Marquis, Or Marquess, a title of dignity in England, France, and Italy, ranking next below that of duke. In Germany, whence it derives its origin, the corresponding title is Marhjraf, in English mar-rave or lord of the marches'; and the persons so called or created wore originally military chieftains to whom was committed the guardianship of the marches or frontiers of a country. Hence the medieval Latin word marchio. In continental Europe the marchiones, from being mere life occupants of their office, became at a compara-tively early period territorial potentates, transmitting their titles and possessions, until they were established as a powerful hereditary order of nobility. In England the lords or wardens of the marches were originally barons or earls, whose office it was to preserve the frontier cis on the borders of Wales or Scotland) free from the inroads of the enemy. The office was regarded for many centuries as a special or temporary one, and the term marquis, as distinguished from other titles of honor, was unknown till 1385, when Richard II. created his favorite Robert de Vere, earl of Oxford, marquis of Dublin for life, and gave him precedence between the degrees of earl and duke.
The next creation was that of John de Beaufort, earl of Somerset, who was in 1397 made marquis of Dorset, and who, after being degraded in parliament, where he was only considered as earl of Somerset, declined to have the new honor restored to him. on the ground that "the name of marquis was a strange one in the kingdom." It was not again conferred until 40 years afterward, in the reign of Henry VI. Thenceforth it continued to be occasionally bestowed, but was scarcely ever borne by more than three or four persons at a time until the latter half of the reign of George III., when the number of marquises was made equal at of the dukes. In I874 the number of marquises who sat under that title in the British house of peers was 21. Of the 20 British dukes. 11 had also the secondary title of marquis in the English, Scottish, or Irish peerage.