Margrave

From Academic Kids

MARGRAVE is the English and French form of the German title Markgraf (from mark 'march' + Graf) and certain equivalent nobiliary ('princely') titles in other languages.

  • A Markgraf, or Margrave, originally functioned as the military governor of a Carolingian "Mark" (or March), a medieval border province. As outlying areas tended to have great importance to the central realms of kings and princes, and they often became larger than those nearer the interior, margraves assumed quite inordinate powers over those of other counts of a realm.

A margrave had jurisdiction over a mark, which also become known, after his title, as a margraviate or margravate, strictly speaking the correct word for his office.

The wife of a margrave is called a margravine.

  • Most Marks and, consequently, Margraves had their base on the Eastern border of the Carolingian and later, Holy Roman Empire. (The Spanish Mark on the Muslim frontier, including what is now Catalonia, forming a notable exception).

In Central Europe the most important provinces (so-called) became the "Mark Brandenburg" and the original territory of Austria (located mostly in modern Lower Austria), which in Latin had the name Marchia Orientalis, the "eastern borderland". (During the 19th and 20th centuries some Germanophones sometimes translated the term as Ostmark, but mediaeval documents attest only the vernacular name Ostarrichi.) Here one has to bear in mind that Austria formed the eastern outpost of the Holy Roman Empire, on the border with the Magyars and the Slavs. Another Mark in the south-east, Styria, still appears as Steiermark in German today. Similarly the north-west featured the "Higher March" (Hohe Mark).

  • terms in other European languages

Languages with a specific title for the margrave (distinct from the later Marquess) include (probably incomplete; may merely serve to refer to realities elsewhere, notably in the Holy Empire) :

    • Dutch Markgraaf
    • Italian Margravio
    • Polish Margrabia
    • Portuguese Margrave
    • Swedish Markgreve
  • Several states have had institutions quite analogous, sometimes rendered in English as Margrave; for example on England's Celtic (Welsh and Scottish) borders, Marcher Lords, whose demesnes were called march to : a perfect parallel
  • Later, the title of Markgraf became hereditary and now ranks as the equivalent of a marquess, or marquis in England and France.
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