This question is a partial migration from a History SE question, where I asked how come the Spanish King claims titles that are obviously not within his grasp (the original example, King of Hungary seems to have turned out false, but there are several other examples, like King of Jerusalem). Usually claiming titles falsely are regarded as illegal (e.g. claiming to be a Dr. med.) and also, it would seem to me that these are claims upon the sovereignty of some territory against the current sovereign of said territory. On the other hand, it is quite obvious, that these claims are not regarded as problematic political issues, but I really don't understand how this can be.


Since some people dismissed the issue by saying titles are not important, I wanted to add an example to the question, which in my mind is a similar issue of names, claims and sovereignty: the Macedonia naming dispute. To pull a quote from a Greek minister (emphasis mine):

contravenes the fundamental principles of international law and order; specifically, respect for good neighbourly relations, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

I already accepted an answer, which I found convincing, I just wanted to add this to show that I do not think it is a trivial issue.

  • Can you provide examples for people claiming such titles, preferably today?
    – ugoren
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 15:40
  • @ugeron Sure, just check the linked question on History SE :) The King of Spain is styled King of Jerusalem for example.
    – fbence
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 15:43
  • @fbence - he probably has about as much political influence as Spanish King has on Hungary. Well, marginally less.
    – user4012
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 15:56
  • Usually claiming titles falsely are regarded as illegal (e.g. claiming to be a Dr. med.) That's more of a legal issue, and (at least in the United States), usually isn't. What's universally illegal is falsely claiming government authority, or attempting to profit from a falsely claimed title (which would be fraud). Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 15:59
  • 1
    "Usually claiming titles falsely are regarded as illegal (e.g. claiming to be a Dr. med.)". Well, there is Dr. Dre and Dr. Bombay for instance...
    – liftarn
    Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 10:42

2 Answers 2


It has been a very long time since a nobility title meant a legal claim to the land. For example, some Arthur Wellesley guy was:

  • Duke and Marquess of Wellington

  • Prince of Waterloo, of the Kingdom of the Netherlands,

  • Duke of Ciudad Rodrigo (Spain)

  • Duke of the Victory (from Portugal, but where exactly is "The Victory"?) and Marques of Torres Vedras

among other things, yet he had no rights over those lands.

Now, some of the titles in the question are different in that they are royal titles, but that does not change much of its importance.

For example, the "King of Jerusalem" title just is an inheritance from the old Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, that for most of its existence did not even control Jerusalem1.

But the descendants of the rulers could claim to be of royal blood, which at the time was important, and when they married in some royal family allowd their offspring to claim that both their parents were Kings, so the title was "bundled" with the others and passed on despite its lack of any associated country2.

And well, given that tradition is one of the cornerstones of Monarchy, it is far from strange that titles were kept, whatever their real applications3. With enough time, it was more work cancelling the title4 than just silently passing them forward.

UPDATE: Just two more points to illustrate the main argument

  • The Spanish Constitution stablishes (Title II, article 56, point 2):

    His title [of the King] is that of King of Spain and he will be able to use the other titles owned by the Crown.

    reinforcing the idea these titles are used just because they were traditionally bundled together with the title of King of Spain.

    Also, other points of the Constitution explain that the King actions are binding only if they are validated by the Government or the Parliament, thus making any possible claim from the King basically wet paper.

  • If the titles were to be a legal basis for anything, the most affected country would be... Spain. And not only because of the issues at an international level, but also because a lot of the titles identify the King of Spain as King of several kingdoms that are now part of Spain. So, if the titles could be interpreted that way, people in Galicia5 could claim that the existence of a separate "King of Galicia" title meant that Galicia is not part of Spain.

    The fact that these title are kept and allowed by the Spanish Constitution and that the argument of the existence of a "Kingdom of Galicia" is not made is a strong signal that these titles are not to be taken as claims.

1As another example, the Holy Roman Empire was not very "Roman".

2Or you could view it as the title as a "true" title granting all of the rights over all the assets of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, but with that Kingdom having no assets at all. As if your Uncle Bob left you as inheritance a bank account with no balance.

3And of course, for some time it was useful to have some title in case it could be used to justify a casus belli or other action, should it be convenient. Or it could even be passed to a distant relative to pave the way to another royal wedding.

4"What is he doing that now, if the title has been associated with the Crown for so many centuries? Do we need to worry about something?"

5Or Valencia, Canary Islands, Navarra, Toledo, Granada, Malloca... the list is long.

  • 13
    "Holy Roman Empire was not very "Roman"", nor was it very holy...or strictly speaking an empire.
    – James K
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 19:19
  • My favorite from Wellington is I guess the two "Marquess"-s :D
    – fbence
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 21:22
  • Well, does Aragon come up in the Catalan issue?
    – fbence
    Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 17:46
  • 2
    I like footnote #2, and think that's the best way to think about these things. The title is a real but "empty" title - it claims an inheritance to something that no longer exists, but if it existed, would belong to the King.
    – Bobson
    Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 18:16
  • 1
    Another famous example is the claim of English (later British) monarchs to the throne of France. It was finally abandoned in 1800, when the French Revolution had made the issue obsolete. For at least 200 years before that, the claim had been pretty much ignored by both England and France for all practical purposes. Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 15:01

On the other hand, it is quite obvious, that these claims are not regarded as problematic political issues, but I really don't understand how this can be.

The quick, simple answer is that no one cares any more.

Once upon a time, when monarchical titles carried real authority and the financial and political ramifications of that authority, wars were frequently fought over issues of succession and titles. These days, at least in most of the world, monarchies either don't exist, or are ceremonial for all practical intents and purposes, so people don't care.

I (or anyone else) could claim to be the King of Corsica all I want, and even if I could somehow dredge up some family ties or whatever to back that up, so what? Corsica is part of France, and France is not a monarchy anymore. The political structure has changed, the title does not exist, and there are no actual benefits to holding it, so why care?

  • I dunno, but I firmly believe the King of Corsica could at least get a beer or two... :)
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 20:31
  • @CGCampbell Same could be said of being the "viscount of Alberta", or the "Duke of North Carolina"... or for that matter, claiming to be a member of the DuPont family (on the French side) or Obama's cousin, 3 times removed. It's hardly required to actually be one in order to get a beer or two out of it. Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 21:06
  • I think I will try this somewhere abroad :D
    – fbence
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 21:17
  • 1
    The modern equivalent of a title dispute: Republic of Macedonia
    – Adrian773
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 23:52

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