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Prince from Latin "princeps" from www.heraldica.org
In some areas (especially in Brittany), the title of prince was
traditionally attached to a feudal land which had been considered allodial,
i.e., without overlord. In France, almost all lands were feudal, that is,
held from some superior, ultimately back to the king. But there were a few
allodial lands (allods were more common in northern Italy and in Germany).
Such titles of "prince", which appear in early charters, were considered by
jurists to have no more meaning than the title of lord; there are dozens of
examples. Also, it seems that the term princeps was used as a synonym for
"lord of a castle or fortress" in the 11th and 12th c. Examples are found in
Du Cange: Glossarium mediae et infimae latinitatis, 1638 ed., vol. 6, p.
502. Some of Du Cange's examples have no modern counterpart that I know of:
princeps Malamortensis castri, princeps Alostensis oppidi, princeps de
Arenis, princeps Ranconensis, princeps Wangionis rivi, Peronensis castri
princeps, princeps Canomanorum (for William the Conqueror), etc. Du Cange
has other examples to show that princeps was occasionally used for counts or
other prominent lords.
"..."prince" is often a grade above the merely noble but is not quite
In the West, it is nearly impossible to trace any noble lineage back much
before AD 800 (though the old Gaelic nobility of Ireland has a special claim
to antiquity here); anything before 1100 is remarkable. The organized system
of titles we have today is a rather late development, but "count", and
"prince" go back to the Roman Empire. Only when it was recognized that one
might have "betters" (i.e., with the organization of nation-states) did the
nobles start paying attention to titles, styles, and pedigrees.
Most people are aware of the distinction between a royal prince, as with the
United Kingdom, and a ruling prince, as with Monaco or Liechtenstein, but
are probably confused about who takes precedence over who (a ruling prince
usually takes precedence; this is all governed by international protocol).
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