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Graf: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Graf is a historical German noble title equal in rank to a count (derived from the Latin Comes, with a history of its own) or a British earl (an Anglo-Saxon title akin to the Viking title Jarl). A derivation ultimately from the Greek verb graphein 'to write' may be fanciful: Paul the Deacon wrote in Latin ca 790: "the count of the Bavarians that they call gravio who governed Bauzanum and other strongholds…" (Historia gentis Langobardorum, V.xxxvi); this may be read to make the term a Germanic one, but by then using Latin terms was quite common.

Since August 1919, in Germany, Graf and all other titles are considered as a part of the name.[1] The comital title Graf has of course also been used by German-speakers (as official or vernacular language), also in Austria and other Habsburg crown lands (mainly Slavic and Hungary), in Liechtenstein and much of Switzerland.

  • A Graf (Count) ruled over a territory known as a Grafschaft, literally 'countship' (also rendered as 'county').
  • The comital titles awarded in the 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.
  • For a list of the titles of the rank of Count etymologically related to Graf (and for other equivalents) see article Count.


List of nobiliary titles containing the term graf

Some are approximately of comital rank, some higher, some lower. The more important ones are treated in separate articles (follow the links); a few minor, rarer ones only in sections below.

German English Comment/ etymology
Markgraf Margrave (only continental) and
(younger) Marquess or Marquis
Mark: march (border province) + Graf
Landgraf Landgrave Land (country) + Graf
Reichsgraf Count of the Empire Reich i.e., (the Holy Roman) Empire + Graf
Gefürsteter Graf Princely Count German verb for "to make into a Reichsfürst" + Graf
Pfalzgraf Count Palatine
or Palsgrave (the latter is archaic in English)
Pfalz (palatial estate, Palatinate) + Graf
Rheingraf Rhinegrave Rhein (river Rhine) + Graf
Burggraf Burgrave Burg (castle, burgh) + Graf
Altgraf Altgrave Alt (old) + Graf (very rare)
Freigraf Free Count Frei = free (allodial?) + Graf; both a feudal title of comital rank and a more technical office
Wildgraf Wildgrave Wild (game or wilderness) + Graf
Raugraf Raugrave Rau (raw, uninhabited, wilderness) + Graf
Vizegraf Viscount Vize = vice- (substitute) + Graf

Reichsgraf, Gefürsteter Graf

A Reichsgraf was a nobleman whose title of count was conferred or confirmed by the Holy Roman Emperor, and literally meant "count of the (Holy Roman) Empire". Since the feudal era any count whose territory lay within the Empire, was under the immediate jurisdiction of the Emperor, and exercised a shared vote in the Reichstag came to be considered a member of the "upper nobility" (Hochadel) in Germany, along with princes (Fürsten), dukes (Herzöge), electors, and the emperor himself. [2] A count who was not a Reichsgraf was apt to possess only a "mediate" fief (Afterlehen) — he was subject to an immediate prince of the empire, such as a duke or elector.

However, the Holy Roman Emperors also occasionally granted the title of Reichsgraf to subjects and foreigners who did not possess and were not granted immediate territories -- or, sometimes, any territory at all.[3] Such titles were purely honorific. In English, Reichsgraf is usually translated simply as count and is combined with a territorial suffix (e.g. Count of Holland, Count Reuss, or a surname Count Fugger, Count von Browne. But even after the abolition of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, the Reichsgrafen retained precedence above other counts in Germany. Those who had been quasi-sovereign until German mediatisation retained, until 1918, status and privileges pertaining to members of reigning dynasties.

A gefürsteter Graf (in English, princely count) is a Reichsgraf who has been made Reichsgraf by an act of the king, as opposed to one whose ancestors have held this privilege since the High Middle Ages.

Notable Reichsgrafen included:

A complete list of Reichsgrafen as of 1792 can be found in the List of Reichstag participants (1792).


A Landgraf or Landgrave was a nobleman of comital rank in feudal Germany whose jurisdiction stretched over a sometimes quite considerable territory. The title survived from the times of the Holy Roman Empire. The status of a landgrave was often associated with sovereign rights and decision-making greater than those of a simple Graf (Count), but carried no legal prerogatives.

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 Landgrafschaft landgraviate and the wife of a landgrave was a Landgräfin or landgravine.

Examples: Landgrave of Thuringia, Landgrave of Hesse (later split in Hesse-Kassel and Hesse-Darmstadt), Landgrave of Leuchtenberg.

Gefürsteter Landgraf

A combination of Landgraf and Gefürsteter Graf (both above). Example: Leuchtenberg, later a duchy.

Burgrave / Viscount

A Burggraf, or Burgrave, was a 12th and 13th century military and civil judicial governor of a castle (compare Castellan, Custos, Keeper) of the town it dominated and of its immediate surrounding countryside. His jurisdiction was a Burggrafschaft, burgraviate.

Later the title became ennobled and hereditary with its own domain.

Example: Burgrave of Nuremberg.

It occupies the same relative rank as titles rendered in purist German by Vizegraf, in Dutch as Burggraaf or in English as Viscount (Latin: Vicecomes), in origin also a deputy of a Count, as the burgrave dwelt usually in a castle or fortified town. Soon many became hereditary and almost-a-Count, ranking just below the 'full' Counts, but above a Freiherr (Baron).

It was also often used as a courtesy title by the heir to a Graf.

Rhinegrave, Wildgrave, Raugrave, Altgrave

Unlike the other comital titles, the titles of Rhinegrave, Wildgrave (Waldgrave), Raugrave, and Altgrave are not generic titles. Instead, each is linked to one specific countship. By rank, these unusually named counts are equivalent to other counts.

  • "Rhinegrave" (German Rheingraf) was the title of the count of the Rheingau, a county located between Wiesbaden and Lorch on the right bank of the Rhine. Their castle was known as the Rheingrafenstein. After the Rhinegraves inherited the Wildgraviate (see below) and parts of the Countship of Salm, they called themselves Wild- and Rhinegraves of Salm. [4]
  • When the Nahegau (a countship named after the river Nahe) split into two parts in 1113, the counts of the two parts called themselves Wildgraves and Raugraves, respectively. They were named after the geographic properties of their territories: Wildgrave (Wildgraf), in Latin comes sylvanus, after Wald ("forest"), Raugrave (Raugraf), in Latin comes hirsutus, after the rough (i.e., mountainous) terrain. [5]
  • The first Raugrave was Count Emich I (died 1172). The dynasty died out in the 18th century. The title was taken over after Elector Palatine Karl Ludwig I purchased the estates, and after 1667 was owned by the children from the Elector's bigamous (morganatic) second marriage to Karl's wife, Marie Louise von Degenfeld. [6]
  • Altgrave (German Altgraf, "old count") was a title used by the counts of Lower Salm to distinguish themselves from the Wild- and Rhinegraves of Upper Salm, since Lower Salm was the senior branch of the family.

Other uses

Furthermore, the term -graf occurs in various office titles which did not attain nobiliary status, but were either held as a sinecure by nobleman or courtiers, or by those who remained functional officials, such as the Deichgraf (in a polder management organism).

See also

Sources and references


  1. ^ Weimar Constitution Article 109, sentence 2
  2. ^ Velde, François (2008-02-13). "". The Holy Roman Empire. Retrieved 2008-03-04.  
  3. ^ Velde, François (2008-02-13). "". The Holy Roman Empire. Retrieved 2008-03-04.  
  4. ^ Rheingraf at Meyers Konversationslexikon, 1888
  5. ^ Raugraf at Meyers Konversationslexikon, 1888
  6. ^ Raugraf at

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also graf





Old High German grāfio


German Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia de

Graf m. (genitive Grafen, plural Grafen)

  1. count (member of German nobility)

Proper noun


  1. A surname.


Up to date as of January 23, 2010
(Redirected to Alfred Byrd Graf article)

From Wikispecies

(1901 - )


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