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The title of Archduke (feminine: Archduchess) (German: Erzherzog, feminine -also spousal- form: Erzherzogin) denotes a rank above Grand Duke and under King. It was rare and 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 Germanmarker royal houses and still in sovereign Luxemburgmarker.

First use was as 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, Switzerlandmarker 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 Lorrainemarker) 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.
Crown of the Archduke of Austria.

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 Austriamarker, 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 apparently 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 1493.

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 the elective kingdom 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. After the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire this practice was maintained in the Austrian Empiremarker (1804-1867) and the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1867-1918).

The use of former Austrian aristocratic titles such as archduke has been illegal in Austria since the abolition of the imperial monarchy in 1919 (when noble titles and the peerage system were also abolished.) Thus, those members of the extended Habsburg family who are citizens of the Republic of Austriamarker, are simply known by their respective first name and their surname, Habsburg-Lothringen. However, members of the family who are citizens of other countries such as Germanymarker, where aristocratic titles have become part of the name, may use the title.

Fictional Archdukes

  • Archduke Sebassis is a hairless demon with long, antelope-like horns, pointed ears, yellow eyes and white skin. Sebassis is the latest in a long line of demonic royalty and commands over forty demonic legions. in the Angel

Sources and references

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