The full title of the reigning 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.
As the full title was also identical to that of the reigning Schwerin dukes and grand dukes, outside of Mecklenburg the designation ‘-Strelitz’ or ‘-Schwerin’ was commonly added to the primary title to avoid confusion and so as to distinguish between the two sovereigns. The full formal title of the reigning 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 reigning dukes held the style Serene Highness, afterwards the grand dukes held the style Royal Highness.
The Head of the House
Since the succession of Duke Carl Michael in February 1918 and the subsequent abolition of the monarchy in November 1918, the full formal title of the successive heads of the House of Mecklenburg-Strelitz has been:
By the grace of god, 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 style of Royal Highness fell into disuse with the succession of Duke Carl Michael who instead retained use of his existing style of Highness, which, via an agreement with the House of Mecklenburg-Schwerin has also been the style used by his successors since 18 December 1950. Prior to this date the style Serene Highness and title Duke of Mecklenburg, Count of Carlow was used out of respect to a previous agreement with the House of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.
The last holder of the Mecklenburg-Strelitz style of Royal Highness was Grand Duchess Elisabeth who died in 1933. Since the death of Hereditary Grand Duchess Karin of Mecklenburg-Schwerin in 2012 no member of the House of Mecklenburg holds the style Royal Highness.
Origins and history of the dynastic titles
Grand Duke of 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 and on 5 January 1170 he was created a Prince of the Holy Roman Empire by Emperor Friedrich I. His son Heinrich Borwin I became Prince of Mecklenburg in 1179 and on 8 July 1348 the Holy Roman Emperor Karl IV bestowed the title Duke of 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
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. 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 until Lord Christoph adopted the title Prince of 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
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
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. 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.[xx]
Lord of 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
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 the Duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in 1701 until its elevation to a Grand Duchy 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 a Grand Duchy 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 between 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.
Since the end of the monarchy in November 1918 the title Hereditary Prince of Mecklenburg-Strelitz has been used for the heir apparent to the headship of the house. As the style of Royal Highness has fallen into disuse the style Highness is retained instead.
Other family members
Since 1701 all other members of the House of Mecklenburg-Strelitz have held 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
The style Serene Highness was held from 1701 to 1815, and Highness from 1815 onwards. Commonly just the ducal title is used often with the designation ‘-Strelitz’ added to distinguish between the two branches of the House of Mecklenburg.
Prince/Princess of Mirow
Duke Carl, the younger son of Duke Adolf Friedrich II and 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.
This was not however an officially created title, instead being just an unofficial style on account of their residence. The style was dropped with the succession of Duke Adolf Friedrich IV of the Mirow line to the ducal throne in 1752 when the family took up residence in the capital Strelitz.
Count/Countess of Carlow
The title Countess of Carlow was created on 18 March 1890 by Grand Duke Friedrich Wilhelm for Natalia Vanljarskaya, the non dynastic wife of Duke Georg Alexander, a member of the Russian branch of the House of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, and any descendants in the male line.
The couple’s only son Count Georg of Carlow, and his wife and children, were adopted by his uncle Duke Carl Michael on 11 September 1928, recognised legally on 5 October 1928 by a court in Malchin. On account of the close ties between the Russian branch of the House of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and the House of Romanov, the Russian Emperor-in-exile Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich was notified of the adoption and on 18 July 1929 bestowed the style Serene Highness on his cousin Georg and his family.
After his adoption and so to honour the memory of his late mother Georg proposed retaining use of the title Count of Carlow for himself as his secondary title. On this basis the adoption was recognised on 23 December 1929 by the head of the senior branch of the House of Mecklenburg, Grand Duke Friedrich Franz IV of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Henceforth Georg was styled as His Serene Highness Duke Georg of Mecklenburg, Count of Carlow.
In order to clear up any confusion regarding the status of the House of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the Carlow title was abolished for Duke Georg and his descendants in accordance with a declaration from the House of Mecklenburg-Schwerin on 18 December 1950. This declaration affirmed their status as dynastic Dukes of Mecklenburg with the style Highness, and Georg’s position as Head of the House of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.
Duke Georg’s sister Countess Marie of Carlow (1893-1979), by marriage Countess Kleinmichel, was therefore the last person to hold the Carlow title.
Female members by marriage
In the event a female royal marrying into the Grand Ducal House has a higher ranking style than their husband, such as was the case with Grand Duchess Ekaterina Mikhailovna of Russia (Imperial Highness), Archduchesses Ilona of Austria and Archduchess Charlotte of Austria (both Imperial and Royal Highness), then the use of their higher style is maintained.