Burgrave, also rendered as Burggrave (from German: Burggraf, Latin: burgravius, burggravius, burcgravius, burgicomes, also praefectus), has been since the medieval period in Europe, especially Germany, the official title for the ruler of a castle, especially a royal or episcopal castle, and its territory called a Burgraviate or Burgravate (German Burggrafschaft also Burggrafthum, Latin praefectura). The burgrave was a count in rank (German Graf, Latin comes) equipped with judicial powers, under the direct authority of the Emperor or King, or of a territorial imperial state—a prince-bishop or territorial lord. The responsibilities were administrative, military and jurisdictional. A burgrave, who ruled over a substantially large territory, may also have possessed the regality of coinage, and could mint his own regional coins (see silver bracteates).
Etymologically, the word burgrave is the English and French form of the German noble title Burggraf (compounded from Burg: castle, fortress or equally fortified town and Graf: count) from Middle High German burcgrâve. The feminine form is burgravine, in German Burggräfin (from Middle High German burcgrâvin).
From the early High Middle Ages, the German Burggraf (burgrave) was originally the military governor or commander of a castle, similar to that of the Anglo-Norman French "castellain" and Middle English "castellan" (from Latin: castellanus).
From the mid-12th century, King Conrad III of Germany created a new quality for the title of burgrave, especially during the German eastward colonization. They became protectors and administrators of extensive royal territories near major imperial castles, such as Meissen, Altenburg and Leisnig, and received "judicial lordship" (German: Gerichtsherrschaft). They also acted as colonizers and created their own dominions.
Under the reign of the King Rudolf I of Germany, their dignity was considerably advanced. Before his time, burgraves were ranked only as counts (Graf), below the princes (Fürst), but during his reign began to receive the same esteem as princes.
Holy Roman Empire territories
In the Kingdom of Germany, owing to the distinct conditions of the Holy Roman Empire, the title, as borne by feudal nobles having the status of Reichsfürst (princes of the Empire), obtained a quasi-royal significance.
Like other officials of the feudal state, some burgraves soon became hereditary rulers. There were four hereditary burgraviates ranking as principalities within the Holy Roman Empire, plus the burgraviate of Meissen:
- The Burgraviate of Antwerp (in present-day Belgium): this was a title inherited from the Margraviate of Antwerp by the Counts of Nassau, lords of Breda, who later inherited the title Prince of Orange.[clarification needed] The most famous holder was William the Silent, who used his influence over the city to control its local government and use it as a base for the Dutch Revolt. Subsequently in the Low countries, the rank of burggraaf evolved into the nobiliary synonymous with viscount. The title "Viscount of Antwerp" is still claimed by the reigning monarch of the Netherlands as one of its subsidiary titles.
- The Burgraviate of Magdeburg,
- The Burgraviate of Friedberg,
- The Burgraviate of Meissen,
- The Burgraviate of Nuremberg: established by King Conrad III of Germany, the first burgraves were from the Austrian Count's Raabs an der Thaya, and then passed to the count's surviving son-in-law from the House of Hohenzollern, which, since Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor, continued to hold it until 1801. It was still included among the subsidiary titles of several German semi-sovereign princes; the king of Prussia, whose ancestors were burgraves of Nuremberg for over 200 years, maintaining the additional style of Burggraf von Nürnberg.
In the Crown of the Kingdom of Bohemia, the title of burgrave was given by the King of Bohemia to the chief officer, or the regal official who commands in quality of viceroy.[awkward] From the 14th century, the burgrave of Prague—the highest-ranking of all burgraves, seated at Prague castle, gradually became the state's highest-ranking official, who also acted as the king's deputy; the office became known as the high or supreme burgrave of the Kingdom of Bohemia (Czech: Nejvyšší purkrabí); the appointment was usually for life. After the reforms of Maria Theresa (reign 1740-1780) and her son Joseph II (reign 1780-1790), the highest burgrave gradually lost its de facto power. The title of the highest burgrave was still granted, however, and its holder remained the first officer of the kingdom. It was abolished in 1848.
In the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland, the burgrave (Polish: burgrabia, earlier also murgrabia) was also of senatorial rank (i.e. held a seat in the upper chamber of the Senate of Poland). Ranking first among them was the "Burgrave of Kraków" (Polish: Burgrabia krakowski) of the former capital of Poland and Wawel Castle, who was appointed directly by the King of Poland. The royal office was originally created during the reign of Casimir III the Great. At that time, Kraków's burgrave was also chief judge of the Supreme Court of German Law (see Magdeburg Law) erected in Kraków in lieu of Magdeburg. The burgrave of Kraków also collected an income from the royal Wieliczka Salt Mine, run by the Royal Salt Mines company Żupy krakowskie since the 13th century.
In Sweden, the burgrave (Swedish: burggreve, earlier spelling burggrefve) was the highest official in the cities of Gothenburg and Malmö during periods in the 17th and early 18th centuries. The title was first introduced by the king Gustavus Adolphus in the 1621 charter for Gothenburg, though it was not actually used until 1625. The burgrave of Gothenburg was to protect the "highness, reputation and regalia" of the monarch and was appointed by him or her from a group of six candidates proposed by the city board. In Gothenburg, the title ceased to be used in 1683 but was briefly reintroduced by Charles XII between 1716 and 1719. Now appointed among three candidates, the burgrave was the executive of the city, keeping the city keys and supervising the board. Following the Gothenburg model, the title was introduced in Malmö by Charles X Gustav after the city was ceded to Sweden in 1658, but was abolished 19 years later in 1677.
England and France
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The King's full official titles are King of the Netherlands, Prince of Orange-Nassau, Jonkheer van Amsberg, Count of Katzenelnbogen, Vianden, Diez, Spiegelberg, Buren, Leerdam and Culemborg, Marquis of Veere and Vlissingen, Baron of Breda, Diest, Beilstein, the town of Grave and the lands of Cuyk, IJsselstein, Cranendonk, Eindhoven and Liesveld, Hereditary Lord and Seigneur of Ameland, Lord of Borculo, Bredevoort, Lichtenvoorde, 't Loo, Geertruidenberg, Klundert, Zevenbergen, Hoge and Lage Zwaluwe, Naaldwijk, Polanen, St Maartensdijk, Soest, Baarn and Ter Eem, Willemstad, Steenbergen, Montfort, St Vith, Bütgenbach and Dasburg, Viscount of Antwerp.
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