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Crown of rank of a French marquis

Margrave (Latin marchio or marchisus ) denoted from the 8th to the end of the 11th century primarily an unspecified leadership role of a nobleman in the border area, the march , of the empire. After that, the title broke away from its original reference to the border and identified the bearer as the holder of a certain rank within the group of imperial princes. The title of margrave did not indicate a specific office. The official title of the count in the border area remained the general designation as count ( comes ). Older research, however, assumed that a margrave was a royal or imperial official with military powers in the border area. This outdated idea was based on the assumption of a balanced system of state administration with clear hierarchies and equally clear responsibilities within an apparatus of officials geared towards the king.

In the Holy Roman Empire , the margraves belonged to the imperial princes and were thus effectively equal to the dukes . The salutation of the margraves was (Royal) Highness .

The margraves of the early Middle Ages

Image of Margrave Gero , for whom the margrave title was reintroduced as a priority of honor.

The title of margrave can be found in the sources for the first time under Charlemagne around 800 and was retained for a long time by his successors.

To fulfill their risky task, the margraves received border areas from the king or emperor directly as a fief . The margraves had special powers over the normal counts. So they held the exile and the high judiciary . They were also able to arrange fortifications and were assigned a large number of Frankish vassals to support them. These powers gave them, as commanders of important border marks, a strong independence and power that came close to that of the tribal dukes. Well-fortified farmers were recruited throughout the Franconian Empire to settle in the Marches, so that the margraves in some places could raise considerable armies (the Heerbann ) themselves. The margraves exercised the high level of jurisdiction without having to be transferred to them by the king (i.e. without a royal spell ).

In the early days, the margraves were controlled by the emperor through special emissaries ( royal messengers ) .

Further development of the office

Margrave Karl Friedrich , Margrave of Baden and Hochberg, Duke of Zähringen, St. Roman Empire sovereign Elector, Count Palatine near the Rhine, Landgrave in Breisgau, zu Sausenberg and in Ortenau, etc.

Numerous margraves, who originally came from the lower nobility or knighthood , were able to build up a powerful position in the Marche, which was later used for political power within the empire. Accordingly, some later royal houses descend from margraves, for example

From the 12th century onwards, most of the margraviates were converted into so-called imperial principalities. The title of margrave was not only on an equal footing with that of a prince , it was, due to its old roots, often associated with considerably more respect among the greats of the empire - similar to the title of landgrave , with whom he was also on an equal footing. With the Golden Bull of 1356, the Margrave of Brandenburg received electoral rights - which were also granted to the Margrave of Baden with the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss of 1803 .

In the German-speaking area, the title of margrave ruling prince and, due to past leaseholds, was reserved for their non-ruling relatives as well as house and inheritance laws. The Austrian Emperor also held the title of Margrave of Moravia until 1918 .

After the fall of the German monarchies in 1918, the later heads of the royal house of Saxony and the grand-ducal house of Baden, for reasons of tradition, switched to using the name of a Margrave of Meissen and a Margrave of Baden again.

Margrave (s) tum

Friedrich I of Brandenburg , Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach and Brandenburg-Kulmbach, and Burgrave of Nuremberg

After King Sigismund transferred the Mark Brandenburg to the Hohenzollern burgrave Friedrich VI in 1415 . (later as Friedrich I. Margrave of Brandenburg) had transferred, the Hohenzollern also carried the title of Margrave of Brandenburg in their name. Later they used the title margrave in their two Franconian principalities of Brandenburg-Ansbach and Brandenburg-Kulmbach / -Bayreuth , which - unlike the Margraviate of Brandenburg - were by no means margravates (they were not border areas - they were in the center of the old empire ). In order to be able to transfer the prestigious title Margrave to their Franconian territories, the Hohenzollern therefore used the (legally questionable) word construct Margraviate or Margrave .

Margraviates since Charlemagne

Famous margraves

Margrave Leopold III. of Austria , the saint, in front of Klosterneuburg. Babenberger family tree , around 1490, Klosterneuburg Abbey

Situation in other countries

This Franconian title was still used in numerous European countries after the fall of the Franconian Empire and exported to other countries. The title of margrave was given outside the German Empire in numerous Romanic countries in Europe as well as in England, which was influenced by the Norman-French tradition, as a mere title of nobility without a ruling function. German margraves are not called Marquis in France, but (as in English) Margrave .

British Islands

Crown of rank of a British marquess

In the United Kingdom, the marquess has been the second highest rank since 1385, after that of a Duke and even before that of an Earl , who can be awarded in the British peerage . The first such title was in 1385 that of Marquess of Dublin for Robert de Vere, 9th Earl of Oxford , who was withdrawn in 1386. The second and third were in 1397 the Marquess of Dorset and Marquess of Somerset for John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset , who was also drafted again a short time later (1399). The title was only in 1442 by Heinrich VI. taken up again and found its way into all British peerages as a title. Marques titles are inherited only in agnatic primogeniture.

A total of 135 Marques titles have been created in the history of the British Isles, 33 of them in the Peerage of England, 23 in the Peerage of Scotland, 24 in the Peerage of Ireland, 22 in the Peerage of Great Britain and 33 in the Peerage of the United Kingdom . The last award of a marquess title to date was that of Marquess of Willingdon in 1936.

Today there are still 36 awards, six in the Peerage of England, 13 in the Peerage of Scotland, ten in the Peerage of Ireland, eight in the Peerage of Great Britain and 18 in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. The oldest remaining Marquess title is that of Marquess of Winchester (Peerage of England, 1585), the youngest is that of Marquess of Reading (Peerage of the United Kingdom, 1926).


Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour , Dame Le Normant d'Étiolles and Duchesse de Menars, painted by François Boucher , 1756

The French name for French margraves is marquis . The marquis was appointed by the king and administered a mark , a border area , in the Middle Ages . In principle, the marquis was ranked higher than the comte (count) because he had more extensive rights than the comte. The title of marquis was not only a title of nobility, but also a titre de fonction , a title denoting a function. The marquis was allowed to command his armies without an order from the king, in order to be able to defend the borders quickly in an emergency. The Marquis was ranked below the Duc (Duke), who in the Middle Ages was able to administer his duchy as a principality largely autonomously. The title became valid when the Marquis registered with the Parliament . Militarily, he was also the monitor of marches and public order. The unit he commanded was called the Maréchaussée and was a kind of police force.

Even when Hugo Capet (940–996) became king, the title of marquis was hereditary, which "diluted" its meaning. It happened that a seigneur appointed himself marquis and did not register the title. The marquis' property was therefore no longer necessarily a mark and was also called the marquisate . Another consequence of this feudal arbitrariness was that the order of the ranks became disputed. How "noble" a certain marquis or comte was was no longer judged only by his title, but also by how much land he owned and how long his family had held a title of nobility. From the 13th century onwards, the system was made even more complicated by the fact that Marquis, Comte and Duc could also be Pairs of France , which they could even raise above a "normal" Duc.

Louis XIV. (1638–1715) and Louis XV. (1710–1774) made it a habit to raise their respective mistresses to the rank of marquise. The most famous among them is the Marquise de Pompadour .

Louis XIV tried, however, to otherwise master the flood of unregistered nobles. In 1663 and 1699, laws were passed that required registration of a title of nobility or proof that the respective title of nobility had belonged to the family for over a hundred years. In 1790, in the course of the French Revolution (1789–1799), the inheritance of nobility titles was abolished by decree.

French nobility ranks

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) reversed the laws of the French Revolution regarding the nobility and established the order of the nobility ranks by law. He determined that the son of a duc, who was also peer of France, could automatically bear the title of marquis, while the son of a marquis, who was also peer of France, could automatically bear the title of comte. With Napoleon's consent, the father's title could be passed on to the son. The order of the ranks among each other was otherwise determined as described above, the Marquis followed the Duc, the Comte followed the Marquis.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, foreign nobles were commonly referred to as marquis because French was the language of the court. This custom also caught on in Austria and Germany at times . Examples of this are in the politics of the Marquis of Pombal (Portugal, 18th century) and the Marquis of Salisbury (Great Britain, 19th century), as well as in the literature of the Marquis of Posa in Schiller's Don Carlos , Frank Wedekind's Marquis of Keith and Heinrich von Kleist marquise of O .

Despite Napoleon Bonaparte's regulation of the titles of nobility, there were still seven different recognized types of marquis in 1919:

  1. The title of marquis could have been acquired through primogenitur (birthright) if the family of the marquis properly kept the title until 1789 , it was inherited in the male line and the family was still in the possession of the marquisate belonging to the title.
  2. A marquis did not necessarily have to own land if he could show a patent letter (lettre patent) .
  3. One could also become a marquis through transferable patent letters.
  4. Foreign titles could be authorized for France through a patent letter.
  5. Authorized foreign titles were inheritable through Primogenitur and did not have to be re-authorized.
  6. If someone had received the title of Marquis through Honors de la Cour (honors of the court), then the title was actually not hereditary, but it was still recognized. In order to receive the Honors de la Cour one had to prove that the family had served the court since the 15th century without ever having been raised to the nobility.
  7. The Ducs sons mentioned above bore the title of Marquis.


Luigi Gonzaga , Margrave of Mantua, from a fresco by Andrea Mantegna

The development of the margrave title ( Marchese ) in Italy is completely different. As in the West Franconian Empire, the first margraviates emerged in the 9th century as a counterpart to the Lombard duchies: Friuli , Tuszien , Spoleto (in addition to his duke title) and Ivrea and were the areas from which the Italian kings usually came: Berengar of Friuli , Guido of Spoleto , Berengar of Ivrea . A regional reform directed against the Saracens by Berengar II divided other margravates from Ivrea: the margraviate of Turin , the margraviate of Eastern Liguria and the Margraviate of Western Liguria . The Margraviate of Verona , squeezed from him almost at the same time, was the base of the German Emperor south of the Alps.

In particular with the families of the Obertenghi and the Aleramiden , margraves of the East and West Liguria, it soon became customary for every male family member to bear the title of margrave and for the portion granted to him in the frequent divisions of inheritance to become a new margraviate. The best known are the lines Este , Massa-Carrara , Parodi, Malaspina and Pallavicini among the Obertenghi , the Montferrat and Saluzzo among the Aleramides .

Spain and Portugal

In Spain and Portugal in the 18th and 19th centuries, the marqués and marquês even sank to an everyday title, so that today in Spain - in addition to three princely titles reserved for the crown prince and 153 (2005) ducal titles - there are far more margrave titles (2005: 1349) as count (span. "Conde", 2005: 923) or baron title (span. "Baron").


The Chinese title of Hou is usually equated with the marquis ( marquis ) in the western translation .


  • Andrea Stieldorf : Brands and Margraves. Studies on border security by the Frankish-German rulers. (= MGH Schriften 64) Hahnsche Buchhandlung, Hanover 2012 ISBN 978-3-7752-5764-0 Review by Roman Deutinger
  • Daniel Rentschler: Brands and Margraves in the Early and High Medieval Empire. A comparative study mainly on the basis of royal documents and other "official sources". Stuttgart 2013 PDF


  1. Google Book Search. Otto Krabs. From illustrious to spectabilis: a small dictionary of titles and salutations. P. 42
  2. Archived copy ( memento of the original from January 19, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  3. ^ A b Alfred Levesque: You droit nobiliaire français au XIXe siècle . H. Plon, Paris 1866, p. 12 f. + 20-22 + 24 f. + 30 + 121 + 250 + 259 ( on Gallica [accessed April 29, 2010]). (French)
  4. Henry de Woelmont (Baron): Les Marquis français . nomenclature de toutes les familles françaises subsistantes ou éteintes depuis l'année 1864 portant le titre de marquis avec l'indication de l'origine de leurs titres. E. Champion, Paris 1919, p. II-IV ( on Gallica [accessed April 29, 2010]). (French)

Web links

Commons : Markgraf  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Margrave  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations