Count

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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. [1] 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.

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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.

County Geographical and administrative region in some countries

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..

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Contents

Definition

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. [2]

French language Romance language

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 Indo-European language of the Italic family

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.

Diocese Christian district or see under the supervision of a bishop

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. [3]

Germanic peoples peoples who are, or are related to, native speakers of a Germanic language

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.

Franks people

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.

Middle Ages Period of European history from the 5th to the 15th century

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.

Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth Former European state

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.

Partitions of Poland forced partition of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth

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.

Land attached to title

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. [4] 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.

Comital titles in different European languages

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.

Etymological derivations from the Latin comes

Language Male titleFemale title / SpouseTerritory
Albanian KontKonteshëKonte
Armenian Կոմս (Koms)Կոմսուհի (Komsuhi)
Bulgarian Кмет (Kmet), present meaning: mayor; medieval (9th-century) Комит (Komit): hereditary provincial rulerКметица (Kmetitsa), woman mayor / Кметша (Kmetsha), mayor's wifeКметство (Kmetstvo); medieval Комитат (Komitat)
Catalan ComteComtessaComtat
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)
French ComteComtesseComté
Hungarian VikomtVikomtesszActually meaning viscount. These forms are now archaic or literary; Gróf is used instead.
Irish CuntaCuntaoisHonorary title only.
Italian ConteContessaContea, Contado
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 ComitissaComitatus
Maltese KontiKontessa
Monegasque ConteContessa
Portuguese Conde CondessaCondado
Romanian ConteContesăComitat
Romansh ContContessa
Spanish Conde CondesaCondado
Turkish KontKontesKontluk

Etymological parallels with the German Graf (some approximate)

Language Male titleFemale title / SpouseTerritory
Afrikaans GraafGravinGraafskap
Belarusian Граф (Hraf)Графiня (Hrafinia)Графствa (Hrafstva)
Bulgarian Граф (Graf)Графиня (Grafinya)Графство (Grafstvo)
Croatian GrofGroficaGrofovija
Czech HraběHraběnkaHrabství
Danish GreveGrevinde (Count's wife)
Komtesse (Unmarried daughter of a count.)
Grevskab
Dutch GraafGravinGraafschap
English Grave (for example Landgrave, Margrave)GravineGraviate
Estonian KrahvKrahvinnaKrahvkond
Finnish KreiviKreivitärKreivikunta
German Graf Gräfin Grafschaft
Greek Γράβος
Georgian გრაფი (Grafi)გრაფინია (Grafinya)საგრაფო (Sagrafo)
Hungarian GrófGrófnő, GrófnéGrófság
Icelandic GreifiGreifynjaGreifadæmi
Latvian GrāfsGrāfieneGrāfiste
Lithuanian GrafasGrafienėGrafystė
Luxembourgish GrofGréifin
Macedonian Гроф (Grof)Грофица (Grofica)Грофовија (Grofovija)
Norwegian GreveGrevinneGrevskap
Polish Hrabia , Margrabia
(non-native titles)
Hrabina , Margrabina
(non-native titles)
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)
Slovak GrófGrófkaGrófstvo
Slovene GrofGroficaGrofija
Swedish GreveGrevinnaGrevskap
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.

Lists of countships

Territory of today's France

Kingdom of the Western Franks

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:

Parts of today's France long within other kingdoms of the Holy Roman Empire

The Holy Roman Empire

See also above for parts of present France

In Germany

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

Northern Italian states

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:

In Austria

The principalities tended to start out as margraviate or (promoted to) duchy, and became nominal archduchies within the Habsburg dynasty; noteworthy are:

  • Count of Tyrol
  • Count of Cilli
  • Count of Schaumburg

In the Low Countries

Apart from various small ones, significant were :

  • in present Belgium :
    • Count of Flanders (Vlaanderen in Dutch), but only the small part east of the river Schelde remained within the empire; the far larger west, an original French comté-pairie became part of the French realm
    • Count of Hainaut
    • Count of Namur, later a margraviate
    • Count of Leuven (Louvain) soon became the Duke of Brabant
    • Count of Mechelen, though the Heerlijkheid Mechelen was given the title of "Graafschap" in 1490, the city was rarely referred to as a county and the title of Count has not been in practical use by or for anyone of the series of persons that became rightfully entitled to it; the flag and weapon of the municipality still has the corresponding heraldic crowned single-headed eagle of sabre on gold. [5] [6]
  • in the present Netherlands:

In Switzerland

Comital ephemera: a Count's coronet and crest on a doily. DeSalisClothBellonna.jpg
Comital ephemera: a Count's coronet and crest on a doily.

In other continental European countries

Holy See

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.

In Poland

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.

In Hungary

Somewhat similar to the native privileged class of nobles found in Poland, Hungary also had a class of Conditional nobles.

On the Iberian peninsula

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

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 ).

Spain
Coronet of a count (Spanish heraldry) Heraldic Crown of Spanish Count.svg
Coronet of a count (Spanish heraldry)

In Spain, no countships of wider importance exist, except in the former Spanish march.[ citation needed ]

South Eastern Europe

Bulgaria

In the First Bulgarian Empire, a komit was a hereditary provincial ruler under the tsar documented since the reign of Presian (836-852) [7] The Cometopouli dynasty was named after its founder, the komit of Sredets.

Montenegro and Serbia

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).

Crusader states

Scandinavia

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. [8] 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.

Equivalents

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:

In fiction

The title "Count" in fiction is commonly given to evil characters or vampires:


See also

Related Research Articles

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Imperial Count title of nobility in the Holy Roman Empire

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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.

References

  1. Pine, L. G. Titles: How the King Became His Majesty. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1992. p. 73. OCLC   27827106.
  2. "An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors". University of South Carolina. Retrieved 2008-04-10.
  3. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2005-05-10. Retrieved 2005-06-21.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  4. The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, C. W. Onions (Ed.), 1966, Oxford University Press
  5. "Geschiedenis". Ppant.be. Retrieved 2016-08-27.
  6. Mechelen de oude hoofdstad van de Nederlanden, F.O. Van Hammée (not verified, referenced on a blog)
  7. Лъв Граматик, Гръцки извори за българската история, т. V, стр. 156; Жеков, Ж. България и Византия VII-IX в. - военна администрация, Университетско издателство "Св. Климент Охридски", София, 2007, ISBN   978-954-07-2465-2, стр. 254
  8. Ferdinand Christian Herman von Krogh: Den høiere danske Adel. En genealogisk Haandbog, C. Steen & søn, 1866

Sources