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Graf is a German noble title equal in rank to a count or an earl. The comital titles awarded in Holy Roman Empire often related to the jurisdiction or domain of responsibility and represented special concessions of authority or rank. Only the more important titles remained in use until modern times. Many counts were titled Graf without any additional qualification.

A Count rules over a territory known as a county.

German English Comment
Markgraf Margrave or
Mark: border province + Graf
Pfalzgraf Count Palatine
or Paladin
Palatinate + Graf
Landgraf Landgrave Land + Graf
Burggraf Burgrave Burg: castle + Graf
Rheingraf Rhinegrave Rhein: Rhine + Graf
Altgraf Altgrave Alt: highlands + Graf
Wildgraf Wildgrave Wild: wilderness + Graf
Raugraf Raugrave Raum: area + Graf
Vizegraf Viscount Vize: substitute + Graf


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 margraviate or margravate. 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).

Marggrabowa is an example of a town whose name comes from a margrave. Located in the Masurian region of East_Prussia, Marggrabowa was founded in 1560 by Duke Albert_of_Prussia, margrave of Brandenburg. It has since been renamed to the Polish Olecko.

Later, the title of Markgraf became hereditary and now ranks as the equivalent of a marquess, or marquis in England and France.

Count Palatine

A Pfalzgraf or Count Palatine or Palsgrave functioned, especially in medieval times, and particularly during the Holy Roman Empire, as a viceroy, often becoming a more independent ruler of a palatinate. The Count Palatine of the Rhine and junior branches of his family bore this title.


A Landgraf, or Landgrave, was a nobleman of rank or count in Medieval Germany whose jurisdiction stretched over a sometimes quite considerable territory. The title survived from the times of the Holy Roman Empire. The power of a landgrave was often associated with sovereign rights and decision-making much greater than that of a count.

Landgraf occasionally continued in use as the subsidiary title of such nobility as the Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar , who functioned as the Landgrave of Thuringia in the first decade of the 20th century; but the title fell into disuse after World War I. The jurisdiction of a landgrave was a landgraviate and the wife of a landgrave was a landgravine. Examples: Landgrave of Thuringia, Landgrave of Hesse, Landgrave of Leuchtenberg


A Burggraf, or Burgrave, was a 12th and 13th century military and civil judicial governor of a castle, of the town it dominated and of its immediate surrounding countryside. His jurisdiction was a burgraviate. Later the title became ennobled and hereditary with its own domain. Examples: Burgrave of Nuremberg.


A Rheingraf, or Rhinegrave, was a nobleman with the status of a count in the 12th and 13th centuries, the governor of one of the many castles or fortresses along the Rhine River in Western Germany, who had the entitlement of levying tolls for passage along the river.


An Altgraf, or altgrave, was a nobleman of the status of a count who had his dominion in mountainous areas of Germany and the Alpine regions, particularly around mountain passes where he had rights and entitlements of establishing garrisons at such points, and of levying tolls for passage. Originally it was a title of veneration rather than the holding of power.


A Wildgraf, Wildgrave, or Waldgrave was originally a nobleman of the status of count who had jurisdiction over uncultivated areas, forests and uninhabited districts. His legal privileges eventually vested in him the power of a chief forester and gamekeeper of a district.


A Raugraf, or Raugrave only held jurisdiction over waste ground and uninhabited districts. The title - since 1667 - was used exclusively by the children of Elector Palatine Karl I's bigamous second marriage and Karl's wife, Marie Louise von Degenfeld.


A Vizegraf or Viscount is an almost-a-Count, ranking below the other Counts, but above a Freiherr (Baron). It was often used by the heir to a Graf.

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Last updated: 08-13-2005 09:33:12
Last updated: 08-16-2005 04:19:13