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Francisco Franco, Generalissimo of Spain
Francisco Franco, Generalissimo of Spain until 1975
Proposed insignia of the Generalissimus of USSR, (only held by Joseph Stalin)
Proposed insignia of the Generalissimus of USSR (only held by Joseph Stalin)

Generalissimo[1] (/ˌɛn(ə)rəˈlɪsɪm/ JEN-(ə-)rə-LIS-ih-moh) is a military rank of the highest degree, superior to field marshal and other five-star ranks in the states where they are used.


The word generalissimo (pronounced [dʒeneraˈlissimo]), an Italian term, is the absolute superlative of generale ('general') thus meaning "the highest-ranking of all generals". The superlative suffix -issimo itself derives from Latin -issimus,[2][3][4][5][6] meaning "utmost, to the highest grade". Similar cognates in other languages include generalísimo in Spanish, generalíssimo in Portuguese, généralissime in French, and generalissimus in Latin.

Historically this rank was given to a military officer leading an entire army or the entire armed forces of a state, usually only subordinate to the sovereign.[7] The military leader Albrecht von Wallenstein in 1632 was the first imperial generalissimo (general of the generals). Other usage of the rank has been for the commander of the united armies of several allied powers and if a senior military officer becomes the head of state or head of government of a nation like Chiang Kai-shek of the Republic of China, and Francisco Franco in Spain.

The rank generalissimus of the Soviet Union would have been a generalissimo but some sources assert that Joseph Stalin refused to accept the rank.[8][9] In fact the grade was established by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, which did not need the approval of Stalin.[10] The rank of generalissimo for Stalin was used also by Western diplomacy.[11]

In the 20th century, the term came to be associated with military officers who took dictatorial power in their countries, especially due to the Spanish leader Francisco Franco having this rank. As such, it is used in literature depicting fictional Latin American dictatorial regimes, for example Father Hilary's Holiday by Bruce Marshall.[12]

List of generalissimos

Person Service Country Era Notes
Prince Adolph John, Count Palatine of Kleeburg The Deluge Sweden 1655–1660 Named "Generalissimo of the Swedish armies in Poland and Prussia" by his brother King Charles X Gustav of Sweden[13]
Emilio Aguinaldo Philippine Revolutionary Army  Philippines 1898–1901 Generalissimo of the Katipunan[14]
Crown Prince Charles John Royal Swedish Army Sweden 1810–1818 Named Generalissimo of the Swedish Armed Forces on October 20, 1810, upon his arrival to Sweden. Charles John had the singular distinction of having been offered the role of Generalissimo of four different nations: Sweden (accepted), Imperial Russia, offered by Alexander during the Conference at Åbo in 1812,[15] of a restored Bourbon France in 1814 (offered by Louis XVIII's brother the Comte D'Artois),[16] and a desperate offer by Napoleon in early 1814 as an inducement for Sweden to switch its alliance to France.[17] Charles John declined the latter three.[18][19][Note 1]
Prince Charles Gustav Thirty Years' War Sweden 1648–1650 He was named "Generalissimo of all Swedish forces in Germany" by his cousin Queen Christina of Sweden in January 1648, however he didn't accoplish much as commander of the Swedish forces in Germany as the war ended in October of the same year.[20]
Chiang Kai-shek National Revolutionary Army Republic of China 1926–1975 Appointed commander in chief of the Nationalist Army for the Northern Expedition.[21] Appointed "general special class" (特級上將 Tèjí shàng jiàng) in 1935
John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough War of the Spanish Succession  Dutch Republic 1702 Referred to as generalissimo by the Dutch States General[22]
Ferdinand Foch French Army  France 1918 Généralissime was the title used to describe Ferdinand Foch's Allied Command, starting March 26, 1918. He actually held the rank of général de division, the dignity (rank) of Marshal of France and later the ranks of British field marshal and Marshal of Poland.[23]
Deodoro da Fonseca Brazilian Army  Brazil 1890 [24]
Francisco Franco Spanish Armed Forces  Spain 1936–1975 Generalísimo was used as a combination rank as he held the highest possible rank in all three branches of service: capitán general, capitán general del Aire, and capitán general de la Armada.[25]
Prince Consort Frederick of Hesse Royal Swedish Army Sweden 1716–1720 Fredrick was named "Generalissimo of the Swedish Armed forces to horse and foot" in 1716 by King Charles XII.[26]
Maurice Gamelin French Army  France 1939 His rank was général d'armée, but his title as commander-in-chief of the French Armed Forces was généralissime.
Prince George of Denmark British Army  Great Britain 1702–1708 Declared "generalissimo of all our Forces within Our Kingdom of England and Ireland and Elsewhere" by his wife Queen Anne[27][28]
Máximo Gómez Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces  Cuba 1895–1898 [29]
Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla Revolutionary Army of Mexico Mexico 1810–1811 [30]
Hirohito (Emperor Shōwa) Armed Forces of the Empire of Japan  Japan 1926–1945 Dai-gensui, as sovereign ruler of the Empire of Japan[31]
Agustín de Iturbide Mexican Army  Mexico 1821–1823 [32]
James, Duke of York Third Anglo-Dutch War  England 1673 "Generalissimo and supreme commander' over forces employed against the Dutch.[27]
Joseph Joffre French Army  France 1914 His dignity (rank) was Marshal of France, but his title as commander-in-chief of the French Army was généralissime.[33]
Kalākaua Hawaiian Army  Hawaii 1886–1891 King of Hawaii, was given titles of "supreme commander and generalissimo of the Hawaiian Army".[34]
Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg Austrian Army Austrian Empire 1813–1814 Generalissimo of the Armies of the Habsburg Empire and senior Field Marshal of the combined forces of the Sixth Coalition. He led the largest Allied field army, the Army of Bohemia, during the Battle of Leipzig in 1813 and the Invasion of France in early 1814.[35]
Kim Il Sung Korean People's Army  North Korea 1992 Taewonsu[36][37]
Kim Jong Il Korean People's Army  North Korea 2012 Taewonsu (posthumously awarded)[38][37]
Louis, Grand Dauphin War of the Spanish Succession  France 1708 Commanded the French Army[39]
Mao Zedong People's Liberation Army  People's Republic of China 1955 Proposed the rank of Generalissimo of the People's Republic of China (declined usage)
Alexander Danilovich Menshikov Russian Imperial Army  Russia 1727–1728 [40]
Francisco de Miranda Venezuelan Army Venezuela 1812
José María Morelos Revolutionary Army of Mexico Mexico 1813–1815 [41]
Ihsan Nuri Ararat Forces Ararat 1927–1930 [42]
Alexander Suvorov Imperial Russian Army  Russia 1799
Duke Anthony Ulrich of Brunswick Imperial Russian Army  Russia 1740–1741 [43]
Maxime Weygand French Army  France 1940 His rank was général d'armée, but his title as commander-in-chief of the French Armed Forces was généralissime.
José de San Martín Peruvian Army  Peru 1821–1822 Generalísimo de las Armas del Perú
Joseph Stalin Soviet Armed Forces  Soviet Union 1945 Generalissimus of the Soviet Union[44] (declined usage)
Sun Yat-sen National Pacification Army  Republic of China 1921 Technically as dayuanshuai or "grand marshal of the army and navy"[45][46]
Rafael Trujillo Dominican Army  Dominican Republic 1930 [47]
Albrecht von Wallenstein Thirty Years' War  Holy Roman Empire 1625 Via the "Principal Decree of the Imperial Deputation"[48][49]
George Washington Continental Army
United States Army
 United States 1776 When chosen to be the commander-in-chief, was called by The Virginia Gazette the generalissimo of American forces.[50] Promoted posthumously to General of the Armies of the United States on January 19, 1976, with date of rank of July 4, 1976[51]
William, Count of Schaumburg-Lippe Royal Portuguese Army  Portugal 1762–1763 Became Generalissimus of the Allied Armies in Portugal during the Spanish invasion
Zhang Zuolin National Pacification Army  Republic of China 1927–1928 Leader of the Beiyang government, declared generalissimo (dayuanshuai) in June 1927[52]


See also


  1. ^ The Napoleonic Marshal of France Jean Baptiste Bernadotte, Prince of Ponte Corvo, was elected Crown Prince of Sweden by the Riksdag of the Estates and King Charles XIII in 1810. Given his exalted French military rank, the rank of generalissimus was likely granted him in order to give him precedence over "mere" Swedish field marshals. Once he became King of Sweden and Norway in 1818, the generalissimus rank became superfluous.


  1. ^ "generalissimo". Encyclopaedia Britannica: Or, A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Miscellaneous Literature, Enlarged and Improved. Archibald Constable. 1823. p. 484.
  2. ^ "issimus". Webster's Third New International Dictionary., French Larousse Étymologique.
  3. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Online Etymology Dictionary. Archived from the original on June 5, 2015. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
  4. ^ "Define Generalissimo at". Archived from the original on October 6, 2012. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
  5. ^ "Generalissimo – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Merriam-Webster. Archived from the original on June 14, 2012. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
  6. ^ "Definition of generalissimo – Oxford Dictionaries (British & World English)". Oxford Dictionary of English. Archived from the original on July 29, 2012.
  7. ^ Thomas Hobbes (1660), Chapter XVIII: Of the Rights of Sovereigns by institution, archived from the original on July 3, 2015, retrieved August 16, 2015
  8. ^ Service, Robert (2005). Stalin: A Biography. Harvard University Press. pp. 493, 549. ISBN 978-0-674-01697-2.
  9. ^ S. M. Shtemenko. The General Staff in the War Years. Moskva 1985. Vietnamese version (vol. 2) . pp. 587–588.
  10. ^ Сборник законов СССР и Указов Президиума Верховного Совета СССР (1938 — июль 1956) / Сост.: М. И. Юмашев, Б. А. Жалейко. — М., 1956. — С. 202.
  11. ^ "Generalissimo Stalin (Hansard, 7 November 1945)". Archived from the original on February 13, 2019. Retrieved February 13, 2019.
  12. ^ Marshall, B: Father Hilary's Holiday Doubleday & Company, New York 1965.
  13. ^ "Adolf Johan". Retrieved September 13, 2023.
  14. ^ Whitefield, George. "Annual report of Major General George W. Davis, United States Army commanding Division of the Philippines from October 1, 1902, to July 26, 1903" (1903) [Textual record]. Archive.Org, ID: annualreportofma03unit, p. 188. Boston Public Library. OCLC 1039990497.
  15. ^ Barton, Sir Dunbar (1925). Bernadotte Prince and King. P. 39. John Murray, London.
  16. ^ Barton, Sir Dunbar (1925). Bernadotte Prince and King. P. 127. John Murray, London.
  17. ^ Scott, Franklin (1935). Bernadotte and the Fall of Napoleon. P. 153. Harvard University Press, Cambridge.
  18. ^ (in Swedish) Ancienneté och Rang-Rulla öfver Krigsmagten år 1813
  19. ^ Barton, Sir Dunbar (1925). Bernadotte Prince and King. P. 4. John Murray, London.
  20. ^ "Karl X Gustav". Retrieved September 18, 2023.
  21. ^ The New York Times, December 4, 1926, pg.6.
  22. ^ Rapin de Thoyras (M., Paul) (1745). Nicholas Tindal (ed.). The History of England. Vol. IV, part 1 (French original: Histoire d'Angleterre, 1724–27). J. and P. Knapton. p. 562. Archived from the original on March 11, 2023. Retrieved September 16, 2018. The Earl of Athlone [Godard van Reede] was set on by the other Dutch Generals, to insist on his quality of Velt-Marshal, and to have the command with the Earl of Marlborough by turns. But, though he was now in high reputation by his late conduct, the States obliged him to yield this point to the Earl of Marlborough, whom they declared Generalissimo of all their forces, and sent orders to all their Generals and other Officers to obey him.
  23. ^ John McGroarty :The Gray Man of Christ: Generalissimo Foch (1919) Los Angeles, Walter A Abbott
  24. ^ Andermann, Jens; Rowe, William (2006). Images of Power: Iconography, Culture and the State in Latin America. Berghahn Books. p. 176. ISBN 9781845452124. Archived from the original on March 11, 2023. Retrieved August 11, 2019.
  25. ^ "Franco of Iberia". Time, October 18, 1943. cover.
  26. ^ Pock, Johann Joseph (1724). Der politische, katholische Passagier, durchreisend alle hohe Höfe, Republiquen, Herrschafften und Länder der ganzen Welt. Brechenmacher. p. 832. Archived from the original on March 11, 2023. Retrieved September 16, 2018. wurde 1720. von dem König in Schweden ... zum Generalissimo der sämmtlichen Schwedischen Trouppen ernennet
  27. ^ a b Roper, Michael (1998). The Records of the War Office and Related Departments, 1660–1964. Kew, Surrey: Public Record Office. p. 5.
  28. ^ Rapin de Thoyras (M., Paul) (1745). Nicholas Tindal (ed.). The History of England. Vol. IV, part 1 (French original: Histoire d'Angleterre, 1724–27). J. and P. Knapton. p. 104. Archived from the original on March 11, 2023. Retrieved September 16, 2018. The Prince was Duke of Cumberland, Lord High-Admiral of Great-Britain and Ireland, Generalissimo of all her Majesty's forces both by sea and land, and Warden of the Cinque-ports.
  29. ^ Rioseco, Pedro. "Generalísimo Máximo Gómez, ejemplo de internacionalismo y genio militar". Contraloría General de la República (in Spanish). Archived from the original on September 20, 2022. Retrieved September 16, 2022.
  30. ^ Comunica Miguel Hidalgo su proclamaci n como General simo de Am rica Archived September 23, 2015, at the Wayback Machine. Documentos Historicos de Mexico, October 24, 1810.
  31. ^ Bix, Herbert P. (October 13, 2009). Hirohito And The Making Of Modern Japan. Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0-06-186047-8. Archived from the original on June 4, 2022. Retrieved June 5, 2022.
  32. ^ Anna, Timothy E. (1985). "The Rule of Agustin de Iturbide: A Reappraisal". Journal of Latin American Studies. 17 (1): 79–110. doi:10.1017/S0022216X00009202. ISSN 0022-216X. JSTOR 157498. S2CID 145054515.
  33. ^ Doughty, Robert A. (June 30, 2009). Pyrrhic Victory: French Strategy and Operations in the Great War. Harvard University Press. p. 232. ISBN 978-0-674-03431-0. Archived from the original on July 8, 2022. Retrieved July 8, 2022.
  34. ^ "Chapter XXII: Act Act To Organize The Military Forces Of The Kingdom". Laws of His Majesty Kalakaua, King of the Hawaiian Islands: Passed by the Legislative Assembly at Its Session of 1886. Honolulu: Black & Auld. 1886. pp. 37–41. OCLC 42350849. Archived from the original on March 11, 2023. Retrieved March 16, 2017.
  35. ^ Peck, Harry Thurston (1898). The International Cyclopedia: A Compendium of Human Knowledge, Rev. with Large Additions. Dodd, Mead. p. 238. Archived from the original on May 5, 2022. Retrieved May 4, 2022.
  36. ^ "The Daily Yomuiri, 29 September 2010, Kim Jong Un spotlighted / 'Heir apparent' promoted to general, makes DPRK media debut". Archived from the original on October 2, 2010. Retrieved September 30, 2010.
  37. ^ a b "Late North Korean Leader Promoted to Generalissimo". Voice of America. February 14, 2012. Archived from the original on May 8, 2022. Retrieved May 8, 2022.
  38. ^ "The Australian, 15 February 2012, Late Kim Jong-il awarded highest honour by North". Archived from the original on February 17, 2012. Retrieved February 15, 2012.
  39. ^ Rapin de Thoyras (M., Paul) (1745). Nicholas Tindal (ed.). The History of England. Vol. IV, part 1 (French original: Histoire d'Angleterre, 1724–27). J. and P. Knapton. p. 68. Archived from the original on March 11, 2023. Retrieved September 16, 2018. But an unexpected alteration was suddenly made, and the French King declared the Duke of Burgundy Generalissimo of his forces, appointing the Duke de Vendosme [sic: Vendôme] to serve under him; and he was to be accompanied by the Duke of Berry.
  40. ^ "Menschikow und Stalin waren die einzigen Heerführer der russischen Geschichte, die sich 'Generalissimus' nennen ließen." [Menshikov and Stalin were the only military leaders in Russian history who declared themselves "generalissimus".] Jena, Detlev (1996): Die russischen Zaren in Lebensbildern, Graz, p. 520.
  41. ^ "Inauguration of the exhibition José María Morelos y Pavón. Generalissimo of Mexican America armies". Gobierno de México (in Spanish). Noticias – Dirección General de Asuntos internacionales – Secretaría de Cultura. Archived from the original on February 9, 2023. Retrieved July 3, 2022.
  42. ^ Bletch Chirguh, La Question Kurde: ses origines et ses causes, Le Caire, Impimerie Paul Barbey, 1930, front cover, Ihsan Nouri Pacha Généralissime des forces nationales Kurdes (in French)
  43. ^ "Portrait of Prince Anton Ulrich von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel (1714-1774)". 2023. Archived from the original on April 10, 2019. Retrieved January 14, 2023.
  44. ^ Joseph Stalin was appointed generalissimus of the Soviet Union. See: Ivan Aleksandrovich Venediktov, Selskokhozyaystvennaya entsiklopediya, Vol. 4, Gos. izd-vo selkhoz, 1956, p. 584. Archived March 11, 2023, at the Wayback Machine (in Russian)
  45. ^ Linda Pomerantz-Zhang (1992). Wu Tingfang (1842–1922): Reform and Modernization in Modern Chinese History. Hong Kong University Press. p. 255. ISBN 962209287X. Archived from the original on March 11, 2023. Retrieved October 31, 2010.
  46. ^ Taylor, Jay (April 15, 2009). The Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-shek and the struggle for modern China. Harvard University Press. p. 32. ISBN 978-0-674-05471-4. Retrieved February 28, 2017.
  47. ^ Stanley Walker, Generalissimo Rafael L. Trujillo (1955) Caribbean Library
  48. ^ A short history of Germany. Ernest Flagg Henderson, 1908
  49. ^ Tilly und Wallenstein – ein Vergleich zweier Heerführer. Harry Horstmann, 2010. (in German)
  50. ^ Chadwick, Bruce (2005). George Washington's War: The Forging of a Revolutionary Leader and the American Presidency. Sourcebooks, Inc. p. 40. ISBN 9781402226106. Archived from the original on March 11, 2023. Retrieved November 23, 2018.
  51. ^ Public Law 94-479 of January 19, 1976 to provide for the appointment of George Washington to the grade of General of the Armies of the United States
  52. ^ Moore, Frederick (June 18, 1927). "Chang Tso-lin Made Dictator in Move to Beat Back South". The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 18, 2020. Retrieved February 4, 2020.
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