Royal Ranks in Joseon Dynasty

Titles and ranks are big issues, be it in the modern or ancient setting. The ranks for the royal members of Joseon Dynasty often make me confused, so I figured out that I have to put them in one place for easy reference. This is just a short list of the ranks and titles for the immediate family members of the King, and there might be more (read: complicated) terms for the extended family and relatives of the royal house. This is what I have found so far, and hopefully you will find it useful 😉

Everyone in the succession line and their consorts have no rank (무품). This includes the following: King, Queen, Crown Prince, Crown Princess Consort, Grand Heir, and Grand Heir Consort. Although they had no rank, they still had to show respect to their elders since seniority played an important role in filial piety.

The King’s Consorts

As stated earlier, Queen/ wangbi (왕비, 王妃) had no rank. The queen was the highest ranked lady in the inner court. After the king passed away, she would become Royal Queen Dowager/ Wangdaebi (왕대비, 王大妃) and then Grand Royal Queen Dowager/ Daewangdaebi (대왕대비, 大王大妃). The current queen would be the leader of the inner court, although some matters would be referred to the most senior members available at the moment if the situation called for it. The royal concubines/ hugung (후궁, 後宮) had their titles bestowed together with ranks.

 Title  Rank
 Bin (빈, 嬪)  Sr. 1
 Gwiin (귀인, 貴人)  Jr. 1
 Soui (소의, 昭儀)  Sr. 2
 Sukui (숙의, 淑儀)  Jr. 2
 Soyong (소용, 昭容)  Sr. 3
 Sukyong (숙용, 淑容)  Jr. 3
 Sowon (소원, 昭媛)  Sr. 4
 Sukwon (숙원, 淑媛)  Jr. 4

The concubines were either selected through a rigorous selection (gantaek hugung) or favoured by the King himself (seungeun hugung). The former came from the noble families and had better chance at advancing through the ranks faster compared to the latter, who were once palace maids (gungnyeo). Gantaek hugung would be bestowed with the rank as high as sukui at first, while seungeun hugung would normally be made a seungeun sanggung and raised to an official rank only after bearing a royal child.

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Crown Prince’s Consorts

The concubines of the Crown Prince had a different ranking system and they were lower in rank compared to the king’s concubines. Crown Princess Consort/ Wangsejabin (왕세자빈, 王世子嬪) held the highest position among the Crown Prince’s consorts.

Title Rank
Yangje (양제, 良娣) Jr. 2
Yangwon (양원, 良媛) Jr. 3
Seunghwi (승휘, 承徽) Jr. 4
Sohun (소훈, 昭訓) Jr. 5

Royal Sons and Daughters

The status between legitimate and illegitimate issues of the king was different during Joseon Dynasty, with the illegitimate princes and princesses having lower rank compared to the legitimate ones. Crown Prince/ Wangseja (왕세자, 王世子) was the title bestowed to the King’s son who would become the official heir. Often, a Crown Prince would be the firstborn son of the Queen or Prince Royal/ Wonja (원자, 元子), but in the case where the King only had issues from his concubines, the heir would be chosen among the sons, most of the time picking the eldest. Same goes for the Crown Prince’s eldest son: he would be known as Grand Royal/ Wonson (원손, 元孫) before formally invested as Grand Heir/ Wangseson (왕세손, 王世孫). As for the other issues of the king, they would be addressed as Wangja (왕자, 王子), meaning son of the king, or Wangnyeo (왕녀, 王女), meaning daughter of the king before being conferred the titles according to their status when they were older.

Title Rank Relation
 Grand Prince/ Daegun (대군, 大君)  None  King’s other son with his legitimate consort, the Queen.
 Royal Prince/ Gun (군, 王子君)  None  King’s son with his concubine(s).
 Prince/ Gun (군, 君)  Jr. 1  Grand Prince’s eldest son*
 Prince/ Gun (군, 君)  Sr. 2  Crown Prince’s other sons, Grand Prince’s eldest grandson*, Royal Prince’s eldest son*
 Prince/ Gun (군, 君)  Jr. 2  Crown Prince’s grandsons, Grand Prince’s other sons and eldest great-grandson, Royal Prince’s eldest grandsons
 Jeong (정, 正)  Sr. 3  Crown Prince’s great-grandson, Grand Prince’s other grandsons, Royal Prince’s other sons and eldest great-grandson
 Bujeong (부정, 副正)  Jr. 3  Grand Prince’s great-grandson, Royal Prince’s other grandsons
 Su (수, 守)  Sr. 4  Royal Prince’s great-grandson, Grand Prince’s illegitimate son with a commoner
 Busu (부수, 副守)  Jr. 4  Grand Prince’s illegitimate son with a lowborn, Royal Prince’s illegitimate son with a commoner
 Yeong (영, 令)  Sr. 5  Royal Prince’s illegitimate son with a lowborn

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Since the dynasty was influenced by Neo-Confucianism which put emphasis on patriarchy, the royalty status would only be inherited by the sons of the princes. As for the princesses, their children would follow her husband’s family status and they would not be considered as royalties. As for the inherited titles marked by (*) in the table above, it would only come into effect after the father’s passing. The immediate sons and daughters of the King had no rank.

Title Rank Relation
Princess/ Gongju (공주, 公主) None  King’s daughter with the Queen
Princess/ Ongju (옹주, 翁主) None  King’s daughter with the concubine
Princess/ Gunju (군주, 郡主) Sr. 2  Crown Prince’s daughter with the Crown Princess
Princess/ Hyeonju (현주, 縣主) Sr. 3  Crown Prince’s daughter with the concubine

The Consorts of the Royal Children

The ranking system was a bit different between the princesses consort and the royal sons in-law. The consort of the princes would follow their spouses’ rank respectively, except for the Grand Princess Consort and the Princess Consort. These consorts would be grouped under Oemyeongbu together with the royal princesses, the dowagers, and the ministers’ wives.

Title  Spouse’s Rank Spouse’s Title
Grand Prince/ Daegun (대군, 大君)  Sr. 1  Grand Princess Consort/ Bubuin (부부인, 府夫人)
 Royal Prince/ Gun (군, 王子君)  Sr. 1  Princess Consort/ Gunbuin (군부인, 郡夫人)
 Prince/ Gun (군, 君)  Jr. 1  Gunbuin (군부인, 郡夫人)
 Prince/ Gun (군, 君)  Sr. 2  Hyeonbuin (현부인, 縣夫人)
 Prince/ Gun (군, 君)  Jr. 2  Hyeonbuin (현부인, 縣夫人)
 Jeong (정, 正)  Sr. 3  Shinin (신인, 慎人)
 Bujeong (부정, 副正)  Jr. 3  Shinin (신인, 慎人)
 Su (수, 守)  Sr. 4  Hyein (혜인, 惠人)
 Su (부수, 副守)  Jr. 4  Hyein (혜인, 惠人)
 Yeong (영, 令)  Sr. 5  Onin (온인, 溫人)

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The royal sons in-law were the consorts of the princesses, and they were managed by an office known as Office of Princesses’ Consort or Uibinbu (의빈부). A royal son-in-law would be commonly addressed as buma (부마). The titles were changed according to National Code of Joseon (Gyeongguk Daejeon) later, but the usage of the name for Uibinbu remained.

 Title  Spouse’s Rank  Spouse’s Title  Spouse’s Title (NC)
 Gongju (공주, 公主)  Jr. 1  Uibin (의빈, 儀賓)  Wi (위, 尉)
 Ongju (옹주, 翁主)  Jr. 2  Seungbin (승빈, 承賓)  Wi (위, 尉)
 Gunju (군주, 郡主)  Sr. 3  Bubin (부빈, 副賓)  Buwi (부위, 副尉)
 Hyeonju (현주, 縣主)  Jr. 3  Cheombin (첨빈,僉賓)  Cheomwi (첨위, 僉尉)

Other Ranks

There were some instances where the current King’s father did not become king, and the title Grand Internal Prince/ Daewongun (대원군, 大院君) would be bestowed to him. Although Daewongun was a title without a rank, the consort, Grand Internal Princess Consort/ Budaebuin (부대부인, 府大夫人) would be of Sr. 1 rank. As for the Queen’s father, his title would be Internal Prince/ Buwongun (부원군, 府院君) and he shared the same rank, Sr. 1, with the Queen’s mother, Internal Princess Consort / Bubuin (부부인, 府夫人). Notice that the term was the same for the Queen’s mother and the Grand Princess Consort, and they had the same rank.

In the early years of Joseon Dynasty, these titles were also given to meritorious subjects and officials who had held government posts for a long time. King Taejo replaced the terms used during Goryeo Dynasty, as follows:

 Goryeo Nobility Title  Joseon Title   Role 
 Duke, 공 (公)  Buwondaegun (부원대군, 府院大君)  Royal Princes
 Marquis, 후 (侯)  Gun (군, 君)  Royal relatives
 Count, 백 (伯)  Buwongun (부원군, 府院君  Sr 1 rank officials

Later, the title Daegun was used to refer to legitimate princes while Gun was for the illegitimate princes, according to Gyeongguk Daejeon.

Read:

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Sources | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 |

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9 thoughts on “Royal Ranks in Joseon Dynasty

  1. I wonder how did you collect those informations?
    you did incredible work ^_^

    Ah, that’s why son of a Gun (like Neungyang and Neungchang) also got tittle ‘Gun’
    and also Cheoljong’s and Gojong’s father.
    They were princes (Gun) with lower rank than direct descendant of a king.

    Did women got those rank too?
    just like in Princess’s man, Suyang Daegun’s daughters were Lee Seryung and Lee Sejeong.

    When Joseon surrendered to Qing on the second invasion, they had to send some princesses for Qing’s prince. Prince Dorgon of Qing married two Joseon’s royal lady.

    1. Hello^^

      Hehe it’s a combination of searching and being lucky to find the info that I wanted 😉
      For the princesses, the rank only extended to themselves as the issues of the king. Like Prince Suyang’s daughters, they were considered legitimate issues of the king and received the title only after their father became one. Prior to that, they were only royal relatives. If Suyang didn’t become a king, their status would follow their respective husbands’ rank and status.
      Yeah, one of Dorgon’s wives was made adopted daughter of Hyojong, Princess Uisun.

      1. you understand those articles which are written in Hangul, dont U?

        By the way, I read review of Hendrick Hamel’s journal. It summarized the content of the book. I want to read the book. If you know how to get it online, please let me know.
        It will help me in understanding Joseon more.

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