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A personal union is the combination by which two or more different states are governed by the same monarch while their boundaries, their laws and their interests remain distinct. It should not be confused with a federation which is internationally considered a single state. Nor is it to be confused with dynastic union, where the union can be under a dynasty.

Personal unions can arise for very different reasons, ranging from near coincidence (a princess who is already married to a king becomes queen regnant, and their child inherits the crown of both countries) to virtual annexation (where a personal union sometimes was seen as a means of preventing uprisings). They can also be codified (i.e., the constitutions of the states clearly express that they shall share the same person as head of state) or non-codified, in which case they can easily be broken (e.g., by the death of the monarch when the two states have different succession laws).

Because presidents of republics are ordinarily chosen from within the citizens of the state in question, personal unions are almost entirely a phenomenon of monarchies, and sometimes the term dual monarchy is used to signify a personal union between two monarchies.

There is a somewhat grey area between personal unions and federations, and the first has regularly grown into the second.

The following provides some detail of personal unions through history. With the exception of the 16 constitutional monarchies of the Commonwealth realm, such as Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, there are no longer any personal unions in today's world.

The term personal union is also used to describe the bureaucratic device used in Nazi Germany to combine high level state positions with equivalent positions in the National Socialist Party. The same bureaucratic device is also used by other governments, such as in the People's Republic of Chinamarker. It is similar to the persona designata scheme by which judicial officers can be appointed to non-judicial or quasi-judicial functions under common law systems.


Aragon, Crown of

In 1162 Alfonso II of Aragon was the first person to bear the titles of King of Aragon and Count of Barcelona, ruling what was called later Crown of Aragon. James I of Aragon later created and added the Kingdom of Majorca and the Kingdom of Valencia to the Crown. Later, Charles of Ghent - Charles I of Spain, Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire - would join Aragon and Castile in a personal union that would become Spain.


  • Personal union with Poland 1003 - 1004 (Bohemia occupied by Poles)
  • Personal union with Poland 1300 - 1306 and Hungary 1301 - 1305 (Wenceslas II and Wenceslas III)
  • Personal union with Luxembourg 1313 - 1378 and 1383 - 1388
  • Personal union with Hungary 1419-1439 (Sigismund of Luxemburg and his son in law) and 1490 - 1526 (Jagellon dynasty)
  • Personal union with Austria and Hungary 1526 - 1918 (except years 1619 - 1620)



Commonwealth realms

The conception of a personal union was suggested to keep the Irish Free State as a Commonwealth Realm.

The phrase personal union appears in some discussion about the early Commonwealth of Nations , though its application to Commonwealth was refuted by others. They fit the classical definition, but whether they are in personal union is doubted because of a) the functional unimportance of the monarch in today's Commonwealth governments, and b) the term being seen as an anachronism. Also it could be questioned whether a shared monarchy falls under the definition of a personal union, as the Crowns of the countries involved aren't entirely separate.

Congo Free State

Croatia (disputed)

Hungarian occupation theory

According to a theory, Croatia was subjugated and incorporated into Hungary. The alleged document of the personal union, the so-called Pacta Conventa is most likely a forgery from centuries later.

The Pacta Conventa, the alleged document under which Croatians became vassals of Hungarians never existed, but the story about it was important for the Croatian position in the Habsburg Empire during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when the Croats claimed their right for statehood on the basis of that agreement. Although Croatia ceased to exist as an independent state when King Coloman of Hungary defeated the last Croatian king, the Croatian nobility retained some powers.

According to the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congressmarker, the Croats enjoyed their own medieval kingdom for several centuries before a long period of Hungarian rule from 1102 to 1918. Most Croats lived under Hungarian kings until 1526 and under Habsburg monarchs thereafter; the Croats of Bosnia and Hercegovina and Slavonia lived under Ottoman rule for several hundred years; and the Croats of Dalmatia passed from Hungarian to Venetian to Austrian rule. With the help of Roman Catholic clerics, the Croats maintained a strong collective memory of their former statehood despite their centuries of foreign domination.

Personal union theory

According to another theory, Kingdom of Croatia and Kingdom of Hungary formed a personal union of two kingdoms in 1102, united under the Hungarian king. In c.1102, when the Croatian dynasty died out, the Croats joined the Hungarians in a personal union, but the Croatian State kept its political individuality with its ban and its assembly. King Coloman established the personal union of the Kingdom of Croatia and the Kingdom of Hungary by an agreement called Pacta conventa. After King Koloman was crowned as a Croatian king in Biogradmarker, Croatian nobility retained strong powers. Although, the precise time and terms of Pacta Conventa later became a matter of dispute; nonetheless there was at least a non-written agreement that regulated the relations between Hungary and Croatia in approximately the same way.

In the union with Hungary, institutions of separate Croatian statehood were maintained through the Sabor (an assembly of Croatian nobles) and the ban (viceroy). In addition, the Croatian nobles retained their lands and titles. Coloman retained the institution of the Sabor and relieved the Croatians of taxes on their land. Coloman's successors continued to crown themselves as Kings of Croatia separately in Biograd na Morumarker until the time of Bela IV. In the 14th century a new term arose to describe the collection of de jure independent states under the rule of the Hungarian King: Archiregnum Hungaricum (Lands of the Crown of Saint Stephen).

Medieval Hungarymarker and Croatiamarker were (in terms of public international law) allied by means of personal union until the Battle of Mohácsmarker in 1526. On January 1, 1527, the Croatian nobles at Cetinmarker unanimously elected Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria, as their king, and confirmed the succession to him and his heirs. However, officially the Hungarian-Croatian state existed until the beginning of the 20th century and the Treaty of Trianon.


The actual nature of the relationship is inexplicable in modern terms because it varied from time to time. Sometimes Croatia acted as an independent agent and at other times as a vassal of Hungary. However, Croatia retained a large degree of internal independence. The degree of Croatian autonomy fluctuated throughout the centuries as did its borders.





Note: The point at issue in the War of the Spanish Succession was the fear that the succession to the Spanish throne dictated by Spanish law, which would devolve on Louis, le Grand Dauphin — already heir to the throne of France — would create a personal union that would upset the European balance of power (France had the most powerful military in Europe at the time, and Spain the largest empire).

Great Britain


Holy Roman Empire

  • Personal union with Spainmarker from 1519 to 1556 under Charles V.
  • Personal union with Hungarymarker from 1526 to 1806.


  • For the disputed situation regarding Croatia, see above.
  • Personal union with Polandmarker and Bohemia 1301 - 1305.
  • Personal union with Polandmarker from 1370 to 1382 under the reign of Louis the Great. This period in Polish history is sometimes known as the Andegawen Poland. Louis inherited the Polish throne from his maternal uncle Casimir III. After Louis' death the Polish nobles (the szlachta) decided to end the personal union, since they didn't want to be governed from Hungary, and chose Louis' younger daughter Jadwiga as their new ruler, while Hungary was inherited by his elder daughter Mary. Personal union with Poland for the second time from 1440 to 1444.
  • Personal union with Bohemia from 1419 to 1439 and from 1490 to 1918.
  • Personal union with the Holy Roman Empire from 1410 to 1439 and from 1526 to 1806 (except 1608-1612).
  • Real union with Austriamarker from 1867 to 1918 (the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary) under the reigns of Franz Joseph and Charles IV.


  • Personal union with Denmarkmarker from 1918 to 1944 when the country became a republic.




  • Personal union with Bohemia, 1313 - 1378 and 1383 - 1388.
  • Personal union with the Netherlandsmarker from 1815 to 1890.


  • Personal union with Francemarker from 1589 to 1620 due to the accession of Henry IV, after which Navarre was formally integrated into France.

The Netherlands




  • Personal union with Swedenmarker from 1592 to 1599
  • Personal union with Saxonymarker from 1697 to 1705, 1709 to 1733 and 1733 to 1763



Saxe-Weimar and Saxe-Eisenach

The duchies of Saxe-Weimar and Saxe-Eisenach were in personal union from 1741, when the ruling house of Saxe-Eisenach died out, until 1809, when they were merged into the single duchyof Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach.

Schleswig and Holstein

Duchies with peculiar rules for succession.
  • The kings of Denmarkmarker at the same time being dukes of Schleswig and Holstein 1460-1864. (Holstein being part of the Holy Roman Empire, while Schleswig was a part of Denmark). The situation was complicated by the fact that for some time, the Duchies were divided among collateral branches of the House of Oldenburg (the ruling House in Denmark and Schleswig-Holstein). Besides the "main" Duchy of Schlewig-Holstein-Glückstadt, ruled by the Kings of Denmark, there were states encompassing territory in both Duchies. Notably the Dukes of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorp and the subordinate Dukes of Schleswig-Holstein-Beck, Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg and Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg.


  • Personal union with France from 1559 to 1560
  • Personal union with Englandmarker and Ireland from 1603 to 1707 (when England and Scotland were joined together in the Kingdom of Great Britainmarker)
  • Personal union with the Netherlandsmarker from 1689 to 1702, with the King of Scotland, England and Ireland also serving as Stadtholder of most of the provinces of the Netherlands. The actual situation was slightly more complex with the Dutch provinces Hollandmarker, Zeelandmarker, Utrechtmarker, Gelderland and Overijssel entering into personal union in 1689 and Drenthe in 1696. Only 2 Dutch provinces never entered into the personal union: Friesland and Groningenmarker.



United Kingdom


  1. Lalor, ed. Various authors. See Contents. Cyclopaedia of Political Science. New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co., ed. John Joseph Lalor, 1899. online version; accessed 21 June 2008
  3. Van Antwerp Fine, p. 70
  4. Curta, Stephenson, p. 267
  5. Europa Publications Limited, p.271: Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, Svezak 4
  6. Alain Finkielkraut, (pp. 17-18): Dispatches from the Balkan War and other writings
  7. Imogen Bell, p.173: Central and South-Eastern Europe 2003
  8. Mitja Velikonja p.78: Religious separation and political intolerance in Bosnia-Herzegovina
  9. Piotr Stefan Wandycz, p.159: The price of freedom: a history of East Central Europe from the Middle Ages
  10. Adrian Webb,Inc NetLibrary, Adrian Webb, p.218: The Routledge companion to Central and Eastern Europe since 1919
  11. Charles W. Ingrao, p.12: The Habsburg monarchy, 1618-1815
  12. David Raic, p. 342: Statehood and the law of self-determination
  13. Font, Marta: Hungarian Kingdom and Croatia in the Middle Age
  14. Font, Marta:Hungarian Kingdom and Croatia in the Middle Age
  15. [ Britannica:History of Croatia
  17. Curta, Stephenson, p. 267
  18. R. W. SETON -WATSON:The southern Slav question and the Habsburg Monarchy page 18
  19. Font, Marta: Hungarian Kingdom and Croatia in the Middle Age
  20. David Raič, p. 342: Statehood and the law of self-determination
  21. Charles W. Ingrao, p.12: The Habsburg monarchy, 1618-1815
  22. Bellamy, p. 38
  23. Bellamy, p. 38
  24. Bellamy, p. 38

See also

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