1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Palatine

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1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 20
Palatine by Arthur William Holland
23835911911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 20 — PalatineArthur William Holland

PALATINE (from Lat. palatium, a palace,) pertaining to the palace and therefore to the emperor, king or other sovereign ruler. In the later Roman Empire certain officials attending on the emperor, or discharging other duties at his court, were called palatini; from the time of Constantine the Great the term was also applied to the soldiers stationed in or around the capital to distinguish them from those stationed on the frontier of the empire. In the East Roman Empire the word was used to designate officials concerned with the administration of the finances and the imperial lands.

This use of the word palatine was adopted by the Prankish kings of the Merovingian dynasty. They employed a high official, the comes palatines, who at first assisted the king in his judicial duties and at a later date discharged many of these himself. Other counts palatine were employed on military and administrative work, and the system was maintained by the Carolingian sovereigns. The word paladin, used to describe the followers of Charlemagne, is a variant of palatine. A Frankish capitulary of 882 and Hincmar, archbishop of Reims, writing about the same time, testify to the extent to which the judicial work of the Frankish Empire had passed into their hands, and one grant of power was followed by another. Instead of remaining near the person of the king, some of the counts palatine were sent to various parts of his empire to act as judges and governors, the districts ruled by them being called palatinates. Being in a special sense the representatives of the sovereign they were entrusted with more extended power than the ordinary counts. Thus comes the later and more general use of the word palatine, its application as an adjective to persons entrusted with special powers and also to the districts over which these powers were exercised. By Henry the Fowler and especially by Otto the Great, they were sent into all parts of the country to support the royal authority by checking the independent tendencies of the great tribal dukes. We hear of a count palatine in Saxony, and of others in Lorraine, in Bavaria and in Swabia, their duties being to administer the royal estates in these duchies. The count palatine in Bavaria, an office held by the family of Wittelsbach, became duke of this land, the lower title being then merged in the higher one; and with one other exception the German counts palatine soon became insignificant, although, the office having become hereditary, Pfalzgrafen were in existence until the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806. The exception was the count palatine of the Rhine, who became one of the four lay electors and the most important lay official of the empire. In the empire the word count palatine was also used to designate the officials who assisted the emperor to exercise the rights which were reserved for his personal consideration. They were called comites palatini caesarii, or comites sacri palatii; in German, Hofpfalzgrafen.

From Germany the term palatine passed into England and Scotland, into Hungary and Poland. It appears in England about the end of the 11th century, being applied by Ordericus Vitalis, to Odo, bishop of Bayeux and earl of Kent. The word palatine came in England to be applied to the earls, or rulers, of certain counties, men who enjoyed exceptional powers. Their exceptional position is thus described by Stubbs (Const. Hist. vol. i.): They were “earldoms in which the earls were endowed with the superiority of whole counties, so that all the landholders held feudally of them, in which they received the whole profits of the courts and exercised all the regalia or royal rights, nominated the sheriffs, held their own councils and acted as independent princes except in the owing of homage and fealty to the king.” The most important of the counties palatine were Durham and Chester, the bishop of the one and the earl of the other receiving special privileges from William I. Chester had its own parliament, consisting of barons of the county, and was not represented in the national assembly until 1541, while it retained some of its special privileges until 1830. The bishop of Durham retained temporal jurisdiction over the county until 1836. Lancashire was made a county, or duchy, palatine in 1351, and kept some of its special judicial privileges until 1873. Thus for several centuries the king’s writs did not run in these three palatine counties, and at the present day Lancashire and Durham have their own courts of chancery. Owing to the ambiguous application of the word palatine to Odo of Bayeux, it is doubtful whether Kent was ever a palatine county; if so, it was one only for a few years, during the 11th century. Other palatine counties, which only retained their exceptional position for a short time, were Shropshire, the Isle of Ely, Hexhamshire in Northumbria, and Pembrokeshire in Wales. In Ireland there were palatine districts, and the seven original earldoms of Scotland occupied positions somewhat analogous to that of the English palatine counties.

In Hungary the important office of palatine (Magyar Nádor) owes its inception to St Stephen. At first the head of the judicial system, the palatine undertook other duties, and became after the king the most important person in the realm. At one time he was chosen by the king from among four candidates named by the Diet. Under the later Habsburg rulers of Hungary the office was several times held by a member of this family, one of the palatines being the archduke Joseph. The office was abolished after the revolution of 1848.

In Poland the governors of the provinces of the kingdom were called palatines, and the provinces were sometimes called palatinates.

In America certain districts colonized by English settlers were treated as palatine provinces. In 1632 Cecilius Calvert, and Lord Baltimore, received a charter from Charles I. giving him palatine rights in Maryland. In 1639 Sir Ferdinando Gorges, the lord of Maine, obtained one granting him as large and ample prerogatives as were enjoyed by the bishop of Durham. Carolina was another instance of a palatine province.

In addition to the authorities mentioned, see R. Schröder, Lehrbuch der deutschen Rechtsgeschichte (Leipzig, 1902); C. Pfaff, Geschichte des Pfalzgrafenamtes (Halle, 1847); G. T. Lapsley, The County Palatine of Durham (New York, 1900), and D. J. Medley, English Constitutional History (1907).  (A. W. H.*)