Geheimrat was the title of the highest advising officials at the imperial, royal or princely courts of the Holy Roman Empire, who jointly formed the Geheimer Rat reporting to the ruler. The term remained in use during subsequent monarchic reigns in German-speaking areas of Europe until the end of the First World War. At its origin the literal meaning of the word in German was 'trusted advisor' - the word "geheim" (secret) implying that such an advisor could be trusted with the Monarch's secrets (similar to "secretary" in English being linguistically related to "secret"). The English-language equivalent is Privy Councillor.

The office contributing to the state's politics and legislation had its roots in the age of absolutism from the 17th century onward, when a governmental administration by a dependent bureaucracy was established similar to the French Conseil du Roi. A precursor was the Reichshofrat, a judicial body established by Emperor Maximilian I of Habsburg. In Austria, the professional title of Hofrat (also Hofrath, Court Councillor) has remained in use as an official title for deserved civil servants up to today.

With the Empire's dissolution and the rise of Constitutionalism in the aftermath of the French Revolution, the office of a Geheimrat became an honorific title conferred by the German states upon high officials, accompanied by the address Exzellenz. During that period related titles no longer affiliated with an office arose, like Geheimer Kommerzienrat [de], an award for outstanding contributions in the field of commerce and industry, or Geheimer Medizinalrat [de], an award for outstanding contributions to medicine. The term is also used in combination with the word EckeGeheimratsecke [de], colloquially describing male pattern baldness at the 'edges' of the forehead (i.e. the upper 'corners' of the face).

In the Republic of Austria the title was officially abolished in 1919. In Germany, the title largely disappeared after the fall of the German Empire in 1918, when the various princely states of Germany were replaced by the constituent states of the Weimar Republic, although Geheimräte continued to be appointed by the Free State of Bavaria. However, many honorees continued to use it, and the title Geheimrat, its abbreviation Geh. Rat and related abbreviations (Geh. Med.-Rat, Geh. Ober-Med.-Rat and even Geh. Hofrat) appear in captions until the 1930s, such as used by the German Federal Archives.[1][2]

Notable Geheimräte

Born Died Name title given
1530 1616 Nicholas Remy in 1575 by Duke Charles III of Lorraine
1609 1680 Raimondo Montecuccoli in 1660 by Emperor Leopold I
1646 1716 Gottfried Leibniz in 1678 by Duke John Frederick of Brunswick-Calenberg
1684 1752 Philipp Otto von Grumbkow in 1710s
1686 1747 Andrey Osterman in 1721 by Emperor Peter I of Russia
1714 1767 Emerich de Vattel in 1758 by Elector Frederick Augustus II of Saxony
1720 1786 Mathias Franz Graf von Chorinsky Freiherr von Ledske in 1778 by Empress regnant Maria Theresa of the Holy Roman Empire[3]
1749 1832 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in 1779 by Duke Charles Augustus of Saxe-Weimar
1755 1830 Samuel Thomas von Sömmerring in 1810 by King Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria
1777 1855 Carl Friedrich Gauss
1788 1857 Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff in 1841 by King Frederick William IV of Prussia
1793 1864 Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve in 1856 by Emperor Alexander II of Russia
1805 1896 Johann Gustav Stickel Charles Frederick, Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach
1821 1894 Hermann von Helmholtz
1831 1897 Heinrich von Stephan in 1868 by King Wilhelm I of Prussia
1835 1913 Felix Draeseke in 1906 by King Frederick Augustus III of Saxony
1845 1918 Richard Assmann by German emperor King Wilhelm II of Prussia
1849 1925 Felix Klein
1840 1918 Ignaz Bing
1851 1930 Adolf von Harnack by German emperor King Wilhelm II of Prussia
1852 1915 Friedrich Loeffler by German emperor King Wilhelm II of Prussia
1853 1931 Georg von Schanz in 1914 by King Ludwig III of Bavaria
1854 1917 Emil Adolf von Behring in 1903 by German emperor King Wilhelm II of Prussia
1854 1915 Paul Ehrlich in 1911 by German emperor King Wilhelm II of Prussia
1855 1936 Ferdinand Tönnies in 1917 by German emperor King Wilhelm II of Prussia
1857 1928 Theodor Curtius in 1895 by German emperor King Wilhelm II of Prussia
1858 1947 Max Planck by German emperor King Wilhelm II of Prussia
1865 1951 Alfred Hugenberg by German emperor King Wilhelm II of Prussia
1891 1964 Leo Maximilian Baginski in 1919 by Prince Albert of Thurn and Taxis
1861 1949 August Bier by German emperor King Wilhelm II of Prussia[4]
1875 1951 Ferdinand Sauerbruch
1827 1908 Gottfried von Schmitt in 1888 by Prince Regent Luitpold of Bavaria
1838 1907 Josef von Schmitt in 1896 by Prince Regent Luitpold of Bavaria

See also



  1. ^ "Bundesarchiv – Picture database: Picture archive". Archived from the original on 2019-03-06. Retrieved 2009-08-20.
  2. ^ "Mitglieder, welchen die Ehrengabe verliehen wurde". Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics (February 1993). Berlin / Heidelberg: Springer. ISSN 0932-0067 (print), 1432-0711 (online); vol. 156, no. 1–2. DOI 10.1007/BF01790506. p. XV
  3. ^ Österreichische Staatsarchiv (ÖStA) (Austrian State Archives (ÖStA)); Allgemeines Adelsarchiv der österreichischen Monarchie (General Archive of Nobility of the Austrian Monarchy), Author: Karl Friedrich Benjamin Leupold, Publisher: Hoffmeister, Wien (Vienne), 1789, Volume 1, Issue 2, Page 179-184, in German.
  4. ^ Little Jr., DM (1962). "Classical file". Survey of Anesthesiology. 6 (3): 351. doi:10.1097/00132586-196206000-00068.