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A marquess ( UK: // ; French : marquis, [ m ɑ ʁ k i ] ) 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. German rulers did not confer the title of marquis; holders of marquisates in Central Europe were largely associated with the Italian and Spanish crowns.
The word marquess entered the English language from the Old French marchis ("ruler of a border area") in the late 13th or early 14th century. The French word was derived from marche ("frontier"), itself descended from the Middle Latin marca ("frontier"), from which the modern English words march and mark also descend. The distinction between governors of frontier territories and interior territories was made as early as the founding of the Roman Empire when some provinces were set aside for administration by the senate and more unpacified or vulnerable provinces were administered by the emperor. The titles "duke" and "count" were similarly distinguished as ranks in the late empire, with dux (literally, "leader") being used for a provincial military governor and the rank of comes (literally "companion," that is, of the Emperor) given to the leader of an active army along the frontier.
Several marquesses (Markies/Marquis) lived in Belgium, this title still exists today (see Belgian nobility § "Current marquesses").
Currently in Spain the rank of Marquess/Marchioness (Marqués/Marquesa) still exists. One hundred forty-two of them are Spanish grandees. Normally a 'marqués is addressed as "Illustrious Sir" (Ilustrísimo Señor), or if he/she is a grandee as "Your Excellency" (Excelentísimo Señor). Examples include the Marquess of Aguilar de Campoo, Grandee of Spain
The honorific prefix "The Most Honourable" precedes the name of a marquess or marchioness of the United Kingdom.
In Great Britain and historically in Ireland, the correct spelling of the aristocratic title of this rank is marquess (although on the European mainland and in Canada, the French spelling of marquis is used in English). In Scotland the French spelling is also sometimes used. In Great Britain and historically in Ireland, the title ranks below a duke and above an earl (see "Marquesses in the United Kingdom"). A woman with the rank of a marquess, or the wife of a marquess, is called a marchioness // in Great Britain and Ireland, or a marquise // elsewhere in Europe. The dignity, rank or position of the title is referred to as a marquisate or marquessate.
The theoretical distinction between a marquess and other titles has, since the Middle Ages, faded into obscurity. In times past, the distinction between a count and a marquess was that the land of a marquess, called a march, was on the border of the country, while a count's land, called a county, often was not. As a result of this, a marquess was trusted to defend and fortify against potentially hostile neighbours and was thus more important and ranked higher than a count. The title is ranked below that of a duke, which was often largely restricted to the royal family.
The rank of marquess was a relatively late introduction to the British peerage: no marcher lords had the rank of marquess, though some were earls. On the evening of the Coronation of Queen Victoria in 1838, the Prime Minister Lord Melbourne explained to her why (from her journals):
I spoke to Ld M. about the numbers of Peers present at the Coronation, & he said it was quite unprecedented. I observed that there were very few Viscounts, to which he replied "There are very few Viscounts," that they were an old sort of title & not really English; that they came from Vice-Comites; that Dukes & Barons were the only real English titles; — that Marquises were likewise not English, & that people were mere made Marquises, when it was not wished that they should be made Dukes.
Like other major Western noble titles, marquess (and marquis) 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. However, they are considered "equivalent" in relative rank.
This is the case with:
The peerage in the United Kingdom is a legal system comprising both hereditary and lifetime titles, composed of various noble ranks, and forming a constituent part of the British honours system. The term peerage can be used both collectively to refer to the entire body of nobles, and individually to refer to a specific title. British peerage title holders are termed peers of the Realm.
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].
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.
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 Kazoku was the hereditary peerage of the Empire of Japan, which existed between 1869 and 1947.
The Peerage of the United Kingdom comprises most peerages created in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland after the Acts of Union in 1801, when it replaced the Peerage of Great Britain. New peers continued to be created in the Peerage of Ireland until 1898.
Spanish nobles are persons who possess the legal status of hereditary nobility according to the laws and traditions of the Spanish monarchy and those who hold personal nobility as bestowed by one of the three highest orders of knighthood of the Kingdom, namely the Order of the Golden Fleece, the Order of Charles III and the Order of Isabella the Catholic. A system of titles and honours of Spain and of the former kingdoms that constitute it comprise the Spanish nobility. Some nobles possess various titles that may be inherited, but the creation and recognition of titles is legally a prerogative of the King of Spain.
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 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.
Some titles of nobility outside Europe may be considered as equivalents of Duke.
The British nobility is the peerage of the United Kingdom. The nobility of its four constituent home nations has played a major role in shaping the history of the country, although in the present day they retain only the rights to stand for election to the House of Lords, dining rights in the House of Lords, position in the formal order of precedence, the right to certain titles, and the right to an audience with the monarch. Still, more than a third of British land is in the hands of aristocrats and traditional landed gentry.
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.
The Qing dynasty (1644–1912) of China developed a complicated peerage system for royal and noble ranks.
During Vietnam's Annam Empire, Vietnamese nobility were classified into eleven classes, with names similar to their Chinese equivalent. These are listed here from the highest to the lowest, along with their equivalent European titles.
Marquess is a rank of nobility in the peerages of the United Kingdom.
The Brazilian nobility refers to the titled aristocrats and fidalgo families recognized by the Kingdom of Brazil and later, by the Empire of Brazil dating back to the early 19th century, when it was a colony of the Kingdom of Portugal. It existed until 1889, when a military coup d'état overthrew the monarchy and established the First Brazilian Republic.
The House of Peers was the upper house of the Imperial Diet as mandated under the Constitution of the Empire of Japan.
Ranged Marquis, is a kind of Chinese nobility from Warring States period to Chen Dynasty.