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Prince - Prince-Elective on the modern plan -
Fulfilling such a lot of People’s Wills,
You take the Chiltern Hundreds while you can—
A storm is coming on the Chiltern Hills.


Basic Information

A Prince (f. Princess) is a title of nobility generally reserved for those immediately adjacent to a royal title1. This can either be by dint of relation to a reigning king - so that the offspring of a monarch are generally titled princes or princesses2 - or by holding an independent title which does not warrant full royal status (being prince(sses) "regnant"), similar in dignity to an Archduke or petty-king. Occasionally senior vassals, especially those rated as being close peers of the realm, can also be titled princes, whether or not they are currently related to the crown or not3. Historically the title was also bestowed on various senior Churchmen who were also heads of state - especially in the Holy Roman Empire - thus, various "Prince-Bishops" and similar beasts. The title of Prince (specifically Prince Consort) is also typically bestowed on the husband of a queen regnant who lacks his own royal title4. Some states also grant(ed) "lifetime" titles of Prince as a royal honour.

In a heritable monarchy (as most traditional monarchies have been), the heir apparent may well have a title like "Crown Prince" or "Prince Imperial" to designate his special status - in other cases, the title or its equivalent may be bestowed (or possibly asserted) by anyone with a claim to the throne5. In a fully elective monarchy, princes might be even more widespread.

A state ruled by a prince regnant - or the territory of a vassal prince - is termed a principality. The term "princely state" was also used during the colonial era as a catch-all term for "native" states ruled by assorted petty monarchs of various kinds.

The title "prince" might also be taken back to its Latin roots - as it is, for example, in Shakespeare - to refer to a "first citizen" of a republic: characters such as the Doge of Venice might, for example, be styled a Prince (although Venice at her prime was a great enough power that any King not treating the Doge as a peer was a fool).


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Great fun can be had with the various categories of prince - especially if you are trying to organise precedence at a social function - are you dealing with a head of state, or with his heir, or with a powerful vassal noble or a provincial nobody6?
    • And then there are the mighty nobles, faced with a mere merchant who also bears the title of prince…
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