The title of Archduke (feminine: Archduchess) (German: "Erzherzog", feminine -also spousal- form: "Erzherzogin") denotes a rank above Duke and under King, but is too rare and yet has uses too diverse to be given a fixed relative position within the former Holy Roman Empire to which it was restricted. It has only ever been continuously borne by princes of the House of Habsburg and later through the female line into the House of Habsburg-Lorraine.

The first seventy-three people in the line of succession to the throne of the Imperial and Royal Family of Austria-Hungary are all Imperial and Royal (HI&RH) Archdukes.

Ruler style

The English word is recorded only since 1530, derived from Middle - via Old French "archeduc", from Merovingian Latin "archidux", from "arch(i)-" (see arch- (adj.)) + dux 'duke' . Archduke ("Erzherzog") is a title distinct from Grand Duke ("Großherzog" or "Großfürst"), used in some other German royal houses and still in sovereign Luxemburg.

First use was as a the title of the rulers of Austrasia (c.750), one of the Frankish realms resulting from the complex successions in the house of Clovis, roughly comprising Germany, Switzerland and the Low Countries. In the Carolingian Empire it was awarded as a unique promotion to the duke of Lotharingia (much larger than Lorraine), which could be seen as successor to the former Carolingian kingdom of Lothringia which had been at par at least with West Francia (modern France) in the dynastic divisions under the early heirs of Charlemagne but ended up absorbed by East Francia (Greater Germany).

After the split (959) of the (arch)duchy into Upper- (German "Oberlothringen", including modern Lorraine) and Lower Lothringia (German "Niederlothringen", north of it, with seat at Cologne and originally vested in its prince-archbishop, but extending north all the way to Frisia) and the latter's further fragmentation, two of the 'succeeding' duchies in the Low Countries, Brabant (mainly in present Belgium) and Gelre (now in the Dutch kingdom and giving its name to the province of Gelderland), claimed the archducal rank but were never officially granted it by the Holy Roman Emperor. The Dutch form is "Aartshertog".

The title Archduke of Austria, the only one to become generally notable, was invented in the Privilegium Maius, a 14th century forgery initiated by Duke Rudolf IV of Austria. Originally, it was meant to denote the ruler of the (thus 'Arch')duchy of Austria, in an effort to put that ruler on par with the Prince-electors, as Austria had been passed over in the Golden Bull of 1356, when the electorships had been assigned. Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV refused to recognize the title.

Duke Ernest the Iron and his descendants unilaterally assumed the title "archduke";

This title was only officially recognized in 1453 by Emperor Frederick III, when the Habsburgs had (permanently) gained control of the office of the Holy Roman Emperor.

First it was granted to Frederick's younger brother, Albert VI of Austria (d. 1463), who used the title at least from 1458.

In 1477, Frederick III granted the title archduke also to his first cousin, Sigismund of Austria, ruler of Further Austria.

Frederick's son and heir, the future Emperor Maximilian I, started to use the title, but obviously only after the death of his wife Mary of Burgundy (d. 1482) as the title never appears in documents of joint Maximilian and Mary rule in the Low Countries (where Maximilian is still titled Duke of Austria). The title appears first in documents of joint Maximilian and Philip (his under-age son) rule in the Low Countries.

Emperor Frederick III himself used just Duke of Austria, never Archduke, until his death in 1490.

Ladislaus the Posthumous, Duke of Austria, who died in 1457, was never in his lifetime authorized to use it, and accordingly, not he nor anyone in his branch of the dynasty ever used the title.

Female children of the dynasty were not yet entitled to the title in the 15th century. It was used only by those dynasts who ruled a Habsburg territory, i.e., only by males and their consorts.

Other dynastic Habsburg use

Often imprecisely rendered as Grand Duke (actually a lower rank with which it should not be confused), Grand Prince (in German "Großfürst", not "Großherzog") was used for the rulers of Lithuania (which in 1386 formed a personal union with Poland) and Moscovia, the nucleus of later imperial Russia until its ruler assumed the sovereign style Tsar of royal rank, and still later emperor in imperial Russia. "Archduke" was used for non-sovereign rulers as a titular rank for princes of the Austrian ruling house of Habsburg, in titulary chief of an Austrian homeland but without becoming its hereditary ruler since all territories remained vested in the Austrian crown. Occasionally it might be combined with a separate gubernatorial mandate.

From the 16th century onward, Archduke and its female form, Archduchess, came to be used by all the members of the House of Habsburg, similar to the title Prince (of the blood) in many other royal houses. For example, Queen Marie Antoinette of France was born Archduchess Maria Antonia of Austria. This practice was maintained, after the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire, in the Austrian Empire (1804-1867) and the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1867-1918).

With the abolition of the imperial monarchy in 1919, noble titles and the peerage system were abolished in Austria. Thus, those members of the extended Habsburg family who are citizens of the federal Republic of Austria, are simply known by their respective first name and their surname, Habsburg-Lothringen. The use of former Austrian aristocratic titles such as archduke is in fact illegal in Austria, but members of the family who are citizens of other countries such as Germany, where aristocratic titles have become part of the name, may use the title.

Fictional Archdukes

* Poggle the Lesser was the Archduke of Geonosis, a planet from the Star Wars universe.

Sources and references

* [ EtymologyOnLine]
* [ Use of the title "archduke" in contemporaneous documents]

See also

*Archducal hat
*List of rulers of Austria

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Archduke — Arch duke , n. [Pref. arch + duke.] A prince of the imperial family of Austria. [1913 Webster] Note: Formerly this title was assumed by the rulers of Lorraine, Brabant, Austria, etc. It is now appropriated to the descendants of the imperial… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • archduke — (n.) 1520s, from Middle French and O.Fr. archeduc, from Merovingian L. archiducem (c.750); see ARCH (Cf. arch ) + DUKE (Cf. duke) (n.). Formerly the title of the rulers of Austrasia, Lorraine, Brabant, and Austria; later the titular dignity of… …   Etymology dictionary

  • archduke — ► NOUN 1) a chief duke. 2) historical a son of the Emperor of Austria. DERIVATIVES archducal adjective archduchy noun …   English terms dictionary

  • archduke — [ärch′do͞ok΄, ärch′dyo͞ok΄] n. a sovereign prince, esp. a prince of the former Austrian imperial family …   English World dictionary

  • archduke — /ahrch doohk , dyoohk /, n. a title of the sovereign princes of the former ruling house of Austria. [1520 30; earlier archeduke < F archeduc (now archiduc). See ARCH 1, DUKE] * * * ▪ Habsburg title feminine  archduchess        a title, proper in… …   Universalium

  • archduke — UK [ˌɑː(r)tʃˈdjuːk] / US [ɑrtʃˈduk] noun [countable] Word forms archduke : singular archduke plural archdukes a prince in the Austrian royal family …   English dictionary

  • archduke — noun The son or male line grandson of an emperor of the Austro Hungarian Empire. World War I traditionally started with the assassination of Archduke Francis (Franz) Ferdinand. See Also: archduchess, duke, emperor, grand duke, imperial, noble …   Wiktionary

  • archduke — noun Etymology: Middle French archeduc, from arche arch + duc duke Date: 15th century 1. a sovereign prince 2. a prince of the imperial family of Austria • archdukedom noun …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • archduke — arch|duke [ˌa:tʃˈdju:k US ˌa:rtʃˈdu:k] n a prince who belonged to the royal family of Austria …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • archduke — arch|duke [ artʃ duk ] noun count a prince in the Austrian royal family …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

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