Sunday, August 9, 2009

Danish Titles in the Middle Ages

Væbner,a Danish title used in the Middle Ages. Originally an armed warrior, who in return for doing active service had exemption for taxation. In højmiddelalderen came the riddervæsen (knighthood) to Denmark and a ridder was a væbner who had received the accolade. Væbner was also a commonly used term for a ridder's assistant.

Højmiddelalder/High Middle Ages = beginning of the century until the first half of the 1400s.

Ridder (or Old Danish knægt), was a warrior on horseback, he is also an ichon for a period in Europe's history, named the Middle Ages. Ridderen was especially in High Middle Ages the far most strongest military unit, and his status was very high. Up til about 1000 the ridder was not considered much more than a simple professional soldier on horseback, but during the following century the warriors on horseback developed into an elite force. Later after year 1100 some special aristocratic ideals developed (ridder-idealer); which marked and elevated this warrior type, ideals still alive today. The English title knight became in Danish ridder or knægt, which are loan words from German Ritter & Knecht.

Jarl, (like English earl maybe familiar to the name herul or Old Norse erilar, a title forf distinguished people, a Nordic name for a stormand (magnate). Jarls are known from all Scandinavia in 900-1300. They could have prominent offices as the king's highest official, i.e. as the ruler of a special part of the kingdom. Knud Lavard had probably the title Jarl in Schleswig. Sometimes the jarl had the supreme power, i.e. Hakon Jarl Sigurdsson in Norway in the 900s and Birger Jarl in Sweden in the 1200s, or the jarl was the king's substitut like Ulf Jarl was in Denmark in the 1000s. In Iceland jarls are known in the 1200s. Later the jarl-title was replaced by hertug. (In Denmark : Hertug i Sønderjylland)

Hertug is a fyrstetitel/prince-title. The word comes from German meaning hærfører (leader of the army), and the title comes from the German-Roman Emporium. In Scandinavia the old title jarl was used before hertug replaced it. Hertugen's office was originally to secure the kingdom's borders as a vasal for the king, and that's why hertugdømmer (the duchies) earlier often were in the edges of the kingdom. Knud Lavard was in the 1100s the first Danish hertug, when he became hertug of Schleswig. But also Lolland, Halland and Estland were hertugdømmer in the 1200s with the Danish king as their vasal.

In 1474 Christian I was made hertug of Holstein by the German-Roman emperor on the condition that the two hertugdømmer Schleswig and Holstein must never be divided. This strengthened the growing conflict of interests between the kingdom and hertugdømmerne, which gradually took a still more independent position, especially in the Gottorp-sections.

Today there are no Danish hertuger outside the royal family. But Frederik VI let himself be persuaded in 1818 to ennoble the French Elie de Decazes as hertug of Glücksbierg in preparation for a marriage befitting his rank. Although the family is living in France it is a Danish hertug-family.

Drost, was in the early Middle Ages the king's official, the supreme adviser of the king; and he was sometimes his substitute and could control accounts and be a judge on his behalf. In Denmark the office ceased at Henning Podebusk's death in 1388 and was under Erik 7. of Pommern in the beginning of the 1400s replaced by rigshofmesterembedet.

Marsk or rigsmarsk (from 1536) was the title of the supreme army chief of the Danish kingdom from the beginning of the 1200s until the establishment of Enevælden (absolute monarchy) in the 1600s. It was the third most important office after rigshofmesteren(was once titled drost) and kansleren . He was appointed by the king and had to be born a Danish nobleman. In periods the king let the office be without a leader in order to be the supreme war chief himself. From 1380/81 until 1440s the office was without a marsk.

From the beginning the marsk was one of the king's officials, and Marsk Stig called himself "kongens marsk", Regis Danorum Marscalus, shortly before he in 1287 at the Danehof in Nyborg was accused and convicted for the murder of Erik Klipping. Later in the Middle Aces the marsk became rigets marsk (marsk of the kingdom rather than the king's marsk) , which was signaled by changing the title into rigets marsk Marscalus Regni. The last rigsmarsk in Denmark was Anders Bille who died in Swedish prison in 1657 shortly before the establishment of Enevælden and Joachim Gersdorff, who very shortly kept the office from 1660 till his death in 1661.

Marsk comes from German marschalk: staldmester, rytterianfører, from old German marha, hest and skalk, tjener, originally stalddreng. (stable boy). The name is known from the 700s in Lex Alamannorum. Rigsmarskal or rigsmarsk was later a military title for a marschall over a country and was used both in Germany, France and Great Britain as the supreme military title.

Kansler; in Denmark has existed two kanslerembeder, (offices as chancellor) namely kongens kansler (cancellarius ) and rigskansler (justitius), in literature sometimes named justitiar. The first mentioned title is the oldest. Queens and heirs to the throne had at times officials named kansler.

Unusually Roskilde's bishop Jens Andersen Lodehat was on three occassions (1419,1421 and 1423) named the supreme kansler of the kingdom (summus cancellarius regni nostri Dacie, rigens i Danmark øverste Kansler og des riikes to Dennemarken ouerste kentzeler). The same title emerged shortly in connection to two bishops in Roskilde: Johan Jepsen Ravensbjerg and Joachim Rønnow.

The supreme kansler, rigskansler, was the kansler of the kingdom, he used and kept the seal of the Danish kingdom, the second kansler was the king's kansler taking care of Erik of Pommern's Unionssekret. The title supreme kansler is first in use used after the establishment of the Kalmar Union. .

The king's kansler functioned as the leader of the royal kancelli. The name cancellarius was on occassions used in the 1400s about common officials in the kancelli. The office was through the Middle Ages occupied by a clerical, which is quite natural referring to that the clericals almost were the only ones with a necessary education. The king's kansler often achieved high offices inside the church after a period in the kansler-office and became i.e. bishops. Besides working in the kancelli the king's kansler was often employed in foreign politics, where he often functioned more like a secretary than a negotiator.

Gælker = the king's gælker was responsible for duty, tax etc. At times he was also the king's top official.

Høvedsmand (= hovedmand eller overhoved) (i.e. head of a family), is an old name for a person who rules or administrate an area ,i.e. as a lensmand, statholder, slotsherre (vasal, viceregent, lord of the castle). The word also covers the meaning: chief of army, like Skjalm Hvide who was høvedsmand (chief of army) at Zealand. In the Middle Ages a royal høvedsmand took care of the Danish Crown's estate as a vasalry, so the name høvedsmand has a broader meaning, but was often used as a synonyme for vasal ; and later amtmand.(administrator of district)

Staller, (from medieval Latin stabularius 'staldmester' (chief of stables), a medieval term for an official, attached to the hird.(the king's men). It is known in Denmark from the 1100s, but origins possibly from the Viking period. Staller was originally just a synonyme for a court official and not a certain function, but gradually it became a person, who judged in matters of the hird and took care of the king's stable business and travels, i.e. tasks which later was taken over by the Marsk.

Landsdommer was before 1805 a term for a legally judging member of a *landsting.(landsting in the Middle ages = a medieval regional assembly).

Rigsråd had to meanings: Rigsrådet was an assembly of magnates and at the same time rigsråd was the title of a member of this assembly. Rigsrådet was from the end of the 1200s a råd (counsel) of the magnates of riget (kingdom), in the beginning clericals as well as nobility . It existed up till the introduction of Enevælden ( the king's absolute power) in 1660. Before the reformation were 30 members of rigsrådet, but in the 1600s only 23. The king summoned the rigsråd and appointed rigsråderne, who had the title for life. The power between the king and the rigsråd changed during times , but often the rigsråd had an influence on public matters like law reforms, and appointments and dismissals of officials and vasals. The rigsråd also took care of the rule during the accession of a new king . The rigsråd had both legislative and administrative authority and can be compared to Overhuset (House of Lords) or the Senate in other countries. From the 1400s Stændermøderne ( the Assembly of the Estates of the Realm) functioned like Underhuset. (House of Commons).


Greve was a German title in the Middle Ages., i.e. Grev Gerhard/Gert of Holstein

The title greve is not a Danish title in the Middle Ages. Grev Gerhard/Gert was a German Graf from Holstein. In some family books on the net family members from the Middle Ages are equipped with the title greve or grevinde, but there was no one titled greve or grevinde in Denmark at that time.

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