The odds are low, but it’s possible that you’re a descendant of royalty. No, really! The chances that you have at least someone in your lineage with a royal title in their name are pretty high. But who were the richest of the rich, anyway? We’ve found some interesting words for kings and queens all over the world. Peruse this list of royal titles. Perhaps you can lay claim to one of these titles of nobility as your own!
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Royal Titles in Order of Power
Not all words for royalty are created equal, however. If you’re an American, you likely don’t know your viscount from your earl. Let’s set the record straight by exploring royal hierarchy. Naturally, though, the royalty of the world worked differently in different cultures; fiefdoms of Korea differed from those of Germany, for instance. In each circle, royal family titles of cousins and nieces could matter a great deal or not at all. So, we’ll very quickly explore a few cultures where getting the court titles right could mean the difference between a smile and a day in the stocks.
The British Empire
Let’s start relatively close to home. In England, throughout most of its history, there were very clear delineations between not only classes but between those within the British royal hierarchy. You’d start with the king and/or queen, even though technically they were an emperor or empress. Queen Victoria was crowned Empress of India in 1877. Underneath them, you have your princes and/or princesses, those who are offspring of the king and queen.
Underneath that, the ranks follow in this order:
British royalty can get quite confusing, as younger sons who are not in line to inherit anything typically take an honorary rank that’s lower on the totem pole. Note that Irish and Scottish cultures had their own nobility and ways of ranking important individuals, such as a Laird, which was an owner of a Scottish estate.
Much of the British hierarchy’s structure (and indeed some of its words) comes from that of the Roman Empire. Most of Europe uses the following structure and their own versions of these Latin words:
- Imperator/Caeser (Emperor)
- Rex/Regina (King/Queen)
- Magnus Dux/Magna Ducissa (Grand Duke/Grand Duchess)
- Archidux/Archiducissa (Archduke/Archduchess)
- Dux/Ducissa (Duke/Duchess)
- Princeps/Principissa (Prince/Princess, literally meaning “leading citizen”)
- Prorex/Proregina (Viceroy/Vicereine)
- Marchio/Marchionissa (Marquees/Marchioness)
- Comes/Comitissa (Earl/Countess)supplement
- Vicecomes/Vicecomitissa (Viscount/Viscountess)
- Baro/Baronissa (Baron/Baroness)
- Eques (Knight/Dame)
- Nobilis Homo (N.H.) (Gentleman/Lady)
You can see how the Latin roots lead to many words associated with royalty: In Italian, the word for king is “re” and queen is “regina.” In French, the word for earl is “comte” which is closer to the Latin “comes.” In the relatively short bit of time since the Roman Empire, much has changed with the government but royalty titles haven’t altered as much as one might think.
Qing Dynasty of China
But that’s just Europe. What about the rest of the world? In China, noble titles were set up very differently, but still vital to get right.
Highest in the hierarchy was, of course, the Emperor. He was male, with only one exception: One Empress, Wu Zetian, ruled on her own. Usually, though, the empress was in a secondary role, and underneath her was a whole other minor hierarchy. First, there were three consorts, then nine concubines, 27 shifus, and then 81 imperial wives. They produced the Taizi, or crowned prince.
Underneath that giant family was this ranking of nobility, in this order:
- Dì or Wáng (Regional King)
- Gōng (Duke, Court-dweller, or Relative of the Emperor)
- Hóu (Marquee)
- Bó (Count)
- Zĭ (Viscount, Philosopher, or Teacher)
- Nán (Baron)
This was the Qing dynasty, however. Names for royalty changed depending on the dynasty.
The African continent was home to many other royal hierarchies, often but not always imitating that of ancient Egypt. At the top was Pharaoh, literally meaning “Great House,” the title of ancient Egyptian rulers given to those who were somewhat considered to be gods. He had the Great Royal Wife, who produced the Heir.
Outside of the royal family was the following pecking order:
- Fan-bearer on the Right Side of the King (This distinction was for a courtier with a very official or close personal relationship with the Pharaoh.)
- The Viceroy
- The High Priests
- The Scribes
This is just a very brief overview of some of the common royalty titles throughout the world. There were far more and far more complicated noble hierarchies in history, with interwoven decision-making and power integrated with lower-rung viziers and sometimes even the common people. Learn more about each culture to find who really held the power, and see whether or not royal titles were really important.