1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Prince

PRINCE (Lat. princeps, from primus capio, “ I am the first to take ”; Ital. principe, Fr. prince), a title implying either political power or social rank. The Latin word princeps originally signified “ the first ” either in place or action (cf. Ger. Fürst; O.H.G. foristo=English “ first ”). As an honorary title it was applied in the Roman republic to the princeps senatus, i.e. the senator who stood first on the censor's list, and the princeps juventutis, i.e. the first on the roll of the equestrian order. The assumption of the style of princeps senatus by Augustus (q.v.) first associated the word with the idea of sovereignty and dominion, but throughout the period of the empire it is still used as a title of certain civil or military officials (e.g. princeps officii, for the chief official of a provincial governor, in the Theodosian code, leg. I., De offic. rect. prov. i. 7; princeps militiae, i.e. the commander of a cohort or legion); while in the middle ages the term is still applied vaguely in charters to the magnates of the state or the high officials of the palace, priricipes being treated as the equivalent of proceres, optimates or seniores. Yet the idea of sovereignty as implied in the word pririceps, used as a title rather than as a designation, survived strongly. In the Visigothic and Lombard codes princeps is the equivalent of rex or imperator; and when, after the overthrow of the Lombard kingdom by the Franks, Arichis II. (d. 787) of Beneventum wished to assert his independent sovereignty, he had himself anointed and crowned, and exchanged his style of duke for that of prince.

From Italy the use of the title spread—first, with the Crusaders, to the Holy Land, where Bohemund, son of Tancred, took the style of prince of Antioch; next, with the Latin conquerors, into the East Roman Empire, where in 1205 William de Champlette, a cadet of the house of Champagne, founded the principality of Achaea and the Morea. This example was followed by lesser magnates, who styled themselves loosely, or were so styled by the chroniclers, “ princes,” even though they had little claim France. to independent sovereignty. From the East the fashion was carried back to France; but there the erection of certain fiefs into “ principalities,” which became common in the 15th and 16th centuries, certainly implied no concession of independent sovereignty, and the title of “ prince ” thus bestowed ranked below that of “ duke,” being sometimes borne by cadet branches of ducal houses, e.g. the princes of Léon and of Soubise, cadets of the house of Rohan. On the other hand, the title of “ prince ” was borne from the time of Charles VII. or Louis XI. by the sons of the royal house, so-called “ princes of the blood ” (princes du sang), who took precedence in due order after the king. To these were added, from the time of Louis XIV., the princes légitimés, recognized bastards of the sovereign, who ranked next after the princes of the blood. Thus, e.g. the princes of Condé, Conti and Lamballe owed their exalted precedence, not to their principalities, but to their royal descent.

In Germany, Austria and other countries formerly embraced in the Holy Roman Empire the title of “ prince ” has had a somewhat Germany.different history. During the first period of the empire, the “ princes” were the whole body of the optimates who took rank next to the emperor. In the 11th century, with the growth of feudalism, all feudatories holding in chief of the Crown ranked as “ princes, ” from dukes to simple counts, together with archbishops, bishops and the abbots of monasteries held directly of the emperor. Towards the end of the 12th century, however, the order of princes (Fürstenstand) was narrowed to the more important spiritual and temporal feudatories who had a right to a seat in the diet of the empire in the “ college of princes ” (Fürstenbank). Finally, in the 13th century, seven of the most powerful of these separated themselves into a college which obtained the sole right of electing the emperor. These were called “ prince electors ” (Kurfürsten), and formed the highest rank of the German princes (see Elector). The formal designation of “ prince ” (Fürst) was, however, extremely rare in Germany in the middle ages. Examples are the princes of Mecklenburg (Prilislav I., prince of the Holy Roman Empire in 1 170) and Rügen, the latter title now belonging to the kings of Prussia. In the 17th century some half-dozen more principalities were created, of which that of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen (1697) survives as a sovereign house. The 18th century increased their number, and of the princely houses of this period those of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt (1710), Waldeck (1712) and Reuss, elder branch (1778), have preserved their sovereignty. Of the other sovereign “ princes ” in Germany, Reuss, cadet branch, obtained the title in 1806, Schaumburg-Lippe in 1807. Outside the German Empire the prince of Liechtenstein, whose title dates from 1608, still remains sovereign.

Thus, in Germany, with the decay of the empire the title “prince” received a sovereign connotation, though it ranks, as in France, below that of “ duke.” There are, however, in the countries formerly embraced in the Holy Roman Empire other classes of “ princes.” Some of these inherit titles, sovereign under the old empire, but “ mediatized ” during the years of its collapse at the beginning of the 19th century, e. g., Thurn and Taxis (1695), Hohenlohe (1764), Leiningen (1779); others received the title of “ prince ” immediately before or after the end of the empire as “ compensation ” for ceded territories, e.g. Metternich-Winneburg (1803). Besides these mediatized princes, who transmit their titles and their privilege of “ royal ” blood to all their legitimate descendants, there are also in Austria and Germany “ princes,” created by the various German sovereigns, and some dating from the period of the old empire, who take a lower rank, as not being “ princes of the Holy Roman Empire ” nor entitled to any royal privileges. Some of these titles have been bestowed to give a recognized rank to the morganatic wives and children of royal princes, e.g., the princes of Battenberg, or the title of “ princess ” of Hohenberg borne by the consort of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand d'Este; others as a reward for distinguished service, e.g. Hardenberg, Blücher, Bismarck. In this latter case the rule of primogeniture has been usual, the younger sons taking the title of “ count ” (Graf). These non-royal princes are ranked in the Almanach de Gotha with British and French dukes and Italian princes. All these various classes of princes are styled Fürst and have the predicate “ Serene Highness ” (Durchlaucht). The word Prinz, actually synonymous with Fürst, is reserved as the title of the non-reigning members of sovereign houses and, with certain exceptions (e.g. Bavaria), for the cadets of mediatized ducal and princely families. The heir to a throne is “ crown prince ” (Kronprinz), “ hereditary grand duke ” (Erbgrossherzog) or “ hereditary prince ” (Erbprinz). The heir to the crown of Prussia, when not the son of the monarch has the title of “ prince of Prussia ” (Prinz von Preussen).[1]

In Italy the title “ prince ” (principe) is also of very unequal value. In Naples, following the precedent set by Arichis II.,Italy. “ much affecting the glory of a greater name than duke,” it ranked above that of duke. In other parts of Italy the heads of great families sometimes bear the title of “ prince,” e.g. Prince Corsini, duke of Casigliano; sometimes that of “ duke,” e.g. the Caetani, princes of Teano, whose chief is styled “ duke of Sermoneta,” the title of “ prince of Teano ” being borne by his eldest son. The title of “ prince of Naples ” is attached to the eldest son of the king of Italy. The excessive multiplication of the title has tended to deprive it of much social value in itself, and under the democratic constitution of Italy it confers neither power nor precedence.

“ Prince ” is also the translation of the Russian title knyaz, though veliky knyaz, the style of the Imperial princes, is renderedRussia.“ grand duke.” Some of the Russian, or Polish-Russian, princely families are of great importance—e.g. the Czartoryskis, the Swiatopolk-Czetwertynskis, or the Russian branch of the Lubomirskis. But, in general, though the title “ prince ” implies descent from one or other of the ruling dynasties of Russia, it is in itself of little account, being exceedingly common owing to its being borne by every member of the family. The predicate of “ Serene Highness,” though borne by certain magnates who were princes before they became Russians—as in the case of the families mentioned above—is not attached to the Russian title of “ prince ”. In some cases, however, it is conferred with the title by imperial warrant (e.g. Lieven, 1826).

The title of “ prince ” is also borne by the descendants of those Greek Phanariot families (see Phanariots), e.g. Mavrocordato, Turkey.Ypsilanti, Soutzo, who formerly supplied hospodars to the Turkish principalities on the Danube. In the Ottoman Empire the rulers appointed to the quasi-independent Christian communities subject to it have usually been designated “ prince,” and the title has thus come to signify in connexion with the Eastern Question a sovereignty more or less subordinate. As such it was rejected on behalf of the Bavarian prince Otho, when he accepted the throne of Greece, in favour of that of “ king.” On the other hand, the substitution, in 1852, in Montenegro of the title of “ prince and lord ” (knyaz i gospodar) for the ancient title of vladika (archbishop) certainly Monaco.implied no such subordination. The only other instance in Europe of “ prince ” as a completely sovereign title is that of the prince of Monaco, the formal style having been adopted by the Grimaldi lords in 1641.

In Great Britain “ prince ” and “ princess ” as titles are confined to members of the royal family, though non-royal dukes are so described in their formal style (see Duke). Great
Nor is this use of great antiquity; the custom of giving the courtesy title of “ prince ” to all male descendants of the sovereign to the third and fourth generation being of modern growth and quite foreign to English traditions. It was not till the reign of Henry VII. that the king's sons began to be styled “ princes ”; and as late as the time of Charles II., the daughters of the duke of York, both of whom became queens regnant, were called simply the Lady Mary and the Lady Anne. The title of “ princess royal,” bestowed on the eldest daughter of the sovereign was borrowed by King George II. from Prussia. Until recent years the title “ prince ” was never conferred on anybody except the heir-apparent to the Crown, and his principality is a peerage. Since the reign of Edward III. the eldest sons of the kings and queens of England have always been dukes of Cornwall by birth, and, with a few exceptions, princes of Wales by creation. Before that Edward I. had conferred the principality on his eldest son, afterwards Edward II., who was summoned to and sat in parliament as prince of Wales. But Edward the Black Prince was the original grantee Prince of
of the principality as well as of the dukedom, under the special limitations which have continued in force to the present day. The entail of the former was “ to him and his heirs the kings of England ” and of the latter “ to him and his heirs the first-begotten sons of the kings of England.” Hence when a prince of Wales and duke of Cornwall succeeds to the throne the principality in all cases merges at once in the Crown, and can have no separate existence again except under a fresh creation, while the dukedom, if he has a son, descends immediately to him, or remains in abeyance until he has a son if one is not already born. If, however, a prince of Wales and duke of Cornwall should die in the lifetime of the sovereign, leaving a son and heir, both dignities are extinguished, because his son, although he is his heir, is neither a king of England nor the first-begotten son of a king of England. But, if instead of a son he should leave a brother his heir, then—as was decided in the reign of James I. on the death of Henry, prince of Wales, whose heir was his brother Charles, duke of York—the dukedom of Cornwall would pass to him as the first-begotten son of the king of England then alive, the principality of Wales alone becoming merged in the Crown. It has thus occasionally happened that the dukes of Cornwall have not been princes of Wales, as Henry VI. and Edward VI., and that the princes of Wales have not been dukes of Cornwall, as Richard II. and George III.

But even now the cadets of the reigning family can only by royal intervention legally be saved from merging, as of old, in the general untitled mass of the people. The children of the sovereign other than his eldest son, though by courtesy “ princes ” and “ princesses,” need a royal warrant to raise them de jure above the common herd; and even then, though they be dubbed “ Royal Highness ” in their cradles, they remain “ commoners ” till raised to the peerage. In 1905 King Edward VII. established what appears to be a new precedent, by conferring the titles of “ princess ” and “ highness ” upon the daughters of the princess Louise, duchess of Fife, created “ princess royal.”

This use of the word “ prince ”—which has in England so lofty a connotation—to translate foreign titles of such varying importance and significance naturally leads to a good deal of confusion in the public mind. It is not uncommon in English society to see, e.g. a Russian prince, who may be only the cadet of a family not included in the Almanach de Gotha, given precedence as such over the untitled members of a great English ducal family, and treated with some of that exaggerated deference paid to “ royalty.” On the other hand, the insular complacency of many Englishmen is apt to regard all German princes with a certain contempt, whereas the title is in Germany sometimes associated with sovereign power, sometimes with vast territorial possessions, and always with high social position.

See, Du Cange, Glossarium, s.v. “ Princeps," ed. G. A. L. Henschal (Niort, 1883); John Selden, Titles of Honour (London, 1672); Almanach de Gotha (1906); H. Schulze, Die Hausgesetze der regierenden deutschen Fürstenhäuser (3 vols., Jena, 1862–1883); H. Rehm, Modernes Fürstenrecht (Munich, 1904).  (W. A. P.) 

  1. Fürst may or may not be a sovereign or territorial title, but it is only borne by the head of the family, e.g. Heinrich XIV., regierender Fürst (reigning prince) von Reuss or Fürst Bismarck. Prinz always implies cadetship, e.g. Prinz Heinrich XLV. Reuss. The title Prinz von Preussen, therefore, excludes any idea of territorial sovereignty, whereas the correct German rendering of that of prince of Wales, which originally at least implied such sovereignty, would be Fürst von Wales.