Personal union

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the political arrangement. For the Christian theological teaching, see Hypostatic union.

A personal union is the combination of two or more states who have the same monarch while their boundaries, laws, and interests remain distinct.[1][2] It differs from a federation in that each constituent state has an independent government, whereas a federal state is united by a central government. The ruler in a personal union does not need to be a hereditary monarch.[3]

Personal unions can arise for several reasons, ranging from coincidence (a woman 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).

The Commonwealth realms, not addressed in the list of personal unions, are contemporary independent states that share the same person as monarch.

Crown of Aragon[edit]

In 1162 Alfonso II of Aragon was the first person to bear both the titles King of Aragon and Count of Barcelona, ruling what was later called the 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.


In 1378 Sukhothai was invaded by Ayutthaya and became a vassal of Ayutthaya. After king Borommapan died in 1438 with no legal heir, this kingdom's throne was claimed by Trailokkanat. In 1448 Trailokkanat was crowned in Ayutthaya, and these two countries became ruled by the same monarch. In terms of government, these two countries still maintained separate governments and the seat of power in Phitsanulok in Trailokkanat's era had a close relationship to government in Ayutthaya. After Trailokkanat died in 1488, the government backed into Ayutthaya and appointed a Sukhothai member with a close relationship to Ayutthaya.

After Sukhothai was invaded by Taungoo Kingdom and became a vassal of Tuangoo in 1563, King Bayinnaung appointed Khun Phiren Thorathep as a puppet king. In 1569 Ayutthaya fell in Taungoo. Khun Phiren Thorathep was forced to govern in Ayutthaya as King Maha Thammarachathirat and Crown prince Naresuan governed Sukhothai. After Bayinnaung died, King Nanda distrusted the King of Sukhothai and invaded again in the Battle of Sittaung River in 1583. After the battle, King Naresuan forcibly relocated people integrate into Ayutthaya Kingdom.


  • 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)



China: Shenyang[edit]

Further information: Shenyang
  • Personal union with a Korean kingdom of Goryeo 1308–1313 (King Chungseon)
    • As King of Goryeo (高麗國王) and King of Shenyang (瀋陽王) in 1308–1310
    • As King of Goryeo and King of Shen (瀋王) in 1310-1313

For more information, see § Korea: Goryeo below.

Congo Free State to Belgium[edit]

  • Personal union with Belgium from 1885 to 1908, when the Congo Free State became a Belgian colony. The only sovereign during this period was Leopold II, who continued as king of Belgium until his death a year later in 1909.


In 1102, after a period of succession crisis following the death of King Demetrius Zvonimir, the Kingdom of Croatia entered a union with the Kingdom of Hungary in 1102.[4][5][6] The crown passed into the hands of the Árpád dynasty with the crowning of King Coloman of Hungary as "King of Croatia and Dalmatia" in Biograd.[7][8] 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.[7] Some of the terms of Coloman's coronation are summarized in Pacta Conventa by which the Croatian nobles agreed to recognise Coloman as king. Although it is not an authentic document from 1102 and is likely a forgery from the 14th century, the contents of the Pacta Conventa correspond to the political situation of that time in Croatia.[4][9][10]

The precise terms of the union between the two realms became a matter of dispute in the 19th century.[4][11] The nature of the relationship varied through time, Croatia retained a large degree of internal autonomy overall, while the real power rested in the hands of the local nobility.[12][13] Modern Croatian and Hungarian historiographies mostly view the relations between the Kingdom of Croatia and Kingdom of Hungary from 1102 as a form of a personal union presided over by the King of Hungary,[14][15] resembling the relationship of Scotland to England.[16][17]

It is argued that the medieval Hungary and Croatia were (in terms of public international law) allied by means of personal union until the Battle of Mohács in 1526. 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.[18] However, officially the Hungarian-Croatian state existed until the beginning of the 20th century and the Treaty of Trianon.[8][19][20]


  • Sweyn Forkbeard ruled both Denmark and England from 1013 to 1014. He also ruled Norway from 999 to 1014.
  • Cnut the Great ruled both Denmark and England from 1018 to 1035. He also ruled Norway 1028 to 1035.
  • Harthacanute ruled both Denmark and England from 1040 to 1042.
  • Personal union with Norway 1042–1047 under the Norwegian king Magnus I.
  • Personal union with Norway from 1380 to 1814 (the Norwegian Riksråd was abolished in 1536).
  • The Kalmar Union with Norway and Sweden from 1389/97 to 1521/23 (sometimes defunct).[vague]
  • The kings of Denmark at the same time were dukes of Schleswig and Holstein from 1460–1864 (Holstein being part of the Holy Roman Empire, now part of Germany).
  • Personal union with Iceland from 1918 to 1944 when Iceland became a republic.

England, Great Britain and the United Kingdom[edit]


Great Britain

United Kingdom


  • The status of the Grand Principality of Finland, ruled from 1809 to 1917 by the czar of Russia as the Grand Prince of Finland, resembled a personal union in some aspects and is sometimes 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. By the 1860s, with the revival of the diet of the estates, Finns grew to consider Finland a constitutional monarchy in real union with Russia. For a time Finland was in fact allowed to act as though it was a separate state. As a result, the codification of Finnish autonomy and subordinance to Russian governmental organs from 1899 onwards was not recognized by the Finns and was condemned as unconstitutional.


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).



Holy Roman Empire[edit]

  • 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.


  • Personal union with Croatia 1102–1918 (see § Croatia above for details).
  • 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 did not 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.



Korea: Goryeo[edit]

  • Personal union with Shenyang in Mongolian Yuan Dynasty of China 1308–1313 (King Chungseon)
    • As King of Goryeo (高麗國王) and King of Shenyang (瀋陽王) in 1308–1310
    • As King of Goryeo and King of Shen (瀋王) in 1310-1313

The King Chungseon reigned as King of Goryeo in 1298 and 1308–1313 and King of Shenyang or Shen in 1307 (according to the History of Yuan) or 1308 (according to Goryeosa)–1316. At that time, Goryeo already became a vassal of Yuan and the imperial family of Yuan and the royal family of Goryeo had close relationship by marriages of convenience. Because he was a very powerful man during Emperor Wuzong's era, he could become the King of Shenyang where many Korean people lived in China. However, he lost his power at the court of Yuan after death of Wuzong, he could not reign as Kings of Goryeo and Shen any longer. Because Yuan Dynasty made Chungseon abdicate the King of Goryeo in 1313, the personal union was ended. King Chungsuk, Chungseon's eldest son, became the new King of Goryeo. In 1316, Yuan Dynasty made also Chungseon abdicate the King of Shen and Wang Go, one of his nephews, became the new King.



  • Personal union with Bohemia, 1313–1378 and 1383–1388.
  • Personal union with the Netherlands from 1815 to 1890, when King and Grand Duke William III died leaving only a daughter, Wilhelmina. Since Luxembourg held to Salic Law, Wilhelmina's distant cousin Adolphe succeeded to the Grand Duchy, ending the personal union.


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


  • 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 1389/97 to 1521/23 (sometimes defunct).[vague]
  • Personal union with Sweden from 1814 (when Norway declared independence from Denmark and was forced into a union with Sweden) to 1905.




Saxe-Weimar and Saxe-Eisenach[edit]

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[edit]

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 Schleswig-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[edit]

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 marriage of Queen Isabella of Castile and King Ferdinand of Aragon, known as the Catholic Monarchs. Their daughter Joanna of Castile (often called Joanna the Mad) was judged mentally unstable and Charles became king of Castile and after the death of his grandfather Ferdinand, King of Aragon and subsequently Holy Roman Emperor) became the head of the Holy Roman Empire from 1519 to 1556. Castile and Aragon remained united from 1556–1707, after which they were formally unified as Spain.[citation needed] 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, with the death of Charles II without issue), 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.[citation needed]
  • 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. The successful revolt of Portugal in 1640 from Spain established the House of Braganza in Portugal.


Main article: Unions of Sweden

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Joseph Lalor, ed., Cyclopaedia of Political Science. New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co. Accessed 13 June 2013
  2. ^ Oppenheim, Lassa; Roxbrough, Ronald (2005). International Law: A Treatise. The Lawbook Exchange. ISBN 1-58477-609-9. Retrieved 13 June 2013. 
  3. ^ In the Holy Roman Empire, many prince-bishops had themselves elected to separate prince-bishoprics, that they ruled in a personal union. For example, Joseph Clemens von Bayern (1671-1723) was Prince-Bishop of Freising (1685-1694), Prince-Bishop of Regensburg (1685-1694), Prince-Elector of Cologne (1688-1723), Prince-Bishop of Liège (1694-1723) and Prince-Bishop of Hildesheim (1702-1723).
  4. ^ a b c Britannica:History of Croatia
  5. ^ Kristó Gyula: A magyar–horvát perszonálunió kialakulása [The formation of Croatian-Hungarian personal union](in Hungarian)
  6. ^ "Histoire de la Croatie". Larousse online encyclopedia (in French). 
  7. ^ a b 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 0-521-41411-3. 
  8. ^ a b Font, Marta: Hungarian Kingdom and Croatia in the Middle Age
  9. ^ Pál Engel: Realm of St. Stephen: A History of Medieval Hungary, 2005, p. 35-36
  10. ^ Bárány, Attila (2012). "The Expansion of the Kingdom of Hungary in the Middle Ages (1000– 1490)". In Berend, Nóra. The Expansion of Central Europe in the Middle Ages. Ashgate Variorum. page 344-345
  11. ^ Sedlar, Jean W. (2011). East Central Europe in the Middle Ages. University of Washington Press. p. 280. ISBN 029580064X. Retrieved 16 January 2014. 
  12. ^ Singleton, Frederick Bernard (1985). A Short History of the Yugoslav Peoples. Cambridge University Press. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-521-27485-2. 
  13. ^ John Van Antwerp Fine: The Early Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Sixth to the Late Twelfth Century, 1991, p. 288
  14. ^ Barna Mezey: Magyar alkotmánytörténet, Budapest, 1995, p. 66
  15. ^ Heka, László (October 2008). "Hrvatsko-ugarski odnosi od sredinjega vijeka do nagodbe iz 1868. s posebnim osvrtom na pitanja Slavonije" [Croatian-Hungarian relations from the Middle Ages to the Compromise of 1868, with a special survey of the Slavonian issue]. Scrinia Slavonica (in Croatian) 8 (1): 155. 
  16. ^ Jeszenszky, Géza. "Hungary and the Break-up of Yugoslavia: A Documentary History, Part I.". Hungarian Review II (2). 
  17. ^ Banai Miklós, Lukács Béla: Attempts for closing up by long range regulators in the Carpathian Basin
  18. ^ R. W. SETON-WATSON: The southern Slav question and the Habsburg Monarchy page 18
  19. ^ Charles W. Ingrao, p.12: The Habsburg monarchy, 1618-1815
  20. ^ David Raič, p. 342: Statehood and the law of self-determination