This article is about the hereditary title of nobility. For other uses, see Marquess (disambiguation).
"Marchesa", "Marchese", "Marchioness", "Marquis", "Marquise" and "Marquesa" redirect here. For other uses, see Marchesa (disambiguation), Marchese (disambiguation), Marchioness (disambiguation), Marquis (disambiguation), Marquise (disambiguation) and Marquesa (disambiguation).
A 17th-century engraving of a marquis in the robe worn during his creation ceremony.

A marquess ( UK /ˈmɑːkwɪs/; [1] French: marquis, [ m ɑ ʁ k i ]; [2] Spanish: marqués, Portuguese: marquês) is a nobleman of hereditary rank in various European peerages and in those of some of their former colonies. The term is also used to translate equivalent Asian styles, as in imperial China and Japan.

In Great Britain and Ireland, the correct spelling of the aristocratic title of this rank is marquess (although for aristocratic titles on the European mainland, the French spelling of marquis is often used in English). In Great Britain and Ireland, the title ranks below a duke and above an earl (see " Marquesses in the United Kingdom"). A woman with the rank of a marquess, or the wife of a marquess, is called a marchioness /ˌmɑːrʃəˈnɛs/ [3] in Great Britain and Ireland or a marquise /mɑːrˈkz/ elsewhere in Europe. The dignity, rank or position of the title is referred to as a marquisate or marquessate.

The theoretical distinction between a marquess and other titles has, since the Middle Ages, faded into obscurity. In times past, the distinction between a count and a marquess was that the land of a marquess, called a march, was on the border of the country, while a count's land, called a county, often was not. As a result of this, a marquess was trusted to defend and fortify against potentially hostile neighbours and was thus more important and ranked higher than a count. The title is ranked below that of a duke, which was often restricted to the royal family and those that were held in high enough esteem to be granted such a title.

In the German lands, a Margrave was a ruler of an immediate Imperial territory (examples include the Margrave of Brandenburg, the Margrave of Baden and the Margrave of Bayreuth), not simply a nobleman like a marquess or marquis in Western and Southern Europe. German rulers did not confer the title of marquis; holders of marquisates in Central Europe were largely associated with the Italian and Spanish crowns.[ citation needed]


The word entered the English language from the Old French marchis ("ruler of a border area") in the late 13th or early 14th century. The French word was derived from marche ("frontier"), itself descended from the Middle Latin marca ("frontier"), from which the modern English words "march" and "mark" also descend. The distinction between governors of frontier territories and interior territories was made as early as the founding of the Roman Empire when some provinces were set aside for administration by the senate and more unpacified or vulnerable provinces were administered by the emperor. The titles " duke" and " count" were similarly distinguished as ranks in the late empire, with dux (literally, "leader") being used for a provincial military governor and the rank of comes (literally "companion," that is, of the Emperor) given to the leader of an active army along the frontier.