COUNT, through the French word °orate, from the Latin comes, comitis, meaning companion. The word, though simply meaning Companion, received va rious particular signification. Young Romans of family used to go out with the governor of a province and commander of armies, under whom they got an insight into public and military matters. They were called comites ; Juvenal (Sat. 127) speaks of the cohors comitum. Per haps some of them acted as secretaries to the commander or governor, as in the case of Celsus Albinovanus, the friend of Horace, to whom he addresses the eighth epistle of the first book. With the esta blishment of the imperial power at Rome, comites were established about the em peror's person ; and a great number of functionaries and officers received the title of comes, with some addition to indicate their duty. When the emperor sat as judge he had comites and jurisconsulti (jurists) with him. (Spartian, Hadrian. c. 18.) In the time of Constantine, comes became a title, and there were comites of the first and second class, and so forth. The term comes, as a title, was established both in the eastern and the western empire. Some of them were governors of provinces or particular dis tricts. The rank and condition of these comites may be collected from the Theo dosian Code, vi. tit. 12-20, with the com mentary of Gothofredus (Godefroy). The kingdoms of modern Europe have inherited the tributary spoils of the lower empire. By substituting the word grand for that of count, which was a title common to all the officers or ministers of the emperors of the East, it is easy to show the analogy of the titles of modern court dignities to the antient. Thus the comes sacrarum largi tionum has been called grand almoner ; the comes curia, grand master of cere monies ; the comes vestiarius, grand master of the wardrobe ; the comes domesticorum, grand master of the royal household ; the comes equorum regior um, grand equerry, &c. The comes marcarum, counts of the fron tiers, which were formerly called marches (a denomination still in use in the papal states), took subsequently the title of marquis; an innovation which raised long and serious discussions among the learned in feudal right and court etiquette.
Under the first two races of the Frank kings, the counts were, as under the lower empire, officers of various degrees. The count of the palace was the first dignity in the state, after the moire of the palace. He presided in the court royal when the prince was absent, and possessed sovereign jurisdiction. He also exercised a great influence in the nomination of the king's delegates, who, under the title of counts, administered the provinces. A count had the government of a small district, often limited to a town and its dependencies. He was at the same time a judge, a civil administrator, and a military commander. In case of war, he led in person the con tingent of his county to the army. The ' learned Dutillet, in his Recueil des Rois de France, de lenr Couronne et Maison,' &c., expatiates on the functions of. antient
counts. With the progress of time, the counts, as well as the other officers appointed to govern the provinces, the towns, and the frontiers, succeeded in rendering their places hereditary, and in making themselves sovereigns of the dis tricts of which they had only been created removable and revocable administrators.
At first they contented themselves with securing the reversion to their sons, then to their collateral heirs, and finally they declared those places hereditary for ever, tinder Hugh Ca t, the son of Robert, count of Paris, who himself only obtained the throne partly in consequence of that concession. It was feudalism that intro duced inheritance instead of election as a permanent rule in political successions. The supreme chief of the antient Franks, honing (Lat. rex), was a magistrate, and as a magistrate he was elected, although always from the same family. The infe rior chiefs, heri-zoghe, graven, rakhen burghe (Lat. duces, comites, judices), were also elected. But when the feudal system attained its perfection, when men were no longer ruled by men, but lands by lands, and men by lands or by the legitimate heir of the lands, then no kind of election remained. One demesne made a king, as another made a duke, a count, a viscount, &c. ; and thus the son of a count became a count, the son of a duke became duke, and the son of a king became king. Finally, to form a just idea of the formid able power of the feudal counts, we must refer to the period of the erection of the towns of the northern provinces of France into commonalties or republics, when their heroic population had to sustain a most deadly struggle, from the eleventh century to the middle of the fourteenth, before they could shake off the iron yoke of the counts and the bishops. The term "count" is now become in France a mere title, conferring no political power. In the papal states, as well as in those of Austria, it may be bought for a moderate sum; and in the other monarchical states of the continent, it is granted as a mark of imperial or royal favour.
The title of earl, or, as it was often rendered in official Latin, comes, com panion, is of very high antiquity in Eng land, being well known to the Saxons under the name of ealdorman, that is to say, elder-man, and also shireman, because each of them had the government of a distinct shire, or, as it is now generally called, county. The sheriff, under his Latinized name, is called vice-comes, or viscount, which term is now one of the titles of rank in the British peerage. The term count seems not to have been used in England as a title of honour, though the wives of earls from a very early period have been addressed by the title of countess. The king, in mentioning an earl in any writ or commission, usually styles him "trusty and well-beloved cousin" —a peculiarity at least as antient as the reign of Edward III.