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A principality (or princedom) is a monarchical feudatory or sovereign state, ruled or reigned over by a monarch with the title of prince or princess, or (in the widest sense) by a monarch with another title within the generic use of the term prince.


[edit] Terminology

Some of these states have never been a polity, but are rather territories in respect of which a princely style is held. The prince's estate and wealth may be located mainly or wholly outside the geographical confines of the principality.

Surviving sovereign principalities are Liechtenstein, Monaco, and the co-principality of Andorra. Extant royal primogenitures styled as principalities include Asturias (Spain), and Wales (UK). The term "principality" is often used informally to describe Wales as it currently exists, but this has no constitutional basis. The Principality of Wales existed in the northern and western areas of Wales between the 13th and 16th centuries; the Laws in Wales Act of 1536 which legally incorporated Wales within England removed the distinction between those areas and the March of Wales, but no principality covering the whole of Wales was created. Since that time, the title Prince of Wales (together with Duke of Cornwall among other titles) has traditionally been granted to the heir to the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom, but it confers no responsibilities for government in Wales.[1]

The term principality is also sometimes used generically for any small monarchy, especially for small sovereign states ruled by a monarch of a lesser rank than a king, such as a Fürst - usually translated in English as prince - or a Grand Duke. No sovereign duchy currently exists, but Luxembourg is a surviving example of a sovereign grand duchy. Historically there have been sovereign principalities with many styles of ruler, such as Countships, Margraviates and even Lordships; especially within the Holy Roman Empire.

Notable principalities existed until the early 20th century in various regions of France, Germany and Italy.

While the definition[clarification needed] would fit a princely state perfectly, the historical tradition is to reserve that word for native monarchies in colonial countries, and to apply "principality" to the Western monarchies.

[edit] European principalities

[edit] Development

Though principalities existed in antiquity, even before the height of the Roman Empire, the principality as it is known today developed in the Middle Ages between 350 and 1450 when feudalism was the primary economic and social system in much of Europe. Feudalism increased the power of local princes within a king's lands. As princes continued to gain more power over time, the authority of the king was diminished in many places. This led to political fragmentation as the king's lands were broken into mini-states ruled by princes and dukes who wielded absolute power over their small territories. This was especially prevalent in Europe, and particularly with the Princes of the Holy Roman Empire.

During the Renaissance from 1200 to 1500, principalities were often at war with each other as royal houses asserted sovereignty over smaller principalities. These wars caused a great deal of instability and economies were destroyed. Episodes of bubonic plague also reduced the power of principalities to survive independently. Eventually, agricultural progress, development of new trade goods and services and patronisation[clarification needed] by the Roman Catholic Church boosted commerce between principalities. Many of these states became wealthy, expanded their territories and improved the services provided to their citizens. Princes and dukes developed their lands, established new ports and chartered large thriving cities. Some used their new-found wealth to build palaces and other institutions now sometimes associated with principalities.

[edit] Consolidation

While some principalities prospered in their independence, less successful states were swallowed by stronger royal houses. Europe saw consolidation of small principalities into larger kingdoms and empires. This had already happened in England in the first millennium, and this trend subsequently led to the creation of such states as France, Portugal, and Spain. Another form of consolidation was orchestrated in Italy during the Renaissance by the Medici family. A banking family from Florence, the Medici took control of governments in various Italian regions and even assumed the papacy. They then appointed family members as princes and assured their protection by the Medici-controlled Vatican. Prussia also later expanded by acquiring the territories of many other states.

However in the 17th to 19th centuries, especially within the Holy Roman Empire, the reverse was also occurring: many new small sovereign states arose as a result of transfers of land for various reasons.

[edit] Nationalism

Nationalism, the belief that the nation-state is the best vehicle to realise the aspirations of a people, became popular in the late 19th century. Characteristic of nationalism is the preference for loyalty to the people instead of loyalty to monarchs[citation needed]. With this development, principalities fell out of favour. As a compromise, many principalities united with neighbouring regions and adopted constitutional forms of government with the monarch as a mere figurehead while administration was left in the hands of elected parliaments. The trend in the 19th and 20th centuries was the abolition of various forms of monarchy and the creation of republican governments led by popularly elected presidents.

[edit] Ecclesiastical principalities

Several principalities where genealogical inheritance is replaced by succession in a religious office have existed in the Roman Catholic Church, in each case consisting of a feudal polity (often a former secular principality in the broad sense) held ex officio — the closest possible equivalent to hereditary succession — by a Prince of the church, styled more precisely according to his ecclesiastical rank, such as Prince-bishop, Prince-abbot or, especially as a form of crusader state, Grand Master.

[edit] Other principalities

[edit] Non-European and colonial world

Principalities have existed in ancient and modern civilisations of Africa, Asia, Pre-Columbian America and Oceania.

However in the colonial context, the term princely states is generally preferred, specially for those that came under the sway of a European colonising power, e.g., the British Indian and neighbouring or associated (e.g., Arabian) princely states were ruled by monarchs called Princes by the British, regardless of the native styles, which could be equivalent to royal or even imperial rank in the autochthonous cultures.

[edit] Micronations claiming to be principalities

Several micronations, which more or less seriously claim sovereignty but are not recognised as states, also claim the status of sovereign principalities, the most notable in Europe being Sealand off the coast of England and Seborga, a small town in Italy; other micronational principalities elsewhere include the Principality of Hutt River in Australia and the Principality of Minerva in the South Pacific.

[edit] Other uses

A fictional country, the Principality of Belka, is one of the countries in the Ace Combat game series.

In the TV anime Mobile Suit Gundam universe, the Principality of Zeon was a space colony which declared its independence and waged war against the Earth Federation. Some translations refer to Zeon as a Duchy instead, as the Japanese language uses the same word for both types of government.

In Meg Cabot's series the Princess Diaries, the protagonist, Mia Thermopolis, is the Crown Princess of the imaginary country of Genovia. Mia's father is the Prince Regnant of the country, making it a principality by definition.

Some of the kingdoms in the Society for Creative Anachronism include principalities among the smaller regions which comprise the overall kingdom. The principalities are governed by a Prince and Princess, chosen through rite of combat, and these in turn are governed by the King and Queen of the kingdom in which they exist.

Users of the internet game Nationstates may create principalities.

[edit] See also

[edit] Sources and references


[edit] References

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