Personal union

Personal union

A personal union is the combination by which two or more different states have the same monarch while their boundaries, their laws and their interests remain distinct.[1][2] It should not be confused with a federation which is internationally considered a single state. Nor is it to be confused with dynastic union, where the union can be under a dynasty.

Personal unions can arise for very different reasons, ranging from coincidence (a princess who is already married to a king becomes queen regnant, and their child inherits the crown of both countries) to virtual annexation (where a personal union sometimes was seen as a means of preventing uprisings). They can also be codified (i.e., the constitutions of the states clearly express that they shall share the same person as head of state) or non-codified, in which case they can easily be broken (e.g., by the death of the monarch when the two states have different succession laws).

Because presidents of republics are ordinarily chosen from within the citizens of the state in question, personal unions are almost entirely a phenomenon of monarchies, the unique exception in modern times being the Principality of Andorra in which one of the two co-princes is the President of France, while the other is a Roman Catholic bishop. Sometimes the term dual monarchy is used to signify a personal union between two monarchies.

There is a somewhat grey area between personal unions and federations, and the first has regularly grown into the second.

The only personal unions currently in existence are the partial union of France and Andorra, and the sixteen Commonwealth realms.



Aragon, Crown of

In 1162 Alfonso II of Aragon was the first person to bear the titles of King of Aragon and Count of Barcelona, ruling what was called later Crown of Aragon. James I of Aragon later created and added the Kingdom of Majorca and the Kingdom of Valencia to the Crown. Later, Charles of Ghent — Charles I of Spain, Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire— would join Aragon and Castile in a personal union that would become Spain.


  • Personal union with Poland 1003 - 1004 (Bohemia occupied by Poles)
  • Personal union with Poland 1300 - 1306 and Hungary 1301 - 1305 (Wenceslas II and Wenceslas III)
  • Personal union with Luxembourg 1313 - 1378 and 1383–1388
  • Personal union with Hungary 1419-1439 (Sigismund of Luxemburg and his son in law) and 1490 - 1526 (Jagellon dynasty)
  • Personal union with Austria and Hungary 1526 - 1918 (except years 1619 - 1620)



  • Personal union with Portugal, under Peter I of Brazil (Peter IV of Portugal), from 10 March 1826, to 28 May 1826. Peter was the Prince Royal of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves when he declared the independence of Brazil in 1822, becoming its first emperor. When his father (John VI of Portugal) died, Peter also became King of Portugal for only several weeks, after which he abdicated the Portuguese throne in favour of his younger child, Princess Maria da Glória.

Commonwealth realms

The conception of a personal union was suggested to keep the Irish Free State as a Commonwealth Realm.[3]

The phrase personal union appears in some discussion about the early Commonwealth of Nations,[4] though its application to Commonwealth was rebutted by others.[5]

Congo Free State

Croatia (disputed)

Personal union theory

According to a theory, Kingdom of Croatia[6] and Kingdom of Hungary formed a personal union of two kingdoms in 1102, united under the Hungarian king.[6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15] In c.1102, when the Croatian dynasty died out, the Croats joined the Hungarians in a personal union, but the Croatian State kept its political individuality with its ban and its assembly.[16] King Coloman established the personal union of the Kingdom of Croatia and the Kingdom of Hungary by an agreement called Pacta conventa.[6][15] After King Coloman was crowned as a Croatian king in Biograd, Croatian nobility retained strong powers.[17] Although, the precise time and terms of Pacta Conventa later became a matter of dispute; nonetheless there was at least a non-written agreement that regulated the relations between Hungary and Croatia in approximately the same way.[18]

In the union with Hungary, institutions of separate Croatian statehood were maintained through the Sabor (an assembly of Croatian nobles) and the ban (viceroy). In addition, the Croatian nobles retained their lands and titles.[6][19] Coloman retained the institution of the Sabor and relieved the Croatians of taxes on their land.[6] Coloman's successors continued to crown themselves as Kings of Croatia separately in Biograd na Moru until the time of Bela IV.[20] In the 14th century a new term arose to describe the collection of de jure independent states under the rule of the Hungarian King: Archiregnum Hungaricum (Lands of the Crown of Saint Stephen).[unreliable source?][21]

Medieval Hungary and Croatia were (in terms of public international law) allied by means of personal union until the Battle of Mohács in 1526.[citation needed] On January 1, 1527, the Croatian nobles at Cetin unanimously elected Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria, as their king, and confirmed the succession to him and his heirs.[22] However, officially the Hungarian-Croatian state existed until the beginning of the 20th century and the Treaty of Trianon.[13][14][15]

Hungarian occupation theory

According to another theory, Croatia was subjugated and incorporated into Hungary.[23] The alleged document of the personal union, the so-called Pacta Conventa is most likely a forgery from centuries later.[17][20][24][25][26][27][28]

Matjaž Klemenčič and Mitja Žagar claim that the Pacta Conventa, the alleged document under which Croatians became vassals of Hungarians never existed, but the story about it was important for the Croatian position in the Habsburg Empire during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when the Croats claimed their right for statehood on the basis of that agreement.[17] Although Croatia ceased to exist as an independent state when King Coloman of Hungary defeated the last Croatian king, the Croatian nobility retained some powers.[17]

According to the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress, the Croats enjoyed their own medieval kingdom for several centuries before a long period of Hungarian rule from 1102 to 1918.[29] Most Croats lived under Hungarian kings until 1526 and under Habsburg monarchs thereafter;[29] the Croats of Bosnia and Hercegovina and Slavonia lived under Ottoman rule for several hundred years; and the Croats of Dalmatia passed from Hungarian to Venetian to Austrian rule.[29] With the help of Roman Catholic clerics, the Croats maintained a strong collective memory of their former statehood despite their centuries of foreign domination.[29]

Analysis, conclusion

The actual nature of the relationship is inexplicable in modern terms because it varied from time to time.[30] Sometimes Croatia acted as an independent agent and at other times as a vassal of Hungary.[30] However, Croatia retained a large degree of internal independence.[30] The degree of Croatian autonomy fluctuated throughout the centuries as did its borders.[31]




  • Sweyn Forkbeard ruled both England and Denmark from 1013 to 1014. He also ruled Norway from 999 to 1014.
  • Cnut the Great ruled both England and Denmark from 1018 to 1035. He also ruled Norway from 1028 to 1035.
  • Harthacanute ruled both England and Denmark from 1040 to 1042.
  • Henry VI of England and France ruled both England and France from 1422 to 1453.
  • Personal union with Ireland from 1541 (when Ireland was raised to the level of a Kingdom) until 1707 when the Kingdom of England ceased to exist (becoming part of the larger Kingdom of Great Britain in which the personal union continued).
  • Philip II of Spain was joint king of England with Mary I (this is sometimes disputed) from 1554 to 1558, during which time he was also King of Naples (from 1554) and King of Spain (from 1556).
  • Personal union with Scotland through James Stuart (James VI of Scotland and James I of England) from 1603 to 1707 (when they were joined together in the Kingdom of Great Britain).
  • King William III of England was also Stadtholder of the Netherlands and hereditary ruler of some small territories in Germany and southern France.


  • The status of the Grand Principality of Finland, ruled from 1809 to 1917 by the czar of Russia as the Grand Prince of Finland, closely resembled a personal union and is often described as such by Finns.[citation needed] In accordance with the Treaty of Fredrikshamn, Finland was legally a part of the Russian Empire that was granted autonomy at the sufferance of the czar; the autonomous status was temporarily repealed later on.


Note: The point at issue in the War of the Spanish Succession was the fear that the succession to the Spanish throne dictated by Spanish law, which would devolve on Louis, le Grand Dauphin — already heir to the throne of France — would create a personal union that would upset the European balance of power (France had the most powerful military in Europe at the time, and Spain the largest empire).


The term personal union was also used to describe the bureaucratic device used in Nazi Germany to combine high-level state positions with equivalent positions in the National Socialist Party.[32] The same bureaucratic device is also used by other governments, such as in the People's Republic of China. It is similar to the persona designata scheme by which judicial officers can be appointed to non-judicial or quasi-judicial functions under common law systems.[citation needed]

Great Britain


Holy Roman Empire

  • Personal union with Spain from 1519 to 1556 under Charles V.
  • Personal union with Hungary from 1410 to 1439, 1526 to 1608, 1612 to 1740, and 1780 to 1806.


  • For the disputed situation regarding Croatia, see above.
  • Personal union with Poland and Bohemia 1301 - 1305.
  • Personal union with Poland from 1370 to 1382 under the reign of Louis the Great. This period in Polish history is sometimes known as the Andegawen Poland. Louis inherited the Polish throne from his maternal uncle Casimir III. After Louis' death the Polish nobles (the szlachta) decided to end the personal union, since they didn't want to be governed from Hungary, and chose Louis' younger daughter Jadwiga as their new ruler, while Hungary was inherited by his elder daughter Mary. Personal union with Poland for the second time from 1440 to 1444.
  • Personal union with Bohemia from 1419 to 1439 and from 1490 to 1918.
  • Personal union with the Holy Roman Empire from 1410 to 1439 and from 1526 to 1806 (except 1608-1612 and 1740-1780).
  • Real union with Austria from 1867 to 1918 (the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary) under the reigns of Franz Joseph and Charles IV.


  • Personal union with Denmark from 1918 to 1944 when the country became a republic.


  • Personal union with England from 1541 (when the Irish Parliament proclaimed King Henry VIII of England King of Ireland) to 1707 (upon the formation of Great Britain).
  • Personal union with Scotland (and England) from 1603 to 1707 (when England and Scotland were joined together in the Kingdom of Great Britain).
  • Personal union with Great Britain from 1707 to 1801 (when they were joined together in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland).
  • Personal union with Hanover from 1714 to 1837 on the accession of Queen Victoria.
  • Personal union with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from 1922 to 1937/1949 (see Irish head of state from 1936-1949).


  • Personal union with Poland from 1386 to 1401, then from 1447 to 1569 (with a break in 1492-1501) - the Polish-Lithuanian Union. In 1569 transformed into a federation of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.



  • Personal union with France from 1589 to 1620 due to the accession of Henry IV, after which Navarre was formally integrated into France.

The Netherlands

  • Personal union with Luxembourg from 1815 to 1890.


  • Sweyn Forkbeard ruled both Norway and Denmark from 999 to 1014. He also ruled England from 1013 to 1014.
  • Cnut the Great ruled both England and Denmark from 1018 to 1035. He also ruled Norway from 1028 to 1035.
  • Personal union with Denmark 1042-1047 Magnus I of Norway who died of unclear circumstances.
  • Personal union with Sweden from 1319 to 1343.
  • Personal union with Denmark from 1380 to 1814; (the Norwegian Riksråd was abolished in 1536).
  • The Kalmar Union with Denmark and Sweden from 1389 to 1521 (sometimes defunct)
  • Personal union with Sweden from 1814 (when Norway declared independence from Denmark and was forced into a union with Sweden) to 1905.


  • Personal union with Bohemia, from 1300 to 1306, and with Hungary, from 1301 to 1305, (Wenceslas II and Wenceslas III).
  • Personal union with Hungary from 1370 to 1382 and 1440 to 1444 (see Hungary section above).
  • Personal union with Lithuania in the Union of Krewo, 1386–1401, then from 1447 to the Union of Lublin in 1569 (with a break in 1492-1501) known as the Polish-Lithuanian Union. In 1569 the union was transformed into a federation of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
  • Personal union with the Electorate of Saxony from 1697 to 1706, 1709 to 1733, and 1734 to 1763.
  • Eastern part: Personal union with Russia from 1814 to 1832, known as Congress Poland; following the suppression of an army revolt, the territory was annexed outright by Russia.


  • Personal union with Sweden from 1592 to 1599
  • Personal union with Saxony from 1697 to 1705, 1709 to 1733 and 1733 to 1763


  • Iberian Union with Spain from 1580 to 1640, under Philip II (also known as Philip I of Portugal), his son and grandson.
  • Personal union with Brazil, under Peter I of Brazil (Peter IV of Portugal), from 10 March 1826 to 28 May 1826. Peter was the Prince Royal of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves when he declared the independence of Brazil in 1822, becoming its first emperor. When his father (John VI of Portugal) died, Peter became also king of Portugal for only a few weeks, after which he abdicated the Portuguese throne in favor of his younger child, Princess Maria da Glória.


Saxe-Weimar and Saxe-Eisenach

The duchies of Saxe-Weimar and Saxe-Eisenach were in personal union from 1741, when the ruling house of Saxe-Eisenach died out, until 1809, when they were merged into the single duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach.

Schleswig and Holstein

Duchies with peculiar rules for succession. See the Schleswig-Holstein Question.

  • The kings of Denmark at the same time being dukes of Schleswig and Holstein 1460-1864. (Holstein being part of the Holy Roman Empire, while Schleswig was a part of Denmark). The situation was complicated by the fact that for some time, the Duchies were divided among collateral branches of the House of Oldenburg (the ruling House in Denmark and Schleswig-Holstein). Besides the "main" Duchy of Schlewig-Holstein-Glückstadt, ruled by the Kings of Denmark, there were states encompassing territory in both Duchies. Notably the Dukes of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorp and the subordinate Dukes of Schleswig-Holstein-Beck, Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg and Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg.

Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt and Schwarzburg-Sondershausen

The duchies of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt and Schwarzburg-Sondershausen were in personal union from 1909, when Prince Günther of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt succeeded also to the throne of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen, until 1918, when he (and all the other rulers of German monarchies) abdicated.



  • Personal union of the crowns that would later form Spain (Crown of Castile and Crown of Aragon) with the Holy Roman Empire from 1519 to 1556 under Charles I (Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor). Castile and Aragon remained united from 1556–1707, after which they were formally unified as Spain. The Kingdom of Navarre, also in personal union with the Aragonese throne since 1511, would retain its separate legal and political system until the nineteenth century.
  • During the time of the Habsburgs (until 1700), the Spanish kingdoms were also in personal union with the Kingdoms of Naples, Sicily, and Sardinia and the Duchy of Milan in Italy, as well as the Spanish Netherlands and other Burgundian territories in France and the Low Countries.
  • Philip II of Spain was joint king of England (with Mary I) from 1554 to 1558
  • Iberian Union of all kingdoms in the Iberian Peninsula, including Portugal, from 1580 to 1640, under Philip II (also known as Phillip I of Portugal), his son and grandson.


  • Personal union with Norway from 1319 to 1343
  • The Kalmar Union with Denmark and Norway from 1389 to 1521 (sometimes defunct)
  • Personal union with Poland-Lithuania from 1592 to 1599
  • Personal union with Norway from 1814 to 1905

United Kingdom

  • Personal union with Hanover from 1801 to 1837, when differing succession laws resulted in Queen Victoria ascending the British throne and her uncle Ernest Augustus that of Hanover.
  • Personal union with Ireland from 1922 to 1937/1949 (see Irish head of state from 1936-1949).


  1. ^ Lalor, ed. Various authors. See Contents. Cyclopaedia of Political Science. New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co., ed. John Joseph Lalor, 1899. online version; accessed 21 June 2008
  2. ^ Oppenheim, Lassa; Roxbrough, Ronald (2005). International Law: A Treatise. The Lawbook Exchange. ISBN 1584776099, 9781584776093. Retrieved 2008-10-05. "At present there is no Personal Union in existence" 
  3. ^ Mansergh, Nicholas (1934). The Irish Free State - Its Government and Politics. Read Books. pp. 263. ISBN 9781406720358. 
  4. ^ F. R. Scott (January 1944). "The End of Dominion Status". The American Journal of International Law (The American Journal of International Law, Vol. 38, No. 1) 38 (1): 34–49. doi:10.2307/2192530. JSTOR 2192530. "The common kinship within the British group today establishes a form of personal union" 
  5. ^ P. E. Corbett (1940). "The Status of the British Commonwealth in International Law". The University of Toronto Law Journal (The University of Toronto Law Journal, Vol. 3, No. 2) 3 (2): 348–359. doi:10.2307/824318. JSTOR 824318. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Luscombe and Riley-Smith, David and Jonathan (2004). New Cambridge Medieval History: C.1024-c.1198, Volume 4. Cambridge University Press. pp. 273–274. ISBN 0521414113, 9780521414111. 
  7. ^ Europa Publications Limited, p.271: Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, Svezak 4
  8. ^ Alain Finkielkraut, (pp. 17-18): Dispatches from the Balkan War and other writings
  9. ^ Imogen Bell, p.173: Central and South-Eastern Europe 2003
  10. ^ Mitja Velikonja p.78: Religious separation and political intolerance in Bosnia-Herzegovina
  11. ^ Piotr Stefan Wandycz, p.159: The price of freedom: a history of East Central Europe from the Middle Ages
  12. ^ Adrian Webb,Inc NetLibrary, Adrian Webb, p.218: The Routledge companion to Central and Eastern Europe since 1919
  13. ^ a b Charles W. Ingrao, p.12: The Habsburg monarchy, 1618-1815
  14. ^ a b David Raic, p. 342: Statehood and the law of self-determination
  15. ^ a b c Font, Marta: Hungarian Kingdom and Croatia in the Middle Age
  16. ^ Vauchez, Dobson, Lapidge, André, Richard Barrie, Michael (2000). Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages, Svezak 1. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers. pp. 384–385. ISBN 1-57958-282-6. 
  17. ^ a b c d Matjaž Klemenčič, Mitja Žagar (2004). The Former Yugoslavia's Diverse Peoples: A Reference Sourcebook. ABC-CLIO. p. 16. ISBN 9781576072943. 
  18. ^ Britannica:History of Croatia
  19. ^
  20. ^ a b Curta, Stephenson, p. 267
  21. ^ Ana S. Trbovich (2008). A Legal Geography of Yugoslavia's Disintegration. Oxford University Press. p. 87. ISBN 9780195333435. 
  22. ^ R. W. SETON -WATSON:The southern Slav question and the Habsburg Monarchy page 18
  23. ^ Power, Daniel (2006). The Central Middle Ages: Europe 950-1320. Oxford University Press. pp. 186. ISBN 9780199253128. 
  24. ^ Van Antwerp Fine, John (2006). When Ethnicity Did Not Matter in the Balkans: A Study of Identity in Pre-nationalist Croatia, Dalmatia, and Slavonia in the Medieval and Early-modern Periods. University of Michigan Press. pp. 71. ISBN 9780472114146. 
  25. ^ Van Antwerp Fine, p. 70
  26. ^ Curta, Florin; Paul Stephenson (2006). Southeastern Europe in the Middle Ages, 500-1250. Cambridge University Press. pp. 267. ISBN 9780521815390. 
  27. ^ Bellamy, Alex J. (2003). The Formation of Croatian National Identity: A Centuries-old Dream. Manchester University Press. pp. 37. ISBN 9780719065026. 
  28. ^ Molnar, Miklos; Anna Magyar (2001). A concise history of Hungary. Cambridge concise histories. Cambridge University Press. pp. 30. ISBN 9780521667364. 
  29. ^ a b c d Curtis, Glenn E. (1992). "A Country Study: Yugoslavia (Former) - The Croats and Their Territories". Library of Congress. 
  30. ^ a b c Bellamy, p. 38
  31. ^ Singleton, Frederick Bernard (1985). A short history of the Yugoslav peoples. Cambridge University Press. pp. 29. ISBN 9780521274852. 
  32. ^ Steinweis, A.E. (1996). Art, Ideology, and Economics in Nazi Germany. UNC Press. p. 60. 

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