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To continue my series on what language to use while writing the blog I want to discuss how I use German titles.

Here is a list of titles in German and thier English equivalent.

Kaiser and Kaiserin (Emperor and Empress)

König and Königin (King and Queen)

Großherzog and Großherzogin (Grand Duke and Grand Duchess)

Herzog and Herzogin (Duke and Duchess)

Prinz and Prinzessin (Prince and Princess)

I don’t use any of these German translations of titles. I only use English.

Grand Duke Ludwig IV of Hesse and by Rhine

It does create an unusual mixture. I will use Louis IV of Hesse and by Rhine, the son-in-law of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom for my example.

Generally when reading a book about this German Prince his name and title will be rendered in English as Grand Duke Louis IV of Hesse and by Rhine.

In German it’s Großherzog Ludwig IV von Hessen und bei Rhein.

I will use German for his name but English for the title: Grand Duke Ludwig IV of Hesse and by Rhine.

I want to give a little background on the title German Emperor which in German is: Deutscher Kaiser.

The title German Emperor was the official title of the head of state and hereditary ruler of the German Empire. A specifically chosen term, it was introduced with the January 1, 1871 constitution and lasted until the official abdication of Wilhelm II on November 9, 1918.

This painting is the third version of the proclamation of Prussian king Wilhelm I as German Emperor at Versailles, by Anton von Werner. The first two versions were destroyed in the Second World War. This version was commissioned by the Prussian royal family for chancellor Bismarck’s 70th birthday. Note that the subjects are portrayed as the age they were when the work was painted in 1885, not the age they were at when the event occurred in 1871.

The Holy Roman Emperor is sometimes also called “German Emperor” when the historical context is clear, as derived from the Holy Roman Empire’s official name of “Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation” from 1512.

German Empire (1848–49)

In the wake of the revolutions of 1848 and during the German Empire (1848–49), King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia was offered the title “Emperor of the Germans” which is translated Kaiser der Deutschen in German.

This title was offered to the Prussian King by the Frankfurt Parliament in 1849, but the King declined it because he didn’t believe the title was “not the Parliament’s to give”. King Friedrich Wilhelm IV believed that only the German princes had the right to make such an offer, in accordance with the traditions of the Holy Roman Empire.


The title German Emperor was carefully chosen by Otto von Bismarck, Minister President of Prussia and Chancellor of the North German Confederation, after discussion which continued until the proclamation of King Wilhelm I of Prussia as Emperor at the Palace of Versailles during the Siege of Paris.

Wilhelm accepted this title grudgingly on January 18 1871, having preferred “Emperor of Germany” which in German translates to Kaiser von Deutschland.

However, that would have signaled a territorial sovereignty unacceptable to the South German monarchs, as well as a claim to lands outside his realm such as Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and others.

German Emperor Wilhelm II, King of Prussia

“Emperor of the Germans” was also ruled out by Wilhelm as he considered himself a king who ruled by divine right and chosen “By the Grace of God”, not by the people in a popular monarchy. This was the exact same belief his brother King Friedrich Wilhelm IV professed.

But more in general, Wilhelm was unhappy about a crown that looked artificial (like Napoléon’s), having been created by a constitution. He was afraid that it would overshadow the Prussian crown. Which it eventually did during the reign of his grandson German Emperor Wilhelm II.

What is interesting is that when I speak of the German Emperors I will refer to them as Kaiser for the most part but will also refer to them as German Emperor. However in writing I always stick to the term German Emperor. Yes I’m not always consistent!

However, there is one title I do render in German and that is…

Fürst and Fürstin (Plural: Fürsten)

It is a German word for a ruler and it is also a princely title. Fürstens were, since the Middle Ages, members of the highest nobility who ruled over states of the Holy Roman Empire and later its former territories, and ranks below the ruling Emperor or King.

A Prince of the Holy Roman Empire was the reigning sovereign ruler of an Imperial State that held imperial immediacy in the boundaries of the Holy Roman Empire. The territory ruled is referred to in German as a Fürstentum (principality), the family dynasty referred to as a Fürstenhaus (princely house), and the (non-reigning) descendants of a Fürst are titled and referred to in German as Prinz (prince) or Prinzessin (princess).

The English language uses the term “Prince” for both a member of a Royal or Princely family and a reigning Prince. Therefore since the English language doesn’t distinguish between a non reigning Prince and a reigning Prince (Fürst) I will use the title Fürst when necessary and applicable.

Next week I will conclude this series with discussion of titles in Russian.