I’ve been reading C. V. Wedgwood‘s classic history The Thirty Years War in an attempt to understand a very messy period of European history, and am finally, among many other things, getting a handle on who was Calvinist and who was Lutheran and why so many Catholic powers (including the Pope) opposed the ultra-Catholic Habsburgs. Wedgwood is one of those gifted storytellers who can lead the reader on a reasonably clear path through a dark forest, in this case the mind-boggling complexity of the Holy Roman Empire—quite literally, in the way she shows how the position of the Palatinate athwart the route the Habsburgs needed to take to resupply their troops in the Spanish Netherlands made it central to events at the beginning of the war.

But I’m not here to talk about the war (“Don’t mention the war!“), I want to discuss the many German words descended from Latin palātium ‘palace’ (originally the Palatine Hill). I vaguely knew that the Count or Elector Palatine (an older equivalent is palsgrave), the ruler of the Palatinate, was so called (in the OED’s words) “as exercising the sovereign’s authority in certain matters, or as having a jurisdiction within a given territory such as elsewhere belongs to the sovereign alone,” and I knew that the German equivalent of Palatinate was Pfalz; what I didn’t know was that Pfalz is also an old term for a palace, which makes perfect sense given its etymology (MHG pfalz(e), pfallaz, phal(e)nze, OHG phalanza, phalnze, from post-classical Latin palantia, an alteration of palatia, a feminine singular arising from reinterpretation of the plural of classical Latin palātium). Knowing that the normal word for ‘palace’ is Palast, I looked that up in my trusty Lutz Mackensen and discovered that the -t is secondary; the earlier form Palas is still in use for some sort of lordly building (there’s no English Wikipedia entry, and it’s not in my unabridged German-English dictionary, so I don’t know how to translate it). Furthermore, there’s a borrowing from French of the same word, Palais. That seems like more descendants of palātium than any language really needs.


  1. rootlesscosmo says

    The name Palsgraf is familiar to every student of the US law of torts from the case of Palsgraf v. Long Island Rail Road Co.
    and the Rheinpfalz is a recognized regional denomination in the wine business.

  2. The town of New Paltz in upstate New York was settled by french Huguenots who had fled France and settled in the Palatinate. When Louis XIV lauched his wars against the Palatinate, some of them fled again and wound up in New Rochelle, NY, New Paltz, NY and in Mohawk River valley towns like Palatine Bridge.
    Of course the US settlements were just a minor footnote to the worldwide dispersal of the Huguenots.

  3. Yup, biggest vineyard in Germany. I wish I were more familiar with its wines (being a Riesling fan), but I’ve pretty much stuck to Mosel.

  4. Thanks for mentioning that, Gary; I’d meant to include New Paltz (a town I greatly enjoy visiting, even though my favorite used bookstore closed long ago), but forgot amid all the German etymology.

  5. marie-lucie says

    I suppose that Palz instead of Pfalz is a feature of the Palatine dialect.

  6. I believe a Romanesque Palas is just called a ‘Great Hall’ in English.

  7. I suppose that Palz instead of Pfalz is a feature of the Palatine dialect.
    That’s my understanding.

  8. Just as some residents of the Palatinate fled to New York when Louis XIV invaded, so did others end up in Ireland (County Limerick primarily), shipped over by Queen Anne of England. Being a Protestant group in Catholic Ireland they were keen to stick together and protect their traditions. Today there is an Irish-Palatine Association and an Irish Palatine Heritage Museum. Last month the Gaelic football team Palatine Minors won their first ever championship. They are from County Carlow, which, I suppose, shows that some German refugees must have ended up in that county too.

  9. John Emerson says

    The Pennsylvania Dutch came to America from the Palatinate during this very period.

  10. Crown, A.J.P. says

    Thanks for this, Language. I haven’t read The Thirty Years War, but I will now. Does it mention Descartes?
    Veronica Wedgwood did the English translation of Canetti’s Die Blendung as Auto-da-Fé. As it says in the Wiki entry for the book, the protagonist is Peter Klein, a middle-aged philologist:
    He himself was the owner of the most important private library in the whole of this great city. He carried a minute portion of it with him wherever he went. His passion for it, the only one which he had permitted himself during a life of austere and exacting study, moved him to take special precautions. Books, even bad ones, tempted him easily into making a purchase. Fortunately the great number of the book shops did not open until after eight o’clock.
    Klein is absorbed in his studies of Chinese and fears social and physical contacts, but he is pressured into marrying his ignorant housekeeper, Therese Krummholz, who robs him with the help of Benedikt Pfaff, the proto-fascist apartment manager. Klein descends to the depths of society, as his brother tries in vain to cure him, reaching an apocalyptic end amid his books.
    I think we can all learn from this.

  11. Does it mention Descartes?
    Yes, briefly: “Descartes and Hobbes were already writing…”

  12. A.J.P. Crown says

    But there’s nothing about him having been a soldier and fighting at the Battle of the White Mountain?

  13. A.J.P. Crown says

    On a completely different topic: in the LRB of 23 October there is a piece titled ‘Twelve-Minute Prometheus (after Aiskhylos)’. At the front of the magazine it says of the author, ‘Anne Carson’s An Oresteia — a translation of Aiskhylos Agamemnon… will be out next year’. So, my question is can anybody tell me why she and the LRB suddenly have started using the Scandinavian spelling of Aeschylus?

  14. It’s not the Scandinavian spelling, it’s a transliteration of the Greek spelling. It’s rather odd that our traditional versions of Greek names are filtered through Latin, and many Hellenists feel it would make more sense to use the original forms. It’s not a new thing at all; Fitzgerald’s Odyssey (almost half a century old now) uses the transliterated spellings.

  15. A.J.P. Crown says

    Thanks, Language, I wondered if it was something like that. That would also account for the Scandinavians using a Y, something they otherwise abhor.

  16. Hmm, do you think Russian палата is also from the Latin? It seems a little strange, since палата has a very old-world “Ivan the Terrible and his boyars” kind of aura to it.

  17. It’s directly from Byzantine Greek παλάτιον [palation], but that of course is from the Latin.

  18. And of course this doesn’t keep Germans from borrowing palace or palazzo.

  19. David Marjanović says

    I suppose that Palz instead of Pfalz is a feature of the Palatine dialect.

    Correct. Middle German: the High German sound shift was only followed in some positions.
    BTW, I only know Palas as the name of a part of a medieval castle…

  20. You needn’t go to Germany to find palatinates: Durham and Cheshire were palatinates, with the Archbishop and the Earl being the respective authorities. This arose mainly from their position as border counties, but led to some technicalities revolving around the fact that the king’s writ did not run in those counties as it did everywhere else, and when a person in Lancashire or Shropshire might sue in the royal courts, a Durhamite would sue or be sued in the archbishop’s courts, and similary in Cheshire the proper court was the earl’s court, not the royal court. Administrative matters were similarly handled.

  21. I only know Palas as the name of a part of a medieval castle…
    Well, yeah, that’s what it is.

  22. A.J.P. Crown says

    …a Durhamite would sue or be sued in the archbishop’s courts, and similary in Cheshire..
    Do you know when this system ended, kishnevi?

  23. Crown, A.J.P. says

    Is that right what it says in Wiki, that ‘palace’ comes from Palatine and ‘capitol’ comes from Capitoline? I’d always kind of assumed that those -ine endings of the names of the seven hills of Rome were adjectival: sort of like Pauline from St. Paul.

  24. @AJ Short answer: There was a hill called Palatium. An adjective referring to that hill is Palatinus.
    The Romans, being mostly dead, are in no position to object to the English usage of clipping “Palatine Hill” to Palatine in English. As noted above, they had no need to clip because they could say “palatium” when they meant the hill.
    Full story here:

  25. A.J.P. Crown:
    County Durham’s palatine status was accepted by the English Parliament in 1293, though it had been asserted by the bishops as long ago as the early 1100s, based on an alleged royal grant of 684. The status was partly revoked in 1596 and entirely abolished in 1646 by the Long Parliament. It was restored, along with the monarchy, in 1660 and not finally abolished until 1836.
    Cheshire’s palatinity (?) has been more of a technical thing since the death of the last independent Earl of Chester in 1237, since when the Earl of Chester has either been the monarch or the Prince of Wales (with the exception of 1264-65, when Simon de Montfort held it). The separate jurisdiction mostly ended in 1536, with a few features surviving until 1830.
    Lancashire is no longer considered a duchy palatine, but it was so from 1351 to 1873, and it is still managed independently; the Dukedom of Lancaster has been merged with the Crown since 1399. Cornwall has never been officially palatine, but it had and still has a separate administration under the Prince of Wales (who is in fact born Duke of Cornwall, and must be created Prince of Wales).
    According to Wikipedia, at various times Shropshire, Kent, the Isle of Ely, Hexhamshire in Northumberland, the Earldom of Pembroke in Wales, County Tipperary in Ireland, the Earldom of Strathearn in Scotland, and the province of Avalon in Newfoundland have been palatinates.
    And speaking of Newf (just to get back on topic for a moment), it’s the only anglophone region outside the Formerly British Isles that has (thus saith Wells) a traditional dialect rather than simply a regional accent, though I think the Tidewater Islands of Virginia and North Carolina might dispute that claim.

  26. Tip of the (nonlanguage) hat to Mr. Cowan for details I couldn’t remember–only the basic fact learned twenty five years ago in a spring semester at college memorable mostly for a serious case of senioritis.
    However, my reference to “archbishop” was merely ther result of what in technical parlance is known as a brainfart. I do really know it’s the Bishop of Durham.

  27. A.J.P. Crown says

    Thanks, John Cowan. So though it’s mostly just the borders that were palatinate somehow Ely got in there and Avalon sometime later — and I suppose Kent was a potential 13th c. border, but why not Sussex? Oh well. The Simon de Montforts pop up once again, though I expect this isn’t the very wicked Simon de Montfort.
    Talking of the borders, the Saturday edition of The Guardian showed a very nice smallholding in Northumberland, with a walled garden and an orchard, that’s for sale. One reason I like it is that it’s very close to a man who keeps gypsy horses.

  28. A.J.P. Crown says

    A byre, by the way, is a cowshed, but I expect you all knew that (I didn’t).

  29. A.J.P. Crown says

    I can now see that I ought to have figured that out for myself, so thanks for taking the trouble.

  30. Wedgwood’s Thirty Years War is top shelf. (Actually, everything by her that I have read has been top shelf.) The book entirely changed my take on Wallenstein. My only disappointment with it was that she didn’t have the opportunity to flesh out Oxenstierna more fully. While Adolphus was alive, he was the only European statesmen who could hold his own with Richelieu and did quite well after his king’s death, as well, until the strain on the Swedish economy threatened to bring about a rebellion.
    Wedgwood’s first love was the reign of Charles I and the English civil war about which she wrote a three volume history. A collection of her individual essays on historical topics is entitled History and Hope. Again, all of it is exceptionally well researched and written.
    As for Simon de Montfort, no he wasn’t “the very wicked Simon de Montfort,” though Edward I might have thought so. He was the great Monfort who took control of England from the inept (but really quite personable) Henry III and attempted to establish the rule of Parliament some 400 years before schedule (as it were). He makes for a delightful trivia question: “Who was the first Prime Minister of England?” Answer: Simon de Montfort? Not Robert Walpole!
    By-the-bye, Thomas Costain wrote an exceptional series on the history of England himself. The second volume — The Magnificent Century — covers Henry III and the great de Monfort, both of whom are fascinating figures.

  31. Wedgwood’s first love was the reign of Charles I and the English civil war about which she wrote a three volume history.
    Thanks, now I want to read it!

  32. A.J.P. Crown says

    LH: Wedgwood is one of those gifted storytellers who can lead the reader on a reasonably clear path through a dark forest

    What was remarkable about Wedgwood’s view of the Civil War was the way in which she depicted the sheer confusion of it all, the impossibility of co- ordinating events in three countries, once order from the centre had broken down. This may be regarded as a bonus for imposing no sharp-angled interpretation of her own that might invite more controversy. But it was a pity that what would have been her magnum opus remained incomplete. A by-product of this concern was Montrose (1952), a short biography of the gallant general, a sympathetic character to her, as also was Prince Rupert from early days. Various volumes followed, essays collected in Velvet Studies (1946) and Truth and Opinion (1960). More significant were her Cambridge lectures on literature and politics in the 17th century (published as Poetry and Politics, 1960). For these brought out the fact that in her mind history and literature are closely associated, as with all the best and great historians.

    (From A.L. Rouse’s obituary of Veronica Wedgwood, in The Independent.)

  33. Crown, A.J.P. says

    Prince Rupert was Ruprecht Pfalzgraf bei Rhein, or Count Palatine of the Rhine. His mother was Elizabeth Stuart, the woman who was responsible, by her marriage, for the Hanovers weaseling their way into England, never to leave. Charles I was his uncle.

  34. Yes, I wrote about Elizabeth Stuart here; that novel was one source of my interest in the war.

  35. A.J.P. Crown says

    Elizabeth Stuart is a great subject for a tv miniseries, but they’ll never do it cause she’s not well-enough known. She seems to be connected to everything important and interesting that went on in the 17th and early 18th c. That novel sounds awful, but the post is funny and, what’s more, I figured out that Erztruchseß, or archsteward, is related to Arzt through ‘arch’ (Arzt = v. griech.: αρχίατρος archíatros = der Oberheiler). I’m so proud of myself.

  36. David Marjanović says

    Arzt = v. griech.: αρχίατρος

    Wow. That one is not obvious.
    That said, archiater may well have been a fairly widespread title; Linnaeus was archiater regius, as he never failed to mention in the titles of his books.

  37. John Emerson says

    OH FUCK!!!!!
    (Sorry guys.)
    Purdy got me going, but Wedgewood’s book is not available for less than $100.00, No joke.
    (I lied, it’s $99.99. So sue me.)

  38. A.J.P. Crown says

    Wow. That one is not obvious.
    Not to me, anyway. I’ve always wondered where ‘Arzt’ came from.
    I think those absurd prices are decided by some kind of computer statistics program because they’ll have something almost equal, right next it, that costs $2.00+postage.

  39. That Arzt etymology is great; I had no idea. (It replaced the native OHG lâhhi, a cognate of English leech.)

  40. Wedgewood’s book is not available for less than $100.00.
    Which book? The three volume Folio Society The English Civil War with slipcase is that much, but why just buy The King’s Peace, The King’s War and The trial of Charles I separately?

  41. John Emerson says

    Oh, goody! That helps!

  42. Crown, A.J.P. says

    It replaced the native OHG lâhhi, a cognate of English leech.
    A change whose time had come. Is Rechtsanwalt a cognate of leech?

  43. A.J.P. Crown says

    John, you can also in fact if you want it get the three vol. set The English Civil War from Amazon uk for 24 pounds here (“very good condition”).

  44. Send off to the UK? He’ll pay a small fortune in postage.
    Try Amazon new

  45. Crown, A.J.P. says

    Thanks, but that’s a different war. The English Civil War is a three-book series.

  46. Oopsie.
    Then what is needed is the IBSN’s. No, wait, it’s an older book and won’t have good ISBNs. So the best Amazon strategy is to go to their website and do a search for the title. The way their seller situation is structured, sellers often find themselves having to sell books for $0.01 and trying to make a 25¢ profit from the postage, so instead will create a new category with the type of book or author listed slightly differently. The title search usually flushes them all out. But here are some possiblilites:
    The King’s Peace:
    The King’s War:
    A Coffin For King Charles: The Trial and Execution of Charles I:
    the three books on alibris:*rhs*p1-0*rhs*p1-0*rhs*p1-0

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