Count

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"Countess" redirects here. For other uses, see Countess (disambiguation).
This article is about the style or title of nobility. For other uses, see Count (disambiguation).
Coronet of a count (Spanish Heraldry)

Count (male) or Countess (female) is a title in European countries for a noble of varying status, but historically deemed to convey an approximate rank intermediate between the highest and lowest titles of nobility.[1] 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). Alternative names for the "Count" rank in the nobility structure are used in other countries, such as Graf in Germany and Hakushaku during the Japanese Imperial era.

Definition[edit]

Main article: Comes

In the late Roman Empire, the Latin title comes, meaning (imperial) "companion", 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]

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 centuries (i.e. 200 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 countship; his main rival for power was the bishop, whose diocese was often coterminous with the countship.

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]

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 replaced with other institutions. Only after the Partitions of Poland did the title of "count" resurface in the German-derived title hrabia.

The title of Count was also often conferred by the monarch as an honorific title for special services rendered, without an attaching feudal estate (countship, county): it was merely a title, with or without a domain name attached to it. In the United Kingdom, the equivalent "Earl" can also used as a courtesy title for the eldest son of a duke. In Italy, by contrast, all the sons of certain counts are counts (contini). In Sweden there is a distinction between counts (Swedish: greve) introduced before and after 1809. All children in comital families introduced before 1809 are called count/countess. In families introduced after 1809 only the head of the family is called count, the rest had a status similar to barons and were called by the equivalent of Mr/Ms/Mrs, before the use of titles was abolished.

Comital titles in different European languages[edit]

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[edit]

Language Male title Female title / Spouse Territory
Albanian Kont Konteshë Konte
Armenian Կոմս (Koms) Կոմսուհի (Komsuhi)
Bulgarian Кмет (Kmet), present meaning: mayor; medieval (9th-century) Комит (Komit): hereditary provincial ruler Кметица (Kmetitsa), woman mayor / Кметша (Kmetsha), mayor's wife Кметство (Kmetstvo); medieval Комитат (Komitat)
Catalan Comte Comtessa Comtat
Czech Hrabě Hraběnka Hrabství
Danish Greve Grevinde (Count's wife)

Komtesse (Unmarried daughter of a count.)

Grevskab
Dutch Graaf Gravin Graafschap
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, but County is also, and indeed rather, in English-Speaking countries an administrative district
French Comte Comtesse Comté
Hungarian Vikomt Vikomtessz Actually meaning viscount. These forms are now archaic and/or literary; Gróf is used instead.
Irish Cunta; Iarla Cuntaois, Baniarla Honorary title only; iarla does not derive from Latin comes but rather from English "earl".
Italian Conte Contessa Contea, Contado, Comitato
Greek Κόμης (Kómēs) Κόμησσα (Kómēssa) Κομητεία (Komēteía); in the Ionian Islands the respective Italianate terms Kóntes, Kontéssa were used instead
Latin (feudal jargon, not classical) Comes Comitissa Comitatus
Maltese Konti Kontessa
Monegasque Conte Contessa
Norwegian Greve Grevinne Grevskap
Polish Hrabia Hrabina Hrabstwo
Portuguese Conde Condessa Condado
Romanian Conte Contesă Comitat
Romansh Cont Contessa
Spanish Conde Condesa Condado
Swedish Greve Grevinna Grevskap
Turkish Kont Kontes Kontluk

Etymological parallels of the German Graf (some unclear)[edit]

Language Male title Female title / Spouse Territory
Afrikaans Graaf Gravin Graafskap
Belarusian Граф (Hraf) Графiня (Hrafinia) Графствa (Hrafstva)
Bulgarian Граф (Graf) Графиня (Grafinya) Графство (Grafstvo)
Croatian Grof Grofica Grofovija
Czech Hrabě Hraběnka Hrabství
Danish Greve Grevinde Grevskab
Dutch Graaf Gravin Graafschap
English Grave Gravine Graviate
Estonian Krahv Krahvinna Krahvkond
Finnish Kreivi Kreivitär Kreivikunta
German Graf Gräfin Grafschaft
Greek Γράβος
Georgian გრაფი(Grafi) გრაფინია(Grafinya) საგრაფო(Sagrafo)
Hungarian Gróf Grófnő, Grófné Grófság
Icelandic Greifi Greifynja
Latvian Grāfs Grāfiene Grāfiste
Lithuanian Grafas Grafienė Grafystė
Luxembourgish Graf Gräfin
Macedonian Гроф (Grof) Грофица (Grofica)
Norwegian Greve Grevinne Grevskap
Polish Hrabia Hrabina Hrabstwo
Romanian Grof (also Conte, see above)
Russian Граф (Graf) Графиня (Grafinya) Графство (Grafstvo)
Serbian Гроф Грофица Грофовија
Slovak Gróf Grófka Grófstvo
Slovene Grof Grofica Grofija
Swedish Greve Grevinna Grevskap
Ukrainian Граф (Hraf) Графиня (Hrafynya) Графство (Hrafstvo)

Compound and related titles[edit]

Apart from all these, a few unusual titles have been of comital rank, not necessarily to remain there.

  • Dauphin (English: Dolphin; Spanish: Delfín; Italian: Delfino; Portuguese: Delfim; Latin: Delphinus) was a multiple (though rare) comital title in southern France, used by the Dauphins of Vienne and Auvergne, before 1349 when it became the title of the heir to the French throne. The Dauphin was the lord of the province still known as the région Dauphiné.
  • Conde-Duque "Count-Duke" is a rare title used in Spain, notably by Gaspar de Guzmán, Count-Duke of Olivares who had inherited the title of count of Olivares, but being created Duke of Sanlucar la Mayor by King Philip IV of Spain begged permission to preserve his inherited title in combination with the new honour—according to a practice almost unique in Spanish history; logically the incumbent ranks as Duke (higher than Count) just as he would when simply juxtapositioning both titles.
  • Conde-Barão 'Count-Baron' is a rare title used in Portugal, notably by D. Luís Lobo da Silveira, 7th Baron of Alvito, who received the title of Count of Oriola in 1653 from King John IV of Portugal. His palace in Lisbon still exists, located in a square named after him (Largo do Conde-Barão).
  • Archcount is a very rare title, etymologically analogous to archduke, apparently never recognized officially, used by or for:
    • the count of Flanders (an original pairie of the French realm in present Belgium, very rich, once expected to be raised to the rank of kingdom); the informal, rather descriptive use on account of the countship's de facto importance is rather analogous to the unofficial epithet Grand Duc de l'Occident (before Grand duke became a formal title) for the even wealthier Duke of Burgundy
    • at least one Count of Burgundy (i.e. Freigraf of Franche-Comté)
  • In German kingdoms, the title Graf was combined with the word for the jurisdiction or domain the nobleman was holding as a fief and/or as a conferred or inherited jurisdiction, such as Markgraf (see also Marquess), Landgraf, Freigraf {"free count"}, Burggraf, where burg signifies castle; see also Viscount, Pfalzgraf {translated both as "Count Palatine" and, historically, as "Palsgrave"}, Raugraf ("Raugrave", see "Graf", and Waldgraf (comes nemoris), where wald signifies a large forest).
  • The German Graf and Dutch graaf (Latin: Grafio) stems from the Byzantine-Greek grapheus meaning "he who calls a meeting [i.e. the court] together").[citation needed]
  • The Ottoman military title of Serdar was used in Montenegro and Serbia as a lesser noble title with the equivalent rank of a Count.
  • These titles are not to be confused with various minor administrative titles containing the word -graf in various offices which are not linked to nobility of feudality, such as the Dutch titles Pluimgraaf (a court sinecure, so usually held by noble courtiers, may even be rendered hereditary) and Dijkgraaf (to the present, in the Low Countries, a managing official in the local or regional administration of water household trough dykes, ditches, controls etcetera; also in German Deichgraf, synonymous with Deichhauptmann, "dike captain").

Lists of countships[edit]

Territory of today's France[edit]

West-Francia proper[edit]

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[edit]

The Holy Roman Empire[edit]

See also above for parts of present France

In Germany[edit]

Main article: Graf

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

In Italy[edit]

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 Visconti family who ruled a major city such as Milan. The essential title of a feudatory, introduced by the Normans, was signore, modelled on the French seigneur, used with the name of the fief. By the fourteenth century, conte and the Imperial title barone were virtually synonymous.

Some titles of 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:

Holy See[edit]
Christopher de Paus, a Norwegian convert to Roman Catholicism, a papal chamberlain and a relative of Henrik Ibsen, was conferred the title of count by Pope Pius XI

Count is one of the noble titles granted by the Pope as a temporal sovereign and the title's holder is sometimes informally known as a papal count or less so as a Roman count, but mostly as count. The comital title, which can be for life or hereditary, has been 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 title even after 1870. Recipients of such honours included both Italians, especially those close to the papacy (some of whom papal relatives), and prominent non-Italian Catholics. The Pope also granted other noble titles such as Baron, Marquis, Duke or Prince.

As most of the Papal States were annexed by the Kingdom of Italy in 1870, the new kingdom recognized the existing nobility in its new territory, and the papal nobility forms a major branch of the Italian nobility. On the occasion of the signing of the Lateran Accords of 1929, the Italian government recognized and confirmed the pope's power to grant noble titles, and recognized the titles granted by the Pope until that date and all future titles as equivalent to the noble titles of the Kingdom of Italy. With Paul VI, who responded to the formal Christmas message of the patriciate by declaring that the papal nobility would no longer be a constituent body in the papal court, the custom of conferring noble titles such as Count, Marquis, Duke or Prince essentially disappeared. Pope John Paul II did grant several noble titles to Polish compatriots at the beginning of his pontificate, but quietly and without their being published in the Acts of The Apostolic See. The popes continue to award knighthoods and medals of merit on a regular basis which do not confer noble status with the exception of the Spanish Noble Chapters of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre which continue to require nobility as a condition for membership.[4]

Count of the Sacred Palace of Lateran[edit]

One interesting title is the one of Count of the Sacred Palace of Lateran. This title was collectively granted to the Spanish Chapters of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre. The Spanish Chapters of the Order are the only purely noble chapters of the Papal Order and their members enjoy several heraldic privileges in addition to the right to use the Comital title. This tradition can be traced back to the Recoquista (the Reconquest) in which the Order played an important role. According to the well known heraldic expert, Lord Manuel de Mata, the Spanish Members of the Order are allowed to use both the full title of Count of the Sacred Palace of Lateran as well as just the title of Count before their names. The previously mentioned rights have been recorded in the "Memorias de la Academia Mallorquina de de Estudios Genealogicos" and approved by King Alfonso XIII of Spain.[5]

In Austria[edit]

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

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

In Poland[edit]

Numerous small ones, particularly:

In Galicia (Central Europe)[edit]

Particularly see:

In the Low Countries[edit]

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.[6][7]
  • in the present Netherlands:

In Switzerland[edit]

Countly ephemera: a Count's coronet and crest on a doily.

In other continental European countries[edit]

In Iberia[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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

Bulgaria[edit]

In the First Bulgarian Empire, a komit was a hereditary provincial ruler under the tsar documented since the reign of Presian (836-852)[8] The Cometopouli dynasty was named after its founder, the komit of Sredets.

Montenegro and Serbia[edit]

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). The Royal Houses of both Montenegro and Serbia still grant this title.

Crusader states[edit]

Equivalents[edit]

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:

  • the Chinese (伯), hereditary title of nobility ranking below Hóu (侯) and above (子)
  • the Japanese equivalent Hakushaku (伯爵), adapted during the Meiji restoration
  • the Korean equivalent Baekjak or Poguk
  • in Vietnam, it is rendered , one of the lower titles reserved for male members of the Imperial clan, above Tử (Viscount), Nam (Baron) and Vinh phong (lowest noble title), but lower than—in ascending order—Hầu (Marquis), Công (Prince), Quan-Cong (Duke) and Quốc-Công (Grand Duke), all under Vương (King).
  • the Indian Sardar, adopted by the Maratha Empire, additionally, Jagirdar and Deshmukh are close equivalents

the Arabic equivalent Sheikh

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Pine, L.G. Titles: How the King Became His Majesty. Barnes & Noble, New York, 1992. p. 73. OCLC 27827106.
  2. ^ "An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors". University of South Carolina. Retrieved 2008-04-10. 
  3. ^ http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/jod/texts/cassbook/chap1.html
  4. ^ This section depends upon Philippe Levillain, ed. John W. O'Malley, tr. The Papacy: An Encyclopedia (2002) vol. ii s.v. "Nobility, Roman".
  5. ^ de Mata, Manuel (1955). "Breve resena de la Orden del Santo Sepulcro presentada a S.M. el Rey D. Alfonso XIII el 25 de julio de 1904 por el Excmo. Sr. D. manuel de Mata". Memorias de la Academia Mallorquina de Estudios Genealogicos 1–4: 136–143. 
  6. ^ Geschiedenis van de provincie Antwerpen (Historisch Project Politiek Personeel Provincie Antwerpen) (Dutch), Province of Antwerp, Belgium
  7. ^ Mechelen de oude hoofdstad van de Nederlanden, F.O. Van Hammée (not verified, referenced on a blog)
  8. ^ 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

Sources[edit]

  • Labarre de Raillicourt: Les Comtes Romains
  • Westermann, Großer Atlas zur Weltgeschichte (in German)

External links[edit]