Dukes in France

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The drapeau blanc or standard of the French royal family
Heraldic depiction of a duke's coronet

The title of Duke was the highest title in the French nobility during the time of the monarchy in France.[1]

Old dukedoms[edit]

The highest precedence in the realm, attached to a feudal territory, was given to the twelve original pairies, which had originated in the Middle Ages and also had a traditional function in the royal coronation, comparable to the German imperial archoffices.

Half of them were Dukes and half of them Counts. Of these, three were ecclesiastical and three were secular. Of these twelve, the prelates all ranked above the secular peers of the realm and three temporal, and the dukes all ranked above the counts.

Ecclesiastical Dukes[edit]

The Prince-Bishops with ducal territories included:

Later, the Archbishop of Paris was given the title of duc de Saint-Cloud with the dignity of peerage, but it was debated if he was an ecclesiastical peer or merely a bishop holding a lay peerage.

Secular dukes[edit]

The secular dukes in the peerage of the realm were:

  • Duke of Normandy: mightiest vassal of the French crown, later also kings of England
  • Duke of Aquitaine (also called Duke of Guyenne): largest landholder of southwestern France, also rulers of Gascony and Poitou
  • Duke of Burgundy: held by a cadet line of the Kings of France

The duchies of Normandy and Aquitaine were confiscated by Philip Augustus, circa 1204. The duchy of Aquitaine was reconstituted as the duchy of Guyenne in 1259 for the King of England by Saint Louis.

Even after most of the lay peerages had merged with the crown, the peers who participate in the coronation of the kings of France continued to represent the original twelve peers of France. At some point the duke of Burgundy gained precedence over those of Normandy (then merged with the Crown) and Aquitaine (held by a disobedient vassal) in the French coronation ceremony.

In 1297, Philip the Fair promoted the Duke of Brittany to the peerage.

Early Modern period[edit]

At the end of the 13th century, the King elevated some counties into duchies, a practice that increased through the early modern period until the French Revolution. Many of this duchies were also peerages, so-called new peerages.

Other duchies of note include:

The title of Duke of France refers to the rulers of the Île de France, informally Francia. The dynasts of Robert the Strong's family are usually termed "Dukes of France" and their title evolved into the name for the French nation after one of their members, Hugh Capet, ascended the throne. Since the end of the monarchy, it has been used by pretenders to the French throne such as Prince Henri, Count of Paris.

New dukedoms[edit]

After the French Revolution, further dukedoms were created by successive French rulers. Napoleon I created a substantial number of dukes in the Nobility of the First French Empire, largely for Marshals of the Empire and certain ministers, and many of them carried victory titles. The practice of creating dukedoms was continued by the House of Bourbon after the Restoration, and later by Napoleon III.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ E. Armstrong (1 September 2004). The French Wars of Religion Their Political Aspects. Kessinger Publishing. pp. 7–. ISBN 978-1-4179-4847-5. Retrieved 2 August 2013. "The former belonged to the highest rank of non-royal French nobility, and its head, the Duke, possessed the highest ..."