Viscount

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A viscount ( /ˈvknt/ ( Loudspeaker.svg listen ) VY-kownt, for male [1] ) or viscountess ( /ˈvkntɪs/ , for female [2] ) 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. [3] In the case of French viscounts, it is customary to leave the title untranslated as vicomte [vi.kɔ̃t] and vicomtesse.

Europe Continent in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere

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.

Nobility privileged social class

Nobility is a social class normally ranked immediately under royalty and found in some societies that have a formal aristocracy. Nobility possesses more acknowledged privileges and higher social status than most other classes in society. The privileges associated with nobility may constitute substantial advantages over or relative to non-nobles, or may be largely honorary, and vary by country and era. As referred to in the Medieval chivalric motto "noblesse oblige", nobles can also carry a lifelong duty to uphold various social responsibilities, such as honorable behavior, customary service, or leadership positions. Membership in the nobility, including rights and responsibilities, is typically hereditary.

The judiciary is the system of courts that interprets and applies the law in the name of the state. The judiciary can also be thought of as the mechanism for the resolution of disputes. Under the doctrine of the separation of powers, the judiciary generally does not make statutory law or enforce law, but rather interprets law and applies it to the facts of each case. However, in some countries the judiciary does make common law, setting precedent for other courts to follow. This branch of the state is often tasked with ensuring equal justice under law.

Contents

Etymology

The word viscount comes from Old French visconte (Modern French: vicomte), itself from Medieval Latin vicecomitem, accusative of vicecomes, from Late Latin vice- "deputy" + Latin comes (originally "companion"; later Roman imperial courtier or trusted appointee, ultimately count). [4]

Old French was the language spoken in Northern France from the 8th century to the 14th century. In the 14th century, these dialects came to be collectively known as the langue d'oïl, contrasting with the langue d'oc or Occitan language in the south of France. The mid-14th century is taken as the transitional period to Middle French, the language of the French Renaissance, specifically based on the dialect of the Île-de-France region.

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.

Medieval Latin form of Latin used in the Middle Ages

Medieval Latin was the form of Latin used in Roman Catholic Western Europe during the Middle Ages. In this region it served as the primary written language, though local languages were also written to varying degrees. Latin functioned as the main medium of scholarly exchange, as the liturgical language of the Church, and as the working language of science, literature, law, and administration.

History

During the Carolingian Empire, the kings appointed counts to administer provinces and other smaller regions, as governors and military commanders. Viscounts were appointed to assist the counts in their running of the province, and often took on judicial responsibility. [3] The kings strictly prevented the offices of their counts and viscounts from becoming hereditary, in order to consolidate their position and limit chance of rebellion. [3]

Carolingian Empire final stage in the history of the early medieval realm of the Franks, ruled by the Carolingian dynasty

The Carolingian Empire (800–888) was a large empire in western and central Europe during the early Middle Ages. It was ruled by the Carolingian dynasty, which had ruled as kings of the Franks since 751 and as kings of the Lombards of Italy from 774. In 800, the Frankish king Charlemagne was crowned emperor in Rome by Pope Leo III in an effort to revive the Roman Empire in the west during a vacancy in the throne of the eastern Roman Empire. After a civil war (840–43) following the death of Emperor Louis the Pious, the empire was divided into autonomous kingdoms, with one king still recognised as emperor, but with little authority outside his own kingdom. The unity of the empire and the hereditary right of the Carolingians continued to be acknowledged, preceding the Holy Roman Empire, which lasted until 1806.

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.

The title was in use in Normandy by at least the early 11th century. [5] Similar to the Carolingian use of the title, the Norman viscounts were local administrators, working on behalf of the Duke. [6] Their role was to administer justice and to collect taxes and revenues, often being castellan of the local castle. Under the Normans, the position developed into a hereditary one, an example of such being the viscounts in Bessin. [6] The viscount was eventually replaced by bailiffs, and provosts. [6]

Duke of Normandy title given to the rulers of the Duchy of Normandy in northern France

In the Middle Ages, the Duke of Normandy was the ruler of the Duchy of Normandy in north-western France. The duchy arose out of a grant of land to the Viking leader Rollo by the French king Charles III in 911. In 924 and again in 933, Normandy was expanded by royal grant. Rollo's male-line descendants continued to rule it down to 1135. In 1202 the French king Philip II declared Normandy a forfeited fief and by 1204 his army had conquered it. It remained a French royal province thereafter, still called the Duchy of Normandy, but only occasionally granted to a duke of the royal house as an apanage.

A tax is a mandatory financial charge or some other type of levy imposed upon a taxpayer by a governmental organization in order to fund various public expenditures. A failure to pay, along with evasion of or resistance to taxation, is punishable by law. Taxes consist of direct or indirect taxes and may be paid in money or as its labour equivalent.

A castellan is the title used in Medieval Europe for an appointed official, a governor of a castle and its surrounding territory referred to as the castellany. The title of governor is retained in the English Prison system, as a remnant of the medieval idea of the castellan as head of the local prison. The word stems from the Latin Castellanus, derived from castellum "castle". Sometimes also known as a constable of the castle district, the Constable of the Tower of London is, in fact, a form of castellan, with representative powers in the local or national assembly. A castellan was almost always male, but could occasionally be female, as when, in 1194, Beatrice inherited her father's castellany of Bourbourg upon the death of her brother, Roger.

As a rank in British peerage, it was first recorded in 1440, when John Beaumont was created Viscount Beaumont by King Henry VI. [7] The word viscount corresponds in the UK to the Anglo-Saxon shire reeve (root of the non-nobiliary, royal-appointed office of sheriff). Thus early viscounts were originally normally given their titles by the monarch, not hereditarily; but soon they too tended to establish hereditary principalities in the wider sense. They were a relatively late introduction to the British peerage, and on the evening of the Coronation of Queen Victoria in 1838, the Prime Minister Lord Melbourne explained to her why (from her journals):

A peerage is a legal system historically comprising hereditary titles in various countries, comprising various noble ranks.

John Beaumont, 1st Viscount Beaumont English nobleman

John Beaumont, 1st Viscount Beaumont, was an English nobleman and magnate from Folkingham, Lincolnshire. He was a councillor to King Henry VI and was rewarded for his services, becoming a leading member of the East Anglian nobility. Beaumont held numerous offices for the crown, and was promoted up the peerage to become the first man with the rank of viscount. He also amassed immense personal wealth, acquired through inheritance, marriage, and royal patronage.

Henry VI of England 15th-century King of England and Duke of Aquitaine

Henry VI was King of England from 1422 to 1461 and again from 1470 to 1471, and disputed King of France from 1422 to 1453. The only child of Henry V, he succeeded to the English throne at the age of nine months upon his father's death, and succeeded to the French throne on the death of his maternal grandfather Charles VI shortly afterwards.

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. [8]

Early modern and contemporary usage

Belgium

In Belgium a few families are recognised as Viscounts:

United Kingdom

A viscount is the fourth rank in the British peerage system, standing directly below an earl and above a baron. There are approximately 270 viscountcies currently extant in the peerages of the British Isles, though most are secondary titles. [9]

In British practice, the title of a viscount may be either a place name, a surname, or a combination thereof: examples include the Viscount Falmouth, the Viscount Hardinge and the Viscount Colville of Culross, respectively. An exception exists for Viscounts in the peerage of Scotland, who were traditionally styled "The Viscount of [X]", such as the Viscount of Arbuthnott. In practice, however, very few maintain this style, instead using the more common version "The Viscount [X]" in general parlance, for example Viscount of Falkland who is referred to as Viscount Falkland.

A British viscount is addressed in speech as Lord [X], while his wife is Lady [X], and he is formally styled "The Right Honourable The Viscount [X]". The children of a viscount are known as The Honourable [Forename] [Surname]. [10]

Ireland

The title of viscount (Irish : bíocunta) was introduced to the Peerage of Ireland in 1478 with the creation of the title of Viscount Gormanston, the senior viscountcy of Britain and Ireland, held today by Jenico Preston, 17th Viscount Gormanston. Other early Irish viscountcies were Viscount Baltinglass (1541), Viscount Clontarf (1541), Viscount Mountgarret (1550) and Viscount Decies (1569).

Use as a courtesy title

A specifically British custom is the use of viscount as a courtesy title for the heir of an earl or marquess. The peer's heir apparent will sometimes be referred to as a viscount, if the second most senior title held by the head of the family is a viscountcy. For example, the eldest son of the Earl Howe is Viscount Curzon, because this is the second most senior title held by the Earl. [11]

However, the son of a marquess or an earl can be referred to as a viscount when the title of viscount is not the second most senior if those above it share their name with the substantive title. For example, the second most senior title of the Marquess of Salisbury is the Earl of Salisbury, so his heir uses the lower title of Viscount Cranborne.

Sometimes the son of a peer can be referred to as a viscount even when he could use a more senior courtesy title which differs in name from the substantive title. Family tradition plays a role in this. For example, the eldest son of the Marquess of Londonderry is Viscount Castlereagh, even though the Marquess is also the Earl Vane.

Coronet

Coronet of a British viscount. Coronet of a British Viscount.svg
Coronet of a British viscount.
Coronet of the 6th Viscount Clifden. Coronet of a British Viscount.jpg
Coronet of the 6th Viscount Clifden.

A viscount's coronet of rank bears 16 silver balls around the rim. Like all heraldic coronets, it is mostly worn at the coronation of a sovereign, but a viscount has the right to bear his coronet of rank on his coat of arms, above the shield. In this guise, the coronet is shown face-on, featuring 9 silver balls. [12]

Jersey

The island of Jersey still retains an officer whose function is purely to administer orders of the island's judiciary, and whose position remains non-hereditary. The role of the Viscount of Jersey (French: Vicomte de Jersey) involves managing fines, bail monies, seizures, confiscations, evictions, service of process, arrests for non-appearance in court and other enforcement procedures, as well acting as coroner for sudden or unexpected deaths and managing jury selection. [13]

Portugal

In the former kingdom of Portugal a visconde ranks above a barão (baron) and below a conde (count). The first Portuguese viscountcy, that of D. Leonel de Lima, visconde de Vila Nova de Cerveira, dates from the reign of Afonso V. A flood of viscountcies, some 86 new titles, were awarded in Portugal between 1848 and 1880.

Spain

The Spanish title of vizconde is ranked between the title conde (count/earl) and the relatively rare title of barón.

In Spain, nobles are classified as either Grandee of Spain (Grandes de España), as titled nobles, or as untitled nobles. A grandee of any rank outranks a non-grandee, even if that non-grandee's title is of a higher degree, thus, a viscount-grandee enjoys higher precedence than a marquis who is not a grandee.

In the kingdom of Spain the title was awarded from the reign of Felipe IV (1621–65; Habsburg dynasty) until 1846.

Equivalent titles

Germanic counterparts

There are non-etymological equivalents to the title of viscount (i.e., 'vice-count') in several languages including German.

However, in such case titles of the etymological Burgrave family (not in countries with a viscount-form, such as Italian burgravio alongside visconte) bearers of the title could establish themselves at the same gap, thus at generally the same level. Consequently, a Freiherr (or Baron) ranks not immediately below a Graf, but below a Burggraf.

Thus in Dutch, Burggraaf is the rank above Baron, below Graaf (i.e., Count) in the kingdoms of the Netherlands and of Belgium (by Belgian law, its equivalents in the other official languages are Burggraf in German and vicomte in French). In Welsh the title is rendered as Isiarll.

Non-Western counterparts

Like other major Western noble titles, viscount is sometimes used to render certain titles in non-western languages with their own traditions. Even though they are considered 'equivalent' in relative rank, they are as a rule historically unrelated and thus hard to compare.

The Japanese cognate shishaku (shi) (Japanese: 子爵) was the fourth of the five peerage ranks established in the Meiji era. The Japanese system of nobility, Kazoku, which existed between 1884 and 1947 was based heavily on the British peerage. At the creation of the system, viscounts were the most numerous of all the ranks, with 324 being created compared to 11 non-imperial princes or dukes, 24 marquesses, 76 counts and 74 barons, for a total of 509 peers. [14]

Other equivalent titles existed, such as:

See also

Related Research Articles

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References

  1. Viscount. Collins Dictionary. n.d. Retrieved 22 September 2014.
  2. Viscountess. Collins Dictionary. n.d. Retrieved 22 September 2014.
  3. 1 2 3 Upshur, Jiu-Hwa; Terry, Janice; Holoka, Jim; Goff, Richard; Cassar, George H. (2011). Cengage Advantage Books: World History. I. California: Wadsworth Publishing Co Inc. p. 329. ISBN   9781111345167.
  4. "Viscount (n.)". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 18 June 2014.
  5. Loud, G. A. (1999). Conquerors and churchmen in Norman Italy. Surrey, UK: Ashgate Publishing Co. p. 4. ISBN   9780860788034.
  6. 1 2 3 Petit-Dutaillis, C. (1936). The Feudal Monarchy in France and England. Oxford, UK: Routledge. p. 162. ISBN   9781136203503.
  7. "Journals of the House of Lords". cii. 1870: 512. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  8. "28 June 1838". Queen Victoria's Journals. 4. Buckingham Palace, Princess Beatrice's copies. 1 June – 1 October 1838. p. 84. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
  9. Denyer, Ian; Bavister, Grant (2014) [2004]. "The Roll of the Peerage" (PDF). College of Arms . Retrieved 18 June 2014.
  10. "Viscount and Viscountess". Debretts. n.d. Retrieved 18 June 2014.
  11. "Courtesy Titles". Debretts. n.d. Retrieved 18 June 2014.
  12. "Ceremonial Robes". Debretts. n.d. Retrieved 18 June 2014.
  13. "Functions of the Viscount's Department". States of Jersey. n.d. Retrieved 17 June 2014.
  14. Jansen, The Making of Modern Japan, p. 391.