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German Titles.

Other than the British Royal Family the German monarchies hold a very great interest for me. Germany has a very rich monarchical history that stretches far back into history. When I tell people that I love German history they look at me as if I am obsessed with World War II and Hitler. I think many Americans fail to realize that German history did not begin with World War II!

The titles and system of the German monarchy is more complex than the British system. So it may take me a while to cover all I want to cover. This will be a brief overview and not as detailed as I would like it to be. For one thing all systems of titles evolved and Germany was no exception. Through the years from the kingdom of the Franks through the period of the Holy Roman Empire, The Confederation of the Rhine and the German Empire the system solidified and also adapted to the changing times. Therefore for the sake of brevity I will cover the titles as they were from the time of the Golden Bull of Karl IV in 1356 which changed the way the Holy Roman Emperor was elected. This system remained in effect until the end of the First German Reich in 1806 and even afterward to some extent.

One of the key points to remember when examining the German system was that it was a feudal system. A top down system (in theory anyway) where the Emperor was supreme and all who held land and titles held them by the grace and authority of the Emperor. Also, those titled nobles were supposed to support the emperor in times of war. This was all in theory for we shall see in practice things worked out differently. Staying with the feudal system for as long as they did left Germany as a loose confederation of states that did not really have a strong centralized government.

Through the next few Tuesdays for this continuing series I will look not only the hierarchy of titles but such concepts and equal marriage and the Higher and Lower Nobility.

Here is the hierarchy of titles:

Emperor
King*
Elector#
Grand Dukes@
Dukes
Margraves
Landgraves
Fürst**
Princes

* Kings were around in the formation of Charlemagne Empire but as the Holy Roman Empire progressed there were no kings ruling within the empire, with the exception of Bohemia which was generally ruled by the Habsburg emperor.

#Electors came into being in 1356 and remained until the empire was dissolved in 1806. One family, the House of Hesse-Cassel, was allowed to retain the title of Elector after the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire and into the period of the Confederation of the Rhine. In 1866 when Germany was in the process of unification they lost this title when their land was annexed to Prussia.

@Grand Dukes also came into being after the Holy Roman Empire and were part of the system of rulers during the Confederation and German Empire Period.

**Fürst is a title similar to a prince but it also was higher than a prince. There is no correct English translation and generally is translated as prince in English.

One of the things I also want to mention and this is what separates the German system from the British system is that the owners of these titles generally held sovereignty and ruled a territory. For example the Duke of Brunswick actually ruled over their small patch of land. However, in Britain, the Duke of Devonshire was not sovereign and his title did not indicate he ruled over any land.

Well, that is my brief introduction to the German system starting next week I will examine each of these titles individually.

 

 

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