Imperial Count Palatine

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The Imperial Count Palatine (Palatin, Comes palatinus Caesareus, Kaiserlicher Hofpfalzgraf) was a title revived by Emperor Charles IV which was based upon the former position of a Count Palatine in the royal court.

In some cases where parties willingly submitted their petitions to them, the imperial count palatine possessed jurisdictional authority (comitiva) to settle the matter. Such cases included: the legitimation of children born out of wedlock, confirming that a minor had come of age, certifying adoptions, attesting documents such as wills etc., certain royal pardons, and the authorization of patents of nobility, coats of arms, academic honors, the appointment of notaries as well as the bestowal of poet laureate status.

While the emperor appointed imperial counts palatine for individual territories, from time to time the territorial princes themselves would bestow this honor with comitiva major (the so-called "Großes Palatinat"), that is with the power to transact these enactments on their own initiative.

As successor to the Byzantine emperor after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Ottoman sultan also claimed the right to bestow the office. Thus Giovanni Bellini was named Comes palatinus by Emperor Frederick III in 1469 and later again in 1481 by Sultan Mehmet II.

A papal count palatine (Comes palatinus lateranus) with similar rights as possessed by the imperial count palatine, could be appointed by the pope or in some cases by specially empowered papal legates. Pope Leo X designated all of the secretaries of the papal curia comites aulae Lateranensis (counts of the Lateran court) in 1514 and bestowed upon them the rights of an imperial count palatine.

If an imperial count palatine possessed both an imperial and the papal appointment, he bore the title of "Comes palatine imperiali Papali et auctoritate" (Count palatine by Imperial and Papal authority).

The appointment as an imperial count palatine was a lucrative post, because the office bearer could levy fees for the execution of official acts.

The imperial count palatine gradually lost its importance, and the office ended with the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806.


  • Jürgen Arndt, Hofpfalzgrafen-Register. 3 vols. Neustadt an d. Aisch: Degener, 1964–1988, vol. 3: ISBN 3-7686-3046-3
  • Erwin Schmidt, Die Hofpfalzgrafenwürde an der hessen-darmstädtischen Universität Marburg/Gießen. Berichte und Arbeiten aus der Universitätsbibliothek und dem Universitätsarchiv Giessen 23 (1973). Universitätsbibliothek Gießen, Gießen (digitized text)