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Whats the difference in titles?

Ash
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Whats the difference in titles?

Post by Ash » Wed February 4th, 2009, 2:32 pm

Something Ive always wondered at - what is the difference between a baron, lord, duke, count? How do dukes differ from princes? How did the different titles originate?

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Post by EC2 » Wed February 4th, 2009, 4:42 pm

[quote=""Ash""]Something Ive always wondered at - what is the difference between a baron, lord, duke, count? How do dukes differ from princes? How did the different titles originate?[/quote]

There are no easy answers Ash! :confused:
These title mean different things in different places at different times. I couldn't begin to explain the later definititions to you; it's beyond my scope.

In my period - say 1066 - 1250
Basically a Prince waas almost always the son of a king (not sure how it works for the Welsh and whether their princes were the sons of princes too)
A Count is the same as an earl in 12thC britain. William Marshal is Earl of Pembroke for example, but he's also called a count (comes) in Anglo French texts.
What the difference is between a count and a duke I couldn't say. There weren't any Dukes in Britain in the above period but they arrived later along with extra rules. No Counts either, but mainly because over here Counts were called Earls. Barons tended to have less land than Earls and Counts and not be as important. They were often the vassals of earls. A baron, an earl and a count all come under the umbrella of being lords. Basically a lord back then was an aristocratic guy with land who owed military service to either a lord higher up than himself or to the crown. His land could be anything from two peasant huts and a cowshed to several rich manors and a castle or two.
Clear as mud probably and that's only a short bit of it. Others more knowledgeable will be able to tell you about later titles. I may have more info in a David Crouch book which talks about how the aristocracy saw themselves, but will need to ferret it out.
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Post by Carla » Wed February 4th, 2009, 6:07 pm

As EC says, the titles mean different things in different times and places. I can say a bit about the origins, at least in relation to Britain.

Count and Duke both originate from Latin terms, 'comes' and 'dux', respectively, and were originally military ranks in the Roman Army. In Late Roman Britain the three most senior Roman army commanders were the Comes Britanniarum (Count of the Britains - note that in Late Roman times Roman Britain consisted of 4 provinces and so was plural), Dux Britanniarum (Duke of the Britains) and Comes Litoni Saxonicum (Count of the Saxon Shore). The Dux commanded a static force based along Hadrian's Wall, the two Counts commanded mobile forces. There is, or at least was, academic debate about which was senior; I think the majority view is that the Counts were senior to the Duke, although I personally think it quite possible that they were approximately equal with different roles. In post-Roman Britain, the Historia Brittonum (written approx 9th century in Latin) calls Arthur 'Dux Bellorum' (War Duke, or War Lord), so 'Dux' was still in use for a while after the end of Roman government, at least when speaking/writing in Latin. In Contintental Europe the Latin terms never went out of use, so you get Counts and Dukes in the medieval period. Ditto in Byzantium, which was of course the Eastern Roman Empire and carried on using Roman titles, so you get Count Belisarius in the 550s, who was a senior military commander reconquering quite a lot of North Africa and Italy for Emperor Justinian.

Over time, as military power came to be held by men with sufficient land to support armed followers instead of by a central government regular army, the Roman military titles became the titles of landholding aristocrats.

Earl is derived from Norse 'jarl', and came into widespread use in England in the Danelaw in the ninth century (Alfred the Great agreed to partition England into two parts; the south-west where he ruled and the north-east where Danish law applied, hence the name 'Dane-law'). The approximate Old English equivalent is 'ealdorman'. After Cnut became King of England in the 11th century 'earl' became the standard title, and after the Norman Conquest it carried on being the standard title in England for a senior nobleman, approximately equivalent to the title of Count in Continental Europe. Which is why William Marshal in EC's example was 'earl' in English and 'count' in Norman-French, the two titles were more or less treated as translations of each other. Curiously, English imported 'Countess' as the female title - an earl's wife is called Countess. Don't ask me why, although I would guess that there wasn't a feminine equivalent of 'jarl' or 'earl'. 'Lady' would have been the female title in English - Aethelflaed in the ninth century was called 'Lady of the Mercians' when she held a position that would have been ealdorman or even king had she been a man.

In Highland Scotland the approximate equivalent of 'earl' was 'mormaer' (I don't know about the Lowlands).

In early medieval Britain, Earls, Ealdormen, Jarls and Mormaers were the aristocracy immediately below the king, so seriously important and powerful people. You could regard them as sort of sub-kings, and some of them were probably originally kings of smaller kingdoms that got absorbed into larger kingdoms.

Extra complications arise because there were several different languages in use. Part of the apparent multiplicity of titles arises from the use of different words in different languages to describe approximately the same thing. E.g. documents written in English would refer to a Scottish mormaer, a Norse jarl or a Norman count as as 'earl' because that was the nearest English word to describe his position. It didn't necessarily mean that mormaers, jarls, earls and counts represented distinct ranks. It also didn't necessarily mean that a count or jarl or mormaer had exactly the same rights and powers as an English earl, just that whoever was writing the document and was faced with this strange foreign title thought that it was near enough.

I don't know when or where the title of Baron came from, but it was a lower rank. (Maybe the approximate equivalent of the Old English 'thegn' or 'thane').
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Post by Ash » Thu February 5th, 2009, 12:26 am

Thanks! I was trying to remember the other title - Earl was it. Great info, guys, even if its all muddy :)

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Post by Margaret » Thu February 5th, 2009, 2:34 am

And if that's not confusing enough, things were way more confusing in Germany (the Holy Roman Empire), which was fragmented into hundreds of tiny counties, duchies, princedoms and what-have-you under the not-very-effective overlordship of a Kaiser until the Napoleonic Wars. A count ruled a county, a duke ruled a duchy, a prince ruled a principality, etc. The difference in their level of authority? Not much, if any, although "Electors" had a vote in who became the next Kaiser whenever a Kaiser died. There were even chunks of the Holy Roman Empire ruled by bishops (some of them Electors, some not).
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Post by annis » Thu February 5th, 2009, 2:52 am

This all very interesting. Being curious about the title Baron I had a hunt and apparently the word baron comes from Old French baron, itself from Old High German and originally the Latin (liber) baro meaning "(free) man, (free) warrior"; it merged with cognate Old English beorn meaning "nobleman."

The rank of baron seems to have been introduced to England by William the Conqueror as part of the fuedal system, to distinguish the men who had pledged their loyalty to him and held their lands of him. All who held their barony "in chief of the king" (that is, directly from William and his successors) became alike barones regis (barons of the king), bound to perform a stipulated service, and welcome to attend his council.

If I haven't got this right I'm sure EC or Boswellbaxter can sort me out :)

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Post by Margaret » Thu February 5th, 2009, 5:20 am

At least we've got one of those silly titles pinned down now!
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Post by LoveHistory » Thu February 5th, 2009, 9:19 pm

And Baronet is even newer and lower.

Then you can throw Viscounts into the mix. Fun fun fun.

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Post by Misfit » Fri February 6th, 2009, 12:56 am

And Marquess as well, isn't there?

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Post by LoveHistory » Fri February 6th, 2009, 3:58 pm

And let us not forget the English female counterpart: Marchioness.

I've always gotten confused by Marquess vs Marquis vs Marquise. Perhaps I should have studied French.

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