7.19.2011

French noble titles - Notes for July (v ii p 449-)

From a rather interesting article on French nobility and/or titles over at Heraldica.org:
"The origin of modern titles like duke, marquis, count lie in public offices held under Merovingian kings (6th-8th c.).
  • A duke (Latin dux, literally "leader") was the governor of a province, usually a military leader.
  • A count (Latin comes, literally "companion") was an appointee of the king governing a city and its immediate surroundings, or else a high-ranking official in the king's immediate entourage (the latter called "palace counts" or "counts Palatine").
  • A marquis was a count who was also the governor of a "march," a region at the boundaries of the kingdom that needed particular protection against foreign incursions (margrave in German).
  • A viscount was the lieutenant of a count, either when the count was too busy to stay at home, or when the county was held by the king himself.
  • A baron (a later title) was originally a direct vassal of the king, or of a major feudal lord like a duke or a count.
  • A castellan (châtelain) was the commander in charge of a castle.  A few castellanies survived with the title of "sire."
"An edict of 1575, rarely enforced, established a minimum size and income for the land to which the created title was attached, thus establishing a hierarchy which was purely notional:
  • duc (duke)
  • marquis (marquis)
  • comte (earl)
  • vicomte (viscount)
  • baron (baron)"