Is there anything that determines whenever a ruling monarch is a count, marquis, duke, archduke, prince, king, or anything else ?

1 Answer 1


Tradition. Entirely tradition.

Wikipedia has a page on every royal title, which also includes the note:

Several ranks were widely used (for more than a thousand years in Europe alone) for both sovereign rulers and non-sovereigns. Additional knowledge about the territory and historic period is required to know whether the rank holder was a sovereign or non-sovereign.

It's also complicated by the fact that titles in different languages don't necessarily have direct equivalents in others. Tsar is a great example: It comes from the Latin caesar, but there is no modern English title that derives from caesar. I think it's usually matched to "Emperor" when it's not used as-is, but that comes from the Latin imperator.

Looking it over, my impression is that whether you were a Prince, Duke, King or Emperor (or their local equivalents) depended on how big the territory you claimed was (in ascending order). If you were first among relative equals, you might be a Grand Prince, Grand Duke/Archduke, or King of Kings.

Wikipedia also has a list of the remaining sovereign monarchs and their titles, which include Kings, Queens, Princes, Grand Dukes, Sultans, and Emirs (and a few others).

  • You forgot "Supreme Leader"
    – user4012
    Mar 10, 2015 at 20:59
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    @DVK - That's not a monarchy, though. Although it would be ironic if a "Democratic People's Republic" stated it was a monarchy while actually being a dictatorship, they call themselves socialist.
    – Bobson
    Mar 11, 2015 at 4:08
  • Ok, so basically the only meaning of those titles is a distant latin word.
    – Bregalad
    Mar 11, 2015 at 7:56
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    @DVK: This would be its own distinct question on its own. There is many difference between an single party totalitarist dictatorship and a monarchy. The main differences that comes to mind is that a monarchy do not follow an ideology, and that the monarch itself has to follow some traditional rules and laws, and that there is no leading party in a monarchy.
    – Bregalad
    Mar 11, 2015 at 21:34
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    @user4012 I think "a monarchy do not follow an ideology" means there is established traditional authority in the monarchy itself, regardless of the ideologies of the individuals comprising it. Whereas in a totalitarian single-party rule, a potential heir with very different ideology would probably be expelled from the party and thus illegitimate. Queens Mary I and Elizabeth I of England come to mind; Mary attempting to re-establish Catholicism as the state religion of England, and then Elizabeth changing course again. Their authority came from their claims of rightful descent, not ideology.
    – Ben
    Sep 25, 2022 at 23:34

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