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Duke of Holstein-Gottorp

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Duchy of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorp
Herzogtum Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf (German)
Hertugdømmet Slesvig-Holsten-Gottorp (Danish)
Flag of Ducal Holstein
Merchant Ensign of Holstein-Gottorp
Coat of arms of Ducal Holstein
Coat of arms
Location of Ducal Holstein
StatusDuchy (originally as an Appanage)
Ethnic groups
Germans, Danes
• Duke
Adolf I (First)
• Duke
Paul I (last)
• Second partitioning of Schleswig-Holstein
• Established
• Disestablished
Today part of

House of Holstein-Gottorp
Huset Holsten-Gottorp (Danish)
Parent houseHouse of Oldenburg
EtymologyFrom Holstein region and Gottorf Castle, Schleswig
Founded1544 (1544)
FounderAdolf of Denmark
Current headChristian, Duke of Oldenburg
Final ruler
  • Schleswig-Holstein: 1773 (1773)
  • Russian Empire: 1917 (1917)
  • Oldenburg: 1918 (1918)
Cadet branches

Holstein-Gottorp (pronounced [ˌʃleːsvɪç ˈhɔlʃtaɪn] ) is the historiographical name, as well as contemporary shorthand name, for the parts of the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein, also known as Ducal Holstein, that were ruled by the dukes of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorp, a side branch of the elder Danish line of the German House of Oldenburg. Other parts of the duchies were ruled by the kings of Denmark.

The territories of Gottorp are located in present-day Denmark and Germany. The main seat of the dukes was Gottorf Castle in the city of Schleswig in the duchy of Schleswig. It is also the name of the ducal house, which ascended to several thrones. For this reason, genealogists and historians sometimes use the name of Holstein-Gottorp for related dynasties of other countries.

The formal title adopted by these rulers was "Duke of Schleswig, Holstein, Dithmarschen and Stormarn", but that title was also used by his kinsmen, the kings of Denmark and their cadet branches, as it was the common property of all these agnates. The Gottorp branch held Landeshoheit (territorial superiority) over the duchy of Holstein in the Holy Roman Empire and over the duchy of Schleswig in the kingdom of Denmark.[citation needed] For the sake of convenience, the name Holstein-Gottorp is used instead of the technically more correct "Duke of Schleswig and Holstein in/at Gottorp".[citation needed]

The oldest of the ducal titles was that of Schleswig, which had been confirmed in fief to a royal kinsman by the regent Queen Margaret I of Denmark, Sweden and Norway in 1386 on behalf of her son, Olaf II of Denmark. The kings of Denmark were granted Holstein as an imperial fief by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III in 1474.


Gottorf Castle, after which the house of Holstein-Gottorp is named
Coat of arms of the Duchy of Holstein-Gottorp (from Siebmachers Wappenbuch)[1]

In 1544, the so-called "one-third duchy" was ceded to Adolf, third son of King Frederick I of Denmark and the youngest half-brother of King Christian III of Denmark. Thus, the surviving House of Holstein-Gottorp is a cadet branch of the House of Oldenburg. The Dukes of Holstein-Gottorp shared the uneasy rule of Schleswig and Holstein with the Kings of Denmark. As such, they were often allies (practically clients) of the Swedes, enemies of the Danes. This longtime alliance was sealed by several dynastic marriages: Christina of Holstein-Gottorp married Charles IX of Sweden, Hedwig Eleonora of Holstein-Gottorp married Charles X Gustavus, Duke Frederick IV married the eldest daughter of King Charles XI of Sweden, and ultimately Prince Adolf Frederick of Holstein-Gottorp ascended to the Swedish throne in 1751, founding the Holstein-Gottorp dynasty of Sweden (ruled 1751–1818).

By the Treaty of Roskilde (1658) and the Treaty of Copenhagen (1660), Denmark-Norway released Gottorp from its feudal bonds and recognized the sovereignty of its dukes over the Gottorp portions of the duchy of Schleswig. In fact, these Schleswigers had been relatively independent already for more than a century. Although the duchy of Holstein remained officially a fief of the Empire, in fact by treaty its dukes co-governed both duchies with their formal overlord, the Danish king.

Gottorp question


In the Great Northern War, the duchy sided with Sweden and was defeated after Danish troops occupied the northern portions of Holstein-Gottorp. According to the 1720 Treaty of Frederiksborg, Swedish support for Gottorp ceased, making it impossible for the dukes to regain their lost territories in Schleswig and prolonging their feud with the king of Denmark. Following the peace settlement of 1721, Duke Charles Frederick fled to the court of Peter the Great of Russia, and for some time, the Russians intrigued to restore Charles Frederick to his lands in Schleswig. Charles Frederick himself was married to Grand Duchess Anna, Peter's daughter. Peter II and his successors abandoned the policy of Peter the Great of backing the claims of the dukes of Holstein-Gottorp on their part of Schleswig. in fact Russia wanted to have a port on the coast of the Northern sea so it needed not Schleswig but friendship of dukes. But from this marriage was born Charles Peter Ulrich, who succeeded to Holstein-Gottorp in 1739, and became an heir to the Russian throne according to the will of Catherine I and especially upon the accession of his childless aunt Elizabeth in 1741.

Charles Peter Ulrich, who acceded to the Russian throne as Peter III in 1762, was determined to conquer his part of Schleswig from Denmark–Norway and to attach it to Holstein. When he became emperor in 1762, he immediately signed a generous peace with Prussia and withdrew Russia from the Seven Years' War in order to concentrate fully on an attack upon Denmark together with Prussia. This move angered Russian opinion, since it was considered a betrayal of Russia's sacrifices in the war, as well as placing national interests in jeopardy. At the same time, the Danish army had hastily moved across the border into Mecklenburg, to avoid an invasion of Holstein, and prepared for battle. The two armies stood less than 30 kilometres apart when news from Saint Petersburg suddenly reached the Russian army that its emperor had been overthrown by his wife, who had now acceded to the throne as Empress Catherine II. One of her first actions was to call off the war against Denmark and any territorial claims and restore normal relations.

Peter III's son, Paul, the new Duke of Holstein-Gottorp, was a minor under the regency of his mother, the empress. With the 1773 Treaty of Tsarskoye Selo, she agreed to cede the territorial claims of her son to the Holstein-Gottorp lands still held by Denmark and to cede the part of Duchy, held by her husband, obtaining in exchange the German countships of Oldenburg and Delmenhorst, elevated in 1776 into the duchy of Oldenburg within the Holy Roman Empire. The duchy was given to the cousin of Paul's grandfather—the aged Prince-Bishop of Lübeck, head of a younger branch of the Holstein-Gottorp family. This put an end to the Gottorp question, which had generated so many conflicts between the Nordic powers.

The House of Holstein-Gottorp acceded to several European thrones. The dynastic policy of the dukes of Holstein-Gottorp resulted in its cadet branch, the Swedish line, ruling Sweden from 1751 until 1818 and Norway from 1814 to 1818. In 1863, the related House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg — descended from King Christian III of Denmark — became Kings of Denmark and Greece and, in 1905, of Norway.

The Lübeck branch became first dukes and later grand dukes of Oldenburg from (1773 until 1918), while the senior branch ruled Russia briefly in 1762 and then again from 1796 until 1917 (while in 1762–1796 it was ruled by their widow, second cousin and mother). However although agnatic members of this house reigned in Russia, they were commonly called Romanov, or more rarely, Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov.

Dukes of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorp

Coat of arms of Count Adolf of Holstein-Gottorp
Coat of Arms of the House of Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov

Dukes of Schleswig and Holstein at Gottorp:

Dukes of Holstein-Gottorp at Kiel:

Titular Dukes of Holstein-Gottorp at St Petersburg (House of Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov):

One view[2] is that the heir is the non-dynastic son of Grand Duke Dimitri, only son of Grand Duke Paul, himself the youngest brother of Alexander III. This heir is non-dynastic in the Russian sense, but the Danish branch of the House of Oldenburg had no declared ban against unequal marriages (but against non authorized marriages in Denmark), as Schleswig, where the (once sovereign) Schloss Gottorf is located, was never part of Holy Roman Empire or under its jurisdiction. These heirs live in USA and have not staked a public claim to titles.

Prince Dimitri Pavlovich Romanovsky-Ilyinsky has no sons. His only male heir, his brother Prince Michael Romanovsky-Ilyinsky, is also without male issue, and there are currently no further male heirs in the Romanovsky-Ilyinsky line to inherit this theoretical claim to the Duchy. This claim would then pass on through the line of Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich of Russia to Andrew Andreevich, Prince of Russia and his descendants.

Another view determines that Nicholas II's August 11, 1903 renunciation of claims to the Oldenburg titles and duchy for himself and for all his family and descendants[3] made it impossible for any of the Romanov heirs to bear the dynastically valid Schleswig Holstein titles independently.

A third view is that by the end of the Holy Roman Empire it was a principle of German princely law that members of all princely families which held Reichsstand status therein were required to contract ebenbürtig in order to transmit dynastic rights to their descendants.[4] If descendants of Grand Duke Dmitri's marriage with Audrey Emery are considered ineligible to succeed to the ducal Holstein claim, it is unclear which, if any, of the various male-line branches descended from the Imperial Romanovs remain eligible. If marriages-in-exile with Russian princesses or countesses meet the marital standard, male-line heirs may yet exist. If, however, all marriages deemed morganatic by Russian Imperial standards were also non-dynastic for the Gottorp succession, the genealogically senior Holstein-Gottorp dynast would be Christian, Duke of Oldenburg, current head of the branch descending from Christian August of Holstein-Gottorp, Prince of Eutin, the younger brother of Duke Frederick IV. He already holds claim to the defunct title of grand duke of Oldenburg. Either way, the king of Denmark exercised sovereignty in the duchies and provided financial support to the cadet Schleswig-Holstein branches of the House of Oldenburg. The claim to Holstein inherited by Emperor Paul I from Peter II was exchanged in 1773 for the Danish kings' duchy of Oldenburg (residual succession rights being retained), the rulers of which lost sovereignty there in 1918. King Christian IX of Denmark lost Schleswig and Holstein in the Second Schleswig War in 1864, subsequent to which both duchies were incorporated into the kingdom of Prussia and later the German Empire. Danish monarchs continued to use their traditional ducal titles in pretence until the death of king Frederik IX of Denmark in 1972. In 1920, Northern Schleswig was returned to Danish rule after a plebiscite, the remainder of the former duchies remains part of Germany.

Family Tree

House of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorp

House of Oldenburg
Elimar I
Count of Oldenburg
r. 1091-1108
c. 1040-1112
Elimar II
Count of Oldenburg
r. 1108-1142
Christian I
the Quarrelsome

Count of Oldenburg
r. 1143-1167
Count of Oldenburg
r. 1169-1211
c. 1145-c. 1211
Christian II
Count of Oldenburg
r. 1209-1233
John I
Count of Oldenburg
r. 1233-1270
c. 1204-c. 1270
Christian III
Count of Oldenburg
r. 1270-1285
John II
Count of Oldenburg
r. 1285-1301
?-c. 1314/6
Conrad I
Count of Oldenburg
r. 1324-1347
Christian V
Count of Oldenburg
r. 1368-1398
c. 1342-c. 1399

Count of Oldenburg
r. 1403-1440
Christian I
King of Denmark
r. 1448-1481
King of Norway
r. 1450-1481
King of Sweden
r. 1457-1464
Frederick I
King of Denmark
r. 1523-1533
King of Norway
r. 1524-1533

House of Schleswig-
Duke of Schleswig-

r. 1544-1586
Frederick II
Duke of Schleswig-

r. 1586-1587
Duke of Schleswig-

r. 1587-1590
John Adolf
Duke of Schleswig-

r. 1590-1616
Frederick III
Duke of Schleswig-

r. 1616-1659
Christian Albert
Duke of Schleswig-

r. 1659-1695
Frederick IV
Duke of Schleswig-

r. 1695-1702
Christian August

House of Romanov
Duchess consort of

r. 1725-1728
Charles Frederick
Duke of Schleswig-

r. 1702-1739
Adolf Frederick
King of Sweden
r. 1751-1771
Frederick August I
Duke of Oldenburg
r. 1774-1785
George Louis

House of Holstein-
Peter III
Emperor of Russia
r. 1762-1762
Gustav III
King of Sweden
r. 1771-1792
Charles XIII
King of Sweden
r. 1809-1818
King of Norway
r. 1814-1818
Duke of Oldenburg
r. 1785-1823
Peter I
Grand Duke of

r. 1823-1829
Paul I
Emperor of Russia
r. 1796-1801
Gustav IV Adolf
King of Sweden
r. 1792-1809
Grand Duke of

r. 1829-1853
Alexander I
Emperor of Russia
r. 1801-1825
Nicholas I
Emperor of Russia
r. 1825-1855
Peter II
Grand Duke of

r. 1853-1900
Alexander II
the Liberator

Emperor of Russia
r. 1855-1881
Augustus II

Grand Duke of

r. 1900-1918
Alexander III
the Peacemaker

Emperor of Russia
r. 1881-1894
Nicholas II
Emperor of Russia
r. 1894-1917

See also



  1. ^ Siebmacher, Johann (1703). Erneuertes und vermehrtes Wappenbuch... Nürnberg: Adolph Johann Helmers. pp. Part I, Table 6.
  2. ^ Sources include: Guy Stair Sainty, Paul Theroff
  3. ^ "Czar Renounces a Grand Duchy". The New York Times. 10 March 1904.
  4. ^ Rehm, Hermann. Modernes Fürstenrecht. Ebenbürtigkeit. J. Schweitzer Verlag, Munich, 1904. pp. 151–179. (Translation of excerpt from the German by François Velde).