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A burgrave is literally the count of (i.e. appointed over) a castle or fortified town. The English form is derived through the French from the German Burggraf and Dutch) burg- or burch-graeve (Mediaeval Latin language burcgravius or burgicomes).

  • The title is originally equivalent to that of castellan (Latin: castellanus) or châtelain, meaning keeper of a castle and/or fortified town (both can be called Burg in German, burg in Dutch).
  • In Germany, owing to the peculiar conditions of the Holy Roman Empire, though the office of burgrave had become a sinecure by the end of the 13th century, the title, as borne by feudal nobles having the status of Reichsfürst (Prince of the Empire), obtained a quasi-princely significance.

There were four hereditary burgraviates ranking as principalities within the Holy Roman Empire:

It was still included among the subsidiary titles of several German (semi-)sovereign princes; and the king of Prussia, whose ancestors were burgraves of Nuremberg for over 200 years, maintained the additional style of Burggraf von Nürnberg.

  • In the Low countries, the rank of burggraaf developed into the nobiliary equivalent of a viscount (see that article).
  • In the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1569-1795), the office was of senatorial rank (i.e. entitled to a seat in the upper chamber of the sejm or diet); with the exception of their primus, the burgrabia of the former capital Kracow, these castellans were deputies of the (equally senatorial) provincial voivode.

References

(incomplete)

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

BURGRAVE, the Eng. form, derived through the Fr., of the Ger. Burggraf and Flem. burg or burch-graeve (med. Lat. burcgravius or burgicomes), i.e. count of a castle or fortified town. The title is equivalent to that of castellan (Lat. castellanus) or châtelain (q.v.). In Germany, owing to the peculiar conditions of the Empire, though the office of burgrave had become a sinecure by the end of the 13th century, the title, as borne by feudal nobles having the status of princes of the Empire, obtained a quasi-royal significance. It is still included among the subsidiary titles of several sovereign princes; and the king of Prussia, whose ancestors were burgraves of Nuremberg for over 200 years, is still styled burgrave of Nuremberg.


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