Margraves (Markgraf) ranked below dukes. The name literally means “border count” and was translated into Italian as marchese (that is “marquis”) for the medieval rulers of Saluzzo and Mantua. Markgraf, Landgraf, Wildgraf, Rheingraf etc were all on the same level. The next “step up” was to Princely Landgraf, which was gained by Hesse as early as 1292; another “route” was to the rank of Prince-Elector, which seems to suggest (in both cases) that Markgraf, Landgraf etc were considered below the rank of Prince.
The margrave of Baden and the landgrave of Hessen-Kassel became Princely-Electors in 1803. With the mediatisation of small abbacies and counties etc in 1803 and 1806, Baden greatly increased in size; in the same year, the HRE was abolished and the Prince-Elector of Baden was raised to the rank of Grand Duke.
Interestingly, the ruler of Hess-Kassel remained styled “Elector”. In 1806, his state was absorbed into the Kingdom of Westphalia, ruled by Napoléon I’s brother Jérôme. At the Congress of Vienna (1815) some of the former Electors were recognised as Kings. The restored Prince-Elector Wilhelm I of Hesse-Kassel sought similar recognition but was unsuccessful. Thus, he kept his title of Prince-Elector.
Although, Baden gained grand ducal rank in 1806 and Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach in 1815, Oldenburg did not become a grand duchy until 1829.
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