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The term duke is a title of nobility which refers to the sovereign male ruler of a Continental European duchy, to a nobleman of the highest grade of the British peerage, or to the highest rank of nobility in various other European countries, including Spain and France (in Italy, principe is held to be the highest grade). The wife of a duke, or a woman who rules a duchy, is known as a duchess.

There were no Anglo-Saxon dukes; the Middle English duke derives from the Old French duc, which in turn came from the Latin dux/ducis deriving from the verb ducere, meaning "to lead". The Genoese and Venetian title "doge" is derived from the same origin.

In the late Roman Empire, dux was a military title. Latin chroniclers applied it to the leaders of Lombard warbands. When this title appeared in the Carolingian empire, dukes ruled over non-Frankish nations (dukes of the Alamans, of the Bavarians, of the Aquitans), while counts ruled over a region in the Frankish realm.

In the United Kingdom, the inherited office of a duke along with its dignities, privileges, and rights is a dukedom. However, the title of duke has never been associated with independent rule in the British Isles. Dukes in the United Kingdom are addressed as 'Your Grace' and referred to with the prefix 'His Grace'. Currently, there are twenty-seven dukedoms in the peerages of England, Scotland, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom, held by twenty-four persons (see List of Dukes in order of precedence).

Table of contents
1 Royal dukes
2 History
3 See also

Royal dukes

A royal duke is a duke who is a member of the British Royal Family, entitled to the style of Royal Highness. In the United Kingdom, the current royal dukes are HRH the Prince of Wales, who is Duke of Cornwall and Duke of Rothesay; HRH the Duke of Edinburgh (Prince Philip), HRH the Duke of York (Prince Andrew), HRH the Duke of Gloucester (Prince Richard), and HRH the Duke of Kent (Prince Edward). The former king Edward VIII was created Duke of Windsor after his abdication. With the exceptions of the dukedoms of Cornwall and Rothesay (which can only be held by the eldest son of the Sovereign), these dukedoms are hereditary according to the Letters Patent that created them, which contain the standard remainder "heirs male of his body." Other dukedoms that have been awarded to members of the British royal family in the past include those of Albany, Avondale, Cambridge, Clarence, Connaught, Cumberland, Kendal, Stathearn, and Sussex. In the past, British sovereigns have combined several territorial designations into a single dukedom. For example, King George III created his second son, Prince Frederick Augustus, Duke of York and Albany, and Queen Victoria bestowed the dukedom of Clarence and Avondale on her grandson, Prince Albert Victor of Wales. To date, Avondale, Stathearn, and St. Andrews have not been granted as separate dukedoms. Once a particular peerage is granted to a member of the British royal family, it is not subsequently granted to anyone outside the royal family.

In the United Kingdom, there is nothing about the particular dukedom that makes it "royal." Rather, these peerages are called "royal dukedoms" because they are held by a member of the royal family who is entitled to the style Royal Highness. Under the 20 November 1917 Letters Patent of King George V, the titular dignity of Prince/Princess and the style Royal Highness are restricted to the sons of a Sovereign, the sons of a Sovereign's sons, and the eldest living son of the eldest son of a Prince of Wales. For example, when the current Duke of Gloucester and Duke of Kent are succeeded by their eldest sons, the Earl of Ulster and the Earl of St. Andrews, respectively, those peerages (or rather, the 1928 and 1934 creations of them) will cease to be associated with royalty. The third dukes of Gloucester and Kent will be styled "His Grace" because as great grandsons of George V, they are not Princes and are not styled HRH. Similarly, upon the death of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught (1850-1942), the third son of Queen Victoria, his only male-line grandson, Alastair Arthur Windsor, Earl of MacDuff (1914-1942, briefly succeeded to his peerages. However, as a male-line great grandson of Queen Victoria, the second Duke of Connaught was styled "His Grace."

Three other reigning European royal houses traditionally awarded dukedoms to the sons and in some cases, the daughters, of their respective Sovereigns.

The heir apparent to the Belgian throne is styled Duke of Brabant.

Nowadays, Spanish infantes and infantas are usually given a dukedom upon marriage. This title is not hereditary. The current royal duchesses are: HRH the Duchess of Badajoz(Infanta Maria del Pilar), HRH the Duchess of Soria(Infanta Margarita), HRH the Duchess of Lugo(Infanta Elena) and HRH the Duchess of Palma de Mallorca(Infanta Cristina).

All Swedish princes since 1772 and, since 1980, princesses are given a dukedom for life. Currently, there are one duke and two duchesses: HRH the Duchess of Västergötland(Crown Princess Victoria), HRH the Duke of Värmland(Prince Carl Philip) and HRH the Duchess of Hälsingland and Gästrikland(Princess Madeleine). The territorial designations of these dukedoms refer to three of the twenty-five counties of Sweden. Other dukedoms held by Swedish princes in the past include Dalarne, Gotland, Halland, Finland, Jämtland, Närke, Östergötland, Småland, Skåne, Södermanland, Uppland, Västerbotten, and Västmanland.


The Germanic Franks converted under Roman influence the Germanic concept of Herzog (literally: "war-leader"), the temporarily elected general for a major expedition of warfare, into military governors for units of up to a dozen counties. In the 7th century these units developed into hereditary clan-duchies of Bavarians, Thuringians, Alemanns, Franks and other Germanic tribes, which Charlemagne crushed in 788, converting the border provinces into margraviates (which however soon emerged as clan-margraviates: Saxony, Bavaria, Swabia, Lorraine...).

The dissolution tendency was counteracted by the appointment of younger sons of the monarchs (royal dukes) as military governors of the important border provinces, which however also soon developed into hereditary duchies and a source of intrigues against the monarch (see for instance: History of Schleswig-Holstein). The medieval dukes had a strong position in the realms they belonged to. Like the margraves, they were responsible for the military defence of an important region, and had strong arguments for retaining the Crown's tax incomes of their duchy to found their military force.

In early Medieval Italy, the Dukes of Benevento and of Spoleto were independent territorial magnates, in duchies originally created by the Lombards. Although since the unification of Italy in the 1870,there have no longer been any sovereign duchies— Luxembourg is a grand duchy)&mdash sovereign dukes of Parma and Modena in Italy, and of Brunswick-Lüneburg, Anhalt, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Saxe-Meiningen, and Saxe-Altenburg in Germany survived Napoleon's reorganization.

See also

Links (Royal Dukes in the United Kingdom and Sweden)

Peerage Titles Held by Children or Male-Line Descendants of British Sovereigns Since King George I FAQ: British Royal & Noble Families

The Kings of Sweden