The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







For other meanings, see Prince (disambiguation).

A prince (from the Latin princeps) is a male member of royalty or a royal family. The female form is princess. Generally, when a prince takes a royal throne he would no longer be prince but king (idem: princess - queen).

In this system, a prince can be:

Although the definition above is the one that is most commonly understood, there are also different systems: depending on country, epoch and translation other meanings of Prince are possible: over the centuries foreign-language titles such as Italian principe, French prince, German FŘrst, Russian kniaz, etc., are often rendered as prince in English.


Princes in other systems of nobility

In certain countries and periods a prince can mean other members of the higher nobility, sometimes even "above and beyond" other nobility:

Countries of Western Europe

In several countries of the European continent, notably in Germany and in France, a prince can be the title of someone having a high rank of nobility, but not necessarily royal, which makes comparing it with e.g. the British system of royal princes difficult.

Examples: Princess de Polignac (France); Prince Bismarck (Germany, translation of FŘrst Bismarck)


In the Russian system, "knyaz" (translated as "prince"), is the highest degree of nobility, and sometimes, represents a mediatization of an older native dynasty which became subject to the Russian imperial dynasty. Rurikid branches used the knyaz title also after they were succeeded by the Romanovs as the Russian imperial dynasty.

Examples: Prince Potemkin


In ancient China, the title of prince developed from being the highest title of nobility (synonymous with duke) in the Zhou Dynasty, to five grades of princes (not counting the sons and grandsons of the emperor) by the time of the fall of the Qing Dynasty.


In Japan,the title of prince (k˘shaku 公爵) was used as the highest title of kazoku(華族Japanese modern nobility) and Ch˘sen kizoku (朝鮮貴族Korean nobility) before the present constitution.

Similar title k˘(公 I don't know the formal translation of it. femail 公妃 consort of k˘) was used as the title of the mail collateral member of the former Korean imperial family.

Prince is also used as the translation of shinn˘ (親王(literally king of the blood) femail;naishinn˘(内親王(literally queen(by herself) of the blood) and shinn˘hi親王妃(literally consort of king of the blood)) or ˘ (王(literaly king) femail;nyo˘(女王(literaly queen (by herself)) and ˘hi(王妃(literally consort of king)). The former is the higher title of a mail member of the Imperial family and the latter is the lower.

Princes as monarchs

A prince or princess who is the head of state in a monarchy is a reigning prince, and his domain, typically smaller than a kingdom, is called a principality. In German such a prince is also called "FŘrst".

Example: Prince Rainier III of the principality of Monaco.

The term prince has also been used to describe the head of a feudal state; for example, it has been used as a synonym for duke at times.

Example from the early Renaissance: the title of Niccol˛ Machiavelli's book Il Principe (The Prince) refers to such type of prince.

In the same tradition/vein many micronation "monarchs" establish themselves as prince

Example: Prince Roy of Sealand

Princes of the Church

There is a certain amount of ambiguity when speaking of a "prince of the church", which is an expression used nearly exclusively for Roman Catholic clergymen:

First clergymen could own land and rule over it, as "monarch" type of princes. In modern times only the Roman pope is still (literally) such a "prince of the church", be it in a limited manner (Vatican City as the territory of the Holy See) - for all other clergymen "prince"-like worldly power is considered as conflicting with the prescriptions of the church, but that has not been always so:

Example: for a period of time the bishop of LiŔge was a prince (the "prince-bishop" of LiŔge ) ruling a vast part of what later would become Belgium.

Secondly, in the hierarchic structure of the Catholic church, the higher echelons of power are in recent times still occasionally named as "princes of the church", in which case this "title" can sometimes be intended more or less ironical by the speaker.

See also

Last updated: 06-02-2005 13:58:50
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