosé, Prince of Brazil, Duke of Braganza, died before he could ascend to the throne of Portugal.
In some dynasties, a specific style other than prince has become customary for dynasts, such as fils de France in the House of Capet, and Infante. Infante was borne by children of the monarch other than the heir apparent in all of the Iberian monarchies. Some monarchies used a specific princely title for their heirs, such as Prince of Asturias in Spain and Prince of Brazil in Portugal. Sometimes a specific title is commonly used by various dynasties in a region, e.g. Mian in various of the Punjabi princely Hill States (lower Himalayan region in British India).
European dynasties usually awarded apanages to princes of the blood, typically attached to a feudal noble title, such as Britain's royal dukes, the Dauphin in France, the Count of Flanders in Belgium, and the Count of Syracuse in Sicily. Sometimes appanage titles were princely, e.g. Prince of Achaia (Courtenay), prince de Condé (Bourbon), Prince of Carignan (Savoy), but it was the fact that their owners were of princely rank rather than that they held a princely title which ensured their prominence.
Other princes derive their title not from dynastic membership as such, but from inheritance of a title named for a specific and historical territory, although the family's possession of prerogatives or properties in that territory may be long past. Such are most of the "princedoms" of France's ancien régime so resented for their pretentiousness by St-Simon. These include the princedoms of Arches-Charleville, Boisbelle-Henrichemont, Chalais, Château-Regnault, Guéméné, Martigues, Mercœur, Sedan, Talmond, Tingrey, and the "kingship" of Yvetot, among others.Prince as a reigning monarch
A prince or princess who is the head of state of a territory that has a monarchy as a form of government is a reigning prince.Nominal principalities
The current princely monarchies include:
Coat of arms of the principality of Andorra (1607).
Coat of arms of the principality of Liechtenstein (1719).
In the same tradition some self-proclaimed monarchs of so-called micronations establish themselves as virtual princes:
Various monarchies provide for different modes in which princes of the dynasty can temporarily or permanently share in the style and / or office of the Monarch, e.g. as Regent or Viceroy.
Though these offices must not be reserved for members of the ruling dynasty, in some traditions they are, possibly even reflected in the style of the office, e.g. prince-lieutenant in Luxembourg repeatedly filled by the Crown prince before the grand duke's abdication, or in form of consortium imperii.
Some monarchies even have a practice in which the Monarch can formally abdicate in favor of his heir, and yet retain a kingly title with executive power, e.g. Maha Upayuvaraja (Sanskrit for Great Joint King in Cambodia), though sometimes also conferred on powerful regents who exercised executive powers.Non-dynastic princes
France and the Holy Roman EmpireCoat of arms of Otto, prince of Bismarck (German Empire).
In several countries of the European continent, e.g. in France, prince can be an aristocratic title of someone having a high rank of nobility in chief of a geographical place, but no actual territory and without any necessary link to the royal family, which makes comparing it with e.g. the British system of royal princes difficult.
The kings of France started to bestow the style of prince, as a title among the nobility, from the 16th century onwards. These titles were created by elevating a seigneurie to the nominal status of a principality—although prerogatives of sovereignty were never conceded in the letters patent. These titles held no official place in the hierarchy of the nobility, but were often treated as ranking just below dukedoms, since they were often inherited (or assumed) by ducal heirs:
This can even occur in a monarchy within which an identical but real and substantive feudal title exists, such as Fürst in German. An example of this is:
Spain, France and NetherlandsCoat of arms of the princes of Waterloo (the Netherlands).
In other cases, such titular princedoms are created in chief of an event, such as a treaty of a victory. An example of this is:
In Poland specifically, the titles of prince dated either to the times before the Union of Lublin or were granted to Polish nobles by foreign kings, as the law in Poland forbade the king from dividing nobility by granting them hereditary titles. For more information, see The Princely Houses of Poland.
In the Russian system, knyaz, translated as "prince", is the highest degree of official nobility. Members of older dynasties that were eventually subjected to the Russian imperial dynasty were also accorded the title of knyaz—sometimes after first being allowed to use the higher title of tsarevich (e.g. the Princes Gruzinsky and Sibirsky. Rurikid branches used the knyaz title also after they were succeeded by the Romanovs as the Russian imperial dynasty. An example of this is:
In each case, the title is followed (when available) by the female form and then (not always available, and obviously rarely applicable to a prince of the blood without a principality) the name of the territorial associated with it, each separated by a slash. If a second title (or set) is also given, then that one is for a Prince of the blood, the first for a principality. Be aware that the absence of a separate title for a prince of the blood may not always mean no such title exists; alternatively, the existence of a word does not imply there is also a reality in the linguistic territory concerned; it may very well be used exclusively to render titles in other languages, regardless whether there is a historical link with any (which often means that linguistic tradition is adopted)
Etymologically, we can discern the following traditions (some languages followed a historical link, e.g. within the Holy Roman Empire, not their language family; some even fail to follow the same logic for certain other aristocratic titles):Romance languages
The above is essentially the story of European, Christian dynasties and other nobility, also 'exported' to their colonial and other overseas territories and otherwise adopted by rather westernized societies elsewhere (e.g. Haiti).
Applying these essentially western concepts, and terminology, to other cultures even when they don't do so, is common but in many respects rather dubious. Different (historical, religious...) backgrounds have also begot significantly different dynastic and nobiliary systems, which are poorly represented by the 'closest' western analogy.
It therefore makes sense to treat these per civilization.Islamic traditions
In ancient China, the title of prince developed from being the highest title of nobility (synonymous with duke) in the Zhou Dynasty, to five grades of princes (not counting the sons and grandsons of the emperor) by the time of the fall of the Qing Dynasty.The Chinese word for prince Wang (王, literally, King) as Chinese believe the emperor Huang Di (皇帝) is the ruler of all kings. The most accurate translations of the English word "prince" are Huang Zi (皇子, lit. Son of the Emperor) or Wang Zi (王子, lit. Son of the King).Japan
In Japan, the title Kōshaku (公爵) was used as the highest title of Kazoku (華族 Japanese modern nobility) before the present constitution. Kōshaku, however, is more commonly translated as "Duke" to avoid confusion with the following royal ranks in the Imperial Household: Shinnō (親王 literally, King of the Blood); female Naishinnō (内親王 lit., Queen (by herself) of the Blood); and Shinnōhi 親王妃 lit., Consort of King of the Blood); or Ō (王 lit., King); female, Jyo-Ō (女王 lit., Queen (by herself)); and Ōhi (王妃 lit., Consort of King). The former is the higher title of a male member of the Imperial family while the latter is the lower.Korea
In Joseon Dynasty, the title "Prince" was used for the king's male-line descendant. Prince translated generally into three divisions. The king's legitimate son used title Grand Prince (daegun, 대군, 大君). A son born of a concubine and king's great-great-grand son used title Prince (gun, 군, 君). Presently, it is usually translated as 왕자 (wangja).Sri Lanka
The title 'Prince' was used for the King's son in Sinhalese generation in Sri Lanka. 'Rajamanthri' is a son born of the King's great-great-grand son used in 'Kandyan Kingdom' Kandy.IndiaWeeks Edwin Indian Prince And Parade Ceremony
See Principalia, the sultanates of Maguindanao and Sulu.Thailand
In Thailand (formerly Siam), the title of Prince was divided into three classes depending on the rank of their mothers. Those who were born of a King and had a royal mother (a Queen or a Princess consort) are titled Chaofa Chai (Thai: เจ้าฟ้าชาย: literally, "Male Celestial Lord"). Those born of a King and a commoner or children of Chaofas are tilted Phra Ong Chao (พระองค์เจ้า). The children of Phra Ong Chaos are titled Mom Chao (หม่อมเจ้า), abbreviated as M.C. (or ม.จ.).African traditions
A Western model was sometimes copied by emancipated colonial regimes (e.g. Bokassa I's short-lived Central-African Empire in Napoleonic fashion). Otherwise, most of the styles for members of ruling families do not lend themselves well to English translation. Nonetheless, in general the princely style has gradually replaced the colonialist title of chief, which does not particularly connote dynastic rank to Westerners, e.g. Swazi Royal Family and Zulu Royal Family. Due to this, the nominally ministerial chiefly titles that still exist (e.g.: the Yoruba Oloye) are usually viewed as little more than the equivalents of the British knighthood, of little dynastic consequence except as a means of passively honouring the supporters of a monarch who is himself probably more contemporary in his styling.The title of prince in religionSaint Robert Cardinal Bellarmine was a prince of the Roman Catholic Church during his lifetime.
In states with an element of theocracy, this can affect princehood in several ways, such as the style of the ruler (e.g. with a secondary title meaning son or servant of a named divinity), but also the mode of succession (even reincarnation and recognition).
Furthermore, certain religious offices may be considered of princely rank, and/or imply comparable temporal rights.
The Pope, Cardinals, Prince Bishops, Lord Bishops, Prince-Provost, and Prince-abbots are referred to as Princes of the Church. Also in Christianity, Jesus Christ is sometimes referred to as the Prince of Peace. Other titles for Jesus Christ are Prince of Princes, Prince of the Covenant, and Prince of the Kings of the Earth. Further, Satan is often titled the Prince of Darkness; and in the Christian faith he is also referred to as the Prince of this World and the Prince of the Power of the Air. Another title for Satan, not as common today but apparently so in approximately 30 A.D. by the Pharisees of the day, was the title Prince of the Devils. Prince of Israel, Prince of the Angels, and Prince of Light are titles given to the Archangel Michael. Some Christian churches also believe that since all Christians, like Jesus Christ, are children of God, then they too are princes and princesses of Heaven. Saint Peter, a disciple of Jesus, is also known as the Prince of the Apostles.