Glossary:- Roles & Peoples

ADVOCATE  Advocatus (Latin); Avoué (Fr);  Vogt (German).

The Advocate

The Advocate (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An officer who carried out certain secular functions connected with the lands and rights held by bishops and monasteries.   The position often enabled the nobles who held it to detach some of the lands and rights to themselves.   By the 11th century churchmen were looking for other ways of protecting themselves and ensuring that their secular duties could be carried out.   In one area the rights of advocacy continued important in the 12th century.   Great nobles would found monasteries, transfer the property rights to the Pope, but secure appointment from him as advocate of the new monastery.   As the Pope was far distant and they, the founders and advocates, were near to hand, they effectively controlled the monasteries, at least in secular matters.   The Zähringer, one of the greatest families of southwestern Germany, for example, founded monasteries in the Black Forest and used them to clear part of the woodlands and develop the land economically, thus enhancing their own wealth and power.


Map of Alan migrations 4th - 5th cent. Red:mig...

Map of Alan migrations 4th – 5th cent. Red:migrations; Orange: military expeditions; Yellow: settlement areas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An Iranian people on the steppes, the eastern branch of the Sarmatians, who had dominated the steppes for hundreds of years in the Classical age.   With the coming of the Huns in the 4th century the main body of the Alans moved into the plains north of the Caucasus Mountains, away from the main route between Asia and Europe.   There they lived for centuries, sometimes independent, sometimes subject to the power that controlled the steppes, until the Mongol invasions in the 13th century ended their independence.   The Ossetes, who live either side of the Daryal Pass in the centre of the Caucasus Mountains, are in all probability the descendants of the Alans.

One body of Alans fled before the Hun advance and got caught up in the great movement of peoples in Europe.   By 406 they were linked with the Germanic Suevi and Vandals, and with them they crossed the frozen Rhine on the last day of the year, to rampage through Gaul and eventually on into Roman Spain.   In 416 they and the Siling Vandals were caught by the Visigoths, the allies of the Romans, and were so shattered that they disappear from history.

ALEMANNIA   Or, Alamannia; ALEMANNIEN or Alamannien (either spelling, whether in English or German, is common).

Deutsch: Das Herzogtum Alamannien und das Köni...

Deutsch: Das Herzogtum Alamannien und das Königreich Hochburgund im 10. Jahrhundert (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Alemans or Alemanni were a confederation of German tribes, whose name means all-men.   They were pushed southwards from the region of the lower Main by the Franks.   After the Romans had abandoned the Agri Decumates (where they had advanced their frontier forward to take in the Black Forest, the valley of the Neckar and the lower Main and Lahn) in the 260s or 270s the Alemans moved very gradually into the region and became established there.   In the early 5th century they began to settle across the Rhine in Alsace and through much of that century they spread into what is now German-speaking Switzerland.  The Schwyzerdütsch, the spoken German of the Swiss, is descended from Alemannic German.

Although they thus advanced the German language in place of Romance across the Rhine, politically the Alemans were much weaker than the Franks.   The terrain of the Black Forest, Alsace, and northern Switzerland, broken up by hills and mountains, favoured local power.  As the Franks grew in power and spread their authority into eastern Gaul, the Alemans became subservient to them, and Alsace became a separate Duchy under Frankish rulers.  By the 7th century, the Alemans east of the Rhine had recovered autonomy.   Several campaigns by the Carolingians in the 8th century restored the full authority of the Frankish Kingdom;  at the end of the last campaign, in 746, the Aleman princes and a large part of their nobility were slaughtered at Canstatt, near Stuttgart.

In the division of the Frankish Empire of 843 Alsace together with the lands south of the Rhine and west of the Aare became part of the middle Kingdom of the Emperor Lothar, whilst the Black Forest region, the lands east of the Aare, and Rhaetia (the uppermost lands of the Rhine and the Inn) were placed in the lands of Louis the German.   In planning for the partition of his lands after his death Louis the German allocated Alemannia as the future share of his youngest son, Charles the Fat.  In 870, after the death of Lothar II of Lotharingia, all the old Aleman territories were reunited in the German Kingdom.   But not for long.   Though Charles the Fat was to reunite practically all the Carolingian Empire in the 880s, it was by default.   The feebleness of the Empire in the face of Viking and Arab threats led to its breakup in 887-8.   The lands west of the Aare became part of the new Kingdom of Burgundy, except for those running along the Rhine, reaching nearly to Basle, though these, together with the region between the Aare and the Reuss, were added to Burgundy some thirty years later.

In the German lands a Duchy emerged in the early 10th century, later than in Saxony, Bavaria or (probably) Franconia, the delay having been caused by divisions within Alemannia   Alsace had frequently been separate, whilst in Rhaetia, the Bishop of Chur had long had great power.   Moreover there were two families contending for power, and blood flowed in Alemannia in the 910s.   One contender was slaughtered by his rivals in 911 and they in turn were executed in 917 by Conrad I, the German King and their brother-in-law.   With their destruction, Burchard, the son of the contender murdered in 911, became Duke.

The name Alemannia became replaced in the Duchy by Schwaben (Swabia), though by the 13th century it was sometimes used for the German Kingdom.   The name of Germany is one on which there is no consensus;  the three major languages of western Europe each have utterly different names for it.  The Hohenstaufen era led to Germany being called the regnum Alamanniae:  the Staufer were Dukes of Swabia, and had much property both in Alsace and in the northeast of the Duchy.  The French still use Allemagne, and the Spanish Alemania, for Germany.


The map shows both the Angeln peninsula (to th...

The map shows both the Angeln peninsula (to the east of Flensburg and Schleswig) and the Schwansen peninsula (south of the Schlei). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Germanic people, from what was then called Angel or Angeln (in northeastern Schleswig-Holstein), who emigrated to the land that now bears their name, England.

How distinct the Angles, Saxons and Jutes really were is a matter of argument;  traditionally, the Kingdoms of East Anglia, Mercia, and Northumbria were the principal kingdoms of the Angles.   The Middle Angles, for a time a sub-kingdom of Mercia, lived in the East Midlands.

English: Map of England and Wales, showing Ang...

English: Map of England and Wales, showing Anglo-Saxon and Celtic kingdoms as of c. 600. Redrawn from a map in James Campbell, The Anglo-Saxons, Penguin Books, 1991. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


A name originally used for those Saxons who emigrated to what came to be called England, as opposed to those Saxons who remained in Germany.

It later became a composite word for the German peoples who settled in England, Angles and Saxons, Jutes and Frisians.   Anglo-Saxon has frequently been used adjectivally in phrases like Anglo-Saxon England, denoting England before the Norman Conquest.   For the early language and literature of the English, Anglo-Saxon has been replaced by Early English, but in general use it seems sturdy enough to survive the strictures of those who dislike it.


The Avars were a confederation of steppe peoples, a combination of the remnants of the Mongol Empire of Jouan-jouan, destroyed by the Turks in 552, and of the White Huns in central Asia, also defeated by the Turks.  They joined forces and escaped from Asia into the steppes between the lower Danube and the Volga.   They came into contact with the Byzantine Empire and for a while were paid a subsidy by the Empire to keep others away from its borders.  But they themselves raided Thrace in 562 and a new Emperor in 565 was not interested in paying subsidies to one lot of barbarians to keep other barbarians out.

English: The illumnination represents the Sieg...

English: The illumnination represents the Siege of Constantinople in 626. by Persians and Avars (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So the Avars then helped the Lombards to overthrow the Gepids in 567, and moved into the Great Hungarian Plain between the Danube and the Tisza.   Their continued raids made the Lombards feel so uneasy  that they began to move towards northern Italy, leaving the Avars to settle in what now is Hungary and Slovakia, c.570.   Nor were the Lombards alone in moving away to escape Avar raids.   Other German tribes moved out of the lands east of the Elbe and out of Bohemia, their place being taken by Slavs, who were themselves moving out of their heartlands, which probably lay around the Pripet marshes.

In the later 6th century, together with Slav tribes as subservient allies, the Avars attacked the Byzantine Empire in the Balkans.   The high water mark of the Slav tide was to be found in the Peloponnese, but, though the Slavs could not sustain themselves so far south, their numbers were sufficient for them to become permanent settlers in much of the Balkans.   Not so the Avars.  They failed in an attempt to take Constantinople in 626, and after that most of the Slavs escaped from Avar domination.   The Avars themselves became more sedentary in their Hungarian home.

The 8th century saw the Frankish Kingdom in the west revive and recover control over local rulers in regions like Bavaria, thus bringing a powerful Kingdom to the western doorsteps of the Avar territory.   In 788 Avars raided Bavaria;  there were Frankish allegations of Avar alliance with Tassilo III, the Bavarian Duke deposed by Charlemagne in that year.   True or false, they gave an opportunity for a series of campaigns.   The first in 791 hit the Avars so hard that the expected counter-assault never came;  the last, in 796, destroyed their defensive region near Belgrade and brought home much plunder.   The Frankish Kingdom then advanced well into Pannonia to create an extensive March there.

In 804 the surviving Avars were attacked by the vigorous Bulgarian Khanate that had established itself in the region of the lowest reaches of the Danube for more than a century.  One group fled to Pannonia and settled there, paying tribute to the Frankish Kingdom.   Other Avars came under the domination of the Turkic-speaking Bulgars.   By the time the Magyars came to the Hungarian Plain in the late 9th century the Avars had petered out, absorbed into the peoples who lived around them.

[There are people called Avars at the present time, living in the mountainous regions of southwestern Dagestan, the southernmost of all the Russian Republics, and in Azerbaijan.   Their language is one of the Northeast Caucasus group, and serves as a written language for several of the mutually unintelligible spoken languages in the area.   Whether there is any connection between them  and the Avars of the Dark Ages is unknown].


  1. Portuguese religious military order;
  2. Royal Dynasty.
English: Shield of the House of Aviz Português...

English: Shield of the House of Aviz Português: Escudo da Casa de Avis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1.  A military Order, the Knights of Évora, was founded in 1166 to defend that city, recently taken from the Moors but threatened by the revival of Moslem Spain under the Almohads.   The Knights became the Portuguese branch of the Order of Calatrava.   They moved to Aviz, north of Évora, c.1212 and became independent of Calatrava as the Order of Aviz.   King Manoel (1495-1521) decreed that the Grand Master of the Order should be the King or a close relative;  his son John III attached the office to the Crown in 1551.

2.  John, the Master of Aviz and ancestor of Manoel and John III, was the bastard brother of King Ferdinand, who died in 1383.   John of Aviz led the Portuguese resistance to John I of Castile, Ferdinand’s son-in-law, and became King himself in 1385, reigning until 1433.  His male heirs were Kings of Portugal until 1580, when the male line of the House of Aviz was extinguished.


Title of the chief officers in Jersey and Guernsey:

see BAILLI below.


An office which has declined in status and prestige in England, but not in the Channel Islands

The area of jurisdiction over which a bailli had jurisdiction was the BAILLIAGE (Bailiwick).

Viewed from Jersey's north coast, Jethou, Herm...

Viewed from Jersey’s north coast, Jethou, Herm and Sark are hazy outlines on the horizon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The bailli (bayle in the south) was an officer who served feudal lords in France.   He appears as a most important figure in the royal service in the late 12th century, and by the mid-13th century baillis were in charge of much of the royal domain.   (Not all.   In the south, in Anjou and Maine in the northwest, and in Artois and Boulonnais in the northeast, the equivalent officer was called the sénéchal).

The baillis superintended the management of the domains and were involved in the collection of revenues.   As royal officers they dealt with the territorial princes who held lands in their area (in the 13th and 14th centuries the Kings of England, in their Duchy of Aquitaine, had reasons for cursing the ardour with which the King of France’s baillis pursued the justice of his cause).   They were responsible for royal castles within their jurisdiction and called out the feudal levy when required.

They presided over their courts, which acted as courts of first instance for cases involving a noble (unless it was a matter for a more special court) and as a court of appeal from the prévôtés, which were courts of first instance for the unprivileged.

With the passage of time other, more specialised officers took over the functions of the baillis.   The function of calling out the levy continued into the 17th century:  its military effectiveness by then must have been negligible.   What did continue were the bailliage courts, though the court of the presidials, created in 1552, took away some of their functions.   But though the court of the bailliage continued, its business was conducted by lawyers;  the bailli appointed a lieutenant general and a lieutenant criminel, who were assisted by other judges, to conduct the legal business.   The bailli’s role as the chief representative of the King in the provinces was also much modified, as increasingly during the 15th century officers who became known as governors took charge of areas generally significantly larger than the bailliages.  But the baillis retained dignified authority in their districts and their officers retained real power.

The bailliages and sénéchausseries varied considerably in size and some formed enclaves within larger ones.   These were results of the various estates and lordships coming into the hands of the King at different times and in different circumstances.   They were part of the complex jumble of the France of the Ancien Régime and were swept away in the reoganisation of France during the Revolution.

The office of Bailiff still survives in the Channel Islands, which are not a unity but are divided into the two Bailiwicks of Jersey and of Guernsey and its dependencies.   The Bailiff is the head of the administration, president of the assembly and senior judge in each Bailiwick, and is appointed by the Crown.


An officer who administered the domain lands of the King or other seigneur in some parts of the Midi;  his area of jurisdiction was a baylie.   In other parts the viguier exercised similar functions.  The office of bayle survived until recently in Andorra;  that of VIGUIER still does, though reduced in power since 1993. 

See also the more northerly BAILLI


King Ethelbert of Kent

King Ethelbert of Kent (Photo credit: sunnyUK)

The term, which is used by Bede, means ruler over the British;  the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle also uses the term Brytenwealda, which means broad ruler, and which fits better the idea of overlordship over southern England that Bede writes about.   What the overlordship actually meant must have varied from commanding leadership to the ability to exact tribute, and must have wavered in extent from a general command over the English and British Kingdoms to a strong influence in some of them.

In his Ecclesiastical History of the English People Bede listed seven Bretwaldas.   The first four came from southern England:  Aelle, King of the South Saxons, Ceawlin of the West Saxons, Aethelbert of Kent, and Raedwald of the East Angles (Aelle died after 491, Raedwald some time between 616 and 627).   The last three were all 7th century Kings of Northumbria:  Edwin, Oswald and Oswiu.   Bede said they had authority in southern England.   It is generally believed that these Kings were military overlords, who in times of trouble commanded the combined forces of the southern Kingdoms, or at any rate those that accepted their authority.   Aethelbert of Kent, who died in 616, for example, did not secure the support of Raedwald.   Raedwald overlaps both Aethelbert, who died in 616 and Edwin, who came to the throne in that year.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle adds an eighth Bretwalda in Egbert, King of the West Saxons, whose reign began more than a century after the death of Oswiu in 685.   Egbert, like the Northumbrian Kings, was seeking to dominate the English lands.

Neither Bede nor the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle list any Mercian King.   Bede was a Northumbrian monk and the early Mercian Kings were not only rivals of Northumbria but pagan as well.   Similarly the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was a West Saxon document, written after Wessex had prevailed in the struggle with Mercia.   In any list of overlords the names of Wulfhere, Athelbald and Offa, Kings of Mercia, should appear.

In short Bretwalda is a title whose exact meaning is obscure, gained by mighty rulers, whether in life or from posterity we do not know, and recorded by writers with their own axes to grind.

BURGRAVE   Burggraf.

(Burg-Graf = Castle-Count).

The commander of a castle or fortified town;  the German equivalent of a castellan.   As with many offices it became hereditary.   Where there was a town as well as a castle, there was often a rival count with authority in the town.   In places like Bamberg, (the Counts of Sulzbach), Magdeburg (the lords of Querfurt), Mainz (the Counts of Loon), Meissen (a branch of the Reuss family) and Würzburg (the Counts of Henneberg), the rival to the Burgrave was the Bishop, who held the rights of count.   The most famous of the Burgraves were those of Nuremburg (not an episcopal town), because one of them, Frederick VI, became Elector of Brandenburg in 1415.


The northern portico of the Umayyad Mosque of ...

The northern portico of the Umayyad Mosque of Damascus (ca. 706-15) (Photo credit: mitopencourseware)

The Arab KHALIFAH means successor.

After the first successors to Muhammed as rulers of the Arab Empire (the Orthodox Caliphs, 632-61), the Caliphate was held by the Umayyad family, who had been prominent in Mecca and were at first opposed to Muhammed and his new religious ideas.   During their rule, with Damascus as their capital, the Islamic Empire extended to Spain in the 710s.   They were violently overthrown and most of the family killed in 750, when they were succeeded by the Abbasids, who made Baghdad their capital, but who did not control the entire Islamic Empire.   One of the Umayyads escaped to Spain and ruled much of Muslim Spain as Emir, with his capital at Córdoba.

In 909 the Fatimid ruler of Egypt assumed the title of Caliph, as did the Umayyad Emir of Córdoba, Abd al-Rahman III, in 929.   The Umayyad Caliphate in Spain lasted just over a century, until 1031, the Fatimid until abolished by Saladin in 1171.

The Abbasids in Baghdad remained Caliphs, but increasingly as religious leaders, the temporal power passing to the leaders of the various Muslim peoples who held sway in the region that acknowledged their spiritual authority.  The first of them was Tughrul, the leader of the Seljuk Turks, who received the title of Sultan from the Caliph in 1055.   The Abbassids survived in Baghdad until its destruction by the Mongols in 1258, while a branch of the family were Caliphs in Egypt under the protection of the Mamelukes from 1258 until the Ottoman destruction of Mameluke power in 1517.

According to legend, the last Abbasid Caliph in Egypt handed on the Caliphate to the Ottoman Sultan, though it was in the later 18th century that the Ottoman Sultans began to put stress on their role as Caliphs.   The Treaty of Kutchuk-Kainardji with Russia in 1774 recognised their rights as Caliphs with the Muslims in the Khanate of Krim even though the Sultan was abandoning his political rights there.

In October 1922 the last Ottoman Sultan was deposed;  he remained Caliph for a month before leaving Constantinople.   His cousin, Abdulmecid II, succeeded him as Caliph.  In October 1923 Turkey became a Republic and in March 1924 the Caliphate was abolished and Abdulmecid, a prince interested in painting rather than politics, went into exile.


One of the sons of the legendary Cruithne, King of the Picts, whose province was Angus and the Mearns, in eastern Scotland north of the Firth of Tay.


The conseils souverains were the final courts of appeal in Artois (at Arras), Roussillon (Perpignan), Alsace (Colmar) and Corsica (Bastia) during the Ancien Régime in France.

That at Arras, the conseil provincial, was only sovereign in criminal cases before 1771;  civil cases could be appealed to the Parlement of Paris.

Other conseils souverains in provinces added to France were elevated to the status of a PARLEMENT, the last of them at Nancy for Lorraine in 1775.


"Cossack on duty", painting by Józef...

“Cossack on duty”, painting by Józef Brandt. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People living on the steppes, or their fringes, in Ukraine from the early 15th century, spreading later to the lower reaches of the Volga and the Don and the North Caucasus plains in European Russia, to western Kazakhstan and to western Siberia, and in the 19th century to the borderlands of the Russian Empire in Asia, even as far as the Pacific Ocean. Their name came from a Turkish word that meant nomad or vagabond; in the form of Kazakh it has come to denote a numerous nomadic people on the Central Asian steppe, who speak a Turkic language. So far as the Cossacks are concerned, the word has the sense of freebooter or adventurer.

The Cossacks emerged in one of the border zones of Europe. After the Mongol and Tatar armies had ravaged the east of Europe in 1230s and 1240s, one major group of them settled in the steppes from the lower Volga westwards and established the Khanate of the Golden Horde. Most of the Russian principalities remained in existence as tribute-paying vassals of the Khan. In the 14th century a new power began to emerge with a stake in the Russian lands, far away from the Tatar borders.

Lithuania steadily encroached on the minor Russian principalities on its southern flank, until, as the century reached its height, the original heartland of Russian power, the zone around Kiev, began to fall under its control. With that gain the Lithuanian Principality faced the Golden Horde – even more so from 1392, when it began to take over the steppelands between the lowest reaches of the Rivers Dnieper and Dniester (the region of Jedisan). The Russian principalities too were stirring, as were some of the individual Tatar horsemen, restive under the constraints of the Golden Horde and seeing an opportunity for freedom as the Golden Horde faltered.

These horsemen went marauding on their own account and were called Kazaks, in the more pejorative meaning of that word. But such men can be of use to princes. Witold, the Great Prince of Lithuania, began to construct military defences near the Dnieper in 1412; he used Tatar renegades as part of the force manning them. In 1445 the Russian Prince of Riazan, who had allowed such a group to winter on his lands, had them as allies against other marauders, a case of setting thieves to catch thieves.

The 15th century saw the break-up of the Golden Horde, so that the border region between the several Khanates and the Russian and Lithuanian principalities became wilder. Men were drawn into this zone from the lands to the north and the west, Russians, Russki, Poles, Hungarians, Romanians. Many were criminals or wastrels, misfits or hotheads, who saw opportunities for themselves in a lawless world, but there were others, who were poor and dispossessed, who saw opportunites for hunting and fishing to supplement their own poor livelihoods. The numbers of the dispossessed were increasing through eastern Europe because, at a time when serfdom was dying in the west, serfdom was being imposed on the free peasantry in the east. To dispossession of property was added degradation of status; to poverty was added demoralisation. Freedom was to be found in the borderland of the steppe.

The immigration from north and west was at first seasonal, with men returning home in the winter, but there was a growing tendency for it to be permanent. Criminals might find it risky to return to their homes, and so might freemen who had been transformed into serfs. Men may have gone into the wilderness for individual reasons, but to survive in the wilderness it was better to form into bands of freemen. Cossack communities were to be found in the mid-16th century in the vicinity of the Rivers Dnieper, Don and Volga as they flowed across the steppes.

Their fighting skills were useful to rulers. When Ivan IV, the Terrible, conquered the Tatar Khanates of Kazan and Astrakhan in the 1550s, Cossacks formed part of his forces, and towards the end of his reign were to play a powerful part in the first ventures into Siberia. Though the first expedition (1581-4), under the command of Yermak, a Cossack, ended in defeat and Yermak’s death, the expansion into Siberia was renewed in 1586, with Cossacks playing an important part. With the Russian conquest of the Volga region, many of the Volga Cossacks moved on, not only into Siberia, but southwards to the Caucasus, where they settled north of the mountains in the region of the River Terek, and eastwards into the steppe around the lower River Yaik, which flows to the Caspian Sea and is now called the Ural.

The greater number of Cossacks lived in or on the borders of Poland-Lithuania, the two states ruled by a common dynasty since 1386, by the same ruler since 1501 (and for periods before that), and united in 1569. The greater part of the present Republic of Ukraine lay within Poland-Lithuania. The coastal region lay outside, either held by the surviving Tatar Khanate of Krim or by the Khanate’s suzerain, the Ottoman Empire, and the eastern lands, crossed by the Donets’, were a Russian border zone. The southeastern lands of the united Polish Kingdom were its borderland with the Ottoman Empire and the subject territories of Krim and Moldavia: Ukraina, whose name means on the edge. There was always a possible threat from the Ottoman Empire, still a dynamic power in the later 16th century, but the greatest threat in normal circumstances came from raids launched from the Khanate of Krim for booty and slaves. Cossacks were among those recruited to meet the threat.

The Kings and their ministers and advisers knew the value of the Cossacks, but for the local administrators and noblemen in Ukraina and its neighbours, Cossacks were unloved enemies, plunderers and escapees from their responsibilities in servitude. In 1578, after being approached by some Cossack leaders King Stefan Bathory agreed to take some Cossacks into his service. They would be registered and paid a fee, and would be under the command of their hetman or ataman.

They were settled in frontier towns; one of these, Cherkassy, on the right bank of the Dnieper, was used by the Russians of the day as a name for the Cossacks. Those Cossacks who were not registered were liable to be forced into servitude by the local authorities and so the non-registered Cossacks, for safety’s sake, tended to go to the farthest reaches of the King of Poland’s realm, further down the Dnieper, to Zaporozhia, which means the lands beyond the rapids [on the Dnieper]. Though the King claimed those lands as part of Poland his authority was non-existent within them, except when he sent an expedition to impose exemplary punishment.

United Poland-Lithuania was divided by the long-standing separation of Catholic and Orthodox Christianity. In 1596, by the Union of Brest, the Orthodox Church became a Uniate Church – a Church that maintained Orthodox liturgy and customs but which acknowledged the supreme authority of the Pope. The Union split Orthodoxy, the Cossacks among others rejecting the Union of Brest. This added a religious grievance to a catalogue of concerns among the Cossacks. The Polish authorities used the registration of Cossacks for their own convenience, altering the numbers allowed to be registered to suit them. Unregistered Cossacks were deprived of lands, and many Cossacks fled to Zaporozhia.

The 1620s and 1630s saw fighting between the Poles and the Zaporozhean Cossacks. In 1648 a large-scale revolt broke out in the Cossack lands. Its leader, Bogdan Khmelnitsky, had been an important officer among the registered Cossacks in the Polish Commonwealth, but had been demoted and been driven from his lands by local Polish officials in 1647.

The Cossacks of Ukraina under his leadership obtained the support of the Zaporozhean Cossacks and also of the Tatars of the Crimea. In 1648 and 1649 the Poles suffered a series of defeats, and the Jews of the region suffered massacre. In 1649 the Polish government recognised the Cossack lands in Ukraina as autonomous, the Army of Zaporozhe, as it was called, though it was far greater than Zaporozhia and Zaporozhia itself was at least semi-detached from the new order.

By 1650 the Tatars had withdrawn their support and the Poles had renewed the struggle. The Cossacks then sought the protection of the Russian Tsar, Alexis, though it was not until 1654 that the protection was given. The Cossacks saw the Tsar’s protection as help for a self-governing community; the Tsar saw the Cossack territory as Little Russia, a new dominion. Over the following years the Cossack leadership turned this way and that, at times breaking into two separate camps, even as the Poles and the Russians fought one another for control of the Ukraine.

Other Cossacks had fled eastwards from the conflict between Poland and Khmelnitsky and settled in a region where the Russians had already built a line of fortified places in the 1630s focussed on the town of Belgorod. Eventually five regiments of Cossacks settled in this region, called Sloboda Ukraine, taking their place in the defensive system against Tatar intrusions from the Khanate of Krim.

In 1667 an armistice left the Cossack lands divided by the Dnieper, the Russians holding the Left Bank, the Poles the Right Bank, except for Kiev and some land around it, which were Russian. Theere were separate hetmans for the Cossacks in each state. The Zaporozhean lands remained beyond the control of either power. A treaty in 1686 confirmed the settlement. For Poland these were the years of the deluge, and it never recovered its status as a great power. The Cossack Hetman, Mazeppa (1686-1709), tried to play the Swedish card against Russia in the early 18th century, but Peter the Great’s victory over Charles XII of Sweden at Poltava in 1709 put an end to such hopes. The defeat at Poltava had also hit the Zaporozhean Cossacks hard. Peter had their headquarters destroyed and many of them fled southwards and placed themselves under Ottoman protection.

Peter had already dealt with a serious revolt among the Don Cossacks in 1707, as his grandfather Alexis had defeated a more formidable one, led by a Don Cossack, Stenka Razin, in 1670-1. Many of the Don Cossacks migrated to the Kuban region in the North Caucasus, then belonging to the Khanate of Krim and under Ottoman protection.

The 18th century was to see more Cossack rebellions against Russian authority, but they did not in the end prevent the assertion of imperial authority over the southern steppes. Many of the Zaporozhian Cossacks were allowed to return in 1734 and re-establish their autonomous regime, but in the 1750s the northern districts were opened to immigration from elsewhere. In 1764 no new Hetman was appointed in Little Russia and in 1765 the five free regiments in Slobada Ukraine were abolished. The area became an imperial province under the direct control of the imperial government in St Petersburg.

The most serious of Cossack rebellions took place in 1773-4 under Emilion Pugachov. After it was over and many of its participants executed, one of the principal areas of revolt, the Yaik region, in the steppes between Europe and Asia, was renamed the Ural region. Many of the Volga Cossacks were deported to the Kuban region, soon to be annexed along with the rest of the Khanate of Krim, which had lost Ottoman protection at end of a war between Russia and the Ottoman Empire in 1774. The Don Cossacks, who had not revolted even though Pugachov was one of them, were brought more tightly within the provincial organisation of Russia, though they kept various privileges.

With the reduction of Krim to being a Russian satellite, the Zaporozhe Cossacks could be finally dealt with. Zaporozhia became the province of New Russia in 1775, the headquarters of the Cossacks was destroyed and many of them fled, not, as before, to the neighbouring territory, which had become impossible, but to the Ottoman Empire beyond the Danube. Between 1781 and 1783 the administrative organisation of the Hetmanate was abolished. The Cossack lands were no longer autonomous, no longer free.

As military men, the Cossacks still had their opportunities. The Kuban and Terek Cossacks took part in the long conquest through the middle decades of the 19th century of the peoples of the northern slopes of the Caucasus Mountains, while in the Far East, the Viceroy, Muraviev, used Cossack soldiers among the men who occupied first the lands north of the River Amur and then those between the River Ussuri and the Pacific Ocean, 1858-60, so that Cossacks, who had once shared prominently in the first Russian advances into Siberia, were also present at the completion of Asiatic Russia. Cossacks also played a significant part in the Civil Wars that followed the Revolution. Without them the White cause would have foundered more quickly than it did.

In the last years of Tsarist Russia, there were 11 Cossack territories: Don, Kuban, Terek, Astrakhan, Ural, Orenburg, Siberian (centred on Omsk), Semirechye (Seven Rivers, now easternmost Kazakhstan), Trans-Baikal, Amur, and Ussuri. In 1920 they were abolished by the new Communist regime.


Christopher Lee as Count Dracula.

Christopher Lee as Count Dracula. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now an hereditary title of European nobility, though the rules of inheritance differ from country to country, the counts were originally the comites (singular, comes, i.e. companion) of the Roman Emperors in the early days of the Empire.

By the later Empire, comites were being used as officers in the administration of justice and of the imperial property and as military commanders. Many of them held office far away from the Emperor, in provincial government or distant military command, no longer literally companions.

Both the Merovingians and their Carolingian successors used counts;  among their various functions they served as the local representatives of the King, with judicial, military and fiscal responsibilities. In the former Roman territories the Franks continued to use the civitates (the city-communities). There was usually a Bishop, with his seat in the principal town and administrative centre of the civitas, which served as his diocese.

The civitates also served as the bases for the areas of a count’s responsibility, though there was not necessarily one count per civitas:  in the larger ones there could be two or more. In the German lands that had not belonged to the Empire there were not such clearly defined administrative areas as the civitates and when counts were appointed there tended to be overlapping of areas.

By the Carolingian era the counts were usually chosen from powerful aristocrats. The Carolingians tried, by various means, to prevent them from becoming hereditary officials. Counts could be appointed from outside the district, they could be transferred from one distict to another, and their activities in their localities were supervised, at least in the old Roman areas, by sending out officers called missi with power to exact an account of their doings. But there were also advantages in appointing powerful men within a region to act as counts because they had the advantage of local knowledge and as men of importance, they already had an influence upon their neighbours. A count appointed from outside held royal authority whereas one appointed from inside augmented his own influence with royal authority:  he did not start from scratch.

Powerful nobles expected that their lands and properties would pass to their heirs;  their minds were filled with the desirability and virtues of hereditary succession. They felt the same way about their offices, including their countships. Not even the most powerful of the Carolingian monarchs could completely prevent hereditary succession of countships, but as they became dynastically weaker and as the Frankish Kingdoms came under attack from Viking and Saracen raiders and eventually from Magyar horsemen, the tendency for countships to become hereditary accelerated until it was irresistible.

With the decline of the monarchy and the dangers that threatened from beyond the bounds of the Kingdom, the counts in the Frankish lands ceased to be royal officers, appointed by the King, answerable to and dismissible by him, and became men whose power was determined by the lands they owned and the rights they had acquired. The count, like the duke and the marquis, became what later historians called a TERRITORIAL PRINCE.

In much of the German Kingdom few counts (Grafen) pure and simple were in the top rank of territorial princes. The most powerful princes were dukes or, like the Counts of Andechs, were upgraded to be dukes (in their case, of Meran), or they held special countships like Pfalzgraf (Count of the Palace) or Markgraf (Count of the Borderland) or Landgraf (Count of the Province or Region). The counts pure and simple became lesser princes in the Empire and in the Reichstag were grouped together on benches (Bänken).  Each Grafenbank (there were four of them from 1653) had one collective vote, whereas the greater princes each had an individual vote.

In France by contrast some of the Counts (such as Flanders, Champagne, Blois, Anjou and Toulouse) were amongst the most powerful princes in the Kingdom. Even in the late 18th century, by which time the Kings of France had recovered the royal powers, the two brothers of Louis XVI held the titles of Count of Provence and Count of Artois. Within the Empire itself, in the old Roman lands of the Burgundian Kingdom and of the former Kingdom of Lotharingia there were powerful counts during the middle ages such as Provence, Savoy and Burgundy in the Kingdom of Burgundy, and Holland, Hainault and Luxemburg in Lower Lotharingia.

In (northern) Italy, the other Kingdom of the Holy Roman Empire, counts did not normally figure among the greater princes. In Italy there were many cities with Bishops resident in them. The Bishops often held the powers of Count within the city and sometimes in the countryside as well. Otherwise there were lay counts in the countryside, but so deeply rooted was urban life in Italy that the nobility did not desert the towns and so the Bishops were usually the most powerful social and political figures in a district.

Where there were powerful lay rulers, as in the northwest, the northeast and Tuscany, they held titles of duke and marquis. The Counts of Gorizia were an exception as princely rulers, but they were on the periphery of Italy, drawn into the German Kingdom and its system of marches on the southern flanks of the eastern Alps, known by its German name of Görz and eventually ending up (in 1500) in the Habsburg cluster of territories.

One of the most famous of Italian princes was the Countess Matilda, a good example of a territorial prince holding an accumulation of territories. Matilda was the daughter of a Marquis of Tuscany, but Marquis still had an official ring to it and a woman could not hold that title, so she used the title of Countess instead.

In Spain, on the other hand, there were four countships that were major principalities, three of them becoming Kingdoms. The Counts of Barcelona, around whom a little cluster of lesser counts rotated, were in their origins Counts in the Kingdom of the Franks, leading figures in the Spanish March that protected that Kingdom against the possibility of Moorish attack. The Counts of Aragón too almost certainly began as servants of the Frankish Kingdom, guarding a mountain route through the Pyrenees, but unlike the Counts of Barcelona, whose departure from France was an imperceptible drift, the Counts of Aragón defiantly and early broke away. In the 10th century Aragón became attached to the Kingdom of Navarre and when it re-emerged it was as a Kingdom of distinctly petty proportions. The two other Spanish counties that became Kingdoms were Castile and Portugal, which guarded the eastern and western bounds of the Kingdom of León. In Germany and Italy their Counts would have been Margraves/Marquises, not Counts.


The ruler of the Kingdom of Aragon, 1164-1410.

In 1162 Alfonso, Infante of Aragon, succeeded his father as Count of Barcelona and in 1164, after his mother’s abdication, he became King of Aragon.

Normally the august title of King wipes out the lesser titles except in the full recital of a monarch’s honours, but in northeastern Spain, though it was Aragon that had the royal title, the County of Barcelona was more populous, more prosperous and more strategically placed. It retained, together with the other counties that had become attached to it in the region of Catalonia, its laws, customs and privileges, so that the King ruled over two separate realms, the one more dignified, the other more powerful.

So historians tend to call Alfonso and his heirs the Count-Kings. The last of them, Martin I, died in 1410.


Originally a Roman official, the Count of the Palace, the title is variously used in the countries of medieval Europe.  Charlemagne’s close companions were military commanders as well as Counts Palatine, hence the word paladin.

In the Frankish Kingdoms the Count of the Palace (Comte du Palais) was an important officer in the Merovingian era, charged with the security of the palace. With the disappearance of the office of Mayor of the Palace after its holder had become King in 751, the Count of the Palace became a most important figure.

In the West Frankish Kingdom he assumed judicial functions. The decline of the Carolingian monarchy in France in the later years of the 9th century and through the 10th century led to the disappearance of the office.  Three Counts in the French Kingdom – Flanders, Troyes (later Champagne) and Toulouse – at times used the title of Count Palatine (Comte Palatin).

In the German Kingdom Counts Palatine (Pfalzgrafen;  singular Pfalzgraf or Palsgrave in archaic English) were appointed in the 10th century by the Kings in the Duchies of Bavaria, Swabia, Saxony and Lotharingia. They were appointed as a royal officer in duchies where the King’s control of the dukes was far from complete;  almost certainly they were intended as a means by which the King held ducal power in check, though what their specific duties were is not known. There were royal palaces in Bavaria, Saxony and Lotharingia, but perhaps their name signifies that they were officers of the royal palace sent out into the duchies.

In Bavaria, Otto I counter-balanced his brother Henry, who had been appointed Duke in 947 and was restless with frustrated ambition, with the appointment of Arnulf, son of the late Duke Arnulf and brother of Duke Eberhard, whom Otto had deposed, as Count Palatine.

As an act of reconciliation it was not a dazzling success:  Arnulf revolted and was killed in 954. The later Counts Palatine of Bavaria all came from important Bavarian families, the Aribonen, the Diepoldinger, and then c.1118 the Wittelsbachs:  it was perhaps a consolation title for powerful local men who saw outsiders appointed to the Ducal title. Eventually in 1180 when the Emperor Frederick I removed Henry the Lion from his Duchies, he appointed the Count Palatine Otto II of Wittelsbach as Duke of Bavaria.

The Countship Palatine was then held for seventy  years or so by his relatives, most notably Count Palatine Otto IV of Wittelsbach, the enemy of the Duke and murderer of King Philip in 1208. After 1249 the title disappears.

In both Saxony and Swabia local nobles held the title.  That of Saxony passed -coincidentally – at around the time of the deposition of Henry the Lion as Duke of Saxony to the Landgraves of Thuringia. Count Palatine of Saxony was one of the many titles that their heirs, the Wettin Margraves of Meissen, accumulated. In Swabia the title ended up with a powerful and widespread family, the Counts of Tübingen but it was one of many families that were impoverished and weakened by the partitioning of their lands. In both Duchies the Counts Palatine are sometimes important, but it seems from their own strength not from their office.

The one Count Palatine that did make a mark as such was the Count Palatine in the Frankish lands, the Count Palatine of Lorraine, or as he was called from the late 11th century, the Pfalzgraf bei Rhein, the Count Palatine of the Rhine. Perhaps it was because his office meant something in a region where there were several royal palaces and many royal estates. Perhaps it was because he was operating in a region (western Franconia and eastern Lotharingia) where ducal power was absent or weak. Perhaps it was because an early Count Palatine, Ezzo, upped and married the Emperor’s sister, a misalliance in the eyes of the Imperial family but it put him in the spotlight.

Even so, from 1095 until the middle of the next century it looked as though the Countship Palatine might disappear in a cacophony of squabbles as the stepson of the last Counts of the old family, and his heirs, struggled to establish their rights against a succession of Imperial appointees.  Eventually in mid-century the stepson’s claims were represented by an heiress and King Conrad was able to appoint, first his half-brother (in 1139) and then his brother-in-law as Count Palatine (in 1142).

In 1156 Frederick I appointed his brother Conrad. Conrad had an asset besides a powerful Emperor as sibling:  he had lands that became attached to the office of Count Palatine.  He held some of his childless predecessor’s lands on the Rhine and he also was given part of the Franconian inheritance that had come to the Hohenstaufen from the Salian Kings. This share lay partly in the Rhineland between Worms and Speyer and partly on the lower Neckar around Heidelberg, which became the capital of the Palatinate. So perhaps the Count Palatine of the Rhine was not really different from his fellows in Saxony, Swabia and Bavaria.  Like them what made him important was his lands;  it just so happened that in his case the name of Palatinate attached to them. Later the Count Palatine came to be regarded as one of the Electors of the King because he was the Imperial Steward, an office that probably was his as the Count Palatine in the old royal lands.

In 1169 the Emperor Frederick I created a County Palatine in his other Kingdom of Burgundy. The County of Burgundy was his wife’s inheritance.

In Hungary and Poland the Palatine (not Count Palatine) was one of the most important officers in the Kingdom. When Poland divided into several principalities each prince had his own Palatine, so that when Poland became reunited its provinces were called palatinates (from the Latin name of this officer) or Wojwódstwa (from the Polish name).


The cour souverain was the final court of appeal for a region of France under the Ancien Régime. There were 17 of them in 1789, 13 of which had the status of a PARLEMENT and 4 that of a CONSEIL SOUVERAIN.

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