A viscount ( (listen) VY-kownt, for male) or viscountess (, for female) is a title used in certain European countries for a noble of varying status. In many countries a viscount, and its historical equivalents, was a non-hereditary, administrative or judicial position, and did not develop into a hereditary title until much later. In the case of French viscounts, it is customary to leave the title untranslated as vicomte [vi. kt]. Etymology The word viscount comes from Old French visconte (Modern French: vicomte), itself from Medieval Latin vicecomitem, accusative of vicecomes, from Late Latin vice- 'deputy' + (cut) comes (originally 'companion', later Roman imperial courtier or trusted appointee, ultimately count). During the Carolingian Empire, the kings appointed counts to administer provinces and other smaller regions, as governors and military commanders. Viscounts were appointed to assist the counts in their running of the province, and often took on judicial responsibility. The kings strictly prevented the offices of their counts and viscounts from becoming hereditary, in order to consolidate their position and limit chance of rebellion. The title was in use in Normandy by at least the early 11th century. Similar to the Carolingian use of the title, the Norman viscounts were local administrators, working on behalf of the Duke. Their role was to administer justice and to collect taxes and revenues, often being castellan of the local castle. Under the Normans, the position developed into a hereditary one, an example of such being the viscounts in Bessin.
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