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Count (Male), or Countess (Female), is a historical title of nobility in certain European countries, varying in relative status, generally of middling rank in the hierarchy of nobility.The etymologically related English term, "county" denoted the land owned by a count. Equivalents of the rank of count exist or have existed in the nobility structures of some non-European countries, such as hakushaku during the Japanese Imperial era.
Europe is a continent located entirely in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere. It is bordered by the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. It comprises the westernmost part of Eurasia.
A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposes, in certain modern nations. The term is derived from the Old French conté or cunté denoting a jurisdiction under the sovereignty of a count (earl) or a viscount. The modern French is comté, and its equivalents in other languages are contea, contado, comtat, condado, Grafschaft, graafschap, Gau, etc..
The Empire of Japan was the historical nation-state and great power that existed from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 to the enactment of the 1947 constitution of modern Japan.
The word count came into English from the French comte, itself from Latin comes —in its accusative comitem—meaning “companion”, and later “companion of the emperor, delegate of the emperor”. The adjective form of the word is "comital". The British and Irish equivalent is an earl (whose wife is a "countess", for lack of an English term). In the late Roman Empire, the Latin title comes denoted the high rank of various courtiers and provincial officials, either military or administrative: before Anthemius became emperor in the West in 467, he was military comes charged with strengthening defenses on the Danube frontier.
French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.
Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.
"Comes", plural "comites", is the Latin word for "companion", either individually or as a member of a collective denominated a "comitatus", especially the suite of a magnate, being in some instances sufficiently large and/or formal to justify specific denomination, e. g. a "cohors amicorum". "Comes" derives from "com-" ("with") and "ire" ("go").
In the Western Roman Empire, Count came to indicate generically a military commander but was not a specific rank. In the Eastern Roman Empire, from about the seventh century, "count" was a specific rank indicating the commander of two centuriae (i.e., 200 men).
Centuria is a Latin term denoting military units consisting of (originally) 100 men. The size of the century changed over time and from the first century B.C.E. throughout most of the empire the standard size of a centuria was 80 men.
Military counts in the Late Empire and the Germanic successor kingdoms were often appointed by a dux and later by a king. From the start the count was not in charge of a roving warband, but settled in a locality, known as a county; his main rival for power was the bishop, whose diocese was sometimes coterminous with the county.
A duke (male) or duchess (female) can either be a monarch ruling over a duchy or a member of royalty or nobility, historically of highest rank below the monarch. The title comes from French duc, itself from the Latin dux, 'leader', a term used in republican Rome to refer to a military commander without an official rank, and later coming to mean the leading military commander of a province.
A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight.
The word diocese is derived from the Greek term dioikesis (διοίκησις) meaning "administration". Today, when used in an ecclesiastical sense, it refers to the ecclesiastical district under the jurisdiction of a bishop.
In many Germanic and Frankish kingdoms in the early Middle Ages, a count might also be a count palatine, whose authority derived directly from the royal household, the "palace" in its original sense of the seat of power and administration. This other kind of count had vague antecedents in Late Antiquity too: the father of Cassiodorus held positions of trust with Theodoric, as comes rerum privatarum, in charge of the imperial lands, then as comes sacrarum largitionum ("count of the sacred doles"), concerned with the finances of the realm.
The Germanic peoples are an Indo-European ethnolinguistic group of Northern European origin identified by their use of the Germanic languages. Their history stretches from the 2nd millennium BCE up to the present day.
The Franks were a collection of Germanic peoples, whose name was first mentioned in 3rd century Roman sources, associated with tribes on the Lower and Middle Rhine, on the edge of the Roman Empire. Later the term was associated with Romanized Germanic dynasties within the collapsing Roman Empire, who eventually commanded the whole region between the rivers Loire and Rhine. They then imposed power over many other post-Roman kingdoms and Germanic peoples, and still later they were given recognition by the Catholic Church as successors to the old rulers of the Western Roman Empire.
In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages lasted from the 5th to the 15th century. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and merged into the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. The Middle Ages is the middle period of the three traditional divisions of Western history: classical antiquity, the medieval period, and the modern period. The medieval period is itself subdivided into the Early, High, and Late Middle Ages.
The position of comes was originally not hereditary. By virtue of their large estates, many counts could pass the title to their heirs—but not always. For instance, in Piast Poland, the position of komes was not hereditary, resembling the early Merovingian institution. The title had disappeared by the era of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the office had been replaced by others. Only after the Partitions of Poland did the title of "count" resurface in the title hrabia, derived from the German Graf.
The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth – formally, the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and, after 1791, the Commonwealth of Poland – was a dual state, a bi-confederation of Poland and Lithuania ruled by a common monarch, who was both King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania. It was one of the largest and most populous countries of 16th– to 17th-century Europe. At its largest territorial extent, in the early 17th century, the Commonwealth covered almost 400,000 square miles (1,000,000 km2) and sustained a multi-ethnic population of 11 million.
The Partitions of Poland were three partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth that took place toward the end of the 18th century and ended the existence of the state, resulting in the elimination of sovereign Poland and Lithuania for 123 years. The partitions were conducted by Habsburg Austria, the Kingdom of Prussia, and the Russian Empire, which divided up the Commonwealth lands among themselves progressively in the process of territorial seizures and annexations.
Originally, with the emergence of the title came the most powerful symbol of entitlement, that is the ownership of and jurisdiction over land, hence the term county. The term is derived from the Old French conté or cunté denoting a jurisdiction under the control of a count (earl) or a viscount.The modern French is comté, and its equivalents in other languages are contea, contado, comtat, condado, Grafschaft, graafschap, Gau, etc. (cf. conte , comte, conde, Graf ).
The title of Count was also often conferred by the monarch as an honorific title for special services rendered, without a feudal estate (countship, county) being attached, so it was merely a title, with or without a domain name attached to it. In the United Kingdom, the equivalent "Earl" can also be used as a courtesy title for the eldest son of a duke or marquess. In the Italian states, by contrast, all the sons of certain counts were counts (contini). In Sweden there is a distinction between counts (Swedish: greve) created before and after 1809. All children in comital families elevated before 1809 were called count/countess. In families elevated after 1809, only the head of the family was called count, the rest have a status similar to barons and were called by the equivalent of "Mr/Ms/Mrs", before the recognition of titles of nobility was abolished.
The following lists are originally based on a Glossary on Heraldica.org by Alexander Krischnig. The male form is followed by the female, and when available, by the territorial circumscription.
|Language||Male title||Female title / Spouse||Territory|
|Armenian||Կոմս (Koms)||Կոմսուհի (Komsuhi)|
|Bulgarian||Кмет (Kmet), present meaning: mayor; medieval (9th-century) Комит (Komit): hereditary provincial ruler||Кметица (Kmetitsa), woman mayor / Кметша (Kmetsha), mayor's wife||Кметство (Kmetstvo); medieval Комитат (Komitat)|
|English||Count (applies to title granted by monarchies other than the British where Earl applies)||Countess (even where Earl applies)||Earldom for an Earl; Countship or county for a count (County persists in English-speaking countries as a sub-national administrative division)|
|Hungarian||Vikomt||Vikomtessz||Actually meaning viscount. These forms are now archaic or literary; Gróf is used instead.|
|Irish||Cunta||Cuntaois||Honorary title only.|
|Greek||Κόμης (Kómēs)||Κόμησσα (Kómēssa)||Κομητεία (Komēteía); in the Ionian Islands the respective Italianate terms κόντεςkóntes, κοντέσσαkontéssa were used instead|
|Latin (feudal jargon, not classical)||Comes||Comitissa||Comitatus|
|Language||Male title||Female title / Spouse||Territory|
|Belarusian||Граф (Hraf)||Графiня (Hrafinia)||Графствa (Hrafstva)|
|Bulgarian||Граф (Graf)||Графиня (Grafinya)||Графство (Grafstvo)|
|Danish||Greve||Grevinde (Count's wife)|
Komtesse (Unmarried daughter of a count.)
|English||Grave (for example Landgrave, Margrave)||Gravine||Graviate|
|Georgian||გრაფი (Grafi)||გრაფინია (Grafinya)||საგრაფო (Sagrafo)|
|Macedonian||Гроф (Grof)||Грофица (Grofica)||Грофовија (Grofovija)|
|Polish|| Hrabia , Margrabia|
| Hrabina , Margrabina|
|Hrabstwo (translation of foreign term "county")|
|Romanian||Grof (also Conte, see above)|
|Russian||Граф (Graf)||Графиня (Grafinya)||Графство (Grafstvo)|
|Serbian||Гроф (Grof)||Грофица (Grofica)||Грофовија (Grofovija)|
|Ukrainian||Граф (Hraf)||Графиня (Hrafynya)||Графство (Hrafstvo)|
Apart from all these, a few unusual titles have been of comital rank, not necessarily to remain there.
Since Louis VII (1137–80), the highest precedence amongst the vassals (Prince-bishops and secular nobility) of the French crown was enjoyed by those whose benefice or temporal fief was a pairie, i.e. carried the exclusive rank of pair ; within the first (i.e. clerical) and second (noble) estates, the first three of the original twelve anciennes pairies were ducal, the next three comital comté-pairies :
Later other countships (and duchies, even baronies) have been raised to this French peerage, but mostly as apanages (for members of the royal house) or for foreigners; after the 16th century all new peerages were always duchies and the medieval countship-peerages had died out, or were held by royal princes
Other French countships of note included those of:
See also above for parts of present France
A Graf ruled over a territory known as a Grafschaft ('county'). See also various comital and related titles; especially those actually reigning over a principality: Gefürsteter Graf, Landgraf, Reichsgraf; compare Markgraf, Pfalzgraf
The title of Conte is very prolific on the peninsula. In the eleventh century, Conti like the Count of Savoy or the Norman Count of Apulia, were virtually sovereign lords of broad territories. Even apparently "lower"-sounding titles, like Viscount, could describe powerful dynasts, such as the House of Visconti which ruled a major city such as Milan. The essential title of a feudatory, introduced by the Normans, was signore, modeled on the French seigneur, used with the name of the fief. By the fourteenth century, conte and the Imperial title barone were virtually synonymous[ citation needed ].
Some titles of a count, according to the particulars of the patent, might be inherited by the eldest son of a Count. Younger brothers might be distinguished as "X dei conti di Y" ("X of the counts of Y"). However, if there is no male to inherit the title and the count has a daughter, in some regions she could inherit the title. The Papacy and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies might appoint counts palatine with no particular territorial fief. Until 1812 in some regions, the purchaser of land designated "feudal" was ennobled by the noble seat that he held and became a conte. This practice ceased with the formal abolition of feudalism in the various principalities of early-19th century Italy, last of all in the Papal States.
Many Italian counts left their mark on Italian history as individuals, yet only a few contadi (countships; the word contadini for inhabitants of a "county" remains the Italian word for "peasant") were politically significant principalities, notably:
The principalities tended to start out as margraviate or (promoted to) duchy, and became nominal archduchies within the Habsburg dynasty; noteworthy are:
Apart from various small ones, significant were :
Count/Countess was one of the noble titles granted by the Pope as a temporal sovereign, and the title's holder was sometimes informally known as a papal count/papal countess or less so as a Roman count/Roman countess, but mostly as count/countess. The comital title, which could be for life or hereditary, was awarded in various forms by popes and Holy Roman Emperors since the Middle Ages, infrequently before the 14th century, and the pope continued to grant the comital and other noble titles even after 1870, it was largely discontinued in the mid 20th-century, on the accession of John XXIII.
Poland was notable throughout its history for not granting titles of nobility. This was on the premise that one could only be born into nobility, pace vary rare exceptions. Instead it conferred non-hereditary courtly or civic roles. The noble titles that were in use on its territory were invariably of foreign provenance and usually subject to the process of Indygenat, naturalisation.
Somewhat similar to the native privileged class of nobles found in Poland, Hungary also had a class of Conditional nobles.
As opposed to the plethora of hollow "gentry" counts, only a few countships ever were important in medieval Iberia; most territory was firmly within the Reconquista kingdoms before counts could become important. However, during the 19th century, the title, having lost its high rank (equivalent to that of Duke), proliferated.
Portugal itself started as a countship in 868, but became a kingdom in 1139 (see: County of Portugal ). Throughout the History of Portugal, especially during the Constitutional Monarchy many other countships were created (see: List of Countships in Portugal ).
In Spain, no countships of wider importance exist, except in the former Spanish march.[ citation needed ]
In the First Bulgarian Empire, a komit was a hereditary provincial ruler under the tsar documented since the reign of Presian (836-852)The Cometopouli dynasty was named after its founder, the komit of Sredets.
The title of Count (Serdar) was used in the Principality of Montenegro and the Principality of Serbia as a lesser noble title below that of Vojvoda (Duke).
In Denmark and historically in Denmark-Norway the title of count (greve) is the highest rank of nobility used in the modern period. Some Danish/Dano-Norwegian countships were associated with fiefs, and these counts were known as "feudal counts" (lensgreve). They rank above ordinary (titular) counts, and their position in the Danish aristocracy as the highest-ranking noblemen is broadly comparable to that of Duke in other European countries.The title of count is in modern times only granted to members of the Danish royal family, sometimes in addition to a princely title and sometimes instead of it.
In the middle ages the title of jarl (earl) was the highest title of nobility. The title was eventually replaced by the title of duke, but that title was abolished in Denmark and Norway already in the middle ages. Titles were only reintroduced with the introduction of absolute monarchy in 1660, with count as the highest title.
In Sweden the rank of count is the highest rank conferred upon nobles in the modern era. Unlike the rest of Scandinavia, the title of duke is still used in the country, but only by members of the royal family.
Like other major Western noble titles, Count is sometimes used to render certain titles in non-western languages with their own traditions, even though they are as a rule historically unrelated and thus hard to compare, but which are considered "equivalent" in rank.
This is the case with:
The title "Count" in fiction is commonly given to evil characters or vampires:
A prince is a male ruler ranked below a king and above a duke or member of a monarch's or former monarch's family. Prince is also a title of nobility, often hereditary, in some European states. The feminine equivalent is a princess. The English word derives, via the French word prince, from the Latin noun princeps, from primus (first) and capio, meaning "the chief, most distinguished, ruler, prince".
A marquess is a nobleman of high hereditary rank in various European peerages and in those of some of their former colonies. The term is also used to translate equivalent Asian styles, as in Imperial China and Imperial Japan.
A viscount or viscountess is a title used in certain European countries for a noble of varying status. In many countries a viscount, and its historical equivalents, was a non-hereditary, administrative or judicial position, and did not develop into an hereditary title until much later. In the case of French viscounts, it is customary to leave the title untranslated as vicomte[vi.kɔ̃t] and vicomtesse.
Margrave was originally the medieval title for the military commander assigned to maintain the defence of one of the border provinces of the Holy Roman Empire or of a kingdom. That position became hereditary in certain feudal families in the Empire, and the title came to be borne by rulers of some Imperial principalities until the abolition of the Empire in 1806. Thereafter, those domains were absorbed in larger realms or the titleholders adopted titles indicative of full sovereignty.
Graf (male) or Gräfin (female) is a historical title of the German nobility, usually translated as "count". Considered to be intermediate among noble ranks, the title is often treated as equivalent to the British title of "earl".
The Peerage of France was a hereditary distinction within the French nobility which appeared in 1180 in the Middle Ages, and only a small number of noble individuals were peers. It was abolished in 1789 during the French Revolution, but it reappeared in 1814 at the time of the Bourbon Restoration which followed the fall of the First French Empire, when the Chamber of Peers was given a constitutional function somewhat along British lines, which lasted until the Revolution of 1848. On 10 October 1831, by a vote of 324 against 26 of the Chamber of Deputies, hereditary peerages were abolished, but peerages for the life of the holder continued to exist until the chamber and rank were definitively abolished in 1848.
The Free County of Burgundy was a medieval county of the Holy Roman Empire, within the modern region of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, whose very name is still reminiscent of the title of its count: Freigraf. It should not be confused with the more westerly Duchy of Burgundy, a fiefdom of Francia since 843.
In English, a coronet is a small crown consisting of ornaments fixed on a metal ring. By one definition, a coronet differs from a crown in that a coronet never has arches, and from a tiara in that a coronet completely encircles the head, while a tiara does not. By a slightly different definition, a crown is worn by an emperor, empress, king or queen; a coronet by a nobleman or lady. See also diadem.
Traditional rank amongst European royalty, peers, and nobility is rooted in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Although they vary over time and among geographic regions, the following is a reasonably comprehensive list that provides information on both general ranks and specific differences.
Grandee is an official aristocratic title conferred on some Spanish nobility and, to a lesser extent, Portuguese nobility. Holders of this dignity enjoyed similar privileges to those of the peerage of France during the Ancien Régime, but unlike in Great Britain, they were not organised into political groupings. "Grandee of Spain" is the highest dignity of nobility in all of Europe, due to its privileges having been greater than those of other similar European dignities, such as the peers of France or the peers of Great Britain. All Dukedoms are automatically attached to a Grandeeship yet only a few Marquessates, Countships, Viscountcies, Baronies and Lordships have the distinction. A single person can be a Grandee of Spain multiple times, as Grandeeships are attached, with the exception of a few cases, to a title and not an individual. Consequently, nobles in Spain with more than one title, most notably the Duchess of Medinaceli and the Duke of Alba, are Grandees 10 and 9 times respectively.
The Nobility of Italy comprises individuals and their families of the Italian peninsula, and the islands linked with it, recognized by sovereigns, such as the Holy Roman Emperor, the Holy See, the Kings of Italy, and certain other Italian kings and sovereigns, as members of a class of persons officially enjoying hereditary privileges which distinguished them from other persons and families. They often held lands as fiefs and were sometimes endowed with hereditary titles or nobiliary particles. From the Middle Ages until 1871, "Italy" was not a single country but was a number of separate kingdoms and other states, with many reigning dynasties. These were often related through marriage to each other and to other European royal families.
The French nobility was a privileged social class in France during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period to the revolution in 1790. The nobility was revived in 1805 with limited rights as a titled elite class from the First Empire to the fall of the July Monarchy in 1848, when all privileges were abolished for good. Hereditary titles, without privileges, continued to be granted until the Second Empire fell in 1870. They survive among their descendants as a social convention and as part of the legal name of the corresponding individuals.
Croatian nobility was a privileged social class in Croatia during the Antiquity and Medieval periods of the country's history. Noble families in the Kingdom of Croatia included high ranking populates from Slavonia, Dalmatia, Istria, Bosnia and Republic of Ragusa. Members belonged to an elite social hierarchy, normally placed immediately behind blood royalty, that possessed considerably more privileges or eminence than most other classes in a society. Membership thereof typically was often hereditary. Historically, membership in the nobility and the prerogatives thereof have been regulated or acknowledged by the monarch. Acquisition of sufficient power, wealth, military prowess or royal favour enabled commoners to ascend into the nobility. The country's royalty was heavily influenced by France's nobility resulting members of the Royal Courts to assume French titles and practices during French occupation. The controversial assumption of French practices contributed to wide spread political and social elitism among the nobles and monarch. The nobility regarded the peasant class as an unseen and irrelevant substrata of people which lead to high causality revolts and beheadings as well as sporadic periods of intense domestic violence.
Danneskiold-Samsøe is a Danish family of high nobility, formerly holding the island of Samsø as a fief. The family uses a traditional spelling of the name; a modern spelling would be Danneskjold-Samsø.
Danish nobility is a social class and a former estate in the Kingdom of Denmark. The nobility has official recognition in Denmark, a monarchy. Its legal privileges were abolished in the 19th century. Many of the families still own and reside in castles or country houses. Most nobles still belong to the elite, and they are as such present at royal events where they hold court posts, are guests, or are objects of media coverage, for example Kanal 4's TV-hostess Caroline Fleming née Baroness Iuel-Brockdorff. Some of them own and manage companies or have leading positions within business, banking, diplomacy and NGOs.
The Belgian nobility comprises individuals and families recognized by the Kingdom of Belgium as members of a certain class of persons. Historically, these individuals were a socially privileged class enjoying a certain degree of prestige in society. In contemporary society, much of the historic social privileges associated with being a member of the nobility has become somewhat reduced reflecting the present-day notion of egalitarianism.
Imperial Count was a title in the Holy Roman Empire. In the medieval era, it was used exclusively to designate the holder of an imperial county, that is, a fief held directly (immediately) from the emperor, rather than from a prince who was a vassal of the emperor or of another sovereign, such as a duke or prince-elector. These imperial counts sat on one of the four "benches" of Counts, whereat each exercised a fractional vote in the Imperial Diet until 1806.
The House of Urach is a morganatic cadet branch of the formerly royal House of Württemberg. Although the Württemberg dynasty was one of many reigning over small realms in Germany into the 20th century, and despite the fact that marital misalliance in these dynasties usually disinherited the descendants thereof, the Dukes of Urach unusually managed to elicit consideration for candidacy for the thrones of several European states, viz. the Kingdom of Württemberg, the Principality of Monaco, the abortive Kingdom of Lithuania and even the Principality of Albania. Although none of these prospects came to fruition, they reflected monarchical attempts to accommodate the rapid shifts in national allegiance, regime and international alliances that intensified throughout the 19th century, leading up to and following Europe's Great War of 1914-1918.
The Papal nobility is the nobility of the Holy See. Few Pontifical titles, other than personal nobility granted by individual entry into the several Pontifical equestrian orders, have been granted since the election of Pope John XXIII, though Pope John Paul II ennobled several distinguished individuals during his pontificate, as did Pope Benedict XVI, through the Vatican Secretariat of State. Those granted included prince, duke, marquis, count, and baron. The papal nobility are, as such, part of the Papal Court reformed via the 1968 apostolic letter Pontificalis Domus, which reorganized the Court into the Pontifical Household. Papal titles of nobility were specifically recognized by Italy in the 1929 Lateran Treaty establishing the Vatican City State and recognizing the sovereignty of the Holy See. In 1969 the Italian Council of State determined that the provision of the Lateran Treaty concerning the recognition of papal titles that was incorporated into the Italian Constitution was still valid and therefore that their use in Italy was still licit. No provision, however, has been made for their use in Italian passports, identity cards or civil state registries.
A peerage is a legal system historically comprising hereditary titles in various countries, comprising various noble ranks.
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