AskDefine | Define apanage

Dictionary Definition



1 any customary and rightful perquisite appropriate to your station in life; "for thousands of years the chair was an appanage of state and dignity rather than an article of ordinary use" [syn: appanage]
2 a grant (by a sovereign or a legislative body) of resources to maintain a dependent member of a ruling family; "bishoprics were received as appanages for the younger sons of great families" [syn: appanage]

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative spellings


From apanage, from *appanare, adpanare ‘to give bread’.




  1. A grant (especially by a sovereign) of land (or other source of revenue) as a birthright.
    • 1942: they suspected that Peter II was only waiting till he had saved enough of his apanage to run away to some more civilized country. — Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (Canongate 2006, p. 1046)
  2. A perquisite that is appropriate to one's position.


Grant as a birthright

Extensive Definition

The word apanage or appanage stems from the Late Latin apanare meaning "to give bread" (panem, compare the French court title Grand panetier), a pars pro toto for food and other necessities, hence for a "subsistence" income, notably in kind, as from assigned land. The system of appanage was frequently used to bestow an estate and titles on the non-heirs of a sovereign prince throughout most of Europe, such as Charles IX of Sweden being made duke of Södermanland by his royal father.
The system of appanage has greatly influenced the territorial construction of France and The Germanies in particular and explains the flag of many provinces of France.
Appanage is also the word used to describe the funds given by the state to certain royal families, for instance the annual income given the Danish Royal Family.

The original appanage: in France

History of the French appanage

An appanage was a concession of a fief by the sovereign to his younger sons, while the eldest son became king on the death of his father. Appanages were considered as part of the inheritance transmitted to the puisne (french puisné, 'later born') sons; the word Juveigneur (from the Latin comparartive Iuvenior, 'younger [brother]'; in Brittany's customary law only the youngest brother) was specifically used for the royal princes holding an appanage. These lands could not be sold, neither hypothetically nor as a dowry, and returned to the royal domain on the extinction of the princely line. Daughters were excluded from the system: a now-archaic interpretation of salic law generally prohibited daughters from inheriting land and also from acceding to the throne.
The appanage system was used to gild the pill of the primogeniture to avoid civil war among throne contenders or the division of the kingdom among princes of royal blood. It was used in this way in 843, by the Treaty of Verdun, when Louis the Pious divided his empire between his sons Lothair and Louis the German. This division was a source of antagonism between France and Germany, less so in France, since the treaty was imposed on Lothair by Louis.
Hugh Capet was elected King of France on the death of Louis V in 987. The royal line of France from 987 to 1328 broke entirely away from the Merovingian and Carolingian custom of dividing the kingdom among all the sons. The eldest son alone became King and received the royal domain except for the appanages. Most of the Capetians endeavored to add to the royal domain by the incorporation of additional fiefs, large or small, and thus gradually obtained the direct lordship over almost all of France.
King Charles V tried to remove the appanage system, but in vain. Provinces conceded in appanage tended to become de facto independent and the authority of the king was recognized there reluctantly. Theoretically appanages could be reincorporated into the royal domain but only if the last lord had no male heirs. Kings tried as much as possible to rid themselves of the most powerful appanages: for example, Francis I confiscated the Bourbonnais, the last appanage of any importance then, after the treason in 1523 of his commander in chief, Charles III, Duke of Bourbon, the 'constable of Bourbon' (died 1527 in the service of Emperor Charles V).
The first article of the Edict of Moulins (1566) declared that the royal domain (defined in the second article as all the land controlled by the crown for more than ten years) could not be alienated, except in two cases: by interlocking, in the case of financial emergency, with a perpetual option to repurchase the land; and to form an appanage, which must return to the crown in its original state on the extinction of the male line. The apanagist (incumbent) therefore could not separate himself from his appanage in any way.
  • After Charles V of France, a clear distinction had to be made between titles given as names to children in France, and true appanages. At their birth the French princes received a title independent of an appanage. Thus, the Duke of Anjou, son of Louis XIV, never possessed Anjou and never received any revenue from this province. The king waited until the prince had reached adulthood and was about to marry before endowing him with an appanage. The goal of the appanage was to provide him with a sufficient income to maintain his noble rank. The fief given in appanage could be the same as the title given to the prince, but this was not necessarily the case. Only seven appanages were given from 1515 to 1789.
  • Appanages were abolished in 1792 before the proclamation of the Republic. The youngest princes from then on were to receive a grant of money but no territory.
  • Appanages were reestablished under the first French empire by Napoleon Bonaparte and confirmed by the Bourbon restoration-king Louis XVIII. The last of the appanges, the Orléanais, was reincorporated to the French crown when the Duke of Orleans, Louis-Philippe, became king of the French in 1830.
  • The word apanage is still used in French figuratively, in a non-historic sense: “to have appanage over something” is used, often in an ironic and negative sense, to claim exclusive possession over something. For example, “cows have appanage over prions.”

List of major French appanages

Although Napoleon restored the idea of apanage in 1810 for his sons, none were ever granted, nor were any new apanages created by the restoration monarchs.

Western feudal Appanages outside France

Equivalents outside Western Europe

The practice is certainly not unique to western feudalism
  • The principalities of European Russia had a similar practice; an apanage given to a younger male of the royal family was called an udel. The frequency and importance of the custom was particularly important between the mid 13th and the mid 15th centuries; some historians refer to this era as "the appanage period."
  • In the Indian subcontinent, the jagir (a type of fief) was often thus assigned to individual junior relatives of the ruling house of a princely state, but not as a customary right of birth, though in practice usually hereditarily held, and not only to them but also to commoners, normally as an essentially meritocratic grant of land and taxation rights (guaranteeing a 'fitting' income, in itself bringing social sway, in the primary way in a mainly agricultural society), or even as part of a deal.
  • Most unusual, the mother of the Maharaja of Travancore (a matrilinear Hindu dynasty) and her sister received the principality of Attingal in joint appanage, being styled the Senior and Junior Rani (the female form of Raja or Rana) of Attingal, respectively; their husbands, known as Koil Tampurans, came from one of four or five princely houses who were closely related to the Royal House of Travancore

Sources and references

See also

apanage in Bulgarian: Апанаж
apanage in Danish: Apanage
apanage in German: Apanage
apanage in Spanish: Infantazgo
apanage in French: Apanage
apanage in Italian: Appannaggio
apanage in Dutch: Apanage
apanage in Norwegian: Apanasje
apanage in Polish: Apanaże
apanage in Russian: Апанаж
apanage in Simple English: Appanage
apanage in Finnish: Apanage-läänitys
apanage in Swedish: Apanage
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