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The title of Jean III de Grailly, Captal de Buch, seems odd to me. It was acquired by his father Jean II de Grailly (so it was passed down from father to son like other titles of nobility):

Jean III’s father, Jean II de Grailly, acquired the captalat of Buch (i.e., the principal seigniory in the land of Buch, the chief town of which was La Teste de Buch).

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/240795/Jean-III-de-Grailly-lord-de-Buch

It was apparently granted by Edward III:

And 'tis evident, this Knight of the Garter must be the Grandson of Peter, because we find that Edward III, in his thirty second Year, confirms to him, by the Title of Captal de Buch, the Lands that Peter his Grandfather (not his Father) held ..."

The Register of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Volume 2

It apparently derives from the Latin capitales domini, meaning "chief lords" (though I can find no other reference to this term):

Captal de Buch (later Buché) was an archaic feudal title in Gascony, captal from Latin capitalis "prime, chief" in the formula capitales domini or "principal lords."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Captal_de_Buch

The title was used by more than just the de Grailly family, but not many:

The title of "captal," which Jean de Grailly inherited in 1343, was used by only a few of the most prominent noble families of Gascony, such as the lords of Buch.

Encyclopedia of the Hundred Years War, Wagner

So the questions I have about the title captal:

  • Why was de Grailly granted this title, which was apparently used by only a few families, and not some other title? Was it just some strange title invented on the spot because Edward couldn't or didn't want to use a more commonly-used title?
  • Was Captal used in the same way as other titles, such as Duke or Viscount, where the title is used in place of the name? (E.g. "Who lead the charge?" "The captal did.")
  • What was its order of precedence? Britannica says Jean I de Grailly was granted the "viscountcies of Benauges and Castillon" but Jean III is almost universally referred to by the captal title. Was Captal considered more prestigious or had the de Graillys lost all their other titles by the time of Jean III?
  • What were the other families that used this title?
  • Why did the title not outlive the Middle Ages as the titles of Duke and Count did?
  • Was that title ever used outside of Gascony, or was it limited to Gascony as the Encyclopedia of the Hundred Years War above seems to imply?
  • Why did the title derive from Latin rather than something in French? Did it have any connections with something used by the Romans?
  • 1
    Welcome to the site! +1 for starters and I must say it's a very interesting questions. Abstruse in a goof way :) – Felix Goldberg Nov 16 '14 at 21:01
  • Another quaint title is Vidam. – Felix Goldberg Nov 17 '14 at 12:17
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This is really more like a whole list of questions...

1. Why was de Grailly granted this title, which was apparently used by only a few families, and not some other title?

I think there's a bit of confusion here. The prefix of Captal was the traditional title for the lords of Buch. Edward III granted Jean III de Grailly the fief of Buch which came with it the feudal title of Captal de Buch. He didn't randomly have him titled captal by itself.

2. Was captal used in the same way as other titles, such as Duke or Viscount, where the title is used in place of the name?

Yes:

The captal and his noble kinsman, attended by forty lancers, were joyfully received at Meaux by the dauphiness and the duke and duchess of Orleans.

- Beltz, George Frederick. Memorials of the Order of the Garter. 1841.

3.What was its order of precedence?

Based on notes in Sir John Froissart's Chronicles of England, France, Spain, and the Adjoining Countries, it was originally approximately equivalent to count. But it seemed to have become roughly comparable to viscount later.

4. What were the other families that used this title?

From the same source, several other families used it at some point or another, but by the time of the de Grailly, only them and the Captal de Trene was left.

5. Why did the title not outlive the Middle Ages as the titles of Duke and Count did?

It did. After Jean III died, the title passed to his uncle, Count Archambaud of Foix. It stayed with his descendants (in the female line after 1593) until it was sold to Jean-Baptiste Amanieu de Ruat in 1713.

The title was always rather obscure and snowflakey.

6. Why did the title derive from Latin rather than something in French?

The title started during the time of the first Dukes of Aquitaine. The Roman Empire was a recent thing and French didn't really exist as a language at the time.

  • 2
    Wow. +1 for snowflakey alone. – CGCampbell Nov 17 '14 at 4:12
  • Re #6, other titles derive from Latin, too. For instance duke (or duc in French), from the Latin dux = a military commander. – jamesqf Mar 24 '16 at 17:28
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The expression probably comes from caput in latin , which means roughly head. Or a vernacular term of Capital, or both. Either way , the bloke was the head of his house and that made him a capital person ;-).

  • I believe that OP included that fact in the text of the question. – Mark C. Wallace Mar 24 '16 at 16:45

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