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A marquess ( UK: /( ) / ; French : marquis [maʁki] ) , Dutch: markies, is a nobleman of high hereditary rank in various European peerages and in those of some of their former colonies. The German language equivalent is Markgraf (margrave). A woman with the rank of a marquess or the wife (or widow) of a marquess is a marchioness or marquise. These titles are also used to translate equivalent Asian styles, as in Imperial China and Imperial Japan.
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 word march also descends. 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 Byzantine 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.
The title of marquess in Belgium predates the French Revolution and still exists today. See Belgian nobility § Marquesses in the Belgian nobility and List of noble families in Belgium § Marquesses.
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 "The Most Illustrious Lord" (Ilustrísimo Señor), or if he/she is a grandee as "The Most Excellent Lord" (Excelentísimo Señor). Examples include the Marquess of Carpio, Grandee of Spain.
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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. A woman with the rank of a marquess, or the wife of a marquess, is 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 [Lord Melbourne] 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 (or marquis) is sometimes used to translate certain titles from 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:
Marquesses and marchionesses have occasionally appeared in works of fiction. For examples of fictional marquesses and marchionesses, see List of fictional nobility#Marquesses and marchionesses.
The peerages in the United Kingdom are 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. The peerage's fundamental roles are ones of government, peers being eligible to a seat in the House of Lords, and of meritocracy, the receiving of any peerage being the highest of British honours. In the UK, five peerages or peerage divisions co-exist, namely:
A viscount or viscountess is a title used in certain European countries for a noble of varying status.
The Peerage of Ireland consists of those titles of nobility created by the English monarchs in their capacity as Lord or King of Ireland, or later by monarchs of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. It is one of the five divisions of Peerages in the United Kingdom. The creation of such titles came to an end in the 19th century. The ranks of the Irish peerage are duke, marquess, earl, viscount and baron. As of 2016, there were 135 titles in the Peerage of Ireland extant: two dukedoms, ten marquessates, 43 earldoms, 28 viscountcies, and 52 baronies. The Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland continues to exercise jurisdiction over the Peerage of Ireland, including those peers whose titles derive from places located in what is now the Republic of Ireland. Article 40.2 of the Constitution of Ireland forbids the state conferring titles of nobility and an Irish citizen may not accept titles of nobility or honour except with the prior approval of the Irish government. This issue has not arisen in respect of the Peerage of Ireland because no creation of titles in it has been made since the constitution came into force.
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 territories associated with the countship.
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. They succeeded the feudal lords and court nobles, but were abolished with the 1947 constitution.
The Peerage of England comprises all peerages created in the Kingdom of England before the Act of Union in 1707. In that year, the Peerages of England and Scotland were replaced by one Peerage of Great Britain. There are five peerages in the United Kingdom in total.
The Peerage of Great Britain comprises all extant peerages created in the Kingdom of Great Britain between the Acts of Union 1707 and the Acts of Union 1800. It replaced the Peerage of England and the Peerage of Scotland, but was itself replaced by the Peerage of the United Kingdom in 1801.
Spanish nobles are persons who possess the legal status of hereditary nobility according to the laws and traditions of the Spanish monarchy and historically also those who held 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 make up 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.
A coronet is a small crown consisting of ornaments fixed on a metal ring. A coronet differs from other kinds of crowns in that most coronets do not have arches, and from a tiara in that a coronet completely encircles the head, while a tiara does not.
Grandee is an official aristocratic title conferred on some Spanish nobility. Holders of this dignity enjoyed similar privileges to those of the peerage of France during the Ancien Régime, though in neither country did they have the significant constitutional political role the House of Lords gave to the Peerage of England and later Peerage of the United Kingdom. A "Grandee of Spain" would have nonetheless enjoyed greater "social" privileges than those of other similar European dignities.
Some titles of nobility outside Europe may be considered as equivalents of Duke.
The British nobility is made up of the peerage and the (landed) gentry. The nobility of its four constituent home nations has played a major role in shaping the history of the country, although now they retain only the rights to stand for election to the House of Lords, dining rights there, position in the formal order of precedence, the right to certain titles, and the right to an audience with the monarch. More than a third of British land is in the hands of aristocrats and traditional landed gentry.
The Qing dynasty (1636–1912) of China developed a complicated peerage system for royal and noble ranks.
The Mexican nobility were a hereditary nobility of Mexico, with specific privileges and obligations determined in the various political systems that historically ruled over the Mexican territory.
The Brazilian nobility refers to the titled aristocrats and fidalgo people and families recognized by the Kingdom of Brazil and later, by the Empire of Brazil, dating back to the early 19th century, when Brazil ceased to be a colony of the Kingdom of Portugal. It held official status 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.
Marquess (marquis) is a hereditary title of nobility.
A peerage is a legal system historically comprising various hereditary titles in a number of countries, and composed of assorted noble ranks.