It is known that there existed sovereign counts (Armagnac, count at God will). But had you read about sovereign viscounts or barons? Or some boyar/boyarin (~= baron) in Eastern Europe?

The same about some Viking titles. Eric the Red was the sovereign of Greenland, being an earl, for example. Were anywhere some sovereign bonds?

On the East, emirs and khans had sovereignty often, and I hadn't heard about sovereign beks or noyons?

Again: What was the lowest known title of an independent ruler in Western European, Eastern European, Muslim or Mongol systems. AFAIK, the lowest titles that happened to be sovereign are: count, knjaz(prince), emir, khan. Can you lower one or more of these positions?

Another system with its own lowest possible independent ruler will be appreciated, too.

As a sovereign/idependent ruler, I propose to consider one who:

  1. has no permanent limitation to his will from without the state. Of course, any state agreement limits the will of the ruler, but these agreements are not permanent. 100000 marks debt does not make a ruler dependent, but permanent yearly payment of 1 mark a day is a dependency.
  2. The only important limitations are those that are considered serious and that cannot be broken without seriously damaging the state. (serious from the point of view of that ruler)
  3. The limitations set by commons or gentry juridical bodies are considered irrelevant for the question.
  4. Religious matters are irrelevant for the question.
  5. Of course, the question of the power transition should belong to the state.

Point 2 is not up to the medieval understanding of sovereignty, but I voluntarily weakened the principle in this point for not to overlook any early parlamentarian states.

Beware wikipedia: in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mongolian_nobility it says that noyon was the title just below the Khagan, but no, Batu was just below Khagan, and he was khan - that was the title between khagan and noyon.

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    You need to define these terms better. Greenland was never sovereign (it is still a part of Denmark, after it was taken from Norway in 1814). I guess the answer to this question would be something like a tribal chief somewhere. I wonder what the Andaman islanders call their supreme authority.
    – Tomas By
    Feb 17, 2020 at 19:48
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    @Gangnus I meant that he was a sovereign ruler before signing the treaty with Victoria. That was acknowledged in the letters exchanged between Moshoeshoe and Victoria. However, I'm not sure if he qualifies under your criteria (mainly because I don't think I understand the scope of the question). Feb 17, 2020 at 21:02
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    @Gangnus Like I said, I don't think the scope of the question is clear. But maybe that's just me. Feb 17, 2020 at 21:38
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    @Gangnus you're the one singlemindedly focusing on western Europe here, in not taking the equivalents to western European titles into account when considering whether people held a position of power within their own societies.
    – jwenting
    Feb 18, 2020 at 9:22
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    I cannot support re-open without addressing the issues that forced closure. Reading the extensive comment string (always a danger sign), I note two things - first that the concept of sovereign is clear to @Gangnus, but apparently less clear to everyone else, and that the clarifications in the comment string have not been edited into the question. I recommend revising the question to incorporate the information in the comment string, and citing a very clear definition of sovereign.
    – MCW
    Feb 18, 2020 at 9:38

1 Answer 1


The ranking of German nobility place Burgrave equivalent to the English Viscount. In the Holy Roman Empire the holders of this title were Imperial Princes, and thus sovereign.

There were four hereditary burgraviates ranking as principalities within the Holy Roman Empire, those of Antwerp, Magdeburg, Freidburg, and Nuremberg. The Burgrave of Meissen was hereditary but not entitled to the privileges of an Imperial Prince in the H.R.E.

The four unique titles of Rhinegrave, Waldgrave, Raugrave, and Altgrave were equivalent in prestige and privilege to Burgrave, but acquired unique titles prior to the creation of the more generic Burgrave title.

Here are the rankings of the nobility and sovereigns of the Holy Roman Empire.

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Note that there are many more then we are accustomed to in the English and British peerages. The main equivalencies, in descending order, are:

  • Duke (British, ruler of a duchy) to Herzog (German, ruler of a Herzogtum)

  • Marquess (British, ruler of a march) to Margraf (German, ruler of a Markgrafschaft)

  • Earl (British, ruler of a county) to Reichsgraf (German, ruler of a Grafschaft)

  • Viscount (British) to Burgraf (German, ruler of a Burgraviate)

  • Baron (British, ruler of a barony) to Reichsfreiherr (German, ruler of a Freiherrschaft)

  • Baronet (British, no land) to Ritter (German, no land)

  • @TomasBy: One must take care in translating from the German to the English. If one translates the German "graf" as a generic "count" then yes, all Margraves, Landgraves, Burgraves, plain Grafs, and others are, generically, "counts". However this distinction really means only subsidiary to the Duke of a "stem duchy"; there remains a pecking order with Margraves for instance, as the "Count of a Mark", being equivalent to an English marquess ruling a march. The Burgraves were likewise vice-counts, equivalent to a viscount. Feb 17, 2020 at 20:21
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    Excellent! I was absolutely sure that because viscount IS vice-count, it cannot be sovereign, but you had found so interesting workaround through equal titles. Only... Excuse me, viscount is a French title. Taken by English, yes.
    – Gangnus
    Feb 17, 2020 at 20:41
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    #Pieter Geerkens Rulers of principalities within the Holy Roman Empire were not sovereign, except to the degree that States and tribal government within the USA are sovereign. Principalities within the HRE were dependent governments like states or Indian tribes, not independent governments like China or the USA. Thus they were not sovereign.
    – MAGolding
    Feb 17, 2020 at 20:54
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    @MAGolding I think they (or some of them) were, e.g. Kingdom of Bavaria, Kingdom of Bohemia, the electors, free Hanseatic cities etc.
    – Tomas By
    Feb 17, 2020 at 21:00
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    @MAGolding depends on the era. For much of the HREs existence the states within it had a similar level of independence as the countries of the current EU do have now. So unless you claim that (and I admit there is grounds to do so) the Netherlands or Denmark are not sovereign nations, the nations making up the HRE were indeed sovereign even if not wholly independent.
    – jwenting
    Feb 18, 2020 at 9:03

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