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  • Graf or Gräfin is a historical title of the German nobility, usually translated as count. Considered intermediate among noble ranks, the title is often treated as equivalent to the British "earl". The comital title Graf is common to various European territories where German was or is the official or vernacular tongue, e.g., Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Alsace, the Baltic states and other Habsburg crown lands. Since August 1919, in Germany, all legal privileges of the nobility have been officially abolished, and Graf, like any other hereditary title, is treated as part of the legal surname. In Austria its use, as with all hereditary titles and nobiliary particles, is banned by law; whereas in Switzerland the title is not acknowledged in law; while in Luxembourg and Liechtenstein the title continues to be recognised, used and, occasionally, granted by the national fons honorum, the reigning monarch. From the medieval era, a Graf usually ruled a territory known as a Grafschaft. In the Holy Roman Empire, many Imperial counts retained near-sovereign authority in their lands until the Congress of Vienna subordinated them to larger, neighboring monarchs through the German mediatisation process of 1815, preserving their precedence, allocating familial representation in local legislatures, some jurisdictional immunities and the prestigious privilege of Ebenbürtigkeit. In regions of Europe where nobles did not actually exercise Landeshoheit, or sovereignty over the populace, the Graf long retained specific feudal privileges over the land and in the villages in his county, such as rights to peasant service, to periodic fees for use of common infrastructure such as timber, mills, wells and pastures. These rights gradually eroded and were largely eliminated before or during the 19th century, leaving the Graf with few legal privileges beyond land ownership, although comital estates in German-speaking lands were often substantial. Wikipedia

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