“Duke” vs. “Prince”: Learn Who Is Closer To The Throne

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Royalty is complicated. There are so many titles to keep track of—even a single individual may have multiple titles. And there are so many questions: what’s the difference between a prince and a duke? What about earls, barons, counts, viscounts, and marquis? (Or is it marquises?)

In this article, we’ll decree the official differences—and, in some cases, overlap—between dukes and princes, as well as many other members of monarchies and the nobility.

Quick summary

A prince is typically the son or grandson of a monarch. The title duke is typically bestowed to a male member of the monarchy, often identifying him as a ruler of a territory known as a duchy. In some cases, a prince can also hold the title of duke, but prince is usually the higher-ranking position.

Duke vs. prince: what’s the higher rank?

In the context of royalty, the word duke most commonly refers to the sovereign ruler of a small state in Continental Europe called a duchy. In the British monarchy, duke is the highest hereditary title outside of prince, princess, king, or queen. The female equivalent of duke is duchess.

In the British monarchy and other royal families, princes are generally the sons or grandsons (if by direct descent) of the monarch. The title prince is also sometimes used for the husband of the reigning queen. In some cases, however, a prince, like a duke, might rule over a small state (called a principality). For example, Monaco’s ruling monarch is a prince. Whether a small state is considered a duchy or principality has a lot to do with complex historical relationships between countries. In practical terms, there’s not much difference between the two today.

Either way, prince is a higher title than duke in most cases. Various factors, such as the size of the territory to which the title belongs, may affect which title is considered to be of higher rank, but for the most part you can expect a prince to rank higher.

Can a prince also be a duke?

Yes. In some cases, a member of the monarchy can acquire multiple titles, including prince and duke. For example, Prince Harry of the British royal family is also the Duke of Sussex (even after stepping back from his role in the royal family).

Why do some figures have multiple titles? In brief, monarchies often “own” certain titles and bestow them on certain people, either at birth or when they enter into the royal family, and sometimes these titles get bestowed on the same person. When this happens, the multi-titled individual is typically referred to first by their highest title, as in Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex.

Earl, baron, count, viscount, and marquis

There are more royal titles than just prince and duke. Let’s look at some others and define what each one means.

  • marquis: A nobleman who is the rank right below duke. Pronounced [ mahr-kwis ] or [ mahr-kee ]. The plural can be either marquises [ mahr-kwi-siz ] or marquis [ mahr-keez ]. Sometimes, the alternate spelling marquess is used. The female equivalent is marquise or marchioness.
  • count and earl: These refer to the same rank—the next step down from marquis. Preference for one term or the other has varied across different historical periods and in different places. The female version of count is countess.
  • viscount: A nobleman below the rank of earl/count. The female version is viscountess.
  • baron: The lowest rank of the nobility. The female version is baroness.

All of these titles are lower than both duke and prince. Generally, people who hold these as their highest titles are not members of the royal family.

Take the quiz: can you tell a prince from a duke?

Ready for a challenge? Earn your own royal rank by taking the quiz on these terms and if you can tell the difference between all of them. You’ll be a genuine ruler of words in no time.

Are you jealous of that bejeweled crown or envious? Learn the difference.

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