Morganatic marriage
In the context of European royalty, a morganatic marriage is a marriage
Marriage is a social union or legal contract between people that creates kinship. It is an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged in a variety of ways, depending on the culture or subculture in which it is found...

 between people of unequal social rank, which prevents the passage of the husband's titles and privileges to the wife and any child
Biologically, a child is generally a human between the stages of birth and puberty. Some vernacular definitions of a child include the fetus, as being an unborn child. The legal definition of "child" generally refers to a minor, otherwise known as a person younger than the age of majority...

ren born of the marriage. It is also known as a left-handed marriage because in the wedding ceremony the groom holds his bride's right hand with his left hand instead of his right.

Generally, this is a marriage between a male of high birth (such as from a royal or reigning house), and a woman of lesser status (such as from a non-royal or non-reigning house, or with a profession that is traditionally considered lower-status). Neither the bride nor any children of the marriage has any claim on the groom's titles, rights, or entailed
Fee tail
At common law, fee tail or entail is an estate of inheritance in real property which cannot be sold, devised by will, or otherwise alienated by the owner, but which passes by operation of law to the owner's heirs upon his death...

 property. The children are considered legitimate on other counts and the prohibition of bigamy
Polygamy is a marriage which includes more than two partners...

 applies. Morganatic marriage was also practised by the polygamous Mongols
Mongols ) are a Central-East Asian ethnic group that lives mainly in the countries of Mongolia, China, and Russia. In China, ethnic Mongols can be found mainly in the central north region of China such as Inner Mongolia...

 as to their non-principal wives.

It is also possible for a woman to marry a man of lower rank morganatically.


Morganatic, already in use in English by 1727 (according to the Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary
The Oxford English Dictionary , published by the Oxford University Press, is the self-styled premier dictionary of the English language. Two fully bound print editions of the OED have been published under its current name, in 1928 and 1989. The first edition was published in twelve volumes , and...

), is derived from the medieval Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 morganaticus from the Late Latin
Late Latin
Late Latin is the scholarly name for the written Latin of Late Antiquity. The English dictionary definition of Late Latin dates this period from the 3rd to the 6th centuries AD extending in Spain to the 7th. This somewhat ambiguously defined period fits between Classical Latin and Medieval Latin...

 phrase matrimonium ad morganaticam and refers to the gift given by the groom to the bride on the morning after the wedding, morning gift, i.e. dower
Dower or morning gift was a provision accorded by law to a wife for her support in the event that she should survive her husband...

. The Latin term, applied to a Germanic custom, was adopted from a Germanic term, *morgangeba (compare Early English morgengifu, German Morgengabe, Danish and Norwegian Bokmål Morgengave, Norwegian Nynorsk Morgongåve and Swedish Morgongåva). The literal meaning is explained in a 16th century passage quoted by Du Cange
Charles du Fresne, sieur du Cange
Charles du Fresne, sieur du Cange or Ducange was a distinguished philologist and historian of the Middle Ages and Byzantium....

: a marriage by which the wife and the children that may be born are gift.

Meyers Konversations-Lexikon
Meyers Konversations-Lexikon
Meyers Konversations-Lexikon or Meyers Lexikon was a major German encyclopedia that existed in various editions, and several titles, from 1839 until 1984, when it merged with the Brockhaus encyclopedia....

 of 1888 gives an etymology of the German term Morganitische Ehe as a combination of the ancient Gothic morgjan, to limit, to restrict, occasioned by the restricted gifts from the groom in such a marriage and the morning gift. Morgen is the German word for morning, while the Latin word is matutinus.

The morning gift has been a customary property arrangement for marriage present first in early medieval German cultures (such as the Lombards
The Lombards , also referred to as Longobards, were a Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin, who from 568 to 774 ruled a Kingdom in Italy...

) and also of ancient Germanic tribes, and the church drove its adoption into other countries in order to improve the wife's security by this additional benefit. The bride received a settled property from the bridegroom's clan — it was intended to ensure her livelihood in widowhood, and it was to be kept separate as the wife's discrete possession. However, when a marriage contract is made wherein the bride and the children of the marriage will not receive anything else (than the dower) from the bridegroom or from his inheritance or clan, that sort of marriage was dubbed as "marriage with only the dower and no other inheritance", i.e. matrimonium morganaticum.

German-speaking Europe

The practice of morganatic marriage was most common in the German-speaking
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 parts of Europe, where equality of birth between the spouses was considered an important principle among the reigning houses and high nobility. The German name was Ehe zur linken Hand (marriage by the left hand) and the husband gave his left hand during the wedding ceremony instead of the right.

Morganatic marriage is not, and has not been, possible in jurisdictions that do not permit restrictive encumbrances with regard to the marriage contract, as it is an agreement containing a pre-emptive limitation to the inheritance and property rights of the spouse and the children.

Perhaps the most famous example in modern times was the 1900 marriage of the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary , more formally known as the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen, was a constitutional monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in...

, Franz Ferdinand
Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria
Franz Ferdinand was an Archduke of Austria-Este, Austro-Hungarian and Royal Prince of Hungary and of Bohemia, and from 1889 until his death, heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne. His assassination in Sarajevo precipitated Austria-Hungary's declaration of war against Serbia...

, and Bohemian aristocrat Countess Sophie Chotek von Chotkowa
Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg
Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg ; 1 March 1868 – 28 June 1914) was a Czech aristocrat, the morganatic wife of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. Their assassination sparked World War I.- Early life :...

. The marriage was initially resisted by Emperor Franz Joseph I
Franz Joseph I of Austria
Franz Joseph I or Francis Joseph I was Emperor of Austria, King of Bohemia, King of Croatia, Apostolic King of Hungary, King of Galicia and Lodomeria and Grand Duke of Cracow from 1848 until his death in 1916.In the December of 1848, Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria abdicated the throne as part of...

, but after pressure from family members and other European rulers, he eventually relented in 1899 (but did not attend the wedding himself). The bride was made Princess (later Duchess) of Hohenberg
House of Hohenberg
The Ducal House of Hohenberg is an Austrian noble family, descended from Countess Sophie Chotek who in 1900 married Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria-Este , the heir presumptive to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire...

, their children took their mother's name and rank, and were excluded from the imperial succession. The Sarajevo assassination
Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria
On 28 June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, were shot dead in Sarajevo, by Gavrilo Princip, one of a group of six Bosnian Serb assassins coordinated by Danilo Ilić...

 in 1914, during which the couple was killed, triggered the First World War
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...


Although the children, or issue, of morganatic marriages were ineligible ever to succeed to their families' respective thrones, some children of morganatic marriages did go on to achieve dynastic success elsewhere in Europe. The 1851 marriage of Prince Alexander of Hesse and by Rhine
Prince Alexander of Hesse and by Rhine
Prince Alexander Ludwig Georg Friedrich Emil of Hesse, GCB was the third son and fourth child of Louis II, Grand Duke of Hesse and Wilhelmina of Baden.-Questioned parentage:...

 and German-Polish noblewoman Countess Julia von Hauke (created Princess of Battenberg
Battenberg, Hesse
Battenberg is a small town in the Waldeck-Frankenberg district in Hesse, Germany. The town is noted for giving its name to the Battenberg family, a morganatic branch of the ruling House of Hesse-Darmstadt, and through it, the name Mountbatten used by members of the British royal family, a literal...

), provided a sovereign prince of Bulgaria, and queen-consorts for Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 and Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

, as well as (through female descent) the consort of the current Queen of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

. The present Spanish Royal Family and members of the British Royal Family, including the current Prince of Wales
Charles, Prince of Wales
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales is the heir apparent and eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Since 1958 his major title has been His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. In Scotland he is additionally known as The Duke of Rothesay...

 trace descent from her. Likewise, the marriage of Duke Alexander of Württemberg
Duke Alexander of Württemberg
Duke Alexander of Württemberg was the father of Prince Francis of Teck and the grandfather of Adolphus Cambridge, 1st Marquess of Cambridge and Queen Mary of Great Britain, wife of King George V....

 and Claudine Rhédey von Kis-Rhéde
Claudine Rhédey von Kis-Rhéde
Countess Claudine Rhédey de Kis-Rhéde was the wife of Duke Alexander of Württemberg. Her son, Francis, Duke of Teck was the father of Mary of Teck, Queen consort to George V of the United Kingdom....

 (created "Countess of Hohenstein") resulted in the House of Teck
Duke of Teck
Duke of Teck was, in medieval times, a title borne by the head of a principality named Teck in the Holy Roman Empire, centered around Teck castle in Germany. That territory was held by a branch line of the Zähringen dynasty from 1187 to 1439, known historically as the first House of Teck...

. That family's most famous member, Mary of Teck
Mary of Teck
Mary of Teck was the queen consort of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Empress of India, as the wife of King-Emperor George V....

, married George V of the United Kingdom
George V of the United Kingdom
George V was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India, from 6 May 1910 through the First World War until his death in 1936....

, and the present British Royal Family descends from her.

Occasionally though, children of morganatic marriages would attempt to overcome their social origins, and succeed to their family's estates. Leopold, Grand Duke of Baden
Leopold, Grand Duke of Baden
Leopold I, Grand Duke of Baden succeeded in 1830 as the fourth Grand Duke of Baden....

 succeeded to the throne of Baden despite being born of a morganatic marriage. The son of Karl Friedrich, Grand Duke of Baden
Karl Friedrich, Grand Duke of Baden
Charles Frederick, 1st Grand Duke of Baden was Margrave, elector and later Grand Duke of Baden from 1738 until his death.-Biography:...

 by his second, common-born wife Luise Karoline, Baroness Geyer von Geyersberg, he only became a Prince in 1817 (aged 27), as part of a new law of succession. With Baden's royal family without a male heir, Leopold was enfranchised and married to a Princess of Badenese descent, ascending the throne in 1830. His descendants ruled the Grand Duchy until the abolition of the monarchy in 1918.

This, however, was an exception. When the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg also found itself without a male heir at the beginning of the 20th century, the morganatic Counts of Merenberg
Count of Merenberg
Count of Merenberg is the title bestowed in 1868 by the reigning Prince of Waldeck and Pyrmont, George Victor, upon the morganatic wife and male-line descendants of Prince Nikolaus Wilhelm of Nassau , who married Natalia Alexandrovna Pushkina , former wife of Russian General Mikhail Leontievich...

 proposed themselves as heirs. Grand Duke William IV, however, chose to alter the laws of succession to allow a female successor (his own daughter Marie-Adélaïde) instead. Duke Georg of Mecklenburg, Count of Carlow, morganatic son of Duke George Alexander of Mecklenburg and commoner Natalia Vanljarskaya, claimed the throne of the Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
Mecklenburg-Strelitz was a duchy and later grand duchy in northern Germany, consisting of the eastern fifth of the historic Mecklenburg region, roughly corresponding with the present-day Mecklenburg-Strelitz district , and the western exclave of the former Bishopric of Ratzeburg in modern...

 as heir to his childless uncle, Duke Charles Michael. The abolition of the monarchies of Germany in 1918, however, meant the validity of this claim was never put to the test. Nevertheless, the Count of Carlow's descendants still style themselves as the head of the Grand Ducal house of Mecklenburg.


Paul I of Russia
Paul I of Russia
Paul I was the Emperor of Russia between 1796 and 1801. He also was the 72nd Prince and Grand Master of the Order of Malta .-Childhood:...

 promulgated a strict new house law
House law
House law or House laws are rules that govern a royal family or dynasty in matters of eligibility for succession to a throne, membership in a dynasty, exercise of a regency, or entitlement to dynastic rank, titles and styles...

 for Russia in 1797. Based on the German Salic Law
Salic law
Salic law was a body of traditional law codified for governing the Salian Franks in the early Middle Ages during the reign of King Clovis I in the 6th century...

, the new rules established a clear requirement to marry persons with equal status of nobility at their births (Ger. Ebenbürtigkeit). The issue
In biology, offspring is the product of reproduction, of a new organism produced by one or more parents.Collective offspring may be known as a brood or progeny in a more general way...

 of an unequal marriage would be excluded from the succession.

An early victim was Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich
Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich of Russia
Constantine Pavlovich was a grand duke of Russia and the second son of Emperor Paul I. He was the Tsesarevich of Russia throughout the reign of his elder brother Alexander I, but had secretly renounced his claim to the throne in 1823...

, grandson of Catherine the Great, and viceroy of Poland. In 1820, his marriage to German Princess Juliane of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld
Juliane of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld
Princess Juliane Henriette Ulrike of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld , also known as Grand Duchess Anna Feodorovna of Russia, was a German princess of the ducal house of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld who became the wife of Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich of Russia of...

 was annulled to allow him to marry Polish noblewoman Joanna Grudzińska
Joanna Grudzinska
Joanna Grudzińska was a Polish noble, a Princess of Łowicz and the second wife of Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich of Russia, the de facto viceroy of the Kingdom of Poland...

. She was known as "Duchess of Łowicz" during her marriage, which produced no children.

One Tsar, Emperor Alexander II of Russia
Alexander II of Russia
Alexander II , also known as Alexander the Liberator was the Emperor of the Russian Empire from 3 March 1855 until his assassination in 1881...

 married morganatically in 1880. Princess Ekaterina Mihailovna Dolgorukova, Alexander's second bride, had previously been his long-term mistress and mother of his illegitimate children (who received the titles Prince Yurievsky and Princess Yurievskaya). One of their daughters married a German descendant of a morganatic marriage, the Count of Merenberg
Count of Merenberg
Count of Merenberg is the title bestowed in 1868 by the reigning Prince of Waldeck and Pyrmont, George Victor, upon the morganatic wife and male-line descendants of Prince Nikolaus Wilhelm of Nassau , who married Natalia Alexandrovna Pushkina , former wife of Russian General Mikhail Leontievich...


Another victim of the new laws was Grand Duke Michael Mihailovich of Russia
Grand Duke Michael Mihailovich of Russia
Grand Duke Michael Mikhailovich of Russia was a son of Grand Duke Michael Nicolaievich of Russia and a first cousin of Alexander III of Russia. He followed a military career, but was banished from living in Russia when in 1891 he contracted a morganatic marriage with Countess Sophie of Merenberg...

 (October 4, 1861 - April 26, 1929), the third child of Grand Duke Michael Nicolaievich of Russia and his wife Olga Fedorovna (born Princess Cecilie of Baden). He attracted the displeasure of the Tsar by marrying another member of the morganatic Merenberg Dynasty
Count of Merenberg
Count of Merenberg is the title bestowed in 1868 by the reigning Prince of Waldeck and Pyrmont, George Victor, upon the morganatic wife and male-line descendants of Prince Nikolaus Wilhelm of Nassau , who married Natalia Alexandrovna Pushkina , former wife of Russian General Mikhail Leontievich...

. As a result, he was exiled from Russia, which ensured that his family avoided the Russian Revolution. His daughters married into the British Aristocracy. Less fortunate was Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich of Russia
Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich of Russia
Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich of Russia was the eighth child of Tsar Alexander II of Russia by his first wife Empress Maria Alexandrovna. His birth was commemorated by the naming of the city of Pavlodar in Kazakhstan...

 who went into exile in Paris to marry a commoner, Olga Valerianovna Karnovich
Olga Valerianovna Paley
Princess Olga Valerianovna Paley , was the second wife of Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich of Russia. -Early life and first marriage:...

. Paul returned to serve in the Russian army during the First World War, and Nicholas II
Nicholas II of Russia
Nicholas II was the last Emperor of Russia, Grand Prince of Finland, and titular King of Poland. His official short title was Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias and he is known as Saint Nicholas the Passion-Bearer by the Russian Orthodox Church.Nicholas II ruled from 1894 until...

 rewarded the family by making Olga and her children Princes and Princesses Paley. Paul's patriotism, however, had sealed his fate, and he died at the hands of Russia's revolutionaries in 1917.

However, Nicholas II permitted his brother, Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia
Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia
Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia was the youngest son of Emperor Alexander III of Russia.At the time of his birth, his paternal grandfather was still the reigning Emperor of All the Russias. Michael was fourth-in-line to the throne following his father and elder brothers Nicholas and...

, to marry twice-divorced noblewoman Natalya Sergeyevna Wulfert (née Sheremetevskaya), making the bride Countess Brassova. The son of Michael and Natalya, George, took his mother's name and rank. In the throes of the First World War, Nicholas II allowed his sister Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia
Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia
Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia was the youngest child of Emperor Alexander III of Russia. Her older brother was Tsar Nicholas II....

 to end her loveless marriage to her social equal, Duke Peter Alexandrovich of Oldenburg
Duke Peter Alexandrovich of Oldenburg
Peter Alexandrovich of Oldenburg was the first husband of Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia, the youngest sister of Tsar Nicholas II.-Early life:...

, to marry commoner Colonel Nikolai Alexandrovich Kulikovsky. Both Michael's and Olga's descendants from these marriages were excluded from the succession.

After the murder of Nicholas II and his children, the Royal Family's morganatic marriages restricted the number of possible heirs. Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovich, Nicholas's cousin, proclaimed himself as Emperor in exile. Controversy accompanied the marriage of his son Grand Duke Vladimir Cyrillovich to Leonida Georgievna Bagration-Mukhransky, a descendant of the Royal House of Georgia. Leonida's family had sometimes been considered to be nobility in Imperial Russia (which no longer existed), rather than Royalty, leading to claims that the marriage was unequal. As a result, some factions within Russia's monarchist movement do not support the couple's daughter Grand Duchess Maria, as the rightful heir to the Romanov dynasty (see Line of succession to the Russian throne
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:...

 for further details of the controversy).


Succession to the Danish throne followed the Salic Law
Salic law
Salic law was a body of traditional law codified for governing the Salian Franks in the early Middle Ages during the reign of King Clovis I in the 6th century...

 until the Danish Act of Succession
Danish Act of Succession
The Danish Act of Succession of March 27, 1953 was accepted after a 1953 referendum in Denmark and dictates the rules governing the Line of succession to the Danish Throne. The 1953 referendum changed the act so that it became possible for a woman to inherit the throne in the event that she has no...

 of 1953. Prominent morganatic marriages include the 1615 marriage of King Christian IV of Denmark
Christian IV of Denmark
Christian IV was the king of Denmark-Norway from 1588 until his death. With a reign of more than 59 years, he is the longest-reigning monarch of Denmark, and he is frequently remembered as one of the most popular, ambitious and proactive Danish kings, having initiated many reforms and projects...

 and minor noblewoman Kirsten Munk
Kirsten Munk
Kirsten Munk was a Danish noble, the second spouse of King Christian IV of Denmark, and mother to twelve of his children.- Early life and Morganatic marriage:...

. Kirsten was styled 'Countess of Schleswig-Holstein' and bore the King 12 children (all styled 'Count/Countess of Schleswig-Holstein'). King Frederick VII of Denmark
Frederick VII of Denmark
Frederick VII was a King of Denmark. He reigned from 1848 until his death. He was the last Danish monarch of the older Royal branch of the House of Oldenburg and also the last king of Denmark to rule as an absolute monarch...

 married the ballet dancer Louise Rasmussen
Louise Rasmussen
Louise Christine Rasmussen, also known as Countess Danner , was a Danish Ballet dancer and stage actor. She was the mistress and later the morganatic spouse of King Frederick VII of Denmark...

, who was styled 'Countess Danner', in 1850. There were no children of this marriage.

The abolition of the Salic Law allowed members of the Danish Royal Family much greater freedom in their choice of spouses, and none of the children of Denmark's present Queen have married a person of either Royal birth, or from the titled aristocracy. Members of the Royal Family may still lose their place in the line of succession for themselves and their descendants if they marry without the Monarch's permission.


Morganatic marriage was not recognized in French law. Since the law did not distinguish, for marital purposes, between ruler and subjects, historically marriages between royalty and the noble heiresses to great fiefs became the norm, helping to aggrandize the House of Capet
House of Capet
The House of Capet, or The Direct Capetian Dynasty, , also called The House of France , or simply the Capets, which ruled the Kingdom of France from 987 to 1328, was the most senior line of the Capetian dynasty – itself a derivative dynasty from the Robertians. As rulers of France, the dynasty...

 while gradually diminishing the number of large domains held in theoretical vassalage by nobles who were, in practice, virtually independent of the French crown. Lands mattered more than title.

Antiquity of nobility in the legitimate male line, not noble quartering
Quartering (heraldry)
Quartering in heraldry is a method of joining several different coats of arms together in one shield by dividing the shield into equal parts and placing different coats of arms in each division....

s, was the main criterion of rank in the ancien régime. Unlike the commoner status of a British peer's wife and descendants (yet typical of the nobility of every continental Europe
Continental Europe
Continental Europe, also referred to as mainland Europe or simply the Continent, is the continent of Europe, explicitly excluding European islands....

an country), the legitimate children and male-line descendants of any French nobleman (whether titled or not, whether possessing a French peerage
Peerage of France
The Peerage of France was a distinction within the French nobility which appeared in the Middle Ages. It was abolished in 1789 during the French Revolution, but it reappeared in 1814 at the time of the Bourbon Restoration which followed the fall of the First French Empire...

 or not) were also legally noble ad infinitum.Rank was not based on hereditary titles, which were often assumed or acquired by purchase of a noble estate rather than granted by the Crown. Rather, the main determinant of relative rank among the French nobility was how far back the nobility of a family's male line could be verifiably traced. Other factors influencing rank included the family's history of military command, high-ranking offices held at court and marriages into other high-ranking families. A specific exception was made for bearers of the title of duke who, regardless of their origin, outranked all other nobles. But the ducal title in post-medieval France (even when embellished with the still higher status of "peer") ranked its holder and his family among France's nobility and not, as in Germany and Scandinavia (and, occasionally, Italy, viz. Savoy
House of Savoy
The House of Savoy was formed in the early 11th century in the historical Savoy region. Through gradual expansion, it grew from ruling a small county in that region to eventually rule the Kingdom of Italy from 1861 until the end of World War II, king of Croatia and King of Armenia...

, Medici, Este, della Rovere, Farnese and Cybo-Malaspina
The Cybo, Cibo or Cibei family of Italy is an aristocratic family from Genoa of Greek origin. They came to the city in the 12th century. In 1528 the Cybo's formed the 17th "Albergo", a union of noble families of Genoa. The family split in many branches, some living in Genoa, other in Naples. Most...

) among Europe's reign
A reign is the term used to describe the period of a person's or dynasty's occupation of the office of monarch of a nation or of a people . In most hereditary monarchies and some elective monarchies A reign is the term used to describe the period of a person's or dynasty's occupation of the office...

ing dynasties which habitually intermarried
Royal intermarriage
Royal intermarriage is the practice of members of ruling dynasties marrying into other reigning families. It was more commonly done in the past as part of strategic diplomacy for reasons of state...

 with one another.

Once the Bourbons
House of Bourbon
The House of Bourbon is a European royal house, a branch of the Capetian dynasty . Bourbon kings first ruled Navarre and France in the 16th century. By the 18th century, members of the Bourbon dynasty also held thrones in Spain, Naples, Sicily, and Parma...

 inherited the throne of France from the House of Valois in 1589, their dynasts married daughters of even the oldest ducal families of France — let alone noblewomen of lower rank — quite rarely (viz., Anne de Montafié
Anne de Montafié, Countess of Clermont-en-Beauvaisis
Anne de Montafié, Countess of Clermont-en-Beauvaisis , was a French heiress and the wife of Charles de Bourbon, Count of Soissons, a Prince of the Blood, and military commander during the French Wars of Religion. Following her marriage in 1601, she was styled Countess of Soissons...

 in 1601, Charlotte Marguerite de Montmorency in 1609 and, in exile from revolutionary France, Maria Caterina Brignole in 1798). Exceptions were made for equal royal intermarriage
Royal intermarriage
Royal intermarriage is the practice of members of ruling dynasties marrying into other reigning families. It was more commonly done in the past as part of strategic diplomacy for reasons of state...

 with the princes étrangers
Foreign Prince
Foreign Prince is the English translation of prince étranger, a high, though somewhat ambiguous, rank at the French royal court of the ancien régime.-Terminology:...

and, by royal command, with the so-called princes légitimés (i.e. out-of-wedlock but legitimised descendants of Henry IV
Henry IV of France
Henry IV , Henri-Quatre, was King of France from 1589 to 1610 and King of Navarre from 1572 to 1610. He was the first monarch of the Bourbon branch of the Capetian dynasty in France....

 and Louis XIV), as well as with the nieces of Cardinal-prime ministers (i.e. Richelieu, Mazarin). Just as the French king could authorize a royal marriage that would otherwise have been deemed unsuitable, by 1635 it had been established by Louis XIII that the king could also legally void the canonically valid, equal marriage
Royal intermarriage
Royal intermarriage is the practice of members of ruling dynasties marrying into other reigning families. It was more commonly done in the past as part of strategic diplomacy for reasons of state...

 of a French dynast to which he had not given consent (e.g. Marguerite of Lorraine, Duchess of Orléans).

Moreover, there was a French
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...

 practice, legally distinct from morganatic marriage but used in similar situations of inequality in status between a member of the royal family and a spouse of lower rank: an "openly secret" marriage. French kings authorized such marriages only when the bride was past child-bearing or the marrying prince already had dynastic heirs by a previous royal spouse. The marriage ceremony took place without banns, in private (with only a priest, the bride and groom, and a few legal witnesses present), and the marriage was never officially acknowledged (although sometimes widely known). Thus, the wife never publicly shared in her husband's titles, rank, or coat of arms. The lower-ranked spouse, male or female, could only receive from the royal spouse what property the king allowed.

In secret marriage, Louis XIV wed his second wife, Madame de Maintenon, in 1683; Louis the Grand Dauphin
Louis, Grand Dauphin
Louis of France was the eldest son and heir of Louis XIV, King of France, and his spouse, Maria Theresa of Spain. As the heir apparent to the French throne, he was styled Dauphin...

 wed Marie Émilie de Joly de Choin in 1695; Anne Marie d'Orléans (La Grande Mademoiselle) wed Antoine, Duke of Lauzun
Antoine Nompar de Caumont
Antoine Nompar de Caumont, marquis de Puyguilhem, duc de Lauzun was a French courtier and soldier. He was the only love interest of the "greatest heiress in Europe", Anne Marie Louise d'Orléans, cousin of Louis XIV.-Biography:...

 in 1682; and Louis Philippe I, Duke of Orléans
Louis Philippe I, Duke of Orléans
Louis Philippe d'Orléans known as le Gros , was a French nobleman, a member of a cadet branch of the House of Bourbon, the dynasty then ruling France. The First Prince of the Blood after 1752, he was the most senior male at the French court after the immediate royal family. He was the father of...

 wed the Marquise de Montesson in 1773. The mechanism of the "secret marriage" rendered it unnecessary for France to legislate the morganatic marriage per se. Within post-monarchical dynasties, until the end of the 20th century the heads of the Spanish and Italian Bourbon branches, the Orleans of both France and Brazil, and the Imperial Bonapartes have, in exile, exercised claimed authority to exclude from their dynasty descendants born of unapproved marriages — albeit without calling these marriages "morganatic".

United Kingdom

The concept of morganatic marriage has never clearly existed in any part of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

. As in nearly all European monarchies extant in the 21st century, most approved marriages in the British Royal Family
British Royal Family
The British Royal Family is the group of close relatives of the monarch of the United Kingdom. The term is also commonly applied to the same group of people as the relations of the monarch in her or his role as sovereign of any of the other Commonwealth realms, thus sometimes at variance with...

 are with untitled commoners. Wives of British princes are entitled to use the feminine form of their husbands' peerage and hereditary titles, unless the Sovereign formally objects.

For example, Prince William and his wife Catherine Middleton, a commoner, became the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge upon their marriage on 29 April 2011. Camilla, second wife of The Prince of Wales
Charles, Prince of Wales
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales is the heir apparent and eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Since 1958 his major title has been His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. In Scotland he is additionally known as The Duke of Rothesay...

, legally holds the title "Princess of Wales", but at the time that the engagement was announced, it was declared that she would be known by the title "Duchess of Cornwall" (derived from one of the other titles her husband held as heir apparent
Heir apparent
An heir apparent or heiress apparent is a person who is first in line of succession and cannot be displaced from inheriting, except by a change in the rules of succession....

) in deference, it has been reported, to public feelings about the title's previous holder, the Prince's first wife Diana
Diana, Princess of Wales
Diana, Princess of Wales was the first wife of Charles, Prince of Wales, whom she married on 29 July 1981, and an international charity and fundraising figure, as well as a preeminent celebrity of the late 20th century...

. It was simultaneously stated that at such time, if any, that her husband accedes to the throne, she will be known as "Princess Consort
Princess consort
Princess consort is a title or an informal designation normally given to the wife of a sovereign prince. Since a male sovereign ruler is generally titled as a king and not a prince, the title of princess consort is not widely used. More rarely, it may be given to the spouse of a king, if the more...

" rather than 'Queen', although as the King's wife she would legally be Queen.

On 16 November 1936 Edward VIII
Edward VIII of the United Kingdom
Edward VIII was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth, and Emperor of India, from 20 January to 11 December 1936.Before his accession to the throne, Edward was Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall and Rothesay...

 informed Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin
Stanley Baldwin
Stanley Baldwin, 1st Earl Baldwin of Bewdley, KG, PC was a British Conservative politician, who dominated the government in his country between the two world wars...

 that he intended to marry the divorcée Mrs. Wallis Simpson, proposing that he be allowed to do so morganatically and remain king." Baldwin expressed his belief that Mrs. Simpson would be unacceptable to the British people as queen, but agreed to take further soundings. The prospect of the marriage was rejected by the British Cabinet
Cabinet of the United Kingdom
The Cabinet of the United Kingdom is the collective decision-making body of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, composed of the Prime Minister and some 22 Cabinet Ministers, the most senior of the government ministers....

. The other Dominion governments were consulted pursuant to the Statute of Westminster 1931
Statute of Westminster 1931
The Statute of Westminster 1931 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Passed on 11 December 1931, the Act established legislative equality for the self-governing dominions of the British Empire with the United Kingdom...

, which provided in part that "any alteration in the law touching the Succession to the Throne or the Royal Style and Titles shall hereafter require the assent as well of the Parliaments of all the Dominions as of the Parliament of the United Kingdom
Parliament of the United Kingdom
The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom, British Crown dependencies and British overseas territories, located in London...

." Baldwin suggested three options to the prime ministers of the five Dominion
A dominion, often Dominion, refers to one of a group of autonomous polities that were nominally under British sovereignty, constituting the British Empire and British Commonwealth, beginning in the latter part of the 19th century. They have included Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland,...

s of which Edward was also king: Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

, South Africa
Union of South Africa
The Union of South Africa is the historic predecessor to the present-day Republic of South Africa. It came into being on 31 May 1910 with the unification of the previously separate colonies of the Cape, Natal, Transvaal and the Orange Free State...

 and the Irish Free State
Irish Free State
The Irish Free State was the state established as a Dominion on 6 December 1922 under the Anglo-Irish Treaty, signed by the British government and Irish representatives exactly twelve months beforehand...

. The options were:
  1. Edward and Mrs. Simpson marry and she become queen (a royal marriage);
  2. Edward and Mrs. Simpson marry, but she not become queen, instead receiving some courtesy title (a morganatic marriage); or
  3. Abdication
    Abdication occurs when a monarch, such as a king or emperor, renounces his office.-Terminology:The word abdication comes derives from the Latin abdicatio. meaning to disown or renounce...

     for Edward and any potential heirs he might father, allowing him to make any marital decisions without further constitutional implications.

The second option had European precedents, including Edward's own maternal great-grandfather, Duke Alexander of Württemberg
Duke Alexander of Württemberg
Duke Alexander of Württemberg was the father of Prince Francis of Teck and the grandfather of Adolphus Cambridge, 1st Marquess of Cambridge and Queen Mary of Great Britain, wife of King George V....

, but no unambiguous parallel in British constitutional history. William Lyon Mackenzie King
William Lyon Mackenzie King
William Lyon Mackenzie King, PC, OM, CMG was the dominant Canadian political leader from the 1920s through the 1940s. He served as the tenth Prime Minister of Canada from December 29, 1921 to June 28, 1926; from September 25, 1926 to August 7, 1930; and from October 23, 1935 to November 15, 1948...

 (Prime Minister of Canada
Prime Minister of Canada
The Prime Minister of Canada is the primary minister of the Crown, chairman of the Cabinet, and thus head of government for Canada, charged with advising the Canadian monarch or viceroy on the exercise of the executive powers vested in them by the constitution...

), Joseph Lyons
Joseph Lyons
Joseph Aloysius Lyons, CH was an Australian politician. He was Labor Premier of Tasmania from 1923 to 1928 and a Minister in the James Scullin government from 1929 until his resignation from the Labor Party in March 1931...

 (Prime Minister of Australia
Prime Minister of Australia
The Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia is the highest minister of the Crown, leader of the Cabinet and Head of Her Majesty's Australian Government, holding office on commission from the Governor-General of Australia. The office of Prime Minister is, in practice, the most powerful...

) and J. B. M. Hertzog (Prime Minister of South Africa) opposed options 1 and 2. Michael Joseph Savage
Michael Joseph Savage
Michael Joseph Savage was the first Labour Prime Minister of New Zealand.- Early life :Born in Tatong, Victoria, Australia, Savage first became involved in politics while working in that state. He emigrated to New Zealand in 1907. There he worked in a variety of jobs, as a miner, flax-cutter and...

 (Prime Minister of New Zealand
Prime Minister of New Zealand
The Prime Minister of New Zealand is New Zealand's head of government consequent on being the leader of the party or coalition with majority support in the Parliament of New Zealand...

) rejected option 1 but thought that option 2 "might be possible ... if some solution along these lines were found to be practicable" but "would be guided by the decision of the Home government". Éamon de Valera
Éamon de Valera
Éamon de Valera was one of the dominant political figures in twentieth century Ireland, serving as head of government of the Irish Free State and head of government and head of state of Ireland...

 Thus the majority of the Commonwealth's prime ministers agreed that there was "no alternative to course (3)". On 24 November, Baldwin consulted the three leading opposition politicians in Britain: Leader of the Opposition Clement Attlee
Clement Attlee
Clement Richard Attlee, 1st Earl Attlee, KG, OM, CH, PC, FRS was a British Labour politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1945 to 1951, and as the Leader of the Labour Party from 1935 to 1955...

, Liberal
Liberal Party (UK)
The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties of the United Kingdom during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a third party of negligible importance throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, before merging with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to form the present day...

 leader Sir Archibald Sinclair
Archibald Sinclair, 1st Viscount Thurso
Archibald Henry Macdonald Sinclair, 1st Viscount Thurso KT, CMG, PC , known as Sir Archibald Sinclair, Bt between 1912 and 1952, and often as Archie Sinclair, was a British politician and leader of the Liberal Party....

 and Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

. Sinclair and Attlee agreed that options 1 and 2 were unacceptable and Churchill pledged to support the government.

The letters and diaries of working-class people and ex-servicemen generally demonstrate support for the King, while those from the middle and upper classes tend to express indignation and distaste. The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

, The Morning Post, the Daily Herald, and newspapers owned by Lord Kemsley, such as The Daily Telegraph
The Daily Telegraph
The Daily Telegraph is a daily morning broadsheet newspaper distributed throughout the United Kingdom and internationally. The newspaper was founded by Arthur B...

, opposed the marriage. On the other hand, the Express
Daily Express
The Daily Express switched from broadsheet to tabloid in 1977 and was bought by the construction company Trafalgar House in the same year. Its publishing company, Beaverbrook Newspapers, was renamed Express Newspapers...

and Mail
Daily Mail
The Daily Mail is a British daily middle-market tabloid newspaper owned by the Daily Mail and General Trust. First published in 1896 by Lord Northcliffe, it is the United Kingdom's second biggest-selling daily newspaper after The Sun. Its sister paper The Mail on Sunday was launched in 1982...

newspapers, owned by Lord Beaverbrook
Max Aitken, 1st Baron Beaverbrook
William Maxwell "Max" Aitken, 1st Baron Beaverbrook, Bt, PC, was a Canadian-British business tycoon, politician, and writer.-Early career in Canada:...

 and Lord Rothermere, respectively, appeared to support a morganatic marriage. The King estimated that the newspapers in favour had a circulation of 12.5 million, and those against had 8.5 million.

Backed by Churchill and Beaverbrook, Edward proposed to broadcast a speech indicating his desire to remain on the throne or to be recalled to it if forced to abdicate, while marrying Mrs Simpson morganatically. In one section, Edward proposed to say:
Baldwin and the British Cabinet
Cabinet of the United Kingdom
The Cabinet of the United Kingdom is the collective decision-making body of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, composed of the Prime Minister and some 22 Cabinet Ministers, the most senior of the government ministers....

 blocked the speech, saying that it would shock many people and would be a grave breach of constitutional principles.

Ultimately, Edward decided to give up the throne for "the woman I love," whereupon he and his descendants were deprived of all right to the Crown by Parliament's passage of His Majesty's Declaration of Abdication Act 1936
His Majesty's Declaration of Abdication Act 1936
His Majesty's Declaration of Abdication Act 1936 was the Act of the British Parliament that allowed King Edward VIII to abdicate the throne, and passed succession to his brother Prince Albert, Duke of York . The Act also excluded any possible future descendants of Edward from the line of succession...

. He was created Duke of Windsor
Duke of Windsor
The title Duke of Windsor was created in the Peerage of the United Kingdom in 1937 for Prince Edward, the former King Edward VIII, following his abdication in December 1936. The dukedom takes its name from the town where Windsor Castle, a residence of English monarchs since the Norman Conquest, is...

 on 8 March 1937 by his brother, the new George VI
George VI of the United Kingdom
George VI was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth from 11 December 1936 until his death...

. He would marry Wallis Simpson in France on 3 June 1937, after her second divorce became final. In the meantime, however, letters patent
Letters patent
Letters patent are a type of legal instrument in the form of a published written order issued by a monarch or president, generally granting an office, right, monopoly, title, or status to a person or corporation...

 dated 27 May 1937, which re-conferred upon the Duke of Windsor the "title, style, or attribute of Royal Highness", specifically stated that "his wife and descendants, if any, shall not hold said title or attribute". This decree was issued by the new king and unanimously supported by the Dominion governments, The king's authority to withhold from the lawful wife of a prince the attribute thitherto accorded to the wives of other modern British princes was addressed by the Crown's legal authorities: On 14 April 1937, Attorney General
Attorney General for England and Wales
Her Majesty's Attorney General for England and Wales, usually known simply as the Attorney General, is one of the Law Officers of the Crown. Along with the subordinate Solicitor General for England and Wales, the Attorney General serves as the chief legal adviser of the Crown and its government in...

 Sir Donald Somervell submitted to Home Secretary
Home Secretary
The Secretary of State for the Home Department, commonly known as the Home Secretary, is the minister in charge of the Home Office of the United Kingdom, and one of the country's four Great Offices of State...

 Sir John Simon
John Simon, 1st Viscount Simon
John Allsebrook Simon, 1st Viscount Simon GCSI GCVO OBE PC was a British politician who held senior Cabinet posts from the beginning of the First World War to the end of the Second. He is one of only three people to have served as Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer,...

 a memorandum summarising the views of Lord Advocate
Lord Advocate
Her Majesty's Advocate , known as the Lord Advocate , is the chief legal officer of the Scottish Government and the Crown in Scotland for both civil and criminal matters that fall within the devolved powers of the Scottish Parliament...

 T. M. Cooper
Thomas Cooper, 1st Baron Cooper of Culross
Thomas Mackay Cooper, 1st Baron Cooper of Culross PC, KC was a Scottish politician, judge and historian.-Background and education:...

, Parliamentary Counsel Sir Granville Ram, and himself:
  1. We incline to the view that on his abdication the Duke of Windsor could not have claimed the right to be described as a Royal Highness. In other words, no reasonable objection could have been taken if the King had decided that his exclusion from the lineal succession excluded him from the right to this title as conferred by the existing Letters Patent.
  2. The question however has to be considered on the basis of the fact that, for reasons which are readily understandable, he with the express approval of His Majesty enjoys this title and has been referred to as a Royal Highness on a formal occasion and in formal documents. In the light of precedent it seems clear that the wife of a Royal Highness enjoys the same title unless some appropriate express step can be and is taken to deprive her of it.
  3. We came to the conclusion that the wife could not claim this right on any legal basis. The right to use this style or title, in our view, is within the prerogative of His Majesty and he has the power to regulate it by Letters Patent generally or in particular circumstances.

The new King's firm view, that the Duchess should not be given a royal title, was shared by Queen Mary and George's wife, Queen Elizabeth
Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon
Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon was the queen consort of King George VI from 1936 until her husband's death in 1952, after which she was known as Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, to avoid confusion with her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II...

. The Duchess bitterly resented the denial of the royal title and the refusal of the Duke's relatives to accept her as part of the family. In the early days of George VI's reign the Duke telephoned daily, importuning for money and urging that the Duchess be granted the style of Royal Highness, until the harassed King ordered that the calls not be put through. However, within the household of the Duke and Duchess, the style "Her Royal Highness" was used by those who were close to the couple.

It has been suggested that William, Prince of Orange
William III of England
William III & II was a sovereign Prince of Orange of the House of Orange-Nassau by birth. From 1672 he governed as Stadtholder William III of Orange over Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders, and Overijssel of the Dutch Republic. From 1689 he reigned as William III over England and Ireland...

, expected to have a strong claim to the throne of England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 after the Duke of York
James II of England
James II & VII was King of England and King of Ireland as James II and King of Scotland as James VII, from 6 February 1685. He was the last Catholic monarch to reign over the Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland...

 during the reign of Charles II
Charles II of England
Charles II was monarch of the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland.Charles II's father, King Charles I, was executed at Whitehall on 30 January 1649, at the climax of the English Civil War...

. In fact, the Duke's two daughters from his first marriage, Princess Mary and Princess Anne, were considered to have the stronger claim by the English establishment. William's expectation was based on the continental practice of morganatic marriage, since the mother of both princesses, Anne Hyde
Anne Hyde
Anne Hyde was the first wife of James, Duke of York , and the mother of two monarchs, Mary II of England and Scotland and Anne of Great Britain....

, was a commoner and a lady-in-waiting to William's mother, Princess Mary
Mary, Princess Royal and Princess of Orange
Mary, Princess Royal, Princess of Orange and Countess of Nassau was the eldest daughter of King Charles I of England, Scotland, and Ireland and his queen, Henrietta Maria of France...

. It was by his mother, a sister of Charles II and the Duke of York, that William claimed the throne, because, to his mind, the son of a princess had a stronger claim than the daughter of a commoner. It was to shore up his own claim to the throne that he agreed to marry his first cousin, Princess Mary. When James II fled at the Glorious Revolution
Glorious Revolution
The Glorious Revolution, also called the Revolution of 1688, is the overthrow of King James II of England by a union of English Parliamentarians with the Dutch stadtholder William III of Orange-Nassau...

, William refused to accept the title of king consort
King consort
King consort is an alternative title to the more usual "prince consort" - which is a position given in some monarchies to the husband of a reigning queen. It is a symbolic title only, the sole constitutional function of the holder being similar to a prince consort, which is the male equivalent of a...

 (which Philip II of Spain
Philip II of Spain
Philip II was King of Spain, Portugal, Naples, Sicily, and, while married to Mary I, King of England and Ireland. He was lord of the Seventeen Provinces from 1556 until 1581, holding various titles for the individual territories such as duke or count....

 had been granted under Queen Mary I
Mary I of England
Mary I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from July 1553 until her death.She was the only surviving child born of the ill-fated marriage of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon. Her younger half-brother, Edward VI, succeeded Henry in 1547...

 in the 1550s) and insisted on being named King in his own right. The compromise solution involved naming both to the crown as the only joint rulers in the history of England.

Another marriage which might arguably be regarded as morganatic was between John of Gaunt
John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster
John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster , KG was a member of the House of Plantagenet, the third surviving son of King Edward III of England and Philippa of Hainault...

 and Katherine Swynford
Katherine Swynford
Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster , née Roet , was the daughter of Sir Payne Roet , originally a Flemish herald from County of Hainaut, later...

. When they married after co-habiting for several years all children born previously were subsequently legitimated by Act of Parliament. King Henry IV
Henry IV of England
Henry IV was King of England and Lord of Ireland . He was the ninth King of England of the House of Plantagenet and also asserted his grandfather's claim to the title King of France. He was born at Bolingbroke Castle in Lincolnshire, hence his other name, Henry Bolingbroke...

 later declared that they could not inherit the crown, but it is not clear that he had the right to do this. This marriage was important, as King Henry VII
Henry VII of England
Henry VII was King of England and Lord of Ireland from his seizing the crown on 22 August 1485 until his death on 21 April 1509, as the first monarch of the House of Tudor....

 was descended from it, but Parliament declared that he was king by "right of conquest", so some issues remained unresolved.

The Royal Marriages Act of 1772 made it illegal for all persons born into the British royal family
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...

 to marry without the permission of the Sovereign, and any marriage contracted without the Sovereign’s consent was considered illegal and invalid. This led to several prominent cases of British princes who had gone through marriage ceremonies, and who cohabited with their partners as if married, but whose relationships were not legally recognised. As a result, their partners and children (the latter considered illegitimate) held no titles, and had no succession rights. This differs from morganatic marriages, which are considered legally valid.


In the erstwhile princely state
Princely state
A Princely State was a nominally sovereign entitity of British rule in India that was not directly governed by the British, but rather by an Indian ruler under a form of indirect rule such as suzerainty or paramountcy.-British relationship with the Princely States:India under the British Raj ...

 of Travancore
Kingdom of Travancore was a former Hindu feudal kingdom and Indian Princely State with its capital at Padmanabhapuram or Trivandrum ruled by the Travancore Royal Family. The Kingdom of Travancore comprised most of modern day southern Kerala, Kanyakumari district, and the southernmost parts of...

, in India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, the male members of the Travancore Royal Family
Travancore Royal Family
The Travancore Royal Family descended from the Venad line of the Cheras and ruled over the Indian state of Travancore until 1947.The Royal family, alternatively known as the Kupaka Royal Family, Thripappur Swaroopam, Venad Swaroopam, Vanchi Swaroopam etc., has its seat today at Trivandrum in...

 belonging to the Samanthan Nair caste were, under the existing matrilineal Marumakkathayam
Marumakkathayam is a matrilinear system of inheritance which was followed by all Nair castes including of Royal Families, some of the Ambalavasis, Arayars, Ezhava, some tribal groups and Mappilas in North Malabar of Kerala state, South India. Unlike other Brahmin families, Payanoor Nambootiris...

 system of inheritance and family, permitted to contract marriages with women of the relatively inferior Illathu Nair
Illathu Nair
Illathu Nair is one of the subcastes of the Nair community among Keralites. They are mostly found in the Travancore and Cochin areas. Illathu Nairs were considered highest in the Nair hierarchy in Travancore. Purification rites by the Maarans and priestly service from the Elayatus distinguished the...

Caste is an elaborate and complex social system that combines elements of endogamy, occupation, culture, social class, tribal affiliation and political power. It should not be confused with race or social class, e.g. members of different castes in one society may belong to the same race, as in India...

 only. These were morganatic marriages called Sambandham
Sambandham was a form of marital system primarily followed by the Nairs in what is the present-day Indian state of Kerala. This system of marriage was followed by the matriarchal castes of Kerala, though today the custom has ceased to exist...

s wherein the children gained their mother's caste and family name, due to Marumakkathayam
Marumakkathayam is a matrilinear system of inheritance which was followed by all Nair castes including of Royal Families, some of the Ambalavasis, Arayars, Ezhava, some tribal groups and Mappilas in North Malabar of Kerala state, South India. Unlike other Brahmin families, Payanoor Nambootiris...

. While due to reasons of caste and the nature of the marriage they could not inherit the throne, they did indeed receive the royal title of Thampi
The Thampis are the sons of the Samanthan Nair Maharajahs of Travancore and their morganatic wives belonging to Illathu Nair or other similar Kshatriya castes...

 and were members of the Ammaveedu
Ammaveedus were the residences of the consorts of the Maharajahs of Travancore in Trivandrum. The descendants of the Maharajahs were considered as members of these Ammaveedus, with a status next only to royalty...

s which ensured a comfortable living and all royal luxuries for them.


Standards of both social classification and marital rules resembling the traditions of dynastic Europe can also be found in places as far afield as Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

. Here, a number of its constituent sovereign nations have legalized traditional authority
Traditional authority
Traditional authority is a form of leadership in which the authority of an organization or a ruling regime is largely tied to tradition or custom...

 as manifested in the recognized hereditary transmission of chieftaincy
Tribal chief
A tribal chief is the leader of a tribal society or chiefdom. Tribal societies with social stratification under a single leader emerged in the Neolithic period out of earlier tribal structures with little stratification, and they remained prevalent throughout the Iron Age.In the case of ...

 in historically relevant regions of the continent (e.g. the Asantehene of Ghana
Ghana , officially the Republic of Ghana, is a country located in West Africa. It is bordered by Côte d'Ivoire to the west, Burkina Faso to the north, Togo to the east, and the Gulf of Guinea to the south...

). For an example of the form that morganatic unions tend to take amongst African royalty, we have only to look at the biography of the continent's favourite son: President Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, and was the first South African president to be elected in a fully representative democratic election. Before his presidency, Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist, and the leader of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing...

, the former leader of South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...


Mandela, a nobleman
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...

 by birth of the Xhosa Thembus that reside in the Transkei
The Transkei , officially the Republic of Transkei , was a Bantustan—an area set aside for members of a specific ethnicity—and nominal parliamentary democracy in the southeastern region of South Africa...

 region of the Cape coast, is nevertheless unable to ascend the throne of the Inkosi Enkhulu (or king) of the entire Thembu clan, even though he descends in the legitimate, male line from the holders of this title. Nearly two centuries ago, Ngubengcuka
Ngubengcuka was the king of the Thembu people, in the southern part of the Transkei region of South Africa. Known as Inkosi Enkhulu , Ngubengcuka united the Thembu nation before it was subjected to British colonial rule...

 (d. 1832), who ruled as the Inkosi Enkhulu of the Thembu people, married and subsequently left a son named Mandela, who became Nelson's grandfather and the source of his surname. However, due to the fact that Mandela was only the Inkosi's child by a wife of the Ixhiba lineage, a so-called "Left-Hand House", the descendants of his 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...

 of the Thembu royal family remain ineligible to succeed to the Thembu throne, which is itself one of the several traditional seats that are still officially recognized by South Africa's government. Instead, the Mandelas were given the chiefdom
A chiefdom is a political economy that organizes regional populations through a hierarchy of the chief.In anthropological theory, one model of human social development rooted in ideas of cultural evolution describes a chiefdom as a form of social organization more complex than a tribe or a band...

 of Mvezo
Mvezo is a small village on the banks of the Mbashe river in the District of Umtata, the capital of the Transkei, an area in the South Eastern area of South Africa. The village is mainly known as being the birthplace of former South African president Nelson Mandela, whose family serves as its...

 and made hereditary counsellors to the Inkosi (i.e., privy counsellors) in deference to their royal ancestry. Following the loss of this chiefdom (which has since been restored to the family) in the Apartheid era, the Mandelas retained their positions as nobles of the Transkei. This status entailed, however, a degree of subjugation to the head of the dynasty, in particular in the matter of marital selection, which proved so onerous an issue to Nelson Mandela that it prompted the departure to Johannesburg
Johannesburg also known as Jozi, Jo'burg or Egoli, is the largest city in South Africa, by population. Johannesburg is the provincial capital of Gauteng, the wealthiest province in South Africa, having the largest economy of any metropolitan region in Sub-Saharan Africa...

 that eventually led to his political career. Like the House of Battenberg
Battenberg family
The Battenberg family was a morganatic branch of the House of Hesse-Darmstadt, rulers of the Grand Duchy of Hesse in Germany. The first member was Julia Hauke, whose brother-in-law Grand Duke Louis III of Hesse created her Countess of Battenberg with the style Illustrious Highness in 1851, at her...

 in Europe, Mandela's family has since rehabilitated its dynastic status to some extent, inter-marrying with reigning royalty even during his imprisonment.


Royal men who married morganatically:
  • King Erik XIV of Sweden married the servant Karin Månsdotter
    Karin Månsdotter
    Karin Månsdotter was Queen of Sweden, first a mistress and then the spouse of King Eric XIV of Sweden...

     morganatically in 1567, and later secondly, but this time not morganatically, in 1568.
  • Ludwig Wilhelm, Duke in Bavaria
    Ludwig Wilhelm, Duke in Bavaria
    Ludwig Wilhelm was Duke in Bavaria.-Early life:Ludwig Wilhelm was the eldest child of Duke Maximilian Joseph in Bavaria and Princess Ludovika of Bavaria, and was brother of Empress Sissi.-Relationships and issues:He renounced his rights as firstborn, to marry the actress Henriette Mendel Ludwig...

     and (actress) Henriette Mendel
    Henriette Mendel
    Henriette Mendel, Baroness von Wallersee was a German actress, and the mistress and, later, morganatic wife of Ludwig Wilhelm, Duke in Bavaria...

    . She was created Freifrau von Wallersee, and their daughter, Marie Louise, Countess Larisch von Moennich, was a confidante of Empress Elisabeth ("Sissi") of Austria
    Elisabeth of Bavaria
    Elisabeth of Austria was the spouse of Franz Joseph I, and therefore both Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary. She also held the titles of Queen of Bohemia and Croatia, among others...

  • Archduke Ferdinand II of Austria, ruler of the Tirol
    Tyrol (state)
    Tyrol is a state or Bundesland, located in the west of Austria. It comprises the Austrian part of the historical region of Tyrol.The state is split into two parts–called North Tyrol and East Tyrol–by a -wide strip of land where the state of Salzburg borders directly on the Italian province of...

      married firstly Philippine Welser
    Philippine Welser
    Philippine Welser was the morganatic wife of Ferdinand II, Archduke of Austria. Her family, the Welsers of Augsburg, were merchants and financiers of European significance and great wealth.-Works:* De re coquinaria , handwriting ca. 1545, Castle Ambras near Innsbruck. Inv.No...

    , a bourgeois girl though very wealthy, their children were given a separate title and the issue of Ferdinand's second (and equal) marriage were preferred.
  • Victor Emmanuel II of Italy
    Victor Emmanuel II of Italy
    Victor Emanuel II was king of Sardinia from 1849 and, on 17 March 1861, he assumed the title King of Italy to become the first king of a united Italy since the 6th century, a title he held until his death in 1878...

     in 1869 married morganatically his principal mistress Rosa Teresa Vercellana Guerrieri
    Rosa Teresa Vercellana Guerrieri
    Rosa Vercellana , commonly known as ‘Rosina’ and, in Piedmontese, as La Bela Rosin, was the mistress and later wife of Victor Emmanuel II, King of Italy...

     (3 June 1833–26 December 1885). Popularly known in Piedmontese as “Bela Rosin” (Little Rosa the Beautiful), she was born a commoner but made Countess of Mirafiori and Fontanafredda in 1858.
  • Late in his life, the widowed ex-king Fernando II of Portugal married the opera singer Elise Hensler
    Elise Hensler
    Elise Hensler, countess d’Edla , was a Swiss-born actress and singer and the morganatic second wife of the former King Ferdinand II of Portugal.- Early life :...

    , who was created countess of Edla.
  • A list of Morganatic branches of the Russian Imperial Family
    Morganatic branches of the Russian Imperial Family
    The Russian Imperial Family was split into four main branches named after the sons of Emperor Nicholas I:*The Alexandrovichi *The Konstantinovichi...

  • 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....

     followed the contemporary tradition by taking several morganatic wives in addition to his principal wife, whose property passed to their youngest son
    Ultimogeniture, also known as postremogeniture or junior right, is the tradition of inheritance by the last-born of the entirety of, or a privileged position in, a parent's wealth, estate or office...

    , also following tradition.

Royal women who married morganatically:
  • Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma
    Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma
    Marie Louise of Austria was the second wife of Napoleon I, Emperor of the French and later Duchess of Parma...

     (by birth an Archduchess of the Imperial House of Habsburg, and by her first marriage an Empress of France) contracted a morganatic second marriage with a count after the death of her first husband Napoleon I
    Napoleon I
    Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

  • Queen Maria Christina of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, regent of Spain after her husband's (Ferdinand VII) death while their daughter, the future Isabella II was a minor. She married one of her guards in a secret marriage.
  • Princess Stéphanie of Belgium, the widow of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria
    Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria
    Rudolf , archduke of Austria and crown prince of Austria, Hungary and Bohemia, was the son and heir of Franz Joseph I, emperor of Austria, Hungary and Bohemia, and his wife and empress, Elisabeth...

    , married Count Elemér Lónyay de Nagy-Lónya et Vásáros-Namény after the death of her first husband, to the disgust of her family. In 1917, Emperor Charles I of Austria, conferred upon Lónyay the non-dynastic title of prince
    Fürst is a German title of nobility, usually translated into English as Prince.The term refers to the head of a principality and is distinguished from the son of a monarch, who is referred to as Prinz...


Further reading

  • Crawford, Donald. Michael and Natasha, Scribner (1997). ISBN 0-684-83430-8
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