The sovereigns and heads of the house
The full title of the reigning Strelitz dukes and later grand dukes remained unchanged throughout the existence of the monarchy in Mecklenburg-Strelitz, bar the elevation to grand ducal status on 28 June 1815. The full title was also identical to that of the reigning Schwerin dukes and grand dukes which meant that the designation ‘-Strelitz’ or ‘-Schwerin’ was commonly added to the primary title to distinguish between the sovereigns and to avoid confusion; however this was never done on official papers. The full formal title of the sovereign was:
By the grace of god, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg, Prince of Wenden, Schwerin and Ratzeburg, Count of Schwerin, Lord of the Lands of Rostock and Stargard
Before 1815 the style held by the reigning duke was Ducal Serene Highness, afterwards the grand dukes held the style Royal Highness.
The full formal title of the head of the grand ducal house today is:
Duke of Mecklenburg, Prince of Wenden, Schwerin and Ratzeburg, Count of Schwerin, Lord of the Lands of Rostock and Stargard, Head of the Grand Ducal House of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
The head of the house uses the style of Highness.
Origins and history of the titles
Grand Duke of Mecklenburg (Großherzog von Mecklenburg)
The full title of Niklot, ancestor of the House of Mecklenburg, was Prince of the Obotrites, Chizzini and Circipani, Lord of Schwerin; however these titles and territories were all lost following his defeat and death in 1160 to the forces of Duke Heinrich III & XII ‘the Lion’ of Saxony and Bavaria.
In 1166 Niklot’s son Pribislav (died 1178) was restored to all his father’s lands, expect for Schwerin, with the title Prince of the Wenden of Mecklenburg (Fürst der Wenden zu Mecklenburg) and on 5 January 1170 he was created a Prince of the Holy Roman Empire (Reichsfürst) by Emperor Friedrich I. His son Heinrich Borwin I became Prince of Mecklenburg (Fürst zu Mecklenburg) in 1179 and on 8 July 1348 the Holy Roman Emperor Karl IV bestowed the title Duke of Mecklenburg (Herzog von Mecklenburg) upon the reigning princes Albert II and his brother Johann.
The title then remained unchanged for another 467 years until Duke Carl of Mecklenburg-Strelitz had his title upgraded to grand duke on 28 June 1815, Duke Friedrich Franz I of Mecklenburg-Schwerin having already been upgraded on 14 June.
Prince of Wenden (Fürst zu Wenden)
After Pribislav the next member of the family to hold the Wenden title was his nephew Nikolaus who was styled Prince of the Wenden of Rostock (Fürst der Wenden zu Rostock). With his childless death in 1197 or 1200 the title passed to his cousin Prince Heinrich Borwin I of Mecklenburg, Pribislav’s son.
With the death of Prince Heinrich Borwin II of Mecklenburg in 1227 his realm was divided between his four sons with his second son Nikolaus inheriting Wenden. His descendants ruled with the title Lord of Werle (Herr zu Werle) until Lord Christoph adopted the title Prince of Wenden (Fürst zu Wenden) in 1418.
The Wenden line became extinct on the childless death of Prince Wilhelm of Wenden on 7 September 1436. As a result of a 1351 succession treaty the principality was inherited by the senior line of the House of Mecklenburg in the form of Duke Heinrich IV of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and the Duke’s Johann IV and Heinrich II of Mecklenburg-Stargard.
Prince of Schwerin and Ratzeburg (Fürst zu Schwerin und Ratzeburg)
In 1154 Duke Heinrich III & XII ‘the Lion’ of Saxony and Bavaria turned Ratzeburg into a bishopric, doing the same in Schwerin in 1170. The Bishoprics of Schwerin and Ratzeburg were acquired by Duke Adolf Friedrich I for the House of Mecklenburg as principalities on 24 October 1648 at the Peace of Westphalia as compensation for the loss of Wismar which was ceded to Sweden.
Count of Schwerin (Graf zu Schwerin)
Schwerin was lost by the House of Mecklenburg following the death in 1160 of their ancestor Niklot who in addition to his other titles was also Lord of Schwerin (Herr zu Schwerin). In 1167 Duke Heinrich III & XII ‘the Lion’ of Saxony and Bavaria appointed Gunzelin von Hagen as the first Count of Schwerin.
Count Gunzelin’s descendant Count Nicholas V of Schwerin and Tecklenburg sold the County of Schwerin to Duke Albert II of Mecklenburg on 7 December 1358 for a price of 20,000 silver marks. The money was to be paid in instalments although Count Nicholas only ever received 9,200 silver marks after Duke Albert refused to make any further payments following his annexation of the town of Boizenburg, which Count Nicholas had retained as a pledge for the remainder of the money, after the count had attempted to sell the town to the Free City of Lübeck.
Lord of Rostock (Herr zu Rostock)
Lord Heinrich Borwin III, the third son of Prince Heinrich Borwin II of Mecklenburg, received the lordship of Rostok as his inheritance following his father’s death in 1227. The title and territory was lost by the House of Mecklenburg following the death of Heinrich Borwin III’s grandson Nikolaus on 25 November 1314 who was succeeded by King Erik VI of Denmark under whose protection Rostock had been under.
The lordship of Rostock was re-acquired on 21 May 1323 when Prince Heinrich II ‘the Lion’ of Mecklenburg, who had been serving as governor of Rostock, was granted full sovereignty of the town by King Christoffer II of Denmark.
Lord of Stargard (Herr zu Stargard)
The Lordship of Stargard was acquired by the House of Mecklenburg after being included in the dowry of Beatrix of Brandenburg upon her marriage in 1292 to Prince Heinrich II ‘the Lion’ of Mecklenburg, although he did not receive possession of the territory until after the death of his father in law Margrave Albert III in 1300.
As Prince Heinrich regarded Stargard as part of his family’s ancestral lands, instead of it passing to his and Beatrix’s daughter Mathilde, which it should have done if it was only regarded as being received as part of the dowry, he instead kept the lordship for the House of Mecklenburg and the sons from his second marriage. Some princes of the House of Brandenburg opposed its transfer to the House of Mecklenburg and after a brief war Prince Heinrich was formally confirmed in possession of Stargard on 15 January 1304.
The heir apparent
From the creation of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in 1701 until its elevation to grand ducal status in 1815 the heir apparent held the titles:
Duke of Mecklenburg, Prince of Wenden, Schwerin and Ratzeburg, Count of Schwerin, Lord of the Lands of Rostock and Stargard, Hereditary Prince of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
The heir apparent held the style Serene Highness and was commonly known by the title Hereditary Prince of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. With the elevation of Mecklenburg-Strelitz to grand ducal status in 1815 the full title of the heir apparent became:
Hereditary Grand Duke of Mecklenburg, Prince of Wenden, Schwerin and Ratzeburg, Count of Schwerin, Lord of the Lands of Rostock and Stargard
After 1815 the heir apparent held the style Royal Highness and was commonly titled Hereditary Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz to differentiate the Schwerin and Strelitz branches. The title Hereditary Prince of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was retained for the eldest son of the Hereditary Grand Duke with the new style of Highness, while today it is used for the heir apparent to the headship of the house.
Other members of the family
All other members of the House of Mecklenburg-Strelitz hold the titles:
Duke/Duchess of Mecklenburg, Prince/Princess of Wenden, Schwerin and Ratzeburg, Count/Countess of Schwerin, Lord/Lady of the Lands of Rostock and Stargard
They held the style Serene Highness from 1701 to 1815, and Highness from 1815 onwards. Commonly just the ducal title was used with the designation ‘-Strelitz’ added to distinguish between the two branches of the House of Mecklenburg.
Duke Carl (1708-1752), head of the junior line of the house, and his children were attributed the additional title Prince/Princess of Mirow after the town where they lived. At the Imperial court in Russia where they predominantly resided, Duke Georg (1824-1876) and his children held the style Grand Ducal Highness to differentiate them from the other Highnesses.
Duke Georg (born Count of Carlow) and his children after becoming members of the grand ducal house on 11 September 1928 used the historic style Serene Highness until 18 December 1950 when the style Highness was adopted instead. At this point the Count of Carlow title was also abolished for Duke Georg, his children and grandchildren. Duke Georg’s sister Marie, Countess Kleinmichel (1893-1979) was the last holder of the Carlow title.
If a female royal marrying into the Grand Ducal House has a higher style than their husband, such as was the case with Grand Duchess Ekaterina Mikhailovna of Russia (Imperial Highness) and the Archduchesses Ilona and Charlotte of Austria (Imperial and Royal Highness), then the use of the higher style is maintained. Traditionally women take their husbands name and title upon marriage, as such Grand Duchess Ekaterina upon her marriage to Duke Georg was known as Her Imperial Highness Duchess Georg of Mecklenburg.