Generalprofoßleutnant during the Holy Roman Empire

+9 votes
Our family genealogist describes (1989) the husband of the sister of one of my sixteenth-century ancestors as a "kurf. sächs. Generalprofoßleutnant". "Profoß" is the older spelling of "provost", which generally refers (nowadays) to the military police. So can this man's title be translated as "lieutenant general in Saxon prince-elector's military police"?
WikiTree profile: Veit Crell
in Genealogy Help by Michael Meurer G2G3 (3.3k points)

1 Answer

+5 votes
Best answer

Bottom Line Up Front: I would probably modernize/anglicize the title as "Assistant Provost-Marshal" (of the Saxon Prince elector's Army)

finding it tough to succinctly explain how I arrived at that, so please bear with me...

Your sentence "lieutenant general in Saxon prince-elector's military police" gives the impression of an independent 'organization' within the army composed entirely of "police" and that this individual was a senior officer of the rank of Lieutenant-General in said organization.

A Provost was an individual appointment within a regiment with responsibility for overseeing discipline and punishment. They were assisted/understudied by a Provost-Lieutenant. The responsibilities of these positions are somewhat analogous to modern military police but their subordinates (the "provost guard") were typically not charged with any "police powers".

In addition to dealing with soldiers (and detainees/prisoners) the provost was also usually charged with overall responsibility for the train of "camp-followers" (women, children, merchants/sutlers, etc.) and it's discipline.

The General Staff of an army would include a General-Provost (best English term would probably be 'provost-marshal') who would perform the duties of the provost for the headquarters as well as being the staff officer responsible for all provost "matters". Now my inference (I haven't found any source that specifically mentions this position) is that the General-Provost would, similar to a regiment, have an assistant/understudy which should logically be called a GeneralProvostLieutenant.

Now as to the rank of Lieutenant-General... A lieutenant-general would be second only to "the" general (aka Captain-General) a higher rank than this individual likely held. The inclusion of General in the appointment title typically does not mean the individual was ranked as a General, but that they had the authority of a General (within their specific area of responsibility). From looking over some period Prussian pay lists it appears a General-Provost was roughly equivalent to a Colonel (Dem Obersten) so if I had to assign a modern English rank to Viet Criel I would go with Lieutenant-Colonel.

Hope that explains my initial answer without meandering too far afield and without being overly confusing.

by Rob Ton G2G6 Pilot (276k points)
selected by Michael Meurer

Rob, this is exactly the kind of information I seek and need... and deeply appreciate: not a simple answer, but a resolution, and the context as to why it's the answer.

There's nothing confusing about that background you've given; it's excellent!

Keep up the great work; this is immensely helpful. Cheers!

Glad it was helpful and understandable.

You may also find this book of German-English military vocabulary useful [link]. Although it is for a much later period than you are dealing with (published 1917) armies are typically big on maintaining traditions - for example, saluting is believed to have evolved from knights lifting their visors for superiors, and gorgets, originally part of a knights armour, continued to be worn as a sign of rank long after armour had left the battlefield - so it might at least offer insight on possible meanings of other military terms you encounter.

Rob, this is an excellent resource... and no doubt much of the fifteenth- and sixteenth-century technical terms I've been running into will be covered. Thanks!

For decades, my father taught the whole of German - from pre-Roman times to the present (well, to 2003), including obscure regional slang to humor to the most technical, specialized usage. Though (annoyingly) he never taught his own children, I found him a wonderful linguistic resource whenever I needed one... which was pretty regularly, since I hadn't fallen far from his tree.

So that book will help fill the void... thanks again, Rob!

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