Grand duke

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The title grand duke is used in Western Europe and particularly in Germanic countries for provincial sovereigns. Grand duke is of a protocolary rank below a king but higher than a sovereign duke. Grand duke is also the usual and established translation of grand prince in languages which do not differentiate between princes who are children of a monarch (e.g. German Prinz) and ruling princes (e.g. German Fürst). English and French also use grand duke in this way. The title grand duke as translation of grand prince and the proper title grand duke have clearly different meanings and a separate background. Compare with the article grand prince. The territory of a grand duke is referred to as a grand duchy.

The feminine form of grand duke is grand duchess.

Translations for grand duke include: in Latin, magnus dux; in Spanish, gran duque; in Russian, великий князь (velikiy kniaz); in German, Großherzog, Italian gran duca; in French, grand-duc; in Portuguese, grão-duque; in Finnish, suurherttua; in Polish, wielki książę; in Hungarian, nagyherceg; in Swedish, storhertig; in Dutch, groothertog; in Danish, storhertug; in Lithuanian, didysis kunigaikštis; in Czech velkovévoda or velkokníže.

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Western European grand dukes

The proper term of grand duke was a later invention, probably originating in Western Europe, to denote a particularly mighty duke, as the title duke has until the end of Middle Ages been deflated to belong to rulers of relatively small fiefs (such as a city state or a district), instead of the big provinces it once was attached to.

One of the first examples, occurred when Count Gonçalo I Mendes of Portucale (in northwest Portugal and considered as the country’s original nucleus) took, in 987, the personal title of Magnus Dux Portucalensium (Grand-Duke of Portucale) and rebelled against King Bermudo II of León. He was defeated by the royal armies but he obtained a remarkable autonomy as a Magnus Dux.

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