One of the fun bits of creating the world of the first eight Colplatschki books was digging into titles of nobility and their meaning. Americans don’t do titles. We so don’t do titles that “sir” can refer to a heroic person worthy of great respect or the young man who carried the groceries to the car. Dukes, counts, margraves, pfalzgraf, none of those mean much unless 1) you are a jazz fan or 2) you have a Pfalzgraf brand of china in your house. Nor do we generally refer to places as “marches,” in the sense of frontier or a semi-dangerous border. If I say “the Mark Brandenburg,” most people would assume I am referring to either a well-known guy named Mark Brandenburg, or that something redirected my train of thought and “the” shouldn’t be in front of the name. Actually I’m referring to the area near modern Berlin, using the medieval and early modern description. A March (or in German, mark) referred to the border, just as titles of rank referred to military or administrative duties, like the Margrave (Markgraf), the border lord/count.
The website Etymology Online has it thus:
“boundary,” late 13c. (in reference to the borderlands beside Wales, rendering Old English Mercia), from Old French marche “boundary, frontier,” from Frankish *marka or some other Germanic source (compare Old High German marchon “to mark out, delimit,” German Mark “boundary;” see mark (n.1)). Now obsolete. There was a verb in Middle English (c. 1300), “to have a common boundary,” from Old French marchier “border upon, lie alongside.” This is the old Germanic word for “border, boundary,” but as it came to mean “borderland” in many languages new words were borrowed in the original sense (compare border(n.), bound (n.)”border, boundary”). Modern German Grenze is from Middle High German grenize (13c., replacing Old High German marcha), a loan-word from Slavic (compare Polish and Russian granica). Dutch grens, Danish groense, Swedish gräns are from German.
For example, the Austrian state of Styria is Steirmark, the Styrian Mark, because of its borderland nature.
You see all those rivers flowing down from the Alps? Everyone and his cousin also could march up them. The hotel I stayed at on the outskirts of Graz sat at the foot of a Hausberg/Schützberg – the local mountain where everyone fled to for safety whenever [insert invader here] approached. Vienna had a similar problem.
If you look due north from the curved lake where it says Orvidek, then go a few kilometers upstream, you are at Vienna. You stand in the top of the main tower of St. Stephan’s Cathedral, look east, and think, “Oh nuts, there’s nothing between here and there.” You can see why everyone from the Indo-Europeans through to the Ottoman Turks and Russians have come through there. It really was, and in some ways is once more, a borderland, a march.
The English regarded Offa’s Dike, the border between England (civilized) and Wales (barbarians) as a march. The Welsh, looking the other direction, considered the English to be benighted pagans. And then came the Normans and Edward I and proved the Welsh to be not entirely incorrect in their assumption. The noble(s) in charge of the border defense were march wardens, keeping “watch and ward” over the danger zone. In German, the title is Count of the Marches, or Mark-graf (Markgraf), which got shifted in English to Margrave.
For those who are curious, this is why Joschka’s actual title is not just graf but Markgraf von Hohen-Drachenburg. After things settled down in the 1700s, the “Mark” got dropped, and we won’t go into the alt-history version of why his title and station carry political as well a social weight in Rada’s version of the world.
OK, what about Pfalzgraf? Ah, for that we go to Latin and the term “Palatine” as in the hill in Rome. Over the years, high officials in the later versions of teh Holy Roman Empire were called “Palatines” in addition to their own titles if they served in the court administration – Count Palatine, for example, or Pfalzgraf. Within Hungary, the Palatine served as the governor for the King (later Emperor, then King again), so Prince Eszterhászy could also serve as the Palatine of Hungary for the Habsburg emperor. So, what about the region of southwest Germany called the Rhineland-Pfalz, the Rhineland-Palatinate? Some of the subdivisions were lumped for the purposes of electing the Holy Roman Emperor under the same palatine, an administrative position that went back to Charlemagne and H.R. E. Version 1.0 (as compared the Ottonians and their revived Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation [H.R.E. 2.0].
Duke? War leader in Latin “dux bellorum.”
Count? Latin again, “comes” a group of associates, later taken as comites to imply soldiers.
Baron? From Old English meaning a warrior (related to Beorn), some say is also from the Greek “baros” meaning a heavy load (like barometric pressure). The German verision is Freiherr -free lord, one who brings his own soldiers and arms. That’s why Rada says that the translation of her Azdhag title would Freifrau, although Herzogin, Duchess, or literally ” [female] one who leads armies into battle” is technically correct.
The eastern end of Austria, Hungary, and adjacent lands have been battlegrounds for a very long time. Austria was original the Ostmark, the eastern marches, and seems to be becoming so once again.