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Count (feminine: countess) is a historical title of nobility in certain European countries, varying in relative status, generally of middling rank in the hierarchy of nobility. [ citation needed ]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.
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.
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).
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.
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 position of comes was originally not hereditary.The position of count was regarded as an administrative official dependent on the king, until the process of allodialisation during the 9th century in which it became private possessions of noble families. 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.
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/Notes|
|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||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.)|
"Count" applies to titles granted by monarchies other than the British, for which Earl applies.
|Greek||Κόμης (Kómēs)||Κόμησσα (Kómēssa)||Κομητεία (Komēteía); in the Ionian Islands the corresponding Italianate terms κόντεςkóntes, κοντέσσαkontéssa were used instead.|
|Hungarian||Vikomt||Vikomtessz||Actually meaning viscount. These forms are now archaic or literary; Gróf is used instead.|
|Irish||Cunta||Cuntaois||Honorary title only.|
| Latin |
(medieval and later; not classical)
|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), reeve, sheriff||Gravin||Graviate|
|Georgian||გრაფი/თავადი (Grapi/Tavadi)||გრაფინია/თავადი (Grapinia/Tavadi)||საგრაფო/სათავადო (Sagrapo /Satavado)|
|Macedonian||Гроф (Grof)||Грофица (Grofica)||Грофовија (Grofovija)|
|Polish|| Hrabia , Margrabia|
| Hrabina , Margrabina|
|Hrabstwo (translation of foreign term "county")|
|Romanian||Grof (also Conte, see above), Greav||Grofiță|
|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 permanently.
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.
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. 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.
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 Serdar was used in the Principality of Montenegro and the Principality of Serbia as a noble title below that of Voivode equivalent to that of Count.
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 dukes in other European countries.With the first free Constitution of Denmark of 1849 came a complete abolition of the privileges of the nobility. Since then the title of count has been granted only to members of the Danish royal family, either as a replacement for a princely title when marrying a commoner, or in recent times, instead of that title in connection with divorce. Thus the first wife of Prince Joachim of Denmark, the younger son of Margrethe II of Denmark, became Alexandra, Countess of Frederiksborg on their divorce - initially retaining her title of princess, but losing it on her remarriage.
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 as early as 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 and are, like their Danish and Norwegian counterparts, broadly comparable to that of dukes in other European countries. Unlike the rest of Scandinavia, the title of duke is still used in Sweden, but only by members of the royal family and are not considered part of the nobility.
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 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. The German language equivalent is Markgraf (Margrave).
A duke (male) can either be a monarch ranked below the emperor, king, and grand duke ruling over a duchy or a member of royalty or nobility, historically of highest rank, below princes of nobility and grand dukes. 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. In most countries, the word duchess is the female equivalent.
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.
The Swedish nobility has historically been a legally and/or socially privileged class in Sweden, and part of the so-called frälse. The archaic term for nobility, frälse, also included the clergy, a classification defined by tax exemptions and representation in the diet. Today the nobility does not maintain its former privileges although family names, titles and coats of arms are still protected. The Swedish nobility consists of both "introduced" and "unintroduced" nobility, where the latter has not been formally "introduced" at the House of Nobility (Riddarhuset). The House of Nobility still maintains a fee for male members over the age of 18 for upkeep on pertinent buildings in Stockholm.
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.
Freiherr, Freifrau and Freiin are designations used as titles of nobility in the German-speaking areas of the Holy Roman Empire, and in its various successor states, including Austria, Prussia, Bavaria, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, etc. Traditionally it denotes the titled rank within the nobility above Ritter (knight) and Edler and below Graf and Herzog (duke). The title superseded the earlier medieval form, Edelherr.
A coronet is a small crown consisting of ornaments fixed on a metal ring. By one definition, a coronet differs from other kinds of crowns 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.
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 permanently abolished. 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, 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.
During the Middle Ages, an advocatus was an office-holder who was legally delegated to perform some of the secular responsibilities of a major feudal lord, or for an institution such as an abbey. Especially in the Holy Roman Empire, many such positions developed. Typically, these evolved to include responsibility for aspects of the daily management of agricultural lands, villages and cities. In some regions, advocates were governors of large provinces, sometimes distinguished by terms such as Landvogt.
The Finnish nobility was historically a privileged class in Finland, deriving from its period as part of Sweden and the Russian Empire. Noble families and their descendants are still a part of Finnish republican society, but except for the titles themselves, no longer retain any specific or granted privileges. A majority of Finnish nobles have traditionally been Swedish-speakers using their titles mostly in Swedish. The Finnish nobility today has some 6,000 male and female members.
Danneskiold-Samsøe is a Danish family of high nobility associated with the Danish Royal Family, and whom formerly held the island of Samsø as a fief.
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 with the constitution of 1849. Some of the families still own and reside in castles or country houses. A minority of 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.
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 Portuguese nobility was a social class enshrined in the laws of the Kingdom of Portugal with specific privileges, prerogatives, obligations and regulations. The nobility ranked immediately after royalty and was itself subdivided into a number of subcategories which included the titled nobility and nobility of blood at the top and civic nobility at the bottom, encompassing a small, but not insignificant proportion of Portugal's citizenry.
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.
Count of Monpezat is a Danish title of nobility granted on 30 April 2008 by the Queen of Denmark to her two sons, Crown Prince Frederik and Prince Joachim, and their legitimate patrilineal descendants of both sexes. The title is based on the French title "Comte de Laborde de Monpezat" which was used by their father Henrik, Prince Consort of Denmark.
The Papal nobility is the nobility of the Holy See.
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