High Patronage

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The conference I'm attending, LREC 2008, is being held in Marrakech, Morroco, "under the High Patronage of His Majesty King Mohammed VI".  I don't know what this means in practical terms: does this patronage come with a subsidy, or is it simply a conventional phrase for events held at the government-run Palais des Congres, or what? I'll ask Khalid Choukry or one of the other conference organizers; but in fact, I'm more interested in the linguistic aspects of this "high patronage" than the practical ones.

I don't think I've ever seen the phrase "under the high patronage of X" used for a conference held in the U.S. or in the U.K. Certainly searches for phases like "under the High Patronage of George W. Bush" come up empty, and frankly such phrases sound faintly ridiculous to an American ear, or at least they do to mine. Even "under the High Patronage of  Queen Elizabeth" is not now found on the web. So my first hypothesis is that this is a somewhat awkward translation of a formula used to refer to continental European royalty. But searching the web for other examples, I find X taking on not only royal values like "His Majesty the King of Spain" and "His Majesty King Abdullah II", but also republican values, like "the President of the Italian Republic" and "Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the French Republic".

The same search also shows that there's apparently a distinction of rank between "high patronage" and mere "patronage" — for example, the "2nd European eAccess Forum" (28 January 2008) was held "Under the High Patronage of Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the French Republic" but merely "under the patronage of Mrs. Valérie Pécresse, Higher Education and Research Minister, and Mrs. Christine Albanel, Culture and Communication Minister". However, other French events have been held "under the high patronage" of mere ministers, so apparently the rule is that the top patron is the high patron, and the others are mere unmodified patrons.

The corresponding expressions in some other languages seem to be "sotto l'alto patronato" (Italian, 186K ghits); "sous le haut patronage" (French, 100K ghits); "com o alto patrocinio" (Portuguese, 54.1K ghits); "con el alto patrocinio" (Spanish, 649 ghits); "unter der hohen Schirmherrschaft" (German, 136 ghits).

I'm not sure why German and Spanish are so underserved with high-patronaged events. I'm also not clear on why Italian and French mostly have events "sotto" and "sous" X's high patronage, while Portuguese and Spanish have events "com" and "con" the corresponding quality. The web evidence:

sous le haut patronage
avec le haut patronage
sotto l'alto patronato
con le haut patronato
debaixo do alto patrocinio
com o alto patrocinio
debajo del alto patrocinio
con el alto patrocinio
under the high patronage
with the high patronage

Perhaps I've guessed wrong about what the corresponding forms should be.

[Update — a comment below points out that "bajo el alto patricinio" has 766 hits, so I did guess wrong at least once.]


  1. Linca said,

    May 30, 2008 @ 10:10 am

    Looking at the actual results of the "under the high patronage" google search, it seems most if the results point to events in Continental Europe, Northern Africa, the Middle East… How many of the occurrences are actual translations from French or Italian ?

  2. Jens said,

    May 30, 2008 @ 10:10 am

    "bajo el alto patrocinio" actually has more hits than "con el alto patrocinio"

  3. Bear said,

    May 30, 2008 @ 10:25 am

    Oh, my g-d, you're in Marrakech? Bliss. Enjoy, enjoy! And eat /everything/.

  4. Marcus Lira said,

    May 30, 2008 @ 10:38 am

    Interesting post!

    I had never heard this expression before, and decided to do some research on my own language (Portuguese). Turns out that you can literally say "under the High Patronage" in Portuguese, but the correct form would be "sob o alto patrocínio", rather than "debaixo do alto patrocínio".

    Still, it's relatively rare when compared to "com o alto patrocínio". As a matter of fact, "com o patrocínio" sounds a lot less exotic to me because that's exactly how we say "Sponsored by", and I wonder whether this could have something to do with the different frequencies…

  5. Mark Liberman said,

    May 30, 2008 @ 10:45 am

    @Linca: as I suggested in the post, most if not all of the English examples are surely (awkward) translations, and I imagine that the most likely source language is French. But why (for example) are Spanish variants of this phrase apparently so much less common than Portuguese ones?

  6. Cameron Majidi said,

    May 30, 2008 @ 12:19 pm

    Why would you guess the source language is French? That's possible, I suppose, but given the general medieval sound of the phrase, my first guess of an original language would be Latin.

  7. Florence said,

    May 30, 2008 @ 12:29 pm

    My first thought was that this was a translation from French, which is one of the official languages of Morocco I think. "Sous le haut patronage" is an expression I have often read, although I don't know what it really means either. I don't think it entails any financial support. Interesting that Italian also has this expression apparently.

  8. John Cowan said,

    May 30, 2008 @ 12:45 pm

    I don't actually know anything, but my guess about the German situation is that while the French and Italian Presidents are the direct successors of monarchs, and use some of their state, the German President is emphatically not the direct successor of either the Kaiser, Hindenburg, or Hitler — the Basic Law of 1949 was a new government from the ground up.

    As for Spain, perhaps Juan Carlos simply doesn't care about being the High Patron of this, that, or the other conference? He already has enough hereditary (not State) titles to gag a platoon of goats. "King of Jerusalem" and "King of the Islands and the Continents in the Ocean Sea" are particularly cool.

  9. marie-lucie said,

    May 30, 2008 @ 3:19 pm

    "Under the high patronage" and similar formulas are most likely to be derived from French ("sous le haut patronage de …"). The French word "patronage" in this context means "sponsorship", not of a simply financial but of a mostly honorific nature (although no doubt the high patron gives the OK for financial support as well). Having a king, president or other figure from the top ranks of society in this role underscores the importance given to the event, in which this high-level figure is (at least theoretically) taking a personal interest and at which it might make an appearance. The event is taking place "under" the patronage of X because X is at the top, so everyone else is below.

    The word "patron" in French now means "boss", but in earlier times it was used for a "protector", a high and wealthy person who took an artist under his wing (for instance the dedicatees of literary or musical works, who often acknowledged the dedication with some financial and social support), or (especially in the case of women) who took up charitable causes.

  10. Mark Liberman said,

    May 30, 2008 @ 3:24 pm

    @Cameron Majidi: Why would you guess the source language is French? … given the general medieval sound of the phrase, my first guess of an original language would be Latin.

    I didn't mean "source language" in the historian's sense, but in the translator's sense: many if not most of the pages on the web with English "under the high patronage of …" are plausibly translations from a French-language original.

    You might be right that the formula goes back to the time when Latin was routinely used in formal settings, but I have no information one way or the other.

  11. Hawker, J. said,

    May 30, 2008 @ 3:42 pm

    Mark Liberman wrote: Even "under the High Patronage of Queen Elizabeth" is not now found on the web.

    You're googling with the wrong formulation. Sure, you won't find anything for Brenda, but try just "under the high patronage of her majesty the Queen" and you get three for "…of the Netherlands" and one for Queen Fabiola of Belgium.

  12. Hawker, J. said,

    May 30, 2008 @ 4:04 pm

    Not to be left out: Norwegian, "under høy beskyttelse" gets 1590 hits, but that's deceiving because it means 'protection' as well as 'patronage', so you get a lot of stuff about paint tests and electrical insulation.

    But I got one where King Harald was going to be high patron, 6 April 08:
    "Kong Harald blir TV-aksjonens høye beskytter"
    (of a telethon for the Red Cross).

  13. Hawker, J. said,

    May 30, 2008 @ 4:16 pm

    Yup. Seems like the whole Norwegian royal family goes around being "høye beskytter" of things. 980 hits, none about paint.

    So I doubt it's French, the Norwegians didn't get royal stuff from France. When the Norwegian monarchy was founded in 1905, France & Switzerland were Europe's only republics. More likely German, would be my guess.

  14. Dave said,

    May 31, 2008 @ 3:12 pm

    would "principal sponsor" be a more idiomatic translation of "high patronage"? (sending us back to questions of latin etymology…)

  15. marie-lucie said,

    May 31, 2008 @ 5:37 pm

    "principal sponsor" does not have the class structure-related connotation of "high patronage".

  16. Gilles said,

    June 1, 2008 @ 12:42 am

    « […] the government-run Palais des Congres »
    I didn't know the king Mohammad VI had a palace built for these fishes.

  17. Jorge said,

    June 2, 2008 @ 9:49 am

    "el alto patronazgo de" gets 722 ghits, which is not as many as "el alto patrocinio de" but they should be added. "el alto auspicio de" gets 1350

  18. marie-lucie said,

    June 2, 2008 @ 11:44 pm

    In French there are two common expressions, "sous le (haut) patronage de" and "sous les auspices de", which are slightly different. As described above, "le patronage" is used about the role of a prominent person, but "les auspices" is used for a collective or abstract sponsoring entity, for instance "sous les auspices de l'UNESCO". I don't recall seeing the adjective 'haut' used together with "auspices".

  19. Ena M.G. said,

    July 5, 2012 @ 5:37 am

    "con el alto patrocinio" never heard in Spanish.

    conference… auspiciada por un organismo or patrocinada por… alguien o algo or…. CON (never BAJO) el patrocinio de….

    Ena MG
    Applied Linguistics

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