Monday, 6 October 2014

The Comte & Comtesse

Originally, the Comtes were the head of administration in the region they ruled but in the Middle Ages they were made lords and granted the privileges usually only the King had in their particular county. These privileges included the right to ennoble a family (to a lesser rank), to gather troops in times of war and to oversee that justice was enforced. In the Ancien Regime only the King could grant the title of Comte which always had to be through a letter patent. Also, all those who bore the title had to be registered in the Superior Courts.

So, the Comte was responsible for the county he ruled. Normally, a county would be made up of several baronies and viscounties which is why both a Baron and a Vicomte ranked lower than a Comte.
However, despite being lower in the social hierarchy the Comtes enjoyed many of the privileges of the Ducs. For example a Comte was allowed to ride both on horseback and in carriage into a courtyard of a palace occupied by the King and could keep his sword unbuckled during Parlements. When addressing a Comte you would have to say: "Your Grace" or "Monseigneur de ..".

These are examples of some areas that were a county and therefore run by a Comte:

Comte de Toulouse (a memorable one is Louis XIV's illegitimate son by Madame de Montespan) as well as the Comte de Valois.

A count's crown

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