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A duchy is a territory, fief, or domain ruled by a duke or duchess.

Some duchies were sovereign in areas that would become unified realms only during the Modern era (such as Germanymarker and Italymarker). In contrast, others were subordinate districts of those kingdoms that unified either partially or completely during the Medieval era (such as Englandmarker, Francemarker, and Spainmarker).

For the history of duchies as an institution, see the entry on Duke.


Traditionally, a grand duchy, such as Luxembourgmarker, was generally independent and sovereign. Sovereign duchies were common in the Holy Roman Empire and German-speaking areas.

In Francemarker, a number of duchies existed in the medieval period. Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom still holds the medieval French title of Duke of Normandy; the only lands still attached to the Duchy of Normandy are the Channel Islands, and there no longer is a King of France to grant the title, but it is inherited regardless. Other important French duchies included Burgundy, Brittany, and Aquitainemarker.

In medieval Englandmarker, the territories of Lancashiremarker and Cornwallmarker were made duchies, with certain powers accruing to their dukes. The Duchy of Lancaster was created in 1351 but became merged with the Crown when, in 1399, the duke, Henry Bolingbroke ascended the throne of England as Henry IV. The Duchy of Cornwall was created in 1337 and held successively by the dukes of Cornwall who were also heirs to the throne. These duchies today have lost their political role, although there is an ongoing dispute over the status of Cornwall. During the Wars of the Roses, the Duke of York made a successful entry into the City of York, by merely claiming no harm and that it was his right to possess "his duchy of York". Any and all feudal duchies that made up the patchwork of England have since been absorbed within the Royal Family.

The only old ducal title without special status to the Royal Family today, is Hereford.

In more recent times, territorial duchies have become rare; most dukedoms conferred in the last few centuries have been of a purely symbolic character (see Duke). No independent duchy exists today, except for Luxembourgmarker, which technically is an independent grand duchy.

See also

Current or historical duchies

Fictional duchies

External links

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