Gina from California wrote in to ask what the female form of the English noble title Earl is.
Thanks for your question Gina.
First, to give you the quick answer if you don’t want to bother about the long-winded explanation: The wife of an Earl, or a woman who may hold the title of Earl in her own right is called a Countess.
The term of address used is “Lady.”
This is because Earl is an English title equivalent to the continental title Count. Whereas the word Count has Latin roots (Comte from a companion of the ruler) the title Earl has Scandinavian roots from the title Jarl – a title which began as a chief and ranged in importance from there up to the equivalent of a Duke.
The title Jarl came to the British Islands with Danish and Norwegian invaders during the Dark Ages when Anglo-Saxons, who where themselves occupying conquerors where subjugated by invading Northmen. While the Anglicized Norse term for the title stuck for the men, their wives used the continental version.
In a strange twist to history, in 1066 Harold, King of England who was of Scandinavian decent was dethroned by William of Normandy, who was himself the descendant of the Scandinavian conquerors of Northern France.
Originally posted 2009-12-09 11:01:04.