An earl is a member of the nobility. The title is Anglo-Saxon, akin to the Scandinavian form jarl, and meant "chieftain", particularly a chieftain set to rule a territory in a king's stead. In Scandinavia, it became obsolete in the Middle Ages and was replaced with duke (hertig/hertug). In later medieval Britain, it became the equivalent of the continental count (in England in the earlier period, it was more akin to duke; in Scotland it assimilated the concept of mormaer). However, earlier in Scandinavia jarl could also mean sovereign prince. For example, the rulers of several of the petty kingdoms of Norway had in fact the title of jarl and in many cases of no lesser power than their neighbours who had the title of king. Alternative names for the "Earl/Count" rank in the nobility structure are used in other countries, such as Hakushaku during the Japanese Imperial era.
In modern Britain, an earl is a member of the peerage, ranking below a marquess and above viscount. There never developed a feminine form of earl; countess is used as the equivalent feminine title.
Read more about Earl: Etymology
Famous quotes containing the word earl:
“I have come to realize that in every person there is something fine and pure and noble, along with a desire for self-fulfillment.”
—Jimmy Carter (James Earl Carter, Jr.)
“Let this be one invariable rule of your conductnever to show the least symptom of resentment, which you cannot, to a certain degree, gratify; but always to smile, where you cannot strike.”
—Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl Chesterfield (16941773)
“Side by side, their faces blurred,
The earl and countess lie in stone....”
—Philip Larkin (19221986)