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Become a count and countess: Buy an aristocratic title!

Anyone who has to choose an aristocratic title can’t overlook count and countess. The title of count points to a noble position nestled between that of a margrave and a viscount in the aristocratic hierarchy. The image of the nobility has changed down the years, but counts can look back on a long history. The following article will explain more about buying an aristocratic title, where the title of count comes from, and what being a count is all about.

The etymology of the aristocratic title

From a historical point of view, the title of count hails from English-speaking countries, where they are called earls. The origin of the word comes from ‘jarl’, meaning ‘chieftain’ in Scandinavia and as far back as the Vikings. As centuries went by, though, this title disappeared from the picture, while the aristocratic title of ‘earl’ was used well into the Middle Ages before being replaced by the title of ‘duke’. The English ‘earl’ is equivalent to the German ‘Graf’, or ‘count’. Nowadays there are more than 300 earl titles used exclusively by British nobility.

What are earls and counts?

The terms ‘earl’ and ‘count’ hail from English-speaking countries, and both have the same meaning. On the one hand, ‘earl’ is used to describe all nobles of this rank from the English-speaking realm, while foreign nobles are called ‘counts’. The oldest earl title, by the way, is the Earl of Arundel, first bestowed in the year 1141. Both earls and counts have the same noble rank, and both titles were introduced after the Norman conquest of England-

Land ownership and earldom

But who exactly was able to stake a claim to the title of ‘earl’? Nowadays an earl or count doesn’t necessarily need to own land or rule over an earldom, though in the past this was different. An earl was the ruler of an earldom and received a portion of the revenue from the area. Even today earls are still closely linked to their respective region and earldom. The convention for the name of ‘earl’ was not especially strict the past, though certain rules stipulated who was able to call themselves ‘earl’. These defined different situations in which a noble could define himself as an earl:

– owning his own earldom
– owning a district town in the earldom
– owning another well-known place in the earldom

If the distinction as an earl or count wasn’t clear enough, the person’s own name could also be added. This meant that there were sometimes earls and counts who only owned a chunk of land within an earldom or county. If the earldom and the associated title had already been designated to another earl, though, it wasn’t possible to have a second Earl of Essex or Oxford. In this case, the noble’s own name could be used as a replacement for the place name.

Range of count titles

Counts and earls were not the only aristocrats in history, however. In fact there were lots of different titles with manifold meanings. There are endless other aristocratic titles linked to German counts alone, including landgraves, margraves, imperial counts and lensgreves, all of them titles with their own special characteristics. While an imperial count ruled over a portion of an empire, a landgrave was a fief holder whose title was granted by the king.

Non-hereditary titles

The title of ‘count’ was not always inherited. History gives us a few examples of non-aristocratic bearers of a certain state office who were also called counts, such as a judicial officer with administrative authority. These officials were generally called ‘Freigraf’ (meaning ‘free count’). There were also other administrative officials known as counts, like Hanseatic counts, dike counts and wood counts, all responsible for different areas of administration and bureaucracy. Whereas Hanseatic counts (from the confederation called the Hanseatic League) dealt with trade issues, dike counts and wood counts were responsible for water and forest management, respectively.

Counts today

While in the past counts acquired their titles from belonging to the aristocracy, this is different for counts today. Over time, even judges and other personalities in elevated positions would become counts. Today it’s even possible to buy the title of count. If you’d like to call yourself a count in the near future then there’s nothing in the way of you buying an aristocratic title along with a certificate of appointment and a coat of arms.

The aristocratic title of count in Germany

Count of Westphalia, Count of Schönborn, Count of Falkenstein and more – all these counts and countesses have existed in Germany since the Middle Ages. Today it’s also possible to buy these titles. The certificate of appointment will allow you to look like an authentic count and countess in the very near future.