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Personal union

This article is about the political arrangement. For the Christian theological teaching, see Hypostatic union.

A personal union is the combination of two or more states who have the same monarch while their boundaries, laws, and interests remain distinct.[1][2] It differs from a federation in that each constituent state has an independent government, whereas a federal state is united by a central government. The ruler in a personal union need not be a hereditary monarch.[3]

Personal unions can arise for several reasons, ranging from coincidence (a woman who is already married to a king becomes queen regnant, and their child inherits the crown of both countries) to virtual annexation (where a personal union sometimes was seen as a means of preventing uprisings). They can also be codified (i.e., the constitutions of the states clearly express that they shall share the same person as head of state) or non-codified, in which case they can easily be broken (e.g., by the death of the monarch when the two states have different succession laws).

The Commonwealth realms, not addressed in the list of personal unions, are contemporary independent states that share the same person as monarch.

Crown of Aragon

In 1162 Alfonso II of Aragon was the first person to bear both the titles King of Aragon and Count of Barcelona, ruling what was later called the Crown of Aragon. James I of Aragon later created and added the Kingdom of Majorca and the Kingdom of Valencia to the Crown. Later, Charles of Ghent — Charles I of Spain, Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire— would join Aragon and Castile in a personal union that would become Spain.


In 1378 Sukhothai was invaded by Ayutthaya and became a vassal of Ayutthaya. After king Borommapan died in 1438 with no legal heir, this kingdom's throne was claimed by Trailokkanat. In 1448 Trailokkanat was crowned in Ayutthaya, and these two countries became ruled by the same monarch. In terms of government, these two countries still maintained separate governments and the seat of power in Phitsanulok in Trailokkanat's era had a close relationship to government in Ayutthaya. After Trailokkanat died in 1488, the government backed into Ayutthaya and appointed a Sukhothai member with a close relationship to Ayutthaya.

After Sukhothai was invaded by Taungoo Kingdom and became a vassal of Tuangoo in 1563, King Bayinnaung appointed Khun Phiren Thorathep as a puppet king. In 1569 Ayutthaya fell in Taungoo. Khun Phiren Thorathep was forced to govern in Ayutthaya as King Maha Thammarachathirat and Crown prince Naresuan governed Sukhothai. After Bayinnaung died, King Nanda distrusted the King of Sukhothai and invaded again in the Battle of Sittaung River in 1583. After the battle, King Naresuan forcibly relocated people integrate into Ayutthaya Kingdom.


  • Personal union with Poland 1003 - 1004 (Bohemia occupied by Poles)
  • Personal union with Poland 1300–1306 and Hungary 1301–1305 (Wenceslas II and Wenceslas III)
  • Personal union with Luxembourg 1313–1378 and 1383–1388
  • Personal union with Hungary 1419–1439 (Sigismund of Luxemburg and his son in law) and 1490–1526 (Jagellon dynasty)
  • Personal union with Austria and Hungary 1526–1918 (except years 1619–1620)



China: Shenyang

  • Personal union with a Korean kingdom of Goryeo 1308–1313 (King Chungseon)
    • As King of Goryeo (高麗國王) and King of Shenyang (瀋陽王) in 1308–1310
    • As King of Goryeo and King of Shen (瀋王) in 1310-1313

For more information, see #Goryeo below.

Congo Free State to Belgium

  • Personal union with Belgium from 1885 to 1908, when the Congo Free State became a Belgian colony.

Croatia (disputed)

Personal union theory

According to one theory, the Kingdom of Croatia[4] and Kingdom of Hungary formed a personal union of two kingdoms in 1102, united under the Hungarian king.[4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17] In c.1102, when the Croatian dynasty died out, the Croatians joined the Hungarians in a personal union, but the Croatian State kept its political individuality with its ban and its assembly.[18] King Coloman established the personal union of the Kingdom of Croatia and the Kingdom of Hungary by an agreement called the Pacta conventa.[4][13] After King Coloman was crowned as a Croatian king in Biograd, the Croatian nobility retained strong powers.[19] Although the precise time and terms of the Pacta Conventa later became a matter of dispute, nonetheless there was at least a non-written agreement that regulated the relations between Hungary and Croatia in approximately the same way.[20]

In the union with Hungary, institutions of separate Croatian statehood were maintained through the Sabor (an assembly of Croatian nobles) and the ban (viceroy). In addition, the Croatian nobles retained their lands and titles.[4][21] Coloman retained the institution of the Sabor and relieved the Croatians of taxes on their land.[4] Coloman's successors continued to crown themselves as Kings of Croatia separately in Biograd na Moru until the time of Béla IV.[22] In the 14th century a new term arose to describe the collection of de jure independent states under the rule of the Hungarian King: Archiregnum Hungaricum (Lands of the Crown of Saint Stephen).[unreliable source?][23]

It is argued that the medieval Hungary and Croatia were (in terms of public international law) allied by means of personal union until the Battle of Mohács in 1526. On January 1, 1527, the Croatian nobles at Cetin unanimously elected Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria, as their king, and confirmed the succession to him and his heirs.[24] However, officially the Hungarian-Croatian state existed until the beginning of the 20th century and the Treaty of Trianon.[11][12][13]

Hungarian occupation theory

According to another theory, Croatia was subjugated and incorporated into Hungary.[25] The alleged document of the personal union, the so-called Pacta Conventa, is most likely a forgery from centuries later.[19][22][26][27][28][29][30]

Matjaž Klemenčič and Mitja Žagar claim that the Pacta Conventa, the alleged document under which Croatians became vassals of Hungarians, never existed, but the story about it was important for the Croatian position in the Habsburg Empire during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when the Croats claimed their right for statehood on the basis of that agreement.[19] Although Croatia ceased to exist as an independent state when Coloman, King of Hungary defeated the last Croatian king, the Croatian nobility retained some powers.[19]

According to the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress, the Croats enjoyed their own medieval kingdom for several centuries before a long period of Hungarian rule from 1102 to 1918.[31] Most Croats lived under Hungarian kings until 1526 and under Habsburg monarchs thereafter.[31] The Croats of Bosnia and Hercegovina and Slavonia lived under Ottoman rule for several hundred years, and the Croats of Dalmatia passed from Hungarian to Venetian to Austrian rule.[31] With the help of Roman Catholic clerics, the Croats maintained a strong collective memory of their former statehood despite their centuries of foreign domination.[31]

Analysis, conclusion

The actual nature of the relationship is inexplicable in modern terms because it varied from time to time.[32] Sometimes Croatia acted as an independent agent and at other times as a vassal of Hungary.[32] However, Croatia retained a large degree of internal independence.[32] The degree of Croatian autonomy fluctuated throughout the centuries as did its borders.[33] Today, Hungarian legal historians hold that the relationship of Hungary with the area of Croatia and Dalmatia in the period till 1526 and the death of Louis II was most similar to a personal union,[34][35] resembling the relationship of Scotland to England.[36][37]


  • Sweyn Forkbeard ruled both Denmark and England from 1013 to 1014. He also ruled Norway from 999 to 1014.
  • Cnut the Great ruled both Denmark and England from 1018 to 1035. He also ruled Norway 1028 to 1035.
  • Harthacanute ruled both Denmark and England from 1040 to 1042.
  • Personal union with Norway 1042–1047 under the Norwegian king Magnus I.
  • Personal union with Norway from 1380 to 1814 (the Norwegian Riksråd was abolished in 1536).
  • The Kalmar Union with Norway and Sweden from 1389/97 to 1521/23 (sometimes defunct).[vague]
  • The kings of Denmark at the same time were dukes of Schleswig and Holstein from 1460–1864 (Holstein being part of the Holy Roman Empire, now part of Germany).
  • Personal union with Iceland from 1918 to 1944 when Iceland became a republic.

England, Great Britain and the United Kingdom


Great Britain

United Kingdom


  • The status of the Grand Principality of Finland, ruled from 1809 to 1917 by the czar of Russia as the Grand Prince of Finland, resembled a personal union in some aspects and is sometimes described as such by Finns.[citation needed] In accordance with the Treaty of Fredrikshamn, Finland was legally a part of the Russian Empire that was granted autonomy at the sufferance of the czar; the autonomous status was temporarily repealed later. By the 1860s, with the revival of the diet of the estates, Finns grew to consider Finland a constitutional monarchy in real union with Russia. For a time Finland was in fact allowed to act as though it was a separate state. As a result the codification of Finnish autonomy and subordinance to Russian governmental organs from 1899 onwards was not recognized by the Finns and was condemned as unconstitutional.


Note: The point at issue in the War of the Spanish Succession was the fear that the succession to the Spanish throne dictated by Spanish law, which would devolve on Louis, le Grand Dauphin — already heir to the throne of France — would create a personal union that would upset the European balance of power (France had the most powerful military in Europe at the time, and Spain the largest empire).


Holy Roman Empire

  • Personal union with Spain from 1519 to 1556 under Charles V.
  • Personal union with Hungary from 1410 to 1439, 1526 to 1608, 1612 to 1740, and 1780 to 1806.


  • Personal union with Croatia (disputed)
  • Personal union with Poland and Bohemia 1301–1305.
  • Personal union with Poland from 1370 to 1382 under the reign of Louis the Great. This period in Polish history is sometimes known as the Andegawen Poland. Louis inherited the Polish throne from his maternal uncle Casimir III. After Louis' death the Polish nobles (the szlachta) decided to end the personal union, since they didn't want to be governed from Hungary, and chose Louis' younger daughter Jadwiga as their new ruler, while Hungary was inherited by his elder daughter Mary. Personal union with Poland for the second time from 1440 to 1444.
  • Personal union with Bohemia from 1419 to 1439 and from 1490 to 1918.
  • Personal union with the Holy Roman Empire from 1410 to 1439 and from 1526 to 1806 (except 1608–1612 and 1740-1780).
  • Real union with Austria from 1867 to 1918 (the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary) under the reigns of Franz Joseph and Charles IV.



Korea: Goryeo

  • Personal union with Shenyang in Mongolian Yuan Dynasty of China 1308–1313 (King Chungseon)
    • As King of Goryeo (高麗國王) and King of Shenyang (瀋陽王) in 1308–1310
    • As King of Goryeo and King of Shen (瀋王) in 1310-1313

The King Chungseon reigned as King of Goryeo in 1298 and 1308–1313 and King of Shenyang or Shen in 1307 (according to the History of Yuan) or 1308 (according to Goryeosa)–1316. At that time, Goryeo already became a vassal of Yuan and the imperial family of Yuan and the royal family of Goryeo had close relationship by marriages of convenience. Because he was a very powerful man during Emperor Wuzong's era, he could become the King of Shenyang where many Korean people lived in China. However, he lost his power at the court of Yuan after death of Wuzong, he could not reign as Kings of Goryeo and Shen any longer. Because Yuan Dynasty made Chungseon abdicate the King of Goryeo in 1313, the personal union was ended. King Chungsuk, Chungseon's eldest son, became the new King of Goryeo. In 1316, Yuan Dynasty made also Chungseon abdicate the King of Shen and Wang Go, one of his nephews, became the new King.



  • Personal union with Bohemia, 1313–1378 and 1383–1388.
  • Personal union with the Netherlands from 1815 to 1890, when King and Grand Duke William III died leaving only a daughter, Wilhelmina. Since Luxembourg held to Salic Law, Wilhelmina's distant cousin Adolphe succeeded to the Grand Duchy, ending the personal union.


  • Personal union with France from 1589 to 1620 due to the accession of Henry IV, after which Navarre was formally integrated into France.


  • Personal union with Luxembourg from 1815 to 1890.


  • Sweyn Forkbeard ruled both Norway and Denmark from 999 to 1014. He also ruled England from 1013 to 1014.
  • Cnut the Great ruled both England and Denmark from 1018 to 1035. He also ruled Norway from 1028 to 1035.
  • Personal union with Denmark 1042–1047 Magnus I of Norway who died of unclear circumstances.
  • Personal union with Sweden from 1319 to 1343.
  • Personal union with Denmark from 1380 to 1814; (the Norwegian Riksråd was abolished in 1536).
  • The Kalmar Union with Denmark and Sweden from 1389/97 to 1521/23 (sometimes defunct).[vague]
  • Personal union with Sweden from 1814 (when Norway declared independence from Denmark and was forced into a union with Sweden) to 1905.




Saxe-Weimar and Saxe-Eisenach

The duchies of Saxe-Weimar and Saxe-Eisenach were in personal union from 1741, when the ruling house of Saxe-Eisenach died out, until 1809, when they were merged into the single duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach.

Schleswig and Holstein

Duchies with peculiar rules for succession. See the Schleswig-Holstein Question.

  • The kings of Denmark at the same time being dukes of Schleswig and Holstein 1460-1864. (Holstein being part of the Holy Roman Empire, while Schleswig was a part of Denmark). The situation was complicated by the fact that for some time, the Duchies were divided among collateral branches of the House of Oldenburg (the ruling House in Denmark and Schleswig-Holstein). Besides the "main" Duchy of Schlewig-Holstein-Glückstadt, ruled by the Kings of Denmark, there were states encompassing territory in both Duchies. Notably the Dukes of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorp and the subordinate Dukes of Schleswig-Holstein-Beck, Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg and Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg.

Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt and Schwarzburg-Sondershausen

The duchies of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt and Schwarzburg-Sondershausen were in personal union from 1909, when Prince Günther of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt succeeded also to the throne of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen, until 1918, when he (and all the other rulers of German monarchies) abdicated.



  • Personal union of the crowns that would later form Spain (Crown of Castile and Crown of Aragon) with the marriage of Queen Isabella of Castile and King Ferdinand of Aragon, known as the Catholic Monarchs. Their daughter Joanna of Castile (often called Joanna the Mad) was judged mentally unstable and Charles became king of Castile and after the death of his grandfather Ferdinand, King of Aragon and subsequently Holy Roman Emperor) became the head of the Holy Roman Empire from 1519 to 1556. Castile and Aragon remained united from 1556–1707, after which they were formally unified as Spain.[citation needed] The Kingdom of Navarre, also in personal union with the Aragonese throne since 1511, would retain its separate legal and political system until the nineteenth century.
  • During the time of the Habsburgs (until 1700, with the death of Charles II without issue), the Spanish kingdoms were also in personal union with the Kingdoms of Naples, Sicily, and Sardinia and the Duchy of Milan in Italy, as well as the Spanish Netherlands and other Burgundian territories in France and the Low Countries.[citation needed]
  • Philip II of Spain was joint king of England (with Mary I) from 1554 to 1558
  • Iberian Union of all kingdoms in the Iberian Peninsula, including Portugal, from 1580 to 1640, under Philip II (also known as Phillip I of Portugal), his son and grandson. The successful revolt of Portugal in 1640 from Spain established the House of Braganza in Portugal.


Main article: Unions of Sweden

See also


  1. ^ Joseph Lalor, ed., Cyclopaedia of Political Science. New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co. Accessed 13 June 2013
  2. ^ Oppenheim, Lassa; Roxbrough, Ronald (2005). International Law: A Treatise. The Lawbook Exchange. ISBN 1-58477-609-9. Retrieved 13 June 2013. 
  3. ^ In the Holy Roman Empire, many prince-bishops had themselves elected to separate prince-bishoprics, that they ruled in a personal union. For example, Joseph Clemens von Bayern (1671-1723) was Prince-Bishop of Freising (1685-1694), Prince-Bishop of Regensburg (1685-1694), Prince-Elector of Cologne (1688-1723), Prince-Bishop of Liège (1694-1723) and Prince-Bishop of Hildesheim (1702-1723).
  4. ^ a b c d e Luscombe and Riley-Smith, David and Jonathan (2004). New Cambridge Medieval History: C.1024-c.1198, Volume 4. Cambridge University Press. pp. 273–274. ISBN 0-521-41411-3. 
  5. ^ Europa Publications Limited, p.271: Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, Svezak 4
  6. ^ Alain Finkielkraut, (pp. 17-18): Dispatches from the Balkan War and other writings
  7. ^ Imogen Bell, p.173: Central and South-Eastern Europe 2003
  8. ^ Mitja Velikonja p.78: Religious separation and political intolerance in Bosnia-Herzegovina
  9. ^ Piotr Stefan Wandycz, p.159: The price of freedom: a history of East Central Europe from the Middle Ages
  10. ^ Adrian Webb,Inc NetLibrary, Adrian Webb, p.218: The Routledge companion to Central and Eastern Europe since 1919
  11. ^ a b Charles W. Ingrao, p.12: The Habsburg monarchy, 1618-1815
  12. ^ a b David Raic, p. 342: Statehood and the law of self-determination
  13. ^ a b c Font, Marta: Hungarian Kingdom and Croatia in the Middle Age
  14. ^ Kristó Gyula: A magyar–horvát perszonálunió kialakulása [The formation of Croatian-Hungarian personal union](in Hungarian)
  15. ^ Lukács István - A horvát irodalom története, Budapest, Nemzeti Tankönyvkiadó, 1996.[The history of Croatian literature](in Hungarian)
  16. ^ Ladislav Heka (October 2008). "Hrvatsko-ugarski odnosi od sredinjega vijeka do nagodbe iz 1868. s posebnim osvrtom na pitanja Slavonije" [Croatian-Hungarian relations from the Middle Ages to the Compromise of 1868, with a special survey of the Slavonian issue]. Scrinia Slavonica (in Croatian) (Hrvatski institut za povijest – Podružnica za povijest Slavonije, Srijema i Baranje) 8 (1): 152–173. ISSN 1332-4853. 
  17. ^ Bárány, Attila (2012). "The Expansion of the Kingdom of Hungary in the Middle Ages (1000– 1490)". In Berend, Nóra. The Expansion of Central Europe in the Middle Ages. Ashgate Variorum. page 344-345
  18. ^ Vauchez, Dobson, Lapidge, André, Richard Barrie, Michael (2000). Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages, Svezak 1. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers. pp. 384–385. ISBN 1-57958-282-6. 
  19. ^ a b c d Matjaž Klemenčič, Mitja Žagar (2004). The Former Yugoslavia's Diverse Peoples: A Reference Sourcebook. ABC-CLIO. p. 16. ISBN 978-1-57607-294-3. 
  20. ^ Britannica:History of Croatia
  21. ^
  22. ^ a b Curta, Stephenson, p. 267
  23. ^ Ana S. Trbovich (2008). A Legal Geography of Yugoslavia's Disintegration. Oxford University Press. p. 87. ISBN 978-0-19-533343-5. 
  24. ^ R. W. SETON-WATSON: The southern Slav question and the Habsburg Monarchy page 18
  25. ^ Power, Daniel (2006). The Central Middle Ages: Europe 950-1320. Oxford University Press. p. 186. ISBN 978-0-19-925312-8. 
  26. ^ Van Antwerp Fine, John (2006). When Ethnicity Did Not Matter in the Balkans: A Study of Identity in Pre-nationalist Croatia, Dalmatia, and Slavonia in the Medieval and Early-modern Periods. University of Michigan Press. p. 71. ISBN 978-0-472-11414-6. 
  27. ^ Van Antwerp Fine, p. 70
  28. ^ Curta, Florin; Paul Stephenson (2006). Southeastern Europe in the Middle Ages, 500-1250. Cambridge University Press. p. 267. ISBN 978-0-521-81539-0. 
  29. ^ Bellamy, Alex J. (2003). The Formation of Croatian National Identity: A Centuries-old Dream. Manchester University Press. p. 37. ISBN 978-0-7190-6502-6. 
  30. ^ Molnar, Miklos; Anna Magyar (2001). A concise history of Hungary. Cambridge concise histories. Cambridge University Press. p. 30. ISBN 978-0-521-66736-4. 
  31. ^ a b c d Curtis, Glenn E. (1992). "A Country Study: Yugoslavia (Former) - The Croats and Their Territories". Library of Congress. 
  32. ^ a b c Bellamy, p. 38
  33. ^ Singleton, Frederick Bernard (1985). A short history of the Yugoslav peoples. Cambridge University Press. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-521-27485-2. 
  34. ^ Barna Mezey: Magyar alkotmánytörténet, Budapest, 1995, p. 66
  35. ^ Heka, László (October 2008). "Hrvatsko-ugarski odnosi od sredinjega vijeka do nagodbe iz 1868. s posebnim osvrtom na pitanja Slavonije" [Croatian-Hungarian relations from the Middle Ages to the Compromise of 1868, with a special survey of the Slavonian issue]. Scrinia Slavonica (in Croatian) 8 (1): 155. 
  36. ^ Jeszenszky, Géza. "Hungary and the Break-up of Yugoslavia: A Documentary History, Part I.". Hungarian Review II (2). 
  37. ^ Banai Miklós, Lukács Béla: Attempts for closing up by long range regulators in the Carpathian Basin