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The highest political division beneath that of kingdom among the Anglo-Saxons was the ealdormanry and, while the title ealdorman was replaced by the Danish eorl (later earl) over time, the first ealdormen were referred to as duces (the plural of the original Latin dux) in the chronicles. Thus, in Anglo-Saxon England, where the Roman political divisions were largely abandoned, the grade of duke was retained as supreme landlord after the king. However, following the Norman conquest, their power and regional jurisdiction was limited to that of the Norman counts. 
In Belgium, the title of Duke of Brabant (historically the most prestigious in the Low Countries, and containing the federal capital Brussels), if still vacant, has been awarded preferentially to the eldest son and heir presumptive of the king, other male dynasts receiving various lower historical titles (much older than Belgium, and in principle never fallen to the Belgian crown), such as Count of Flanders (King Leopold III's so-titled brother held the title when he became the realm's temporary head of state as prince-regent) and Prince of LiÃ¨ge (a secularised version of the historical prince-bishopric; e.g., the present King Albert II until he succeeded his older brother Baudouin I).
In this former Portuguese kingdom, ruled after separation by a branch of the Portuguese royal dynasty (House of BraganÃ§a), only three dukedoms were created, as the highest rank for people outside of the imperial dynasty. Two of these titles were for relatives of Peter I: an illegitimate daughter and a brother-in-law who received the title when married with Peter's daughter Mary II. The third, given to the most important Brazilian military man, LuÃs Alves de Lima e Silva, was the only dukedom created during the reign of Peter II. A fourth title was created for another illegitimate daughter of Peter I, but she died before receiving the title (and so it is seldom considered). None of these titles were hereditary, just like every other title in the Brazilian nobility system.
Denmark's kings gave appanages in their twin-duchies of Schleswig-Holstein (now three-fourths of them is part of Germany, but then the Holstein half of it was part of the Holy Roman Empire in personal union with Denmark proper) to younger sons and/or their male-line descendants, with a specific though not sovereign title of Duke, e.g., Duke of Gottorp, Duke of Sonderburg, Duke of Augustenborg, Duke of Franzhagen, Duke of Beck, Duke of Glucksburg and Duke of Norburg.
A duke is a member of the nobility, historically of highest rank below the monarch, and historically controlling a duchy. The title comes from the Latin Dux Bellorum, which had the sense of "military commander" and was employed by both the Germanic peoples themselves and by the Roman authors covering them to refer to their war leaders. In the Middle Ages the title signified first among the Germanic monarchies. Dukes were the rulers of the provinces and the superiors of the counts in the cities and later, in the feudal monarchies, the highest-ranking peers of the king. In the Modern Age, with the exception of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, it mostly became a nominal rank without an actual principality. It remains the highest titular peerage in France, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Italy. A woman who holds in her own right the title to such duchy or dukedom, or is the wife of a duke, is normally styled duchess. However, Queen Elizabeth II is known as Duke of Normandy in the Channel Islands and Duke of Lancaster in Lancashire.
During the era of feudalism in Ancient China (Spring and Autumn and the Warring States), the equivalent titles to Grand Marquis or Grand Duke were often granted to the nobility and governors of the individual kingdoms and principalities.
Like other major Western noble titles, Duke is sometimes used to render certain titles in non-western languages with their own traditions, even though they are as a rule etymologically and often historically unrelated. They are thus hard to compare, but are considered roughly equivalent, especially in hierarchic aristocracies such as feudal Japan, and useful as an indication of relative rank.
Finland and Sweden
Sweden had a history of making the sons of its kings real ruling princes of vast duchies, but this ceased in 1622. Title-wise, however, all Swedish princes since 1772, and princesses since 1980, are given a dukedom for life. Currently, there are one duke and three duchesses. The territorial designations of these dukedoms refer to five of the Provinces of Sweden. Key parts of Finland were sometimes under a Duke of Finland during the Swedish reign.
The highest precedence in the realm, attached to a feudal territory, was given to the twelve original pairies, which also had a traditional function in the royal coronation, comparable to the German imperial archoffices. Half of them were ducal: three ecclesiastical (the six prelates all ranked above the six secular peers of the realm) and three temporal, each time above three counts of the same social estate: The Prince-Bishops with ducal territories among them were: * The Archbishop of Reims, styled archevÃªque-duc pair de France (in Champagne; who crowns and anoints the king, traditionally in his cathedral) * Two suffragan bishops, styled evÃªque-duc pair de France : * the bishop-duke of Laon (in Picardy; bears the 'Sainte Ampoule' containing the sacred ointment) * the bishop-duc de Langres (in Burgundy; bears the scepter) Later, the Archbishop of Paris was given the title of duc de Saint-Cloud with the dignity of peerage, but it was debated if he was an ecclesiastical peer or merely a bishop holding a lay peerage. The secular dukes in the peerage of the realm were, again in order of precedence: * the duc de Bourgogne, i.e., Duke of Burgundy (known as Grand duc; not a separate title at that time; just a description of the wealth and real clout of the 15th century Dukes, cousins of the Kings of France) (bears the crown, fastens the belt) * Duke of Normandy or duc de Normandie (holds the first square banner) * Duke of Aquitaine or duc d'Aquitaine or - de Guyenne (holds the second square banner) It should be noted that the theory of the participation of the peers in the coronation was laid down in the late XIIIth century, when some of the peerage (the Duchy of Normandy and the County of Toulouse) had already been merged in the crown. At the end of this same century, the king elevated some counties into duchies, a practice that increased up until the Revolution. Many of this duchies were also peerages (the so-called 'new peerages').
France and other former monarchies
See appanage (mainly for the French kingdom) and the list in the geographical section below, which also treats special ducal titles in orders or national significance.
The Franks employed dukes as the governors of Roman provinces, though they also led military expeditions far from their duchies. The dukes were the highest ranking officials in the realm, typically Frankish (whereas the counts were often Gallo-Roman), and formed the class from which the kings' generals were chosen in times of war. The dukes met with the king every May to discuss policy for the upcoming year, the so-called Mayfield. In Burgundy and Provence, the titles of patrician and prefect were commonly employed instead of duke, probably for historical reasons relating to the greater Romanization of those provinces. The titles, however, were basically equivalent. In late Merovingian Gaul, the mayors of the palace of the Arnulfing clan began to use the title dux et princeps Francorum: "duke and prince of the Franks". In this title, "duke" implied supreme military control of the entire nation (Francorum, the Franks) and it was thus used until the end of the Carolingian dynasty in France in 987.
As the Catholic crusaders overran orthodox parts of the Byzantine empire, they installed several crusader states, some of which were of ducal rank: * duchy of Athens, to which duchy of Neopatras (in Thessaly) was later linked * the Aegean insular duchy of Naxos, officially the "Duchy of the Archipelago" * duchy of Negroponte, i.e., the Aegean island of Euboia. Byzantines had used the title Dux, still a military office for them, also territory-specifically: Dux of Dyrrhachium, Dux of Thrakesion. Palaiologos emperors, living under much more feudalized necessities, granted fiefs to some westerners: Duke of Leucadia, Duke of Lemnos. Sometimes in Italy and other western countries, the later Byzantine appanages were translated as duchies: Peloponnese, Mistra, Mesembria, Selymbria and Thessalonike. However, as these had Greek holders, they were titled Archon ('magistrate') or Despotes (rather prince of the blood). After Greece's post-Ottoman independence as the Kingdom of the Hellenes, the style of Duke of Sparta was instituted as primogeniture for the royal heir, diadochos, the crown prince of Greece.
The royal Christophe dynasty created eight hereditary dukedoms, in rank directly below the nominal princes.
In the Kingdom of Hungary no ducal principalities existed but duchies were often formed for members of the dynasty as appanages. During the rule of the ÃrpÃ¡d dinasty dukes held territorial powers, some of them even minted coins, but later this title became more often nominal. These duchies usually were * the Duchy of Nitra * the Duchy of Bihar * the Duchy of Slavonia, or whole Slavonia (consisting of Slavonia and Croatia) * the Duchy of Transylvania (consisting of the voivodship of Transylvania and some other counties) In the Jagellonian era (1490-1526) only two dukes did not belong to the royal dynasty: John Corvin (the illegitimate son of Matthias Corvinus) and LÅ‘rinc Ãšjlaki (whose father was the king of Bosnia), and both bore the title as royal dukes. After the Battle of MohÃ¡cs the Habsburg kings rewarded Hungarian aristocrats (like the EsterhÃ¡zys) with princely titles, but they created these titles as Holy Roman Emperors, not as kings of Hungary.
When the Christian Reconquista, sweeping the Moors from the former Caliphate of CÃ³rdoba and its taifa-remnants, transformed the territory of former Suevic and Visigothic realms into Catholic feudal principalities, none of these warlords was exactly styled Duke. A few (as Portugal itself) started as Count (even if the title of Dux was sometimes added), but soon all politically relevant princes were to use the royal style of King.
Italy, Germany and Austria
In Italy, Germany and Austria the title of "duke" ("duca" in Italian, and "Herzog" in German) was quite common. As the Holy Roman Empire was until its dissolution a feudal structure, most of its Dukes were actually reigning in their lands. As the titles from the HRE were taken over after its dissolution, or in Italy after their territories became independent of the Empire, both countries also had a share of fully sovereign dukes. Also, in Germany in many ducal families every agnate would bear the ducal title of the family as a courtesy title. In Italy some important sovereign ducal families were the Visconti and the Sforza, who ruled Milan; the Medici of Florence; the Farnese of Parma and Piacenza; the Cybo-Malaspina of Massa; the Gonzaga of Mantua; the Este of Modena and Ferrara. In Germany, important ducal families were the Wittelsbachs in Bavaria, the Welfs in Hannover, the ducal family of Cleves, the Wettins in Saxony (with its Ernestine branch divided into several duchies), the WÃ¼rttembergs, the Mecklenburgs and finally of course also the Habsburgs in Austria as "Archdukes". In the German Confederation the Nassaus, the Ascanians of Anhalt, the Welf branch of Brunswick and the Ernestine lines of the Saxon duchies were the sovereign ducal families.
Late medieval times
Edward III of England created the first three dukedoms of England (Cornwall, Lancaster and Clarence) with his son, Black Prince, his eldest son, created the first English Duke as the Duke of Cornwall in 1337. Upon his death the dukedom passed to his 9 year old son who would eventually succeed his grandfather as Richard II. The dukedom of Lancaster was created by Edward III in 1351 for Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster (1st creation), but became extinct upon Henry's death in 1361. It was re-created for John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster (2nd creation) who was both the 1st Duke's son-in-law and the fourth son of Edward III.  On the same day Edward III also created the Duke of Clarence for his second son, Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence. Ten years after the death of Edward III, his heir Richard II created dukedoms for his last two uncles on the same day. Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York and Thomas of Woodstock, 1st Duke of Gloucester. So all five sons of Edward III eventually became dukes. By the end of the middle ages, traditionally marked by the Battle of Bosworth field on 22 August 1485 a total of 30 dukedoms had been created (and one Duchess for life). However, none of them were extant except for Cornwall and Lancaster which had become titles for the heir apparant and a source of income for the crown. The Duke of Norfolk had died in the battle of Bosworth Field. However, three decades later the Dukedome of Norfolk was restored to his son. Today the Duke of Norfolk is considered the premier duke of England.
When the Lombards entered Italy, the Latin chroniclers called their war leaders duces in the old fashion. These leaders eventually became the provincial rulers, each with a recognized seat of government. Though nominally loyal to the king, the concept of kingship was new to the Lombards and the dukes were highly independent, especially in central and southern Italy, where the Duke of Spoleto and the Duke of Benevento were de facto sovereigns. In 575, when Cleph died, a period known as the Rule of the Dukes, in which the dukes governed without a king, commenced. It lasted only a decade before the disunited magnates, in order to defend the kingdom from external attacks, elected a new king and even diminished their own duchies to provide him with a handsome royal demesne. The Lombard kings were usually drawn from the duke pool when the title was not hereditary. The dukes tried to make their own offices hereditary. Beneath them in the internal structure were the counts and gastalds, a uniquely Lombard title initially referring to judicial functions, similar to a count's, in provincial regions.
During the Middle Ages following the collapse of Roman power in Western Europe, the title was still employed in the Germanic kingdoms, most often to refer to the rulers of the old Roman provinces.
After Belgium and the Netherlands separated in 1830, the title of duke no longer existed in the Netherlands. There is, however, one exception; the title Hertog van Limburg (Duke of Limburg) still exists. This title, however, is an exclusive title for the head of state (the monarch, i.e., the king or queen of the Netherlands).
* In Denmark, the longest-surviving duchy was Schleswig, i.e., Sonderjylland (part of which later was transferred to Germany). Its southern neighbour Holstein in personal union with the Danish crown was always a German principality. Ultimately both ended up joined as the German federation's Bundesland of Schleswig-Holstein. * duchies of Laland, Halland, Jutland, Reval, and Osilia. * In Sweden, medieval duchies of Finland, SÃ¶dermanland, SkÃ¥ne, and Halland, and in modern times almost every province.
* Lewis, Archibald R. "The Dukes in the Regnum Francorum, A.D. 550-751." Speculum, Vol. 51, No 3 (July 1976), pp 381â€“410. * David Crouch, The Normans (2002) ISBN 1 85285 387 5 * Hodgkin, Thomas. Italy and her Invaders. Clarendon Press: 1895. * Thompson, E. A. The Goths in Spain. Clarendon Press: Oxford, 1969. * Stenton, Sir Frank M. Anglo-Saxon England Third Edition. Oxford University Press: 1971.
Various royal houses traditionally awarded (mainly) dukedoms to the sons and in some cases, the daughters, of their respective sovereigns; others include at least one dukedom in a wider list of similarly granted titles, nominal dukedoms without any actual authority, often even without an estate. Such titles are still conferred on royal princes or princesses in the current European monarchies of Belgium, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Other historical cases occurred for example in Denmark, Finland (as a part of Sweden) and France, Portugal and some former colonial possessions such as Brazil and Haiti.
* List of Dukes in the Peerage of the United Kingdom * List of dukes in the peerages of the British Isles * Duchy of Amalfi * Duchy of Gaeta * Duchy of Naples * Archduke
Generally, confusion reigns whether to translate the usual petty ruler titles, knyaz/ knez/ ksiaze etc. as Prince (analogous to the German FÃ¼rst) or as Duke; * in splintered Poland petty principalities generally ruled by branches of the earlier Polish Piast dynasty are regarded as duchies in translated titulary. Examples of such: Kujavia, Masovia, Sandomir, Greater Polandand Kalisz as well as various minor duchies, often short-lived and/or in personal union or merger, named after their capitals, mainly in the regions known as Little Poland and Greater Poland, including (there are often also important Latin and/or German forms) KrakÃ³w, ÅÄ™czyca and Sieradz. * In Pomerelia and Pomerania (inhabited by the Kashubians, different Slavic people from the Poles proper), branches of native ruling dynasties were usually recognized as dukes, quite similarly to the pattern in Poland. * in Russia, before the imperial unification from Muscovy; sometimes even as vassal, tributary to a Tartar Khan; later, in Peter the Great's autocratic empire, the russification gertsog was used as the Russian rendering of the German ducal title Herzog, especially as (the last) part of the full official style of the Russian Emperor: Gertsog Shlesvig-Golstinskiy, Stormarnskiy, Ditmarsenskiy i Oldenburgskiy i prochaya, i prochaya, i prochaya "Duke of Schleswig-Holstein [see above], Stormarn, Dithmarschen and Oldenburg, and of other lands", in chief of German and Danish territories to which the Tsar was dynastically linked. * In Bohemia was Duchy of Krumlov, and short-lived Duchy of Reichstadt and Duchy of Friedland. * In Silesia was many petty duchies as Duchy of Brzeg, Duchy of Legnica, Duchy of Zator and Duchy of RacibÃ³rz. They were vassals of King of Bohemia.
Spanish infantes and infantas were usually given a dukedom upon marriage, excepting the heir apparent who is the Prince of Asturias. This title is nowadays not hereditary but carries a Grandeza de EspaÃ±a. The current royal duchesses are: HRH the Duchess of Badajoz (Infanta Maria del Pilar), HRH the Duchess of Soria (Infanta Margarita) (although she inherited the title of Duchess of Hernani from her cousin and is second holder of that title), HRH the Duchess of Lugo (Infanta Elena) and HRH the Duchess of Palma de Mallorca (Infanta Cristina). In Spain all the dukes hold the court rank of Grande, i.e., Grandee of the realm, which had precedence over all other feudatories.
See Stem duchy
The modern age
In the 19th century, the sovereign dukes of Parma and Modena in Italy, and of Anhalt, Brunswick-LÃ¼neburg, Nassau, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Saxe-Meiningen and Saxe-Altenburg in Germany survived Napoleon's reorganization. Since the unification of Italy in 1870 and the end of monarchy in Germany in 1918, there have no longer been any reigning dukes in Europe; Luxembourg is ruled by a grand duke, a higher title, just below king. In the United Kingdom, the inherited position of a duke along with its dignities, privileges, and rights is a dukedom. However, the title of duke has never been associated with independent rule in the British Isles: they hold dukedoms, not duchies (excepting the Duchy of Cornwall and the Duchy of Lancaster). Dukes in the United Kingdom are addressed as "Your Grace" and referred to as "His Grace". Currently, there are twenty-seven dukedoms in the Peerage of England, Peerage of Scotland, Peerage of Great Britain, Peerage of Ireland and Peerage of the United Kingdom, held by twenty-four different people (see List of Dukes in order of precedence).
In the United Kingdom, ducal titles which have been given within the royal family include Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Lancaster, Duke of Clarence, Duke of York, Duke of Gloucester, Duke of Bedford, Duke of Cumberland, Duke of Cambridge, Duke of Rothesay, Duke of Albany, Duke of Ross, Duke of Edinburgh, Duke of Kent, Duke of Sussex, and Duke of Connaught and Strathearn. * List of dukes in the Peerage of the United Kingdom * List of dukes in the peerages of the British Isles
The Visigoths retained the Roman divisions of their kingdom in the Iberian Peninsula and it seems that dukes ruled over these areas. They were the most powerful landowners and, along with the bishops, elected the king, usually from their own midst. They were the military commanders and in this capacity often acted independently from the king, most notably in the latter period before the Muslim invasions. The army was structured decimally with the highest unit, the thiufa, probably corresponding to about one thousand people from each civitas (city district). The cities were commanded by counts, who were in turn aswerable to the dukes, who called up the thiufae when need be.