A principality (or princedom) can either be a monarchical feudatory or
a sovereign state, ruled or reigned over by a monarch with the title
of prince or by a monarch with another title within the generic use of
the term prince.
2.4 Ecclesiastical principalities
4 Other principalities
4.2 Micronational principalities
5 See also
7 Sources and references
Most of these states have historically been a polity, but in some
occasions were rather territories in respect of which a princely title
is held. The prince's estate and wealth may be located mainly or
wholly outside the geographical confines of the principality.
Generally recognised surviving sovereign principalities are
Liechtenstein, Monaco, and the co-principality of Andorra. Extant
royal primogenitures styled as principalities include Asturias
Principality of Wales
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,
Prince of Wales (together with
Duke of Cornwall
Duke of Cornwall and Duke of
Rothesay, 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. It has country status and is
one of four countries in the United Kingdom. The
Catalonia existed in the north-eastern areas of
Spain between 9th and
18th centuries, and based its sovereignty in the "Constitutions of the
Principality of Catalonia," until the defeat of the Catalans in the
succession war for the throne of what (at that time) were commonly
named as "the kingdoms of Spain" (1701-1714).
Principality of Asturias
is the official name of autonomous community of Asturias.
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"), as in Liechtenstein, 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 Countship,
Margraviate and even Lordship, especially within the Holy Roman
While the preceding definition would seem to fit a princely state
perfectly, the European historical tradition is to reserve that word
for native monarchies in colonial countries, and to apply
"principality" to the Western monarchies.
Though principalities existed in antiquity, even before the height of
the Roman Empire, the principality as it is known today developed in
Middle Ages between 750 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
During the Late
Middle Ages 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 and development of new trade goods and services
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
associated with sovereign states.
Prince Johann I Josef, last prince of
Liechtenstein prior to the end
of the Holy Roman Empire
While some principalities prospered in their independence, less
successful states were swallowed by stronger royal houses.
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
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.
Prussia also later expanded by acquiring the territories of many other
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.
Notable principalities existed until the early 20th century in various
Germany and Italy.
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. A characteristic of nationalism is an identity with a larger
region such as an area sharing a common language and culture. 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 acting 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.
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.
Some of these instances were merely religious offices without
sovereign power over any territory, while others, such as Salzburg and
Durham, shared some of the characteristics of secular princes.
Prior to the European colonialism,
South Asia and
South East Asia
South East Asia were
under the influence of
Indosphere of greater India, where numerous
Indianized principalities and empires flourhised for several centuries
in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Cambodia and
Vietnam. The influence of Indian culture into these areas was given
the term indianization
George Coedes defined it as the expansion of an
organized culture that was framed upon Indian originations of royalty,
Hinduism and Buddhism and the Sanskrit dialect. This can be seen in
the spread of
Hinduism and Buddhism.
Indian honorifics also influenced
the Malay, Thai, Filipino and Indonesian honorifics.
In the colonial context, the term princely states was used, especially
for those that came under the sway of a European colonising power: for
example 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 Indigenous cultures.
Principalities have also existed in ancient and modern civilizations
Pre-Columbian America and Oceania.
Several micronations, which de facto have few characteristics of
sovereign states and are not recognized as such, more or less
seriously claim the status of sovereign principalities. Examples are
Sealand, a former military fort in the North Sea; Seborga,
internationally considered a small town in Italy; and Hutt River,
internationally considered to be in Australia.
^ Jenkins, Geraint H. (2007). A Concise History of Wales. Cambridge
University Press. ISBN 9780521823678.
^ Coedes, George (1967). The Indianized States of Southeast Asia.
Australian National University Press.
^ Krishna Chandra Sagar, 2002, An Era of Peace, Page 52.
Sources and references
Designations for types of administrative territorial entities
Common English terms1
Local government area
Combined statistical area
Metropolitan statistical area
Micropolitan statistical area
Free imperial city
Royal free city
Indian government district
Regional county municipality
Mountain resort municipality
Special administrative region
Federal capital territory
Organized incorporated territory
Autonomous territorial unit
Local administrative unit
Exclusive economic zone
Free economic zone
Special economic zone
Other English terms
Non-English or loanwords
Kunta / kommun
Arabic terms for country subdivisions
Muhafazah (محافظة governorate)
Wilayah (ولاية province)
Mintaqah (منطقة region)
Mudiriyah (مديرية directorate)
Imarah (إمارة emirate)
Baladiyah (بلدية municipality)
Shabiyah (شعبية "popularate")
Second / third-level
Mintaqah (منطقة region)
Qadaa (قضاء district)
Nahiyah (ناحية subdistrict)
Markaz (مركز district)
Mutamadiyah (معتمدية "delegation")
Daerah/Daïra (دائرة circle)
Liwa (لواء banner / sanjak)
City / township-level
Amanah (أمانة municipality)
Baladiyah (بلدية municipality)
Ḥai (حي neighborhood / quarter)
Sheyakhah (شياخة "neighborhood subdivision")
English translations given are those most commonly used.
French terms for country subdivisions
Greek terms for country subdivisions
apokentromenes dioikiseis / geniki dioikisis§ / diamerisma§ /
nomos§ / periphereiaki enotita
demos / eparchia§ / koinotita§
§ signifies a defunct institution
Portuguese terms for country subdivisions
Historical subdivisions in italics.
Slavic terms for country subdivisions
krajina / pokrajina
oblast / oblast' / oblasti / oblys / obwód / voblast'
opština / općina / občina / obshtina
powiat / povit
selsoviet / silrada
voivodeship / vojvodina
guberniya / gubernia
starostwo / starostva
Spanish terms for country subdivisions
Historical subdivisions in italics.
Turkish terms for country subdivisions
ağalık (feudal district)
reya (Romanian principalities)
voyvodalık (Romanian provinces)
1 Used by ten or more countries or having derived terms. Historical
derivations in italics.
See also: Census division, Electoral district, Political division, and
List of administrative di