AskDefine | Define burgrave

Dictionary Definition



1 a nobleman ruling a German castle and surrounding grounds by hereditary right
2 the military governor of a German town in the 12th and 13th centuries

Extensive Definition

A burgrave is a count of a castle or fortified town. The English form is derived through the French from the German Burggraf and Dutch (including Flemish dialects) burg- or burch-graeve (Mediaeval Latin language burcgravius or burgicomes).
  • The title is originally equivalent to that of castellan (Latin: castellanus) or châtelain, meaning keeper of a castle and/or fortified town (both can be called Burg in German, burg in Dutch).
  • In Germany, owing to the peculiar conditions of the Holy Roman Empire, though the office of burgrave had become a sinecure by the end of the 13th century, the title, as borne by feudal nobles having the status of Reichsfürst (Prince of the Empire), obtained a quasi-princely significance.
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.
  • In the Low countries, the rank of burggraaf developed into the nobiliary equivalent of a viscount (see that article).
  • In the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1569-1795), the office was of senatorial rank (i.e. entitled to a seat in the upper chamber of the sejm or diet); with the exception of their primus, the burgrabia of the former capital Cracow, the castellans were deputies of the (equally senatorial) provincial voivode.


burgrave in Czech: Purkrabí
burgrave in Danish: Burggraf
burgrave in French: Burgrave
burgrave in Italian: Burgravio
burgrave in Lithuanian: Burggrafas
burgrave in Japanese: 城伯
burgrave in Portuguese: Burgrave
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