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. (November 2016)
The Latin word prīnceps (older Latin *prīsmo-kaps, literally "the one who takes the first [place/position]"), became the usual title of the informal leader of the Roman senate some centuries before the transition to empire, the princeps senatus.
Emperor Augustus established the formal position of monarch on the basis of principate, not dominion. He also tasked his grandsons as summer rulers of the city when most of the government were on holiday in the country or attending religious rituals, and, for that task, granted them the title of princeps.
The title has generic and substantive meanings:
- generically, prince refers to a member of a family that ruled by hereditary right, the title referring either to sovereigns or to cadets of a sovereign's family. The term may be broadly used of persons in various cultures, continents or eras. In Europe, it is the title legally borne by dynastic cadets in monarchies, and borne by courtesy by members of formerly reigning dynasties.
- as a substantive title, a prince was a monarch of the lowest rank in post-Napoleonic Europe, e.g. Princes of, respectively, Andorra, Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, Mingrelia, Monaco, Waldeck and Pyrmont, Wallachia, etc.
- also substantively, the title was granted by popes and secular monarchs to specific individuals and to the heads of some high-ranking European families who, however, never exercised dynastic sovereignty and whose cadets are not entitled to share the princely title, viz the Princes de Beauvau-Craon, von Bismarck, Colonna, von Dohna-Schlobitten, von Eulenburg, de Faucigny-Lucinge, von Lichnowsky, von Pless, Ruffo di Calabria, (de Talleyrand) von Sagan, van Ursel, etc.
- generically, cadets of some non-sovereign families whose head bears the non-dynastic title of prince (or, less commonly, duke) were sometimes also authorized to use the princely title, e.g. von Carolath-Beuthen, de Broglie, Demidoff di San Donato, Lieven, de Merode, Pignatelli, Radziwill, von Wrede, Yussopov, etc.
- substantively, the heirs apparent in some monarchies use a specific princely title associated with a territory within the monarch's realm, e.g. the Princes of, respectively, Asturias (Spain), Grão Pará (Brazil, formerly), Orange (Netherlands), Viana (Navarre, formerly), Wales (UK), etc.
- substantively, it became the fashion from the 17th century for the heirs apparent of the leading ducal families to assume a princely title, associated with a seigneurie in the family's possession. These titles were borne by courtesy and preserved by tradition, not law, e.g. the princes de, respectively, Bidache (Gramont), Marcillac (La Rochefoucauld), Tonnay-Charente (Mortemart), Poix (Noailles), Léon (Rohan-Chabot),