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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 (e.g., Margrave of Brandenburg, Margrave of Baden). Thereafter, those domains (originally known as marks or marches, later as margraviates or margravates) were absorbed in larger realms or the titleholders adopted titles indicative of full sovereignty.
Etymologically, the word "margrave" (Latin: marchio, c. 1551) is the English and French form of the German noble title Markgraf (Mark, meaning "march" or "mark", that is, border land, added to Graf , meaning "Count"); it is related semantically to the English title "Marcher Lord". As a noun and hereditary title, "margrave" was common among the languages of Europe, such as Spanish and Polish. .
A Markgraf (margrave) originally functioned as the military governor of a Carolingian march, a medieval border province.Because the territorial integrity of the borders of the realm of a king or emperor was essential to national security, the vassal (whether a count or other lord) whose lands were on the march of the kingdom or empire was likely to be appointed a margrave and given greater responsibility for securing the border.
The greater exposure of a border province to military invasion mandated that the margrave be provided with military forces and autonomy of action (political as well as military) greater than those accorded other lords of the realm. As a military governor, the margrave's authority often extended over a territory larger than the province proper, because of border expansion subsequent to royal wars.
The margrave thus usually came to exercise commensurately greater politico-military power than other noblemen. The margrave maintained the greater armed forces and fortifications required for repelling invasion, which increased his political strength and independence relative to the monarch. Moreover, a margrave might expand his sovereign's realm by conquering additional territory, sometimes more than he might retain as a personal domain, thus allowing him to endow his own vassals with lands and resources in return for their loyalty to him; the consequent wealth and power might allow the establishment of a de facto near-independent principality of his own.
Most marches and their margraves arose along the eastern borders of the Carolingian Empire and the successor Holy Roman Empire. The Breton Mark on the Atlantic Ocean and the border of peninsular Brittany and the Marca Hispanica on the Muslim frontier (including Catalonia) are notable exceptions. The Spanish March was most important during the early stages of the peninsular Reconquista of Iberia: ambitious margraves based in the Pyrenees took advantage of disarray in Muslim Al-Andalus to extend their territories southward, leading to the establishment of the Christian kingdoms that would become unified Spain in the fifteenth century. The Crusaders created new and perilous borders susceptible to holy war against the Saracens; they thus had use for such border marches as the Greek Margraviate of Bodonitsa (1204–1414).
As territorial borders stabilised in the late Middle Ages, marches began to lose their primary military importance; but the entrenched families who held the office of margrave gradually converted their marches into hereditary fiefs, comparable in all but name to duchies. In an evolution similar to the rises of dukes, landgraves, counts palatine, and Fürsten (ruling princes), these margraves became substantially independent rulers of states under the nominal overlordship of the Holy Roman Emperor.
Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV's Golden Bull of 1356 recognized the Margrave of Brandenburg as an elector of the Empire. Possession of an electorate carried membership in the highest "college" within the Imperial Diet, the main prerogative of which was the right to elect, along with a few other powerful princes and prelates, the non-hereditary Emperor whenever death or abdication created a vacancy on the Imperial throne. Mark Brandenburg became the nucleus of the House of Hohenzollern's later Kingdom of Prussia and the springboard to their eventual accession as German Emperors in 1871.
Another original march also developed into one of the most powerful states in Central Europe: the Margraviate of Austria. Its rulers, the House of Habsburg, rose to obtain a de facto monopoly on election to the throne of the Holy Roman Empire. They also inherited several, mainly Eastern European and Burgundian, principalities. Austria was originally called Marchia Orientalis in Latin, the "eastern borderland", as (originally roughly the present Lower-) Austria formed the easternmost reach of the Holy Roman Empire, extending to the lands of the Magyars and the Slavs (since the 19th century, Marchia Orientalis has been translated as Ostmark by some Germanophones, though medieval documents attest only to the vernacular name Ostarrîchi ). Another march in the south-east, Styria, still appears as Steiermark in German today.
The margraves of Brandenburg and of Meissen eventually became, respectively, the kings of (originally 'in') Prussia and of Saxony.
The title of margrave, no longer a military office, evolved into a rank in the Holy Roman Empire's nobility; higher than Graf (count), it was equivalent to such associated compound titles as Landgrave, Palsgrave and Gefürsteter Graf , yet remained lower than Herzog (duke) and even, officially, lower than Fürst .
A few nobles in southern Austria and northern Italy, whose suzerain was the Emperor, received from him the title of margrave, sometimes translated in Italian as marquis (marchese):those who reigned as virtual sovereigns (Marquis of Mantua, Marquis of Montferrat, Marquis of Saluzzo) exercised authority closer to the dynastic jurisdiction associated in modern Europe with the margrave, while some non-ruling nobles (e.g., Burgau, Pallavicini, Piatti) retained use of the margravial title but held the non-sovereign status of a marquis.
By the 19th century, the sovereigns in Germany, Italy and Austria had all adopted "higher" titles, and not a single sovereign margraviate remained. Although the title remained part of the official style of such monarchs as the German Emperors, Kings of Saxony and Grand Dukes of Baden, it fell into desuetude as the primary title of members of any reigning family.
The children of Charles Frederick, Grand Duke of Baden by his second, morganatic wife, Luise Karoline Geyer von Geyersberg, only legally shared their mother's title of Imperial Count von Hochberg from 1796, and were not officially elevated to the title of margrave until 1817 when they were publicly de-morganitised.But their father had, in fact, allowed its use for his morganatic children at his own court in Karlsruhe from his assumption of the grand ducal crown in 1806, simultaneously according the princely title to the dynastic sons of his first marriage. However, from 1817 his male-line descendants of both marriages were internationally recognised as entitled to the princely prefix, which all used henceforth.
The title of Margrave of Baden has been borne as a title of pretence only by the head of the House of Zähringen since the death of the last reigning Grand Duke, Frederick II, in 1928.Likewise, Margrave of Meissen is used as a title of pretence by the claimant to the Kingdom of Saxony since the death in exile of its last monarch, King Fredrick Augustus III, in 1932.
In 1914, the Imperial German Navy commissioned a dreadnought battleship SMS Markgraf named after this title. She fought in WWI and was interned and scuttled at Scapa Flow after the war.
The etymological heir of the margrave in Europe's nobilities is the marquis, also introduced in countries that never had any margraviates, such as the British marquess; their languages may use one or two words, e.g. French margrave or marquis. The margrave/marquis ranked below its nation's equivalent of "duke" (Britain, France, Germany, Portugal, Scandinavia, Spain) or of "prince" (Belgium, Italy), but above "count" or "earl".
The wife of a margrave is a margravine (Markgräfin in German, but margrave in French). In Germany and Austria, where titles were borne by all descendants in the male line of the original grantee, men and women alike, each daughter was a Markgräfin as each son was a Markgraf.
The title of margrave is translated below in languages which distinguish margrave from marquis, the latter being the English term for a Continental noble of rank equivalent to a British marquess. In languages which sometimes use marquis to translate margrave, that fact is indicated below in parentheses):
|Language||Equivalent of margrave||Equivalent of margravine|
|Afrikaans||markgraaf / markies||markgravin / markiesin|
|Catalan||marcgravi / marquès||marcgravina / marquesa|
|Chinese||都護 / 邊陲長||都護夫人 / 邊陲長夫人|
|Croatian||markgrof / markiz||markgrofica / markiza|
|Czech||markrabě / markýz||markraběnka / markýza|
|Dutch||markgraaf / markies||markgravin / markiezin|
|English||margrave / marquess||margravine / marchioness|
|Esperanto||margrafo / markizo||margrafino / markizino|
|Finnish||rajakreivi / markiisi||rajakreivitär / markiisitar|
|Greek||µαργράβος (margrávos) /|
|Hungarian||őrgróf / márki||őrgrófnő / márkinő|
|Italian||margravio / marchese||margravia / marchesa|
|Japanese||辺境伯 (henkyō haku)||辺境伯夫人 (henkyō hakufujin) /|
辺境伯妃 (henkyō haku-hi)
|Korean||변경백 (byeon-gyeongbaeg)||변경백부인 (byeon-gyeongbaegbu-in)|
|Latvian||markgrāfs / marķīzs||markgrāfiene / marķīze|
|Lithuanian||markgrafas / markizas||markgrafienė / markizė|
|Macedonian||маркгроф (markgrof)||маркгрофица (markgrofica)|
|Norwegian||markgreve / marki||markgrevinne / markise|
|Persian||مرزبان ( marzoban or marzbān)||–|
|Polish||margrabia / markiz||margrabina / markiza|
|Portuguese||margrave / marquês||margravina / marquesa|
|Serbian||маркгроф (markgrof)||маркгрофица (markgrofica)|
|Slovene||mejni grof / markiz||mejna grofica / markiza|
|Spanish||margrave / marqués||margravina / marquesa|
|Swedish||markgreve / markis||markgrevinna / markisinna|
The House of Hohenzollern is a German former royal dynasty whose members were variously princes, electors, kings and emperors of Hohenzollern, Brandenburg, Prussia, the German Empire, and Romania. The family arose in the area around the town of Hechingen in Swabia during the 11th century and took their name from Hohenzollern Castle. The first ancestors of the Hohenzollerns were mentioned in 1061.
The prince-electors, or electors for short, were the members of the electoral college that elected the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.
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).
Count 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.
Fürst is a German word for a ruler and is also a princely title. Fürsten were, since the Middle Ages, members of the highest nobility who ruled over states of the Holy Roman Empire and later its former territories, below the ruling Kaiser (emperor) or König (king).
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".
In medieval Europe, a march or mark was, in broad terms, any kind of borderland, as opposed to a national "heartland". More specifically, a march was a border between realms, and/or a neutral/buffer zone under joint control of two states, in which different laws might apply. In both of these senses, marches served a political purpose, such as providing warning of military incursions, or regulating cross-border trade, or both.
In politics and law, mediatisation is the loss of immediacy, the status of persons not subject to local lords but only to a higher authority directly, such as the Holy Roman Emperor. In a feudal context, it is the introduction of an intervening level of authority between a lord and his vassal so that the former is no longer the immediate lord of the latter, but rather his lordship is mediated by another.
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 Principality of Bayreuth or Margraviate of Brandenburg-Bayreuth was an immediate territory of the Holy Roman Empire, ruled by a Franconian branch of the Hohenzollern dynasty. Since Burgrave Frederick VI of Nuremberg was enfeoffed with the Margraviate of Brandenburg in 1415/17, the Hohenzollern princes transferred the margravial title to their Franconian possessions, though the principality never had been a march. Until 1604 they used Plassenburg Castle in Kulmbach as their residence, hence their territory was officially called the Principality of Kulmbach or Margraviate of Brandenburg-Kulmbach until the Empire's dissolution in 1806.
The Lands of the Bohemian Crown, sometimes called Czech lands in modern times, were a number of incorporated states in Central Europe during the medieval and early modern periods connected by feudal relations under the Bohemian kings. The crown lands primarily consisted of the Kingdom of Bohemia, an electorate of the Holy Roman Empire according to the Golden Bull of 1356, the Margraviate of Moravia, the Duchies of Silesia, and the two Lusatias, known as the Margraviate of Upper Lusatia and the Margraviate of Lower Lusatia, as well as other territories throughout its history.
The Limburg-Luxemburg dynasty, one of several families from different periods known as the Luxembourg dynasty was a royal family of the Holy Roman Empire in the Late Middle Ages, whose members between 1308 and 1437 ruled as King of the Romans and Holy Roman Emperors as well as Kings of Bohemia and Hungary. Their rule was twice interrupted by the rival House of Wittelsbach.
The German Emperor was the official title of the head of state and hereditary ruler of the German Empire. A specifically chosen term, it was introduced with the 1 January 1871 constitution and lasted until the official abdication of Wilhelm II on 28 November 1918. The Holy Roman Emperor is sometimes also called "German Emperor" when the historical context is clear, as derived from the Holy Roman Empire's official name of "Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation" from 1512.
Prince of the Holy Roman Empire was a title attributed to a hereditary ruler, nobleman or prelate recognised as such by the Holy Roman Emperor.
Casimirof Brandenburg-Bayreuth was Margrave of Bayreuth or Margrave of Brandenburg-Kulmbach from 1515 to 1527.
The Duchy of Austria was a medieval principality of the Holy Roman Empire, established in 1156 by the Privilegium Minus, when the Margraviate of Austria (Ostarrîchi) was detached from Bavaria and elevated to a duchy in its own right. After the ruling dukes of the House of Babenberg became extinct in male line, there was as much as three decades of rivalry on inheritance and rulership, until the German king Rudolf I took over the dominion as the first monarch of the Habsburg dynasty in 1276. Thereafter, Austria became the patrimony and ancestral homeland of the dynasty and the nucleus of the Habsburg Monarchy. In 1453, the archducal title of the Austrian rulers, invented by Duke Rudolf IV in the forged Privilegium Maius of 1359, was officially acknowledged by the Habsburg emperor Frederick III.
The Margraviate of Brandenburg was a major principality of the Holy Roman Empire from 1157 to 1806 that played a pivotal role in the history of Germany and Central Europe.
Starting in the 12th century, the Margraviate, later Electorate, of Brandenburg was in conflict with the neighboring Duchy of Pomerania over frontier territories claimed by them both, and over the status of the Pomeranian duchy, which Brandenburg claimed as a fief, whereas Pomerania claimed Imperial immediacy. The conflict frequently turned into open war, and despite occasional success, none of the parties prevailed permanently until the House of Pomerania died out in 1637. Brandenburg would by then have naturally have prevailed, but this was hindered by the contemporary Swedish occupation of Pomerania, and the conflict continued between Sweden and Brandenburg-Prussia until 1815, when Prussia incorporated Swedish Pomerania into her Province of Pomerania.
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.
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