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Baron (from Franconian baro "Lord, Warrior"), female baroness , as daughter Baroness ( e ), is a title of nobility that exists in several states (e). In the German-speaking world, the terms Freiherr, Freifrau or Freiin and Freifräulein were also common.

Crown of rank of a baron or baron : an attached decorative attachment as a helmet crown
Older form of the baron's crown

Linguistic development

An early occurrence of the word baro can be found among the Lombards . A free-born Heermann was also called baro . The residence of a Baro was baronica or arimannia , his wife was a "Dame" ( frea or wirdibora = "worthy born"), a son of such a relationship has been called "fully entitled Born" ( fulboran called).

The word baron comes from the Franconian baro , in German "Lord, warrior". This Germanic word has been used in France and Norway ( hirðskrá ) since the 13th century . After England the title came with the Norman Conquest . In the Middle Ages, the barons were the vassals with large land holdings and extensive rights, which in individual cases could stand up to royal power. As early as the early Middle Ages, the word baron was adopted as a loan word in the Latin language.

In the nobility diplomas (“nobility letters”) of the Holy Roman Empire , the Germanic title of “free lord” ( baron ) was reproduced as liber baro and not as liber dominus to indicate that it was a Germanic lord. The title of baron developed from the Latin liber baro in the non-Germanic languages. In the German language, however, instead of the Latin liber baro , the term Freiherr was used , which was also used in the monarchies of the German-speaking area. The salutation "Baron" or "Baronin" or "Baroneß" was therefore not a formally awarded, official title in the monarchies of the German-speaking area, but the oral (or also written) salutation that has become common practice for a baron, a baroness or a baroness .

In German, as the French language dominated as the lingua franca of the European nobility , the word baron was naturalized as a more elegant, Latinized form of address for a baron, as were the female forms baroness (wife of a baron or baron) or baroness (e ) (Daughter of a baron or baron). The custom of addressing a baron with a baron began in the 16th century and became a permanent label at German courts in the 18th and 19th centuries, when French was still the language of the court and diplomats.


In many countries the title "baron / baroness" was used, such as Hungary (see below), Croatia ( barun / barunica ), Poland ( baron / baronowa ), Lithuania ( baron / baroness ), Latvia ( baron / baroness ), Belarus ( Baron / Baronessa ), Russia (see below), Italy and the Vatican (see below), England (see below), Denmark ( Baron / Baronesse ), the Netherlands ( Baron / Barones ), Portugal ( Barão / Baronesa ), Spain (see below), the Czech Republic ( baron (svobodný pán) / baronka (svobodná paní) ) and France (see below).


In the hierarchy of the nobility in the Kingdom of Belgium, the title of baron is below that of a vice count (French Viscount , Flemish Burggraaf ) and above that of a knight (French Chevalier , Flemish Ridder ). The title of baron in Belgium can be conferred both hereditary and for life.

German-speaking areas

Northern Germany and the Baltic States

In the northern part of the German-speaking area, "Baron" was a title of nobility that was equal to the baron and was conferred by kings outside the Holy Roman Empire and the German Empire . In the monarchies of the northern German-speaking area, the title of Freiherr was below the count and above the untitled nobility.

Baltic barons crown

German bearers of the title (or official name) "Baron" are mostly members of aristocratic families of German origin from the Baltic States who received their title from the Russian Tsar or who were granted the right to hold the baron title by the Russian government's Senate Ukasse , as the Baltic Knights were subject to the tsar . These families were since the end of the 18th century a. a. also located in Courland , Livonia , Estonia and Ösel . Often the genders concerned, or at least a branch of these genders, but (at the same time or instead) also had a baron title of German or Swedish origin. In these cases, the right to use the baron title granted by the Russian side does not represent an original nobility elevation, but rather the recognition or extension of the existing German title. When naturalizing in the German Empire or in the Federal Republic of Germany (often due to expulsion ) was or it is still the usual practice of the registry offices to give the members of these families the opportunity to choose freely between the title “Baron” and “Freiherr” (or the gender-specific derivatives) - often regardless of whether the family was originally baronial was or was only raised to the nobility by the Russian Empire and thus never carried a German nobility title. Therefore, it occasionally happens that members of the same entire family have different official surnames.

In some areas, both the baron dignity and the possessions of a baron or baron are referred to as a barony or baronate .

Southern Germany and Austria

In the monarchies of the southern German-speaking area - such as As the Kingdom of Bavaria , the Kingdom of Württemberg and the Empire of Austria - was Baron likewise not an official title of the domestic nobility (it used also the title of baron , who in those three monarchies below the Earl and the knights stood) however, baron was a widespread title for a baron and was also used by the authorities. A formal, also legal, equality existed after 1867 in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy for holders of a Hungarian barony or an Austrian baron title.

Today's use by Baron

Titles of nobility and forms of address such as baron or baroness only have an official character today in states in which the nobility and its privileges have not been abolished.

In countries such as Germany (abolition of privileges of the nobility by the Weimar Constitution 1919), Austria (abolition of the aristocracy by the aristocracy repeal Act 1919) and Switzerland is the Title Baron / Baroness still sometimes used as a polite term for people whose families once as Barons or barons belonged to the nobility. Families whose relatives, as citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany, bear the former title of “baron” as part of their surname, this title was mostly bestowed by monarchs outside of today's German federal territory. According to the naming law valid in the Federal Republic of Germany , the name component can also come from an (unmarried) baroness or divorced baroness as mother.

The custom of addressing a baron as “baron” has survived to this day in the German-speaking area within the successor associations of the former nobility organized under private law. Even in the rural population, who work with landowners from aristocratic families, the address "Herr Baron" or "Frau Baronin" is still used. Examples that have become proverbial for German barons addressed as “barons” are the “baron of lies” Karl Freiherr von Münchhausen and the “red baron” Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen .


French barons crown

In the hierarchy of the nobility in France, the title of baron was below that of a vice count (French viscount ) and above that of an untitled nobleman. This was true of both the Bourbon era and the reign of the Bonaparte family.


In the hierarchy of the nobility in the Kingdom of Italy, the title of barone was below that of a vice count (Italian Visconte ) and above that of an untitled nobleman (Italian nobile ).


In the hereditary nobility in the Empire of Japan ( Kazoku , 華 族), newly created in 1869 based on the British model , the title of baron (Japanese danshaku , 男爵) was below that of a vice- count (Japanese shishaku , 子爵) and was the lowest rank in the hierarchy of the Kazoku . Hereditary nobility was abolished in the Japanese Empire in 1947.


In the hierarchy of the nobility in the Russian Empire, the title baron (Russian Барон ) was above that of an untitled nobleman and below that of a count (Russian Граф ).


Spanish and Portuguese barons crown

In the hierarchy of the nobility in the Kingdom of Spain, the title Barón is below that of a vice count (Spanish Vizconde ) and above that of a simple titled nobleman (Spanish Señor ). The title of baron in Spain can be conferred both hereditary and for life.


In the hierarchy of the nobility in the Kingdom of Hungary, the title báró was below that of a count (Hungarian gróf ) and above that of a simple titled nobleman. At the time of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy , the title of a Hungarian baron and that of an Austrian baron were formally equated with each other, so that - for example in the army - Hungarian citizens with the title of baron were also referred to as barons in German-language documents.

United Kingdom

English barons crown

In the United Kingdom, the title of baron (addressed " Lord ") exists in the Peerage of England , the Peerage of Ireland , the Peerage of Great Britain and the Peerage of the United Kingdom . There he is considered to be the lowest title of the peerage and stands below that of a Viscount and above the title of Sir used by the gentry (the baronets and knights ) . In the Peerage of Scotland the title corresponding to a baron is Lord of Parliament , while in Scotland a baron denotes a feudal title without nobility quality.

The title of baron in the United Kingdom can be hereditary as well as for life (so-called life peer , expires with the death of the bearer). The life peers clearly predominate; the last hereditary baronies (to non-royals) were conferred in 1965, while life peer baron appointments continue (seventeen in 2018). The appointment as Life Peer goes hand in hand with a seat in the House of Lords . Hereditary barons of the Peerage of England , the Peerage of Great Britain and the Peerage of the United Kingdom had a seat in Parliament in the House of Lords until 1999, while the Scottish nobility only sent one delegation to the House of Lords and with the Peerage of until 1963 Ireland had no parliamentary seats at all. Since 1999 , the dignity of a hereditary peer is no longer automatically linked to a seat in the House of Lords, even for English and British peers; instead, the hereditary peers select a limited number of representatives from among their ranks and send them to the House of Lords.

The British baron is not to be confused with the baronet . The latter is not a title of nobility ( peerage ), but a hereditary knight title that classifies its bearer in the so-called gentry . Since 1965 only one new appointment of a baronet has taken place.

"Industry" - "Coal" - or "Newspaper Barons"

The concept of independence still resonates with the term baron today. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries were rich and powerful men of business and industry as "industrial Baron" , "railroad baron" or "chimney baron" as well as "Ruhr Baron" or " robber baron " called. There was a silk baron in Krefeld . Influential newspaper owners and media entrepreneurs were also known colloquially as "newspaper barons" .

In the Upper Silesian industrial area , which arose from around 1800 on previously agricultural estates, it was actually often noble landlords who became “coal barons” , such as Carl Franz von Ballestrem . Its manager Karl Godulla later built up his own, even larger coal empire, which his son-in-law Hans-Ulrich Graf von Schaffgotsch took over. The noble families Henckel von Donnersmarck , Tiele-Winckler or Magnis and Prince Hugo zu Hohenlohe-Öhringen also built up large mining companies there.


  • Gabriele von Olberg: The terms for social classes, classes and groups in the Leges barbarorum. de Gruyter, Berlin 1991, ISBN 3-11-012218-9 .
  • Johannes Baron von Mirbach: noble names, noble titles, how do you do it right: a contemporary guide for work and society. Starke, Limburg an der Lahn 1999, ISBN 3-7980-0540-0 .
  • Friedrich von Fircks: About the origin of the nobility in the Baltic Sea provinces of Russia and the predicate baron due to the old knight families there. Mitau and Leipzig 1843 ( full text).

Web links

Wiktionary: Baron  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikisource: Zedler: Baron  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Duden online : Baroness, die. Baroness that. Baroness that. Retrieved February 5, 2020.
  2. István Bóna: The Dawn of the Middle Ages: Gepids and Longobards in the Carpathian Basin , p. 76. Corvina-Verlag, Budapest 1976. ISBN 9631344959 .
  3. ^ Johannes Baron von Mirbach: Noble names, noble titles. CAStarke Verlag, Limburg an der Lahn, 1999, ISBN 3-7980-0540-0
  4. ^ Johannes Baron von Mirbach: Noble names, noble titles. CAStarke Verlag, Limburg an der Lahn, 1999, ISBN 3-7980-0540-0
  5. Christof Mauch : Who were the robber barons? In: ders., The 101 Most Important Questions in American History. Munich 2008. pp. 61-63.