Category: Aristocracy and Nobility

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List of Current Noble Houses on Wikitree

Aristocracy and Nobility
Aristocracy refers to an elevated class of society granted privileged position. The concept, evolved in Ancient Greece, conceived it as rule by the best qualified people; often contrasted rule by monarchy. In Ancient Rome, the Republic consisted of an aristocracy; as well as consuls, a senate, and a tribal assembly. The "Dark Ages" saw a return to rule by individual but gradually, through various Acts such as the Magna Carta, rule returned to rule by people in elevated positions; the Aristocracy,generally, and certainly initially, a landed class of individuals. Nobility are a sub-set of Aristocracy; that is you may have aristocrats that are not Nobility; Baronets in the United Kingdom for example.

Nobility is a social class, generally ranked just below Royalty, that possesses more acknowledged privileges or eminence than most other classes in a society, membership thereof typically being hereditary. The privileges associated with nobility may constitute substantial advantages over or relative to non-nobles, or may be largely honorary (e.g. precedence), and vary from country to country and era to era. Historically, membership of the nobility and the prerogatives thereof have been regulated or acknowledged by the monarch or government, thereby distinguishing it from other sectors of a nation's upper class. Nonetheless, nobility per se has rarely constituted a closed caste; acquisition of sufficient power, wealth, military prowess or royal favour has, occasionally or often, enabled commoners to ascend into the nobility.

In France, a seigneury (lordship) might include one or more manors surrounded by land and villages subject to the noble's prerogatives and disposition. Seigneuries could be bought, sold or mortgaged. But if erected by the crown into, e.g. a barony or countship, it became legally entailed for a specific family, who could use it as their title (although most nobles were untitled: "seigneur of Montagne" meant ownership of that lordship but not, if one was not otherwise noble, the right to use its associated title). However, any French noble who bought a countship was allowed, ipso facto, to style himself as its comte.

Royal, noble and other ranks
Traditional rank amongst European royalty, peers, and nobility is rooted in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Although they vary over time and between geographic regions, the following is a reasonably comprehensive list that provides information on both general ranks and specific differences.

Grand Duke
Grand Prince
Prince / Infante
Sovereign Prince / F├╝rst
Marquess / Marquis / Margrave / Landgrave
Count / Earl
Viscount / Vidame
Hereditary Knight

Rank and seniority varies by Nation; for the various elements of the British Isles see Honours and Awards of the United Kingdom. For British Orders of Chivalry; that is knighthood, see: British Orders of Chivalry.

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