The term refers to the head of a principality and is distinguished from the son of a monarch, which is referred to as "Prinz". English uses the term "
Prince" for both concepts.
Use of the title in German
The title "Fürst" (female form "Fürstin", plural mask. "Fürsten", plural fem. "Fürstinnen") is used for the heads of princely houses of German origin. Unless he also holds a higher title, such as
dukeor king, he will be known either by the formula "Fürst von" + [geographic origin of the dynasty] ", or by the formula "Fürst zu" + [name of the ruled territory] ". A notable exception is the Liechtenstein family, which uses the title "...von und zu Liechtenstein".
The rank of the title-holder is not determined by the title itself, but by his degree of
sovereignty, the rank of his lord, or the age of the princely dynasty(note the terms "Uradel, Briefadel, altfürstliche, neufürstliche; and see German nobility)."
The present-day rulers of the principality of
Liechtensteinbear the title of "Fürst", and the title is also used in German when referring to the ruling princes of Monaco. The hereditary rulers of the one-time principalities of Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, and Albaniawere also all referred to in German as "Fürsten" before they eventually assumed the title of "King" (translated in German as "König").
Other uses in German
"Fürst" is used more generally in German to refer to any
ruler, such as a King, a Duke, or a "Fürst" in the narrow sense. Before the 12th century, counts were also included in this group, in accordance with its usage in the Germany, and in some contexts, the term "Fürst" can extend to any lord.
The child of a "Fürst" in the general sense is referred to as "Prinz" (female "Prinzessin"). In some families some or all members are styled "Fürst"/"Fürstin" (Wrede) or "Herzog"/"Herzogin" (
Anhalt, Bavaria, Mecklenburg, Oldenburg, Saxony, and Württemberg) [http://pages.prodigy.net/ptheroff/gotha/gotha.htm] .
Etymology of the term
The German word derives from the Latin word
princeps, which linguistically translates into English as the first, hence the old Germanic roots of the word.
Several titles were derived from the term "Fürst":
*"Reichsfürst" ("Prince of the Empire") is a ruling Prince whose territory is part of the
Holy Roman Empire. He was entitled to a vote, either by having a voting seat or being part of a voting unit, in the "Reichstag". A ""Reichsfürst" could be, in order of descending rank, the King, a Grand Duke, a Duke, a Margrave, a Count, a Landgrave, a Count of the Empire, a nominal Prince ("Fürst"), a Burgrave, a " Freiherr", a nominal 'Lord' (German: "Herr"), an Imperial Knight, or a Prince of the Church.
*"Landesfürst" ("Prince of the Land") is a princely
Head of stateof a "Land", i.e. not just a titular prince. A "Land" is a country (political geographical entity) with (feudal) statehood, whether sovereign or not; in a personal unionClarifyme|date=March 2008, the Monarch has this capacity in each of the states, under a different titleClarifyme|date=March 2008, and indeed often in chief of a different constitutional traditionClarifyme|date=March 2008, whether coordinated over time or notClarifyme|date=March 2008; thus the Habsburg Emperor of Austria had a different style as such in each Kronland('crown land', i.e. feudal state, normally under one provincial government), the sum of which is then to be part of the full imperial styleClarifyme|date=March 2008
Prince-Elector") is a Prince of the Holy Roman Empirewith a casting vote in the election of a Holy Roman Emperor. This made them next in rank only to the Emperor, regardless of the titles attached to their own principalities. "Kur", earlier spelled "Chur", is derived from "kur"/"küren", "to choose".
Grand Prince") is the sovereign of a grand principality with a rank higher than other sovereign princes.
Prince-Primate") is rarely used title for an archbishop presiding in an assembly of mainly secular princes.
Origins and cognates of the title
The word "Fürst" designates the head (the "first") of a ruling house, or the head of a branch of such a house. The "first" originates from ancient Germanic times, when the "first" was the leader in battle.
Various cognates of the word "Fürst" exist in other European languages (see extensive list under
Prince), sometimes only used for a princely ruler. A derivative of the Latin" Princeps" (ironically, a Republican title in Roman law, which never formally recognized a monarchic style for the executive head of state but nominally maintained the Consuls as collegial Chief magistrates) is used for a genealogical prince in some languages (e.g., Dutch, where a ruler is usually called "Vorst", but a prince of the blood is always styled "Prins"; and Icelandic where "Fursti" is a ruler, and a blood prince is "Prins"), while in other languages only a "Princeps"-derived word is used for both irrespectively (e.g., English uses "prince" for both). In any case the original (German or other) term may also be used.
ources and references
* [http://www.deutsche-kaiserreich.de/ German Empire] (in German- use the English and French translated versions only with due caution)
* [http://www.donaumonarchie.com/ Danubian Monarchy Austria-Hungary] (in German- use the English and French translated versions only with due caution)
*Westermann, "Großer Atlas zur Weltgeschichte" (in German)
* [http://www.worldstatesmen.org/Germany.html#Holy%20Roman%20Empire WorldStatesmen - here Germany (with specifics on the HREmpire); see also other present countries]
* [http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=F%FBrst&searchmode=none Etymology Online]
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