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This list of academic ranks identifies the hierarchical ranking structure found amongst scholars and personnel in academia. The lists below refer specifically to colleges and universities throughout the world, although other institutions of higher learning may follow a similar schema.
The rank of Envoy was short for “Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary”, and was more commonly known as Minister.[2] For example, the Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States to the French Empire was known as the “United States Minister to France” and addressed as “Monsieur le Ministre”.[7][8]

An Ambassador was regarded as the personal representative of his sovereign as well as his government.[9] Only major monarchies would exchange Ambassadors with each other, while smaller monarchies and republics only sent Ministers. Because of diplomatic reciprocity, Great Powers would only send a Minister to a smaller monarchy or a republic.[10] For example, in the waning years of the Second French Empire, the United Kingdom sent an Ambassador to Paris, while Sweden-Norway and the United States sent Ministers.[11]

The rule that only monarchies could send Ambassadors was more honored in the breach than the observance. This had been true even before the Congress of Vienna, as England continued to appoint ambassadors after becoming a republic in 1649.[12] Countries that overthrew their monarchs proved to be unwilling to accept the lower rank accorded to a republic. After the Franco-Prussian War, the French Third Republic continued to send and receive ambassadors.[8] The rule became increasingly untenable as the United States grew into a Great Power. The United States followed the French precedent in 1893 and began to exchange ambassadors with other Great Powers.[2]

Historically, the order of precedence had been a matter of great dispute. European powers agreed that the papal nuncio and Imperial Ambassador would have precedence, but could not agree on the relative precedence of the kingdoms and smaller countries. In 1768, the French and Russian ambassadors to Great Britain even fought a duel over who had the right to sit next to the Imperial Ambassador at a court ball. After several diplomatic incidents between their ambassadors, France and Spain agreed in 1761 to let the date of arrival determine their precedence. In 1760, Portugal attempted to apply seniority to all ambassadors, but the rule was rejected by the other European courts.[12]

The Congress of Vienna finally put an end to these disputes over precedence. After an initial attempt to divide countries into three ranks faltered on the question of which country should be in each rank, the Congress instead decided to divide diplomats into three ranks. A fourth rank was added by the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle (1818). Each diplomatic rank had precedence over the lower ranks, and precedence within each rank was determined by the date that their credentials were presented. The papal nuncio could be given a different precedence than the other ambassadors. The Holy Roman Empire had ceased to exist in 1806, so the Austrian ambassador would accumulate seniority along with the other ambassadors

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