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The Oxford Dictionary of the Renaissance

Palatinate or (German) Pfalz.. 

The title ‘count palatine’ (Latin comes palatinus, German Pfalzgraf, from Latin palatinus, ‘belonging to the palace’) is used in medieval and early modern documents for a large number of rulers whose authority derived from the Holy Roman Empire and included the rulers of Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, and Burgundy.

The term ‘Palatinate’ is usually used with reference to the Rhineland Palatinate, a large principality on both banks of the middle Rhine of which the capital is Heidelberg. The name was instituted in 1155, when the Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa conferred the title of ‘count palatine’ on his half-brother Konrad. In 1329 the Palatinate passed to the Wittelsbach family of Bavaria, and the Golden Bull of 1356 confirmed the count palatine as the principal secular elector of the Empire. Under the Wittelsbachs the terms ‘Rhenish Palatinate’ and ‘Electoral Palatinate’ were used to distinguish this region from the Upper Palatinate (Oberpfalz) in Bavaria.

The Elector Friedrich I (elector 1449–76) extended the territories of the Palatinate of the Rhine into Alsace and north along the Rhine. In 1556 the Elector Otto Heinrich made Lutheranism the state religion of the Palatinate. He died without a male heir, and the electorate passed to another branch of the family, the dukes of Simmern. On his accession in 1561 Friedrich III, duke of Simmern, established Calvinism in the Palatinate and became a supporter of the Huguenots in France and the Calvinist rebels in the Revolt of the Netherlands. His son Ludwig VI (elector 1576–83) reverted to Lutheranism, but on his death Johann Casimir (regent 1583–92) ruled on behalf of his nephew Friedrich IV and reintroduced Calvinism. Friedrich IV (ruled 1592–1610) was one of the architects of the German Protestant Union of 1608. In 1619, Friedrich V, the Winter King who was married to Elizabeth, daughter of King James, accepted the throne of Bohemia, as a consequence of which the Palatinate suffered extensive damage during the Thirty Years War.

In Britain the term ‘Palatine’ is sometimes used with reference to the six ‘counties palatine’ (the ‘spiritual palatinates’ of Durham and Ely and the ‘temporal palatinates’ of Lancaster, Chester, Shrewsbury, and Pembroke) and the American palatine provinces of Maryland (1632), Maine (1639), and Carolina (1663). In England the counties palatine developed independent legal systems: the palatine court of Chester survived until 1830 and Durham and Lancaster maintained independent courts of chancery until 1971.

In Rome the term Palatine refers to the Palatine Hill, the Mons Palatinus on which Augustus built the first imperial palace, and to the Biblioteca Palatina. The cognate term ‘paladin’ is used in the courtly romances of Charlemagne to denote the douzepers (the twelve peers or paladins of Charlemagne, of whom the ‘count palatine’ was the foremost) and, in a transferred sense, in the romances of King Arthur to denote the knights of the Round Table.