Saturday, September 25, 2010

Who is a nobleman in Europe? (Part Two: Seven Modern Kingdoms)

In the Byzantium, the ruler carried the title vasileos and avtokrator, which means emperor and autocrat. Lower titles were the despot (in the beginning it was the title of Crown Prince), then sevastokrator and then Cesar (i.e. Caesar).

Although, theoretically, the Empire was supposed to be "universal", that is, there could exist only one, in Europe, since the Middle Ages until today, besides the Byzantine Empire, several other empires were also declared. In the year 800, the Western Roman Empire was renewed, under the name the Holy Roman Empire of the German people (the first Reich). Emperor was chosen by seven electors, but the title usually remained in the same family and was passed on from father to son. Habsburg family held this title for four centuries, until its abolition, in 1806, when the Emperor Franz II of Habsburg-Lorraine proclaimed himself as Franz I, Emperor of Austria.

In the 19th century several new "empires" emerged: 1804 in France (Emperor Napoleon I), 1871 in Germany (Prussian King Wilhelm II was proclaimed as German Emperor - this is the second Reich). British Queen Victoria's was proclaimed as Empress of India in 1877. For a short time in the 19th century there were even and emperors of Brazil (Portuguese kings), and Mexico. After the First World War, all three European "empires" (German, Austria-Hungarian and the Russian) disappeared.

Lower than the imperial title was King (in Latin - rex). In Europe today, mainly in the north, there exist seven hereditary kingdoms, while there has been a lot more of them - especially in eastern and southern Europe. The title of king could be granted only by a pope (or emperor).

Below the title of King comes Duke (in Latin - dux). In Europe today there is still the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, once part of the Holy Roman Empire. The title of Grand Duke or Archduke was given to members of the imperial family of Austria and Russia (Habsburg, Romanov).

Lower than the Duke title, but high in the hierarchy of the nobility, is the French title Marquis, which in Germany can be compared to different names, such as the Margrave, Landgrave, Count Palatine (elector) and First (prince - the ruler of a certain area).

Next in line is the title of Count (Comte in France or in England, Earl). This word pulls the origin from the Latin word comes, which was the position of servers, escorts on the court of Roman emperor. In the early Middle Ages, in some countries, like France, counts were extremely powerful feudal lords, equal to dukes, and sometimes even kings. Over time, this title was granted too often and it lost some of its former prestige, although today it still marks the high nobility.

Below the Count is Viscount (i.e. viceroy, or lower count). Finally we have the title of Baron, and then Baronet (knights in Germany) whose holders are considered as lower nobility.

In Europe today there are ten countries which have hereditary monarchy, of which seven are kingdoms, one is grand duchy, and two are principalities:

-    United Kingdom (the ruler is Queen Elizabeth II of Windsor)
-    Belgium (King Albert II of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha)
-    Denmark (Queen Margrethe II of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Gl├╝cksburg)
-    Sweden (King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden)
-    Spain (King Juan Carlos I of Borbon)
-    Norway (King Harald V of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Gl├╝cksburg)
-    Netherlands (Queen Beatrix of Orange-Nassau)
-    Luxembourg (Grand Duke Henri II de Bourbon)
-    Monaco (Prince Albert II Grimaldi)
-    Liechtenstein (Prince Hans Adam II)

To read Who is a nobleman in Europe? (Part Three: Noble Blood), click HERE.

To return to Who is a nobleman in Europe? (Part One: From Cesar to Emperor), click HERE.

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