AskDefine | Define marquess

Dictionary Definition



1 nobleman (in various countries) ranking above a count [syn: marquis]
2 a British peer ranking below a duke and above an earl

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative spellings


  1. A title of nobility, ranking beneath a duke and above an earl.


title of nobility
  • Finnish: markiisi
  • German: Marquis
  • Old English: eorl
  • Russian: маркиз
  • Spanish: marqués

Extensive Definition

A marquess () or marquis (/mɑrˈkiː/) is a nobleman of hereditary rank in various European monarchies and some of their colonies. The term is also used to render equivalent oriental styles as in imperial China and Japan. In the British peerage it ranks below a duke and above an earl, on the continent usually equivalent where a cognate title exists. A woman with the rank of marquess, or the wife of a marquess, is a marchioness, (pronounced /ˌmɑrʃəˈnɛs/) or marquise (pronounced /mɑrˈkiːz/).

Marquesses in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth

Peerage of England

Unlike the continent, in England (later Britain, ultimately the UK) the monarchy is the only authority capable of awarding hereditary titles. It managed to keep a tight grip on aristocratic titles, so the ranks of the peerage still correspond fairly neatly to the wealth of those who bear titles. Thus, there are currently only 34 marquessates (see list).
The first marquess in England was Robert de Vere, 9th Earl of Oxford, who was created Marquess of Dublin by Richard II on 1 December 1385. On 13 October 1386, the patent of this marquessate was recalled, and Robert de Vere was raised to Duke of Ireland. John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset, the second legitimate son of John of Gaunt, was raised to the second marquessate as Marquess of Dorset in September 1397. In 1399, he was disgraced, and the king revoked his marquessate. The Commons petitioned Richard for his restoration but he himself objected stating "the name of marquess is a strange name in this realm". From that period the title appears to have been dormant till the reign of Henry VI, when it was revived in 1442. The only woman to be created a marquess in her own right was Anne Boleyn, who was created Marquess of Pembroke in preparation for her marriage to Henry VIII. The investiture ceremony was held at Windsor Castle on September 1 1532.

Forms of address

A British marquess is formally styled "The Most Honourable The Marquess of [X]"note style and informally styled "Lord [X]', and his wife "Lady [X]". As with dukes, all sons bear the courtesy style "Lord Forename [Surname]" and all daughters bear the courtesy style "Lady Forename [Surname]". This courtesy style for the eldest son, however, is often trumped by a subsidiary title of his father, such as earl or viscount, which is used instead (especially for signing documents, the signature being only the name of the title, [X]). This form of signature is true for all peers, including peers by courtesy. For example, the Marquess of Salisbury would sign his name merely "Salisbury".
A marquess by courtesy, however, (which would always be the heir to a dukedom, since the courtesy title of an heir must always be at least one rank below that of the peer) does not enjoy the style of "Most Honourable", but is merely known as the Marquess of [X]. The genuine marquess as a peer, however, is always the "Most Honourable the Marquess of [X]", to differentiate a marquess by courtesy (i.e., the heir to a dukedom) from a marquess in his own right.
The spelling of the title in Scotland is very often the "marquis" variation, particularly when the title was created prior to the formation of the United Kingdom in 1707.


A British marquis is entitled to a coronet bearing eight strawberry leaves (three visible) and four silver balls (or pearls) around the rim (two visible). The actual coronet is mostly worn on certain ceremonial occasions, but a marquis can bear his coronet of rank on his coat of arms above the shield.

Marquesal titles in other European languages

The following list may still be incomplete. Female forms follow after a slash; many languages have two words, one for the "modern" marquess and one for the original margrave.
In Italy the equivalent modern rank (as opposed to margravio) is that of marchese, the wife of whom is a marchesa, a good example of how several languages adopted a new word derived from marquis for the modern style, thus distinguishing it from the old "military" margraves. Even where neither title ever was used domestically, such duplication to describe foreign titles can exist.

Germanic languages

  • Danish Markis / Markise
  • Dutch Markies, Markgraaf / Markiezin, Markgravin
  • Faroese Markgreivi / Markgreivakona
  • German Markgraf, Marquis / Markgräfin, Marquise
  • Icelandic Markgreifi / Markgreifynja
  • Luxemburgish Marquis / Marquise
  • Norwegian (only awarded to a few Danish families) Markis / Markise
  • Old English: Þegn / Hlǣfdiġe
  • Swedish Markis, Markgreve / Markise, Markgrevinna

Romance languages

  • Latin Marchio
  • Catalan Marquès / Marquesa
  • French Marquis, Margrave/Marquise
  • Italian Margravio, Marchese / Marchesa
  • Monegasque Marchise / Marchisa
  • Portuguese Margrave, Marquês / Marquesa
  • Rhaeto-Romanic Marchis / Marchesa
  • Romanian Marchiz / Marchiză
  • Spanish Marqués / Marquesa

Slavonic and Baltic languages

  • Belarusian Markiz / Markiza
  • Bulgarian Markiz / Markiza
  • Croatian Markiz / Markiza
  • Czech Markýz / Markýza
  • Latvian Marķīzs / Marķīze
  • Lithuanian Markizas / Markizė
  • Macedonian Markiz / Markiza
  • Polish Margrabia, Markiz / Margrabina, Markiza
  • Russian Markiz / Markiza
  • Serbian Markiz / Markiza
  • Slovak Markíz / Markíza
  • Slovene Markiz /
  • Ukrainian Markiz / Markiza

Other languages

  • Albanian: Markiz / Markizë
  • Estonian: Rajakrahv / Rajakrahvinna or simply Markii/Markiis
  • Finnish: Rajakreivi / Rajakreivitär or simply Markiisi /Markiisitar
  • Greek (modern): Markisios / Markisia
  • Hungarian: Őrgróf (Márki) / Őrgrófnő (Márkinő) / Őrgrófné (consort of an Őrgróf)
  • Maltese: Markiż / Markiża

Outside Europe

Various European monarchies created titles of various ranks, including marquess, in chief of "titles" (estates, or simply the names of places or regions) in their colonial territories overseas, e.g., in Spanish and South America, regardless whether the ennobled families resided there.

Equivalent non-Western titles

Like other major Western noble titles, marquess or marquis is sometimes used to render certain titles in non-Western languages with their own traditions, even though they are as a rule historically unrelated and thus hard to compare, which are considered "equivalent" in relative rank.
This is the case with:
  • in ancient China, 侯 (hóu) was the second of five noble ranks created by King Wu of Zhou and is generally translated as marquess or marquis.
  • in imperial China, 侯 (hóu) is generally, but not always, a middle-to-high ranking, hereditary nobility title. Its exact rank varies greatly from dynasty to dynasty, and even within a dynasty. It is often created with different sub-ranks.
  • in Meiji Japan, Kōshaku (侯爵), a hereditary peerage (Kazoku) rank, was introduced in 1884, granting a hereditary seat in the upper house of the imperial diet just as a British peerage did (until Tony Blair's House of Lords Act 1999), with the ranks usually rendered as baron, viscount, count, marquis and duke. The Japanese rendered these titles in Chinese (though there the titles devaluate when a new generation succeeds), though the Western titles were used in translation.
  • in Korea, the seven main grades of nobility were similar to those in China, with ranks descending by one degree with each succeeding holder of the title. As in China, Champan, rendered as marquis, was the third, only under gun (prince) and kung (duke) and above poguk (count), pansoh (viscount), chamise (baron) and chusa (no Western equivalent, but somewhat similar to the British title of baronet)
  • in Vietnam's Annamite realm / empire, hau was a senior title of hereditary nobility, equivalent to marquis, for male members of the imperial clan, ranking under vuong (king), quoc-cong (grand duke), quan-cong (duke) and cong (prince, but here under duke, rather like a German Fürst), and above ba (count), tu (viscount), nam (baron) and vinh phong (no equivalent, roughly baronet).

See also


note styleAlthough the vast majority of marquessates are named after places, and hence their holders are known as the "Marquess of X", a very few of them are named after surnames (even if not the bearer's own), and hence their holders are known as the "Marquess X". In either case, he is still informally known as "Lord X", regardless whether there is an of in his title, and it is always safe to style him so.

Sources and references

marquess in Bulgarian: Маркиз
marquess in Catalan: Marquès
marquess in Czech: Markýz
marquess in German: Markgraf
marquess in Modern Greek (1453-): Μαρκήσιος
marquess in Spanish: Marqués
marquess in Esperanto: Markizo
marquess in Persian: مارگراف
marquess in French: Marquis
marquess in Italian: Marchese
marquess in Dutch: Markgraaf
marquess in Japanese: 侯爵
marquess in Norwegian: Marki
marquess in Polish: Markiz
marquess in Portuguese: Marquês
marquess in Russian: Маркиз
marquess in Slovak: Markíz
marquess in Finnish: Markiisi
marquess in Swedish: Markis (titel)
marquess in Chinese: 侯爵
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