AskDefine | Define archduke

Dictionary Definition

archduke n : a sovereign prince of the former ruling house of Austria

User Contributed Dictionary



From , from archeduc (modern: archiduc).


  1. 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.


Related terms

Extensive Definition

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 (larger then Lorraine), which could been 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 Archbishop, but up stretching 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, gave its name to the province of Gelderland), claimed the archducal rank but never were 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 electorships, as Austria had been passed over in the Golden Bull of 1356, where 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.
Also 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 entitled to the title yet in the 15th century. It was used only by those dynasts who reigned a Habsburg territory, i.e only by males and their consorts.

Other dynastic Habsburg use

Like Grand prince (often imprecisely rendered as Grand Duke, actually a lower rank it should not be confused with; the German equivalent is Großfürst, not Großherzog; the main cases were Lithuania, which in 1386 formed a personal union with Poland, and Moscovia, the nucleus of the later imperial Russia till its ruler assumed the sovereign style Tsar of royal rank, 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 chief of an Austrian homeland but without becoming its hereditary ruler (occasionally it might be combined with a separate gubernatorial mandate), as all territories remained vested in the Austrian crown.
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 Maria Antonia, Archduchess 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 monarchy, noble titles and the peerage system were also abolished in Austria. Thus, those members of the extended Habsburg family who are citizens of the Republic of Austria, are simply known by their respective first name and their surname, Habsburg-Lothringen. The use of aristocratic titles such as archduke is in fact illegal in Austria. However, some 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

archduke in Bosnian: Nadvojvoda
archduke in Bulgarian: Ерцхерцог
archduke in Czech: Arcivévoda
archduke in Danish: Ærkehertug
archduke in German: Erzherzog
archduke in Estonian: Ertshertsog
archduke in Spanish: Archiduque
archduke in French: Archiduc
archduke in Hungarian: Főherceg
archduke in Dutch: Aartshertog
archduke in Norwegian: Erkehertug
archduke in Polish: Arcyksiążę
archduke in Portuguese: Arquiduque
archduke in Russian: Эрцгерцог
archduke in Simple English: Archduke
archduke in Slovak: Arcivojvoda
archduke in Finnish: Arkkiherttua
archduke in Swedish: Ärkehertig
archduke in Vietnamese: Đại công tước Áo
archduke in Turkish: Arşidük
archduke in Ukrainian: Архикнязь
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