Almanach de Gotha
The Almanach de Gotha was a respected directory of Europe's highest nobility
Nobility is a social class which possesses more acknowledged privileges or eminence than members of most other classes in a society, membership therein typically being hereditary. The privileges associated with nobility may constitute substantial advantages over or relative to non-nobles, or may be...

 and royalty
Royal family
A royal family is the extended family of a king or queen regnant. The term imperial family appropriately describes the extended family of an emperor or empress, while the terms "ducal family", "grand ducal family" or "princely family" are more appropriate to describe the relatives of a reigning...

. First published in 1763 by C.W. Ettinger in Gotha
Gotha (town)
Gotha is a town in Thuringia, within the central core of Germany. It is the capital of the district of Gotha.- History :The town has existed at least since the 8th century, when it was mentioned in a document signed by Charlemagne as Villa Gotaha . Its importance derives from having been chosen in...

 at the ducal
A duke or duchess is a member of the nobility, historically of highest rank below the monarch, and historically controlling a duchy...

A court is a form of tribunal, often a governmental institution, with the authority to adjudicate legal disputes between parties and carry out the administration of justice in civil, criminal, and administrative matters in accordance with the rule of law...

 of Frederick III
Frederick III, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg
Frederick III, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg , was a duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg.-Biography:He was the eldest son of Frederick II, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg and Magdalene Augusta of Anhalt-Zerbst....

, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg
Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg was a duchy ruled by the Ernestine branch of the House of Wettin in today's Thuringia, Germany.It was nominally created in 1672 when Frederick William III, the last duke of Saxe-Altenburg, died and Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Gotha , inherited the major part of his possessions...

, it was regarded as an authority in the classification of monarchies, princely and ducal houses, families of former rulers and current royalty. It was published from 1785 annually by Justus Perthes Publishing House in Gotha, until 1944 when the Soviets destroyed the Almanach de Gotha's archives.

In 1998, a London-based publisher acquired the rights for use of the title of Almanach de Gotha from Justus Perthes Verlag Gotha GmbH (Perthes regard the resultant volumes as new works, and not as a continuation of the editions which Perthes had published from 1785 to 1944). The new publishers produced six editions (consisting of two volumes), with the last one published in 2004. The second volume of this new work, published in 2001, received a scathing review in The Economist magazine.

Gotha publication, 1763–1944

The purpose of the almanach was to record the ruling houses of Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 and their cadet branch
Cadet branch
Cadet branch is a term in genealogy to describe the lineage of the descendants of the younger sons of a monarch or patriarch. In the ruling dynasties and noble families of much of Europe and Asia, the family's major assets – titles, realms, fiefs, property and income – have...

es, the most important of those they had ennobled, and incumbent diplomatic corps and highest officers of state. The undertaking was massive, as there were many royal families in Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 and Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 alone, and their minor branches numbered in the thousands. The inclusion of a noble
Nobility is a social class which possesses more acknowledged privileges or eminence than members of most other classes in a society, membership therein typically being hereditary. The privileges associated with nobility may constitute substantial advantages over or relative to non-nobles, or may be...

 family in the almanach was seen as socially vital. Since communications were slow in the 18th and 19th centuries, a source was needed to check the existence of high noble persons. Following World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 and the fall of many royal houses, noble titles became easy to masquerade due to the lack of a central regulating authority on granting titles; this made inclusion in the incorruptible Almanach de Gotha even more essential. If a noble title was not listed in the almanach, it could be presumed that the title was self-created and therefore invalid. Inclusion of lower nobility was never even attempted, as that was seen as the task of each country's own nobility or corresponding institution.

Even in the early 19th century this in-or-out dichotomy caused problems. Napoleon's reaction was typical of the "nouveau riche". The elected Emperor wrote to his Foreign Minister, de Champagny
Jean-Baptiste Nompère de Champagny
Jean-Baptiste de Nompère de Champagny, 1st Duc de Cadore was a French admiral and politician.He was born in Roanne, Loire. Entering the French royal navy in 1774, he fought through the war in America and resigned in 1787...

Monsieur de Champagny, this year's "Almanach de Gotha" is badly done. I protest. There should be more of the French Nobility I have created and less of the German Princes who are no longer sovereign. Furthermore, the Imperial Family of Bonaparte should appear before all other royal dynasties, and let it be clear that we and not the Bourbons are the House of France. Summon the Minister of the Interior of Gotha at once so that I personally may order these changes.

The response of the publishers was to humour Bonaparte by producing two editions: one for France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, with the newly ennobled, and one for the remainder of Europe (i.e., those ennobled by Divine Right of Kings
Divine Right of Kings
The divine right of kings or divine-right theory of kingship is a political and religious doctrine of royal and political legitimacy. It asserts that a monarch is subject to no earthly authority, deriving his right to rule directly from the will of God...

, as opposed to what the publishers deemed a Corsica
Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean Sea. It is located west of Italy, southeast of the French mainland, and north of the island of Sardinia....

n upstart).


Although the almanach's structure changed over the years, it consisted essentially of three sections. The first section always listed the sovereign
Sovereignty is the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a geographic area, such as a territory. It can be found in a power to rule and make law that rests on a political fact for which no purely legal explanation can be provided...

 houses of Europe. Sections two and three underwent some changes after the Franco-Prussian War
Franco-Prussian War
The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the 1870 War was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia was aided by the North German Confederation, of which it was a member, and the South German states of Baden, Württemberg and...

, described below. The genealogist William Addams Reitwiesner
William Addams Reitwiesner
William Addams Reitwiesner was a genealogist who traced the ancestry of United States political figures, European royalty and celebrities.- Biography :...

 comments that those changes display "pan-German triumphalism" and even a "fairly nasty bit of Germanic chauvinism."

For over a century, the second section consisted of non-sovereign princely houses from all over Europe (save many easternmost areas). Rohans, Leiningens, Ruspoli
The Ruspoli are an old and noble Italian family .The origins of the family can be traced back to the Ruspolis of Florence in the 13th Century and through the family's claimed direct descent from Marius Scotus in the 8th Century and the Marescottis of Bologna...

s, Windisch-Graetz
The House of Windisch-Graetz, also spelled Windisch-Grätz, was a princely family in the Austrian Empire, serving the Habsburg dynasty.The name derives from the town of Windischgrätz in the Duchy of Styria, which is today Slovenj Gradec in the Carinthia region of Slovenia...

es, Norfolk
Duke of Norfolk
The Duke of Norfolk is the premier duke in the peerage of England, and also, as Earl of Arundel, the premier earl. The Duke of Norfolk is, moreover, the Earl Marshal and hereditary Marshal of England. The seat of the Duke of Norfolk is Arundel Castle in Sussex, although the title refers to the...

s, Lobkowicz
The Lobkowicz family is one of the oldest still existing Bohemian noble families dating back to the 14th century...

es, Thurn and Taxis
Thurn und Taxis
The Princely House of Thurn and Taxis is a German family that was a key player in the postal services in Europe in the 16th century and is well known as owners of breweries and builders of many castles.- History :...

es and Czartoryski
Czartoryski is the surname of a Polish-Ukrainian-Lithuanian magnate family also known as the Familia. They used the Czartoryski Coat of arms and were the leading noble family of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 18th century.-History:The Czartoryski is a family of a Grand Ducal...

s appeared together. At that time, the third section was for immediate counts of the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

 (HRE), a specific, and by many measures the lowest caste of the included high nobility.

However, in the 1876 edition, sections two and three were amalgamated, which elevated those former HRE comital families to the level of princely houses. In the intervening years those counts had become mediatized, but quite regularly their house heads had received a compensation in titles: primogenitural princely title. In the 1877 edition, section two was divided into parts A and B, almost along "ethnic" lines: all mediatized Germans, be they comital or princely, were assigned to A; and all princely non-German families and non-mediatized HRE families were put into B. This created an illusion that mediatized Germans were higher than princely non-Germans. The illusion was strengthened in 1890, when the almanach renamed II A to section II, and II B to section III.

The original section two, and its successor, the third section, included only selected families of European high nobility, or "princely houses". The almanach did not succeed in full coverage; families from geographical corners which were not perceived by editors to be of interest to monarchical courts of Western Europe, the almanach's major audience, were not well represented or were listed only in later editions.

This division was considered of great social significance in the Holy Roman Empire and its successor states; nobles from the second section were considered legally equal to German royals appearing in the first section (at least with those royals whose houses actually were ducal or less before the Napoleonic period; of the truly older kingdoms, Prussia declined to recognize a countess Harrach, mediatized, from section two, to marry its king in better than morganatic terms). For example, if a countess from the second section married a royal or sovereign from the first section (who mostly were of houses until 19th century just ducal or margravial, immediate comital, and so forth), their alliance was considered equal and their children were regarded as dynastic, thus inheriting succession rights. On the other hand, if a countess or princess or duchesse-in-her-own-right from the third section married a German petty sovereign from the first section, their children were usually treated as non-dynastical and excluded from the succession line in most monarchies. However, it is well known that Francis Joseph I of Austria forbade his heir Charles to marry a certain Princess of Hohenlohe, whose family was in section II, and told him to find a bride of royal blood. He then married Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma.

The arbitrary division was a major source of frustration for those families who landed in the third section. For example, the Biron
-Places:France* Biron, Charente-Maritime, in the Charente-Maritime département* Biron, Dordogne, in the Dordogne département* Biron, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques départementUnited States* Biron, Wisconsin...

s of Courland
Courland is one of the historical and cultural regions of Latvia. The regions of Semigallia and Selonia are sometimes considered as part of Courland.- Geography and climate :...

 and Murat
Prince Murat
Prince Murat is a title created by Emperor Napoleon I for his brother-in-law Joachim Murat who would serve as King of Naples. On the 5 December 1812 Joachim's second son Lucien was also created sovereign Prince of Pontecorvo , in succession to Jean-Baptiste Jules Bernadotte by an Imperial Decree...

s of Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

, both relatively parvenue families, ineffectually claimed their right to be included in the second section. Moreover, most princely families of the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

, were not included in the Gotha at all, while the Bagrationi of Georgia
Georgia (country)
Georgia is a sovereign state in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the southwest by Turkey, to the south by Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital of...

 (presumed to be the oldest royal dynasty of Europe, and certainly reigning into the 19th century in some parts of Georgia) as well as other reigning Georgian princely families (Dadiani
Dadiani was a Georgian family of nobles, dukes and princes, and a ruling dynasty of the western Georgian province of Samegrelo.- The House of Dadiani :...

 of Mingrelia) possibly deserved a place in the first section. The same may be said for the Girays of Crimea
Crimea , or the Autonomous Republic of Crimea , is a sub-national unit, an autonomous republic, of Ukraine. It is located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, occupying a peninsula of the same name...

, who claimed descent from Genghis Khan
Genghis Khan
Genghis Khan , born Temujin and occasionally known by his temple name Taizu , was the founder and Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, which became the largest contiguous empire in history after his death....


Another source of frustration was Gotha's rather Salic stance in favor of agnatic descent. Many houses of other countries were formed on the basis of cognatic
Cognatic kinship is a mode of descent calculated from an ancestor or ancestress counted through any combination of male and female links, or a system of bilateral kinship where relations are traced through both a father and mother....

 succession. There existed many pretenders to lost monarchies and sovereign or semi-sovereign earlier provinces in Western Europe, but these were regularly treated as ducal or princely families of agnatic descent in part three, if mentioned at all.

The Gotha's condescending attitude towards Eastern European nobility and royalty, and towards Iberian, Spanish, British, Italian, and Scandinavian highest nobility, led to the proliferation of German mediatized princesses in the royal houses of Europe, as their value in the marriage market had been artificially enhanced by this work's rankings. Another consequence was the yet ongoing Romanov succession dispute
Line of succession to the Russian Throne
The Monarchy of Russia was abolished in 1917 following the February Revolution, which forced Emperor Nicholas II to abdicate. The issue of who is the current Pretender is open to debate.-Line of succession in March 1917:...

, as Maria Vladimirovna of Russia, a claimant to the headship of the Russian Imperial Family, has a Romanov father and Bagrationi mother, a morganaut according to the Gotha standards; the entire Russian male dynastic descent went extinct when applying its standards.

World War II and aftermath

When Soviet troops entered Gotha
Gotha (town)
Gotha is a town in Thuringia, within the central core of Germany. It is the capital of the district of Gotha.- History :The town has existed at least since the 8th century, when it was mentioned in a document signed by Charlemagne as Villa Gotaha . Its importance derives from having been chosen in...

 in 1945, they systematically destroyed all archives of the Almanach de Gotha.

In 1951 a different publisher, C.A. Starke, began publication of a multi-volume German-language publication entitled the Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels (GHdA). The publication is divided into subsets; the Fürstliche Häuser subset is largely equivalent to the Almanach de Gotha. However, no single volume of the Fürstliche Häuser includes all the families included in the Almanach de Gotha. It is necessary to use multiple volumes to trace the majority of European royal families.

London publication, 1998–2004

In 1989 the family of Justus Perthes
Justus Perthes
Justus Perthes Publishers in Gotha, Germany was established in 1785. Justus Perthes was Publisher of geographic atlases, ‘’Petermann’s Geographische Mitteilungen’’ and also the Almanach de Gotha,...

 re-established its right to the use of the name Almanach de Gotha. The family then sold these rights to a new company, Almanach de Gotha Limited, formed in London. Justus Perthes considers this a new work and not a continuation of the series last published by his family in 1944 with the 181st edition. The new publishers launched with the 182nd edition on 16 March 1998 at Claridge's Hotel. It was written in English instead of French as the Editor felt that English was now the language of diplomacy. Charlotte Pike served as Editor of the 1998 edition only and John Kennedy as managing director and publisher. The new publishers also revived the Committee of Patrons under the presidency of King Juan Carlos I of Spain
Juan Carlos I of Spain
Juan Carlos I |Italy]]) is the reigning King of Spain.On 22 November 1975, two days after the death of General Francisco Franco, Juan Carlos was designated king according to the law of succession promulgated by Franco. Spain had no monarch for 38 years in 1969 when Franco named Juan Carlos as the...

 and chairmanship of former King Michael I of Romania
Michael I of Romania
Michael was the last King of Romania. He reigned from 20 July 1927 to 8 June 1930, and again from 6 September 1940 until 30 December 1947 when he was forced, by the Communist Party of Romania , to abdicate to the Soviet armies of occupation...


The London publisher produced a further four editions of Volume I (1999, 2000, 2003 and 2004) based on the 1998 edition of Volume I which include Europe's and South America's reigning, formerly reigning, and mediatised princely houses, and a single edition of Volume II in 2001 edited by John Kennedy and Ghislain Crassard which include other non-sovereign princely and ducal houses of Europe. A review in The Economist
The Economist
The Economist is an English-language weekly news and international affairs publication owned by The Economist Newspaper Ltd. and edited in offices in the City of Westminster, London, England. Continuous publication began under founder James Wilson in September 1843...

criticised the low editorial standards and attacked Volume II for a purported lack of genealogical accuracy.

External links

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