PROTECTOR, a Latin word (formed from protegere, to cover in front) adopted into English. In post-classical Latin the protectores were the body-guards of the emperors, and of the Praetorian prefects until, under Constantine the Great (306-337), they ceased to exercise military functions. The protectores, with the domestici, continued to form the body-guard and household troops of the emperor. They were veterans selected from the legions, and were capable of being appointed to high commands. In the Roman curia the protectores regnorum are cardinals who take charge of the affairs of the " province " to which they are named which come before the Sacred College, and to present them for consideration. In England " protector " was used first for the regent during a minority (e.g. the Protector Somerset, and then by Oliver Cromwell when he assumed the government in 1653). The name thus acquired a revolutionary significance, and has not since been officially used in England. In Spanish America the bishops were officially protectors of the Indians. The title is convenient for a ruler who wishes to exercise control outside the limits of his direct sovereignty. Thus Napoleon called himself protector of the Confederation of the Rhine. The kings of France, and the governments which have arisen out of the Revolution, were protectors of the Latin Christians in the Turkish Empire, while the tsars of Russia have claimed the same position towards the Orthodox Christians.
See App. B. to vol. ii. of Bury's edition of the Decline and Fall (London, 1896); Du Cange, Glossarium lat.; Sorel, L'Europe et la revolution française, vol. vii. (Paris, 1904).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)