Generalissimo[1] (/ˌɛnərəˈlɪsɪm/ JEN-(ə-)rə-LISS-im-oh) 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 in China and later in Taiwan, 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]

List of generalissimos

Charles XIV John as Crown Prince. Between 1812-1814 Charles John was offered the role of Generalissimo by Sweden, Russia, Imperial France and Bourbon France.
Albrecht von Wallenstein (1625), the first generalissimo
Person Service Country Era Notes
Chiang Kai-shek National Revolutionary Army Republic of China 1926 Appointed commander in chief of the Nationalist Army for the Northern Expedition.[12] In 1935 was appointed "general special class" (特級上將 Tèjí shàng jiàng).
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.
Alexander Danilovich Menshikov Russian Imperial Army Russian Empire 1727–1728 [13]
Duke Anthony Ulrich of Brunswick Russian Imperial Army Russian Empire 1740–1741 [14]
Alexander Suvorov Russian Imperial Army Russian Empire 1799
Ferdinand Foch French Army France 1918 Généralissime was the title used to describe Ferdinand Foch's Allied Command, starting 26 March 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.[15]
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.
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.
Francisco de Miranda Venezuelan Army Venezuela 1812
Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla Revolutionary Army of Mexico América Mexicana 1810– 1811 [16]
José de San Martín Peruvian Army Peru 1821–1822 Generalísimo de las Armas del Perú
Francisco Franco Spanish Armed Forces Spain 1936–1975 Generalísimo[17]
Emilio Aguinaldo Philippine Revolutionary Army Philippines 1898–1901 Generalissimo of the Katipunan[18]
Ihsan Nuri Ararat Forces Kurdish Republic of Ararat 1927–1930 [19]
Crown Prince Charles John Royal Swedish Army Sweden 1810–1818 Named Generalissimo of the Swedish Armed Forces on 20 October 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 Abo in 1812,[20] of a restored Bourbon France in 1814 (offered by Louis XVIII's brother the Comte D'Artois),[21] and a desperate offer by Napoleon in early 1814 as an inducement for Sweden to switch its alliance to France.[22] Charles John declined the latter three.[23][24][Note 1]
Joseph Stalin Soviet Armed Forces Soviet Union 1945 Generalissimus of the Soviet Union[25] (declined usage)
Kim Il-sung Korean People's Army North Korea 1992 Taewonsu[26]
Kim Jong-il Korean People's Army North Korea 2012 Taewonsu (posthumously awarded)[27]
Rafael Trujillo Dominican Army Dominican Republic 1930 [28]
Sun Yat-sen National Revolutionary Army – Warlord Era (Northern Expedition) Republic of China 1921 Technically as da yuan shuai or "grand marshal of the army and navy"[29][30]
Albrecht von Wallenstein Thirty Years' War Holy Roman Empire via the "Principal Decree of the Imperial Deputation"[31] 1625 [32]
Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg Austrian Army Austrian Empire 1813-1814 Generalissimo of the Armies of the Hapsburg 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.[33]
John J. Pershing United States Army United States of America 1919 Promoted to General of the Armies of the United States on September 3, 1919.[34]
Mao Tse-tung People's Liberation Army People's Republic of China 1955 Proposed the rank of Generalissimo of the People's Republic of China (declined usage)
John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough War of the Spanish Succession Dutch Republic 1702 Referred to as generalissimo by the Dutch States General.[35]
Prince George of Denmark British Army Kingdom of Great Britain 1702–1708 Declared "generalissimo of all our Forces within Our Kingdom of England and Ireland and Elsewhere" by his wife Queen Anne[36][37]
James, Duke of York Third Anglo-Dutch War Kingdom of England 1673 "Generalissimo and supreme commander' over forces employed against the Dutch.[36]
Louis Dauphin of France War of the Spanish Succession France 1708 Commanded French Army[38]
Prince Consort Frederick Swedish Army Sweden 1720 [39]
George Washington Continental Army
United States Army
United States of America 1776 When chosen to be the commander-in-chief, was called by the Virginia Gazette the generalissimo of the American forces.[40] Promoted posthumously to General of the Armies of the United States on January 19, 1976 with date of rank of July 4, 1976.[41]
Deodoro da Fonseca Brazilian Army Brazil 1890 [42]
Kalākaua Hawaiian Army Kingdom of Hawaii 1886–1891 King of Hawaii, was given titles of "supreme commander and generalissimo of the Hawaiian Army".[43]
Zhang Zuolin National Pacification Army Republic of China (1912–1949) 1927–1928 Leader of the Beiyang government, declared generalissimo in June 1927[44]

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. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica: Or, A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Miscellaneous Literature, Enlarged and Improved. Archibald Constable. 1823. pp. 484. generalissimo.
  2. ^ Webster's Third New International Dictionary. Missing or empty |title= (help), French Larousse Étymologique.
  3. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Online Etymology Dictionary.
  4. ^ "Define Generalissimo at".
  5. ^ "Generalissimo – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Merriam-Webster.
  6. ^ "Definition of generalissimo – Oxford Dictionaries (British & World English)". Oxford Dictionary of English.
  7. ^ Thomas Hobbes (1660), Chapter XVIII: Of the Rights of Sovereigns by institution, retrieved 16 August 2015
  8. ^ Service, Robert (2005). Stalin: A Biography. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. p. 548. 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)".
  12. ^ New York Times, Dec 04, 1926, pg.6.
  13. ^ "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.
  14. ^
  15. ^ John McGroarty :The Gray Man of Christ: Generalissimo Foch (1919) Los Angeles, Walter A Abbott
  16. ^ Comunica Miguel Hidalgo su proclamaci n como General simo de Am rica. Documentos Historicos de Mexico, 24 Oct 1810.
  17. ^ Cover, TIME magazine, 18 Oct 1943
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ 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)
  20. ^ Barton, Sir Dunbar (1925). Bernadotte Prince and King. P. 39. John Murray, London.
  21. ^ Barton, Sir Dunbar (1925). Bernadotte Prince and King. P. 127. John Murray, London.
  22. ^ Scott, Franklin (1935). Bernadotte and the Fall of Napoleon. P. 153. Harvard University Press, Cambridge.
  23. ^ (in Swedish) Ancienneté och Rang-Rulla öfver Krigsmagten år 1813
  24. ^ Barton, Sir Dunbar (1925). Bernadotte Prince and King. P. 4. John Murray, London.
  25. ^ Joseph Stalin was appointed generalissimus of the Soviet Union. See: Ivan Aleksandrovich Venediktov, Selskokhozyaystvennaya entsiklopediya, Vol. 4, Gos. izd-vo selkhoz, 1956, p. 584. (in Russian)
  26. ^ The Daily Yomuiri, 29 September 2010, Kim Jong Un spotlighted / 'Heir apparent' promoted to general, makes DPRK media debut
  27. ^ The Australian, 15 February 2012, Late Kim Jong-il awarded highest honour by North
  28. ^ Stanley Walker, Generalissimo Rafael L. Trujillo (1955) Caribbean Library
  29. ^ Linda Pomerantz-Zhang (1992). Wu Tingfang (1842–1922): Reform and Modernization in Modern Chinese History. Hong Kong University Press. p. 255. ISBN 962209287X. Retrieved 2010-10-31.
  30. ^ Taylor, Jay (15 April 2009). The Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-shek and the struggle for modern China. Harvard University Press. p. 32. ISBN 978-0-674-05471-4. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  31. ^ A short history of Germany. Ernest Flagg Henderson, 1908
  32. ^ Tilly und Wallenstein – ein Vergleich zweier Heerführer. Harry Horstmann, 2010. (in German)
  33. ^ Chandler, David G (1966). The Campaigns of Napoleon Vol II. Pp. 900-901. MacMillan.
  34. ^ Public Law 66-45 of September 3, 1919 to revive the office of General of the Armies
  35. ^ Rapin de Thoyras (M., Paul) (1745). Nicholas Tindal (ed.). The History of England. Volume IV, part 1 (French original: Histoire d'Angleterre, 1724–27). J. and P. Knapton. p. 562. Retrieved 16 September 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. |volume= has extra text (help)
  36. ^ a b Roper, Michael (1998). The Records of the War Office and Related Departments, 1660-1964. Kew, Surrey: Public Record Office. p. 5.
  37. ^ Rapin de Thoyras (M., Paul) (1745). Nicholas Tindal (ed.). The History of England. Volume IV, part 1 (French original: Histoire d'Angleterre, 1724–27). J. and P. Knapton. p. 104. Retrieved 16 September 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. |volume= has extra text (help)
  38. ^ Rapin de Thoyras (M., Paul) (1745). Nicholas Tindal (ed.). The History of England. Volume IV, part 1 (French original: Histoire d'Angleterre, 1724–27). J. and P. Knapton. p. 68. Retrieved 16 September 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. |volume= has extra text (help)
  39. ^ Pock, Johann Joseph (1724). Der politische, katholische Passagier, durchreisend alle hohe Höfe, Republiquen, Herrschafften und Länder der ganzen Welt. Brechenmacher. p. 832. Retrieved 16 September 2018. wurde 1720. von dem König in Schweden [...] zum Generalissimo der sämmtlichen Schwedischen Trouppen ernennet
  40. ^ Chadwick, Bruce (2005). George Washington's War: The Forging of a Revolutionary Leader and the American Presidency. Sourcebooks, Inc. p. 40. ISBN 9781402226106. Retrieved 23 November 2018.
  41. ^ 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
  42. ^ Andermann, Jens; Rowe, William (2006). Images of Power: Iconography, Culture and the State in Latin America. Berghahn Books. p. 176. ISBN 9781845452124.
  43. ^ 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.
  44. ^ Moore, Frederick (18 June 1927). "Chang Tso-lin Made Dictator in Move to Beat Back South". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 February 2020.