Count palatine

A count palatine (Latin comes palatinus), also count of the palace or palsgrave (from German Pfalzgraf), was originally an official attached to a royal or imperial palace or household and later a nobleman of a rank above that of an ordinary count. The title originated in the late Roman Empire. In the Middle Ages especially and into modern times, it is associated with the Holy Roman Empire.[1]

The office, jurisdiction or territory of a count palatine was a county palatine or palatinate. In England, the forms earl palatine and palatine earldom are preferred.[1]

Importance of a count palatine in medieval Europe

Comes palatinus

This Latin title is the original, but also pre-feudal: it originated as a Roman Comes, which was a non-hereditary court title of high rank, the specific part palatinus being the adjective derived from palatium ('palace').

After the fall of Rome, a new feudal type of title, also known simply as palatinus, started developing. The Frankish kings of the Merovingian dynasty (reigned 480–750) employed a high official, the comes palatinus, who at first assisted the king in his judicial duties and at a later date discharged many of these himself. Other counts palatine were employed on military and administrative work.[2]

In the Visigothic Kingdom, the Officium Palatinum consisted of a number of men with the title of count that managed the various departments of the royal household. The Comes Cubiculariorum oversaw the chamberlains, the Comes Scanciorun directed the cup-bearers, the Comes Stabulorum directed the equerries in charge of the stables, etc. The Ostrogothic Kingdom also maintained palatine counts with titles such as Comes Patrimonium, who was in charge of the patrimonial or private real estate of the king, and others.

The system was maintained by the Carolingian sovereigns (reigned 750–1000). A Frankish capitulary of 882 and Hincmar, archbishop of Reims, writing about the same time, testify to the extent to which the judicial work of the Frankish Empire had passed into their hands, and one grant of power was followed by another.[2] (See the twelve legendary Paladins.)

Instead of remaining near the person of the king, some of the counts palatine were sent to various parts of his empire to act as judges and governors, the districts ruled by them being called palatinates. Being in a special sense the representatives of the sovereign, they were entrusted with more extended power than the ordinary counts. In this way came about the later and more general use of the word "palatine", its application as an adjective to persons entrusted with special powers—but also to the districts over which these powers were exercised.[2]

By the High Middle Ages, the title "count" had become increasingly common, to the point that both great magnates who ruled regions that were the size of duchies, and local castle-lords, might style themselves "count." As the great magnates began to centralize their power over their local castle-lords, they felt the need to assert the difference between themselves and these minor "counts." Therefore, several of these great magnates began styling themselves "Count palatine," signifying great counts ruling regions equivalent to duchies, such as the Counts Palatine of Champagne in the 13th century. See also Royal Administration of Merovingian and Carolingian Dynasties.

Related titles

In early medieval Poland the Palatinus was next in rank to the King. As he is also the chief commander of the King's army the rank is merged with Wojewoda, with the latter replacing the title of Palatine. During the Fragmentation of Poland each Prince would have his own voivode. When some of these Principalities are reunited into the Kingdom of Poland the Palatines are infeudated with them as there is no local Prince anymore. Or rather on behalf of the King to whom all these princely titles returned. The Principalities are thus made Voivodships (sometimes translated as Palatinates). In the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth the Voivodes sit in the Senat. Throughout its history the dignity remained non-hereditary or semi-hereditary. Today voivodes are government officials.

As successor to the Byzantine emperor after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Ottoman sultan also claimed the right to bestow the office. Thus Giovanni Bellini was named Comes palatinus by Emperor Frederick III in 1469 and later again in 1481 by Sultan Mehmet II.

Grand Čelnik (велики челник).[3] The Grand Čelnik was the highest court title of the Serbian Despotate, and the title-holders held great provinces, property, and honours, and Radič (fl. 1413–1441) was one of the most powerful ones.[4] Hungary in the Middle Ages: nádorispán or nádor (see Palatine of Hungary)

The term Count palatine was not used in the United Kingdom. Just as Count always remained reserved for continental territories, even though the equivalence of earl became clear by rendering it in Latin also as Comes, earl palatine was the exclusively British title for the incumbent of a British county palatine.