When it comes to royal and noble titles, there is a distinct hierarchy of position, privilege, esteem, influence and power. So a common question is, what’s the highest title in the world that a person can have? It’s human nature to wonder about the top spot in any walk of life, what it takes to get there, and who it is possible for.
Yet, within the royal aristocratic systems, the highest ranks and titles vary, and the possibilities of attaining them can depend on a number of complex factors. Historically, these titles may have been awarded for military service, they may be a hereditary title, or the official title of a high-ranking official in the Holy Roman Empire.
However, there are some general rules and guidelines that can help to understand the most eminent titles, in a bid to answer this commonly asked question about royal and nobility titles.
Imperial & Royal Titles
Within the European nobility – one of the oldest and most established systems of social ranking – there are generally two categories of titles and ranks; the members of the royal or imperial family, and the aristocracy.
At the absolute top of the social order are the Imperial rulers. These are the Emperors and Empresses of the various empires and territories, and their equivalents around the world, such as the German Kaisers, and the Russian Tsars and Tsarinas.
While these eminent positions were legendary during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, in modern times many of the ancient great empires have broken up into smaller kingdoms and countries, and as a result, many of the Imperial titles were replaced with the royal titles of King and Queen.
On rare occasions, during the evolution of the social systems, some historical figures were known as Great King or High King, and the female equivalent, Great Queen or High Queen, but again these tend to be more a feature of the royal lines of the past.
Today’s top positions within royal ranks are usually simply King and Queen, reflecting the ruling of a kingdom, rather than an empire.
So, for the question, What is the highest position a person can have?, in modern times, in the European monarchies, the answer is usually that of King or Queen.
There is some variety, however, as regal systems have evolved differently in the various parts of the world.
The Highest Titles Throughout the World
For example, the King of England is also the ruler of the United Kingdom, as well as the realm known as the Commonwealth. Before the coronation of His Royal Highness King Charles III, Queen Elizabeth II witnessed a great many changes to her sovereign rule and territory within her own lifetime. For example, some of the colonial realms that were governed by previous British monarchs, some of which were formally part of the old British Empire, have declared their independence from British rule, such as the breaking away of colonial India in the middle of the 20th century.
In contrast to the British nobility, the ruler of the tiny European principality of Monaco is titled a Prince, while still considered to be the sovereign ruler of the state. So, within Monaco, the highest title a male monarch could hold is that of Prince, rather than King.
The majority of these royal positions tend to change very slowly over time, maintaining the established order within most royal families.
The head of the family, the ultimate ruler, monarch or sovereign – ie the top spot – is usually that of King or Queen.
The children of a King or Queen are usually titled as Prince or Princess. Other relations may also be granted royal titles such as Prince or Princess.
These secondary royal titles also vary somewhat around the world. For example, France has the title Prince du Sang, to differentiate a Prince ‘of the blood’, i.e. a direct descendant of the sovereign, with the even more exclusive title of Dauphin being used for the heir apparent to the throne.
Similarly, a Spanish prince or princess is titled as Infante or Infanta, while in Russia the equivalent would be a Tsarevich and Tsarevna.
These royal roles are generally the highest title that a person can hold within the current sovereign kingdoms or states. Given the eminence, privilege and power of these lofty ranks, many also wonder, How can people attain these positions?
How to Attain the Highest Noble Title
While the lives of the world’s royalty may be appealing and enviable, there are unfortunately limited opportunities to join their ranks and their worlds of wealth, power, luxury and prestige.
The most common way to attain a royal title is to be born into a royal family, but even this doesn’t guarantee an eventual rise to the highest rank.
For example, a King or Queen may have a number of children, but there is no guarantee that all or even any of them will inherit the throne. There are strict rules of primogeniture (customs of inheritance) that use factors such as gender, birth order, and legitimacy to dictate which royal children may ascend to the position of King or Queen.
Additionally, history is rife with stories of dark dealings and political intrigue that can alter the path of future kings and queens, meaning there is no certainty that being the firstborn child of a reigning monarch automatically leads to the throne.
Generally speaking, though, the title of King and Queen is usually passed down to the relevant offspring, subject to the laws and customs of that nation.
Inheritance is not the only way to attain the highest royal titles, however. For those not born into royalty, it is possible to marry into the line of succession, but again, these opportunities are extremely limited. There are also, particularly in modern times, rules about who can inherit the title of King or Queen through marriage.
For example, in past times, the wife of a Prince who ascended to the throne would have held the title of Queen. Yet, in the current British Monarchy, the wife of the current heir to the throne, The Duchess of Cornwall, was not expected to be crowned as a Queen, when her husband Prince Charles becomes the King of England.
So, the path to the highest titles of the world is usually a rare and exclusive one, involving many complex factors and variations.
Yet, throughout history, there have been rare occasions when it has been possible to purchase a royal title. This unusual and little-known practice began in the Middle Ages, and is still an option today, albeit in select and rarefied circumstances.
So, while attaining an esteemed royal title may not be an option for the vast majority of the world, for someone who truly desires to discover the life of a high-ranking royal – it might just be possible, even without the right marriage partner or the relevant royal birth.