Burgrave of Regensburg (Burggraf von Regensburg), early 14th-century illustration in Codex Manesse.

Burgrave (from German: Burggraf, Latin: burggravius, burcgravius, burgicomes) was since the medieval period a title for the ruler of a castle, especially a royal or episcopal castle, as well as a castle district (castellany) or fortified settlement or city.[1][2] The burgrave was a count in rank (German Graf, Latin Comes) equipped with judicial powers.[1][2] The title became hereditary in certain feudal families and was associated with a territory or domain called a Burgraviate (German Burggrafschaft, Latin Prefectura). The position and office of burgrave could be held either by the king, a nobleman or a bishop, the responsibilities were administrative, military and jurisdictional.


Etymologically, the word burgrave is the English and French form of the German noble title Burggraf (Burg "Castle" + Graf "Count"). The wife of a burgrave was titled Burgravine, in German Burggräfin.[1][3]

The title is originally equivalent to that of castellan (Latin: castellanus) or French châtelain; meaning keeper or commander of a castle and/or fortified settlement (both can be called Burg in German).

Holy Roman Empire territories

In Germany, owing to the distinct conditions of the Holy Roman Empire, the title, as borne by feudal nobles having the status of Reichsfürst (Prince of the Empire), obtained a quasi-princely significance.[4]

There were four hereditary burgraviates ranking as principalities within the Holy Roman Empire, plus the burgraviate of Meissen:

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.[4] The Grand Duke of Luxembourg maintains as a subsidiary title "Burgrave of Hammerstein".


In the Kingdom of Poland (1385–1569) and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1569–1795), the position and office of 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). Their primus 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.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 Encyclopædia Britannica; Definition of burgrave (title).
  2. 1 2 Duden; Definition of Burggraf (in German).
  3. Duden; Definition of Burggräfin (in German).
  4. 1 2  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Burgrave". Encyclopædia Britannica. 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 820.
  5. Motley, John Lothrop (1855). The Rise of the Dutch Republic, vol. 2. Harper & Brothers. p. 37.
  6. Young, Andrew (1886). A Short History of the Netherlands (Holland and Belgium). Netherlands: T. F. Unwin. p. 315.
  7. Putnam, Ruth (1895). William the Silent, Prince of Orange: the moderate man of the sixteenth century : the story of his life as told from his own letters, from those of his friends and enemies and from official documents, Volume 1. Putnam. p. 211.
  8. Parker, Geoffrey (2002). The Dutch Revolt. Penguin.
  9. Rowen, Herbert H. (1990). The Princes of Orange: The Stadholders in the Dutch Republic. Cambridge Univ. Press.
  10. Koninklijkhuis (2013). "Frequently asked questions re King William-Alexander" (web). Rijksvoorlichtingsdienst (RVD). Retrieved 2013-05-30. 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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