A duchy is a territory, fief, or domain ruled by a duke or duchess.

Some duchies were sovereign in areas that would become unified realms only during the Modern era (such as Germany and Italy). In contrast, others were subordinate districts of those kingdoms that unified either partially or completely during the Medieval era (such as England, France, and Spain). The term is used almost exclusively about Europe.

For the history of duchies as an institution, see the entry on Duke.



Traditionally, a grand duchy, such as Luxembourg, was generally independent and sovereign. Sovereign duchies were common in the Holy Roman Empire and German-speaking areas.

In France, a number of duchies existed in the medieval period. Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom still claims the medieval French title of Duke of Normandy, and this provides the legal status of the Channel Islands as Crown Dependencies. Other important French duchies included Burgundy, Brittany, and Aquitaine.

The mediæval German Stem duchies (German: Stammesherzogtum, literally "tribal duchy") were associated with the Frankish Kingdom and corresponded with the areas of settlement of the major Germanic tribes. They formed the nuclei of the major feudal states that comprised the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation. These were Schwaben, Bayern and Sachsen in pre-Carolingian times, to which Franken and Lothringen were added in post-Carolingian times. Such a duke was titled Herzog.

In medieval England, the territories of Lancashire and Cornwall were made duchies, with certain powers accruing to their dukes. The Duchy of Lancaster was created in 1351 but became merged with the Crown when, in 1399, the duke, Henry Bolingbroke ascended the throne of England as Henry IV. Nowadays the Duchy of Lancaster always belongs to the sovereign and its revenue is the Privy Purse. The Duchy of Cornwall was created in 1337 and held successively by the dukes of Cornwall who were also heirs to the throne. Nowadays the Duchy of Cornwall belongs to the sovereign's heir apparent, if any: it reverts to the Crown in the absence of an heir apparent, and is automatically conferred to the heir apparent upon birth. These duchies today have lost their political role (although there is an ongoing dispute over the status of Cornwall), but generate their holders' private income. During the Wars of the Roses, the Duke of York made a successful entry into the City of York, by merely claiming no harm and that it was his right to possess "his duchy of York".[1] Any and all feudal duchies that made up the patchwork of England have since been absorbed within the Royal Family. Other than Cornwall and Lancaster, British royal dukedoms are titular and do not include land holdings. Non-royal dukedoms are associated with ducal property, but this is meant as the duke's private property, with no other feudal privileges attached.

In more recent times territorial duchies have become rare; most dukedoms conferred in the last few centuries have been of a purely symbolic character (see Duke). No independent duchy exists today, except for Luxembourg, which is an independent country formally called a grand duchy.

See also

Grand Duchies

Main article: Grand Duchy

Duchies in Austria, Germany, Italy, and the Low Countries

Main article: Dukes in Italy, Germany and Austria

Duchy in Denmark

Duchies in England

Main article: Duchies in England

Duchies in France

Duchies in Poland

Other current or historical duchies

See also

Fictional duchies


  1. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A1150417

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Duchy — Duch y (d[u^]ch [y^]), n.; pl. {Duchies}. [F. duch[ e], OF. duch[ e]e, (assumed) LL. ducitas, fr. L. dux. See {Duke}.] The territory or dominions of a duke; a dukedom. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • duchy — mid 14c., territory ruled by a duke or duchess, from O.Fr. duché (12c.), from M.L. ducatus, from L. dux (see DUKE (Cf. duke) (n.)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • duchy — ► NOUN (pl. duchies) ▪ the territory of a duke or duchess. ORIGIN Old French duche, from Latin dux leader …   English terms dictionary

  • duchy — [duch′ē] n. pl. duchies [ME & OFr duchee < LL ducatus, military command, territory of a duke < L dux: see DUCT] the territory ruled by a duke or duchess; dukedom …   English World dictionary

  • duchy — /duch ee/, n., pl. duchies. the territory ruled by a duke or duchess. [1350 1400; ME duche < MF duche; AF, OF duchié < ML ducatus; LL, L: the rank or functions of a DUX; see DUKE, ATE3] * * * (as used in expressions) Grand Duchy of Luxembourg… …   Universalium

  • duchy — [[t]dʌ̱tʃi[/t]] duchies N COUNT: oft the N of n A duchy is an area of land that is owned or ruled by a duke. ...the Duchy of Cornwall …   English dictionary

  • duchy — arch·duchy; duchy; …   English syllables

  • duchy — UK [ˈdʌtʃɪ] / US noun [countable] Word forms duchy : singular duchy plural duchies an area of land belonging to a duke or duchess …   English dictionary

  • duchy — Synonyms and related words: Kreis, ally, archbishopric, archdiocese, archduchy, archdukedom, arrondissement, bailiwick, bishopric, body politic, borough, buffer state, canton, captive nation, chieftaincy, chieftainry, city, city state, colony,… …   Moby Thesaurus

  • duchy — n. (pl. ies) 1 the territory of a duke or duchess; a dukedom. 2 (often as the Duchy) the royal dukedom of Cornwall or Lancaster, each with certain estates, revenues, and jurisdiction of its own. Etymology: ME f. OF ducheacute(e) f. med.L ducatus… …   Useful english dictionary

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