High nobility

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High nobility or high nobility usually denotes the noble families of at least princely rank (in the broader sense of the term prince ). However, the high nobility is not a uniformly defined term and therefore differs considerably in the individual European countries.

German high nobility

High nobility was a legal term in the German states until 1918 and was based on the German Federal Act of June 8, 1815 and other resolutions of the German Confederation. The provision in the Federal Act went in turn to the former imperial estates of those noble houses back, the lost in 1806 the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation , the sovereignty over rich immediate territories occupied. Linked to this was the imperial estate, i.e. seat and vote in the imperial council of the Reichstag . For High needle (high needle) thus counted ruling, formerly ruling and unable splendid nobility.

In the Gothaischer Hofkalender (called “Gotha” for short), which appeared from 1763 to 1944 and is then continued by the Genealogical Handbook of the Nobility (from 1951 to 2015) and, since 2015, by the Gothaische Genealogical Handbook , the volume series Princely Houses

  1. all ruling (now partially ruling) European sovereigns as " Première Partie - Généalogie des Maisons Souveraines " ( First Division ) and
  2. the mediatized princely houses of the Holy Roman Empire as “ Deuxième Partie - Généalogie des Maisons seigneuriales médiatisées en Allemagne qui ont les droits d'égalité de naissance avec les maisons souveraines ” ( Second section ). This had, according to the German Federal Act , the equality with the houses of the First Division, as they too once - had ruled sovereign - within the loose federation Empire.
  3. All other dukes and princes in Europe are classified in the “ Troisième Partie ” ( third division ). These houses, sometimes referred to as titular princes or titular dukes , were often among the first families of their countries, were rich and influential, but did not rule their own territory, but were subordinate to a sovereign . With regard to this category, equality is regulated in the individual house laws of the higher-ranking house.

In the "First Division" of the volume series Princely Houses of Gotha, the ruling and previously ruling European monarchy families are listed, including the ruling sovereigns of the German Confederation (from 1871 of the Second German Empire ) and the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy , i.e. the the two imperial houses of Hohenzollern (also kings of Prussia) and Habsburg-Lorraine (also kings of Bohemia and Hungary) as well as the four other royal houses (Bavaria, Württemberg, Saxony, Hanover) and the grand ducal , ducal and princely houses that ruled Germany until 1918 .

Imperial crown of the Holy Roman Empire

In the order of precedence comes the "second division" of the princely houses, which contains the genealogies of those families who ruled in the German and foreign-language areas of the Holy Roman Empire as small secular sovereigns (dukes, imperial princes and duchess imperial counts ) and who ruled in the course of the dissolution of the Old Reich between 1803 ( Reichsdeputationshauptschluss ), 1806 (end of the Reich) and 1815 ( Congress of Vienna ) lost its state independence through mediatization .

The criterion of media coverage in 1806 provides for the once reichsständischen buildings have only a snapshot of the early 19th century is because many of these Dynastengeschlechter have gone in earlier times or even since 1815. Others have their imperial estate shaft before the era of media coverage to neighboring Large territories lost or abandoned through the sale of their imperial estates. As early as the Middle Ages there were numerous counties directly under the Empire , but it was only with the acquisition of a seat and vote in the Reichstag from 1495 that they succeeded in strengthening their institutional status, so that one speaks of an imperial estate of these houses only afterwards . (The vast majority of the count's families, however, never belonged to the imperial class and therefore after 1815 were not counted among the class lords with princely rank, but - like the barons and the untitled nobility - among the lower nobility. They also included the - although imperial direct, but not imperial - Imperial Knighthood ).

The assignment of the titular European princes and dukes (who never reigned) to the high (or lower) nobility cannot be made absolutely clear. The general view (and also the inclusion in the same volumes of Gotha, the “Princely Houses” ) is most likely to describe these houses as “European nobility (third division)”. The term "high nobility" is only used in the German language and has no direct parallel in most other European languages, since there is mostly only a distinction between sovereign (or previously sovereign) houses and aristocratic houses of various ranks. However, the German court rankings were also not clear in this respect, for example, according to the Prussian court rank regulations of 1878 at the Prussian court in the Second German Empire, a titular prince of the third division took precedence over a count of the second division, although he was not on par with the German houses of the first Department owned.

Even the Gotha addressed the issue contradictory: There the mediatised counts were managed as separate Division III, while the mediatised German princes, together with the European Titularfürsten, Department II formed from the 1841st From 1877 onwards, the mediatized princes and counts were combined as Division II and the titular princes moved to Division III. The reason for this - the equality of the “prince” counts with the (German) ruling houses established by the German Federal Act - was sometimes criticized as “German-centric”. It was also criticized that the imperial direct counts in the Old Kingdom were not considered to be equal to either the German or European royal houses and that their historical rank was behind many of the titular European royal houses. The titles of the mediatized houses were often raised by one rank to compensate for the loss of sovereignty, and formerly ruling counts became titular princes. Nevertheless, the division of the high nobility into the three so compiled departments, also in the Genealogical Manual of the Nobility and in the current Gotha Genealogical Manual, has been retained to this day.

In addition to the distinction between high and low nobility, there is the phrase pair nobility - letter Adel , which does not refer to the rank, but on the age of the nobility (the decisive criterion the professional affiliation of knighthood in the Middle Ages or nobility only in the modern age is ). Only a few high nobility families belong to the postal nobility.

The rank of a family is heraldically recognizable by the crown of rank which it carries over its coat of arms and, in the case of noble families, by the coat of arms . Different forms of address are also used for the ranks: majesty for emperors and kings, highness with or without additions (“imperial”, “royal”, “grand ducal”) for the other members of ruling houses, your highness for princes, exaltation for prince counts. According to the house laws, the prerequisite for belonging to these houses was usually the descent from a father belonging to the house from an equal - i.e. not morganatic - marriage. Another peculiarity of the high nobility is the position of the respective head of the house as head of the family, which also follows the rules of succession to the throne in the houses that are not (no longer) ruling and has its origin in the former governmental power of the sovereign . If the head of the house or his prospective successor was historically entitled to a first-born title (e.g. prince or hereditary prince), this title, which often deviates from today's official family name, is usually still used in public and in social interactions. Other peculiarities to this day are the wearing (and lending) of house medals or special items of clothing such as the widow's schneppe .

In the Austrian nobility , the (last) 106 families who (in precise order of precedence) had a hereditary seat in the manor house of the Austrian Empire , the upper house of the Imperial Council , were often referred to as the "Austrian nobility", although (along with members of all three departments of the Gotha court calendar as well as the clergy princes) also numerous "simple" counts and even baronial houses hereditary in the manor house, which were and are listed in none of the three princely departments, but rather in the Gotha paperback series "counts houses" or "barons houses", so after "Gotha" understanding by no means belong to the high nobility. The same applies to the " free landlords " in Silesia and Lusatia, where a special status originally established by the Bohemian crown led to special rights for certain manors in Prussian times, but did not establish membership of the " landlords of the German Confederation" and thus the high nobility.

High nobility in other European countries

In the French aristocracy there were no nobility registers (which often resulted in questionable self-ennobling or ranks being raised) and, because of the unified monarchy that had existed since the High Middle Ages, there was naturally no sovereignty of individual families corresponding to imperial immediacy ; The differences of rank in the medieval nobility, which later merged with the modern post nobility in a uniform court and titular nobility, were consequently more controversial there on the one hand, but also significantly less pronounced than in the Holy Roman Empire (which is also reflected in the consistent salutation "Monsieur de … ”Or“ Madame de… ”without any further mention of the title, which is still in use today within the French nobility from simple knights to dukes); Nevertheless, the French ducal and princely houses (undoubtedly the Pairs of France ) will be assigned to the European nobility (third division), while the marquis , count , viscount , baron and chevalier belong to the lower nobility. The same applies to the Italian nobility , the Spanish nobility or the Russian nobility . The Scandinavian nobility - apart from the royal houses ruling there - knows no high nobility. In Poland the Szlachta , the entirety of the Polish nobility, regarded themselves as fundamentally equal; only reluctantly and without granting formal privileges did she grant the - in fact existing - high nobility, namely the rich, mostly Lithuanian dynasties, the use of foreign princely titles from 1569, but not the award of titles to its own electoral king. The situation in the British nobility is completely different , where the so-called peers (in precise order of precedence) are assigned to the “high nobility” there, but not the children and the younger lines of these families. The ducal title holders in England, Scotland and Ireland (listed in the category: Duke ) are to be assigned to the European high nobility (third division), while the lower peer ranks, analogous to what was said about France, do not belong to the “Gothic” standard. The last hereditary "Dukedom" (in contrast to "Duchy", the territory of a ruling duke) was awarded to the Duke of Fife in 1889 , and since then has only been a member of the royal family. Hereditary ducal titles are still awarded in Spain to this day, mostly to deserving politicians, such as Adolfo Suárez in 1981 .

The Pope is a reigning European monarch (until 1870 in the Papal States , since 1929 in the Vatican City ), albeit in a elective monarchy (as once the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire or the Polish kings ), and therefore also in the First Division of the belt row Princely Houses have always been listed with their own articles. In the Holy Roman Empire, on the other hand, the ruling clergy princes and, to this day, the cardinals , for which Gotha contains an explanation of the clerical princes but which are not listed there by name , were referred to as church princes . The popes created their own papal nobility , from which they themselves often emerged.

In the first two sections of the Gotha Court Calendar in 1930 the following houses were named:

Sovereign Houses of Europe (First Division)

The ruling or previously ruling European monarchs include the following dynasties. The family names of the ruling houses are in brackets, (†) means that sovereignty as head of state has expired.

Sovereignty expired in France : 1830 ( House of Bourbon ); 1848 (“ July Monarchy ” of the House of Orléans ); Bourbon Sicily in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies : 1860; Bourbon-Parma in the Duchy of Parma : 1860 (restored by marriage in 1964 in Luxembourg ); Bourbon-Anjou in Spain : 1870–1874, restored 1874–1931; renewed loss: 1931-1975; restored in 1975; House Orléans-Braganza : since 1891 pretenders to the throne of the Empire of Brazil † 1889

Mediatized Houses of the Holy Roman Empire (Second Division)

To the Second Division include those families that the Holy Roman Empire of the sovereignty exercised in smaller territories, thus reichsunmittelbar were and sit and vote in the Imperial Council of the Reichstag occupied ( imperial estate shaft ). They were mediatized towards the end of the Old Kingdom around 1806 , thus losing their sovereignty to larger, mostly neighboring territories, but retained their titles, their property, some special civil rights and, according to the German Federal Act, also the equality of the ruling houses of the First Department. The heads of the still existing noble families have been members of the Association of German noblemen since 1864 until today .

Entire houses are usually summarized in a common Wikipedia article (also in Gotha ), but many of them formed several lines, branches and twigs that ruled their own territories in the Holy Roman Empire (with the respective holder of the title of prince or count as their own "boss of the house") and their class status therefore depended on their own legal position in the Old Kingdom. The lines that still exist today (or that were last to rule) are added here in brackets, while numerous dead lines and branches are not listed individually.

(†) means: The gender has expired in the male line .

European Titular Princes and Dukes (Third Division)

The houses of the Third Division did not rule their own sovereign territory (with a few exceptions), but were subordinate to a sovereign from whom they were awarded the title of duke or prince . The titular princely houses of Europe that have flourished to this day - or more recently in the male line or in the princely line (†) - include the following families:

High nobility outside Europe

There are ruling dynasties and thus high nobility outside of Europe, for example the royal house of the Alawids in Morocco, the Hashimites in Jordan, the Saud dynasty , the Said dynasty in Oman, the emirs of Bahrain , Qatar , Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates . In Asia, the Japanese imperial family rule to this day (the oldest uninterrupted hereditary monarchy in the world, according to legend since 660 BC, documented evidence from around 540 AD), the Chakri dynasty in Thailand, the Norodom in Cambodia (reigning since 1993) , the Wangchuk Royal House in Bhutan and the Sultans of Brunei . In Malaysia there is a rotating elective monarchy of nine Sultan families. There are also small kingdoms like Lesotho , Swaziland , Tonga . The British royal house also provides the head of state in fifteen non-European countries and territories, the Commonwealth Realms .

(Never "Christian" in which there was in Europe ruling Islamic dynasties Gotha were taken), such as the Sultan home the Ottomans (the 1453 in the Byzantine Empire ruling Palaiologoi had driven), the Crimean khans made by Giray or Albanian Prince Zogu . A non-European Christian imperial family was the Solomon dynasty in Ethiopia. In the Empire of Brazil ruled from 1822 to 1889 a line of the Portuguese royal family Braganza . A historical curiosity is the admission of the Aztec ruling house Moctezuma, overthrown by the Spanish in Mexico in 1520, into the Spanish nobility. The former ruling houses also include the Qing dynasty , which ruled China until 1912 (or 1945) , the Timurids (Mughals of India until 1857), the Nguyễn dynasty in Vietnam and the Malla royal house in Nepal, which was overthrown in 2007 . Furthermore, there were and are local princely families in many parts of the world, such as the Indian maharajas or the African tribal kings.

See also


  • List of mediatized and noble royal and count houses , in: Heinz Gollwitzer , Die Standesherrren. The political and social position of the mediatized 1815–1918 , 2nd edition, Göttingen 1964, pp. 352–354.
  • Almanach de Gotha , Gotha 1840, 1885, 1901 and 1930.
  • Georg von Alten : Handbook for Army and Fleet , Volume IV. Berlin 1912.
  • Fredrik Ulrik Wrangel : The sovereign royal houses of Europe , I-II. Stockholm and Leipzig 1899.

supporting documents

  1. The territories of imperial families could thus be on the territory of today's states of the Federal Republic of Germany , Austria , Switzerland , Liechtenstein , the Czech Republic , Slovenia , the Netherlands , Luxembourg , parts of Belgium , the northern third of Italy ( imperial Italy ) and parts of today's France , and in Lorraine , Alsace and Burgundy ; in present-day Poland, however, only in the areas of Silesia , Pomerania , East and West Prussia that were formerly part of the German Empire and in the territories in Galicia (now partly Polish, partly Ukrainian) and Bukovina (now Ukraine ) that were once part of the Habsburg Monarchy , but not for example in Hungary .
  2. For example, all of Switzerland's immediate imperial houses were extinguished in the late Middle Ages, including the Habsburg-Laufenburgers , Kyburger , Lenzburger , Thiersteiner , Rapperswiler , Toggenburger and Werdenberger ; the Rhenish counts of Katzenelnbogen in 1479, the Thuringian counts and finally the princes of Henneberg in 1583 and the East Frisian princes from the house of Cirksena in 1744.
  3. Thus the Dohna , which are still flourishing today, were expelled from their immediate imperial county as early as 1400; the Counts of Mansfeld were mediated in 1580 in economic distress by Electoral Saxony and Magdeburg, in 1594 and 1696 Mansfeld lines received the imperial (titular) prince status; the short-term county of Rantzau was dissolved again in 1726; the house of Ligne only reached the imperial estate in 1792 and lost it again in 1804 through sale; In 1803 the Counts Nostitz also sold their share in the imperial county of Rieneck to the Colloredo . A special case were the duchies in Silesia , which were mostly ruled by branches of the Silesian Piasts and thus by the original Polish royal family, but when they broke away from the association of Polish duchies in the middle of the 14th century, they joined the Bohemian Crown and thus one of the electors subordinate to the Holy Roman Empire under feudal law; They therefore came into the empire as princes who were direct from the land (and not directly from the empire) and never attained imperial status; they were therefore not represented in the Reichstag, but in the Silesian Princes' Congress.
  4. In the post-medieval modern age only very few families rose from the bourgeoisie to the high nobility, for example the Medici to Grand Dukes of Tuscany, some even to the throne of emperors and kings, such as the Bonaparte and their followers (including the Bernadotte ) or the Balkan houses Karađorđević , Njegoš or Zogu . Otherwise the (ruling or previously ruling) houses of the “First Division” of the high nobility of Europe all belong to the primeval nobility and were mostly among the leading dynasty families as early as the High Middle Ages. In the "Second Department" (the mediatized German princes) there are the Fuggers as the only post-aristocratic family (comparable were the Eggenbergs , which had also risen from the bourgeoisie, until their extinction at the beginning of the 18th century). In the “Third Division” (with the titular princes) there are a little more examples, in addition to the Biron from Curland or Wrede, for example, the Austrian Paar , the Italian Torlonia or the Russian Demidow . - In Austria-Hungary , however, on the highest instructions, instead of the “primeval nobility”, they spoke of the “old nobility” in order to absorb the excessive number of ennoblings that have long been customary in the Habsburg monarchy (see postage ), including inflationary increases in class, which are not specifically interpreted The term “primeval nobility” could do justice to it, but at least partially can be assigned to a less defined term “old nobility”.
  5. The respective successor to the position of head of a house of the historical high nobility is assumed according to the traditional prince and house law, which are a special field of historical nobility law . The German Nobility Law Committee only decides on questions of princely law upon special request and purely on an expert basis, but the entries in Gotha may be followed by a corresponding opinion.
  6. For the specific use of first birth titles see: User: Stolp / Erstgeburtitel
  7. However, in 1807 the Counts Putbus were elevated to the status of Swedish prince.
  8. ^ Directory of the German landlords: 1869 in the Google book search.
  9. To this day, some of the mediatized houses in Department II hold the largest private forest holdings in Germany: Thurn und Taxis: 20,000 ha, Fürstenberg: 18,000 ha, Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen: 15,000 ha, Hatzfeldt-Wildenburg: 15,000 ha, Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg : 13,100 ha, Oettingen-Wallerstein: 11,000 ha, Waldburg-Zeil: 10,000 ha and in Austria: Esterházy: 28,300 ha, Liechtenstein: 24,000 ha, Schwarzenberg: 23,280 ha.Source: Waldprinz.de on June 28, 2014: Forest owner: Wem does the forest belong?
  10. noblemen . In: Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon . 6th edition. Volume 18, Bibliographisches Institut, Leipzig / Vienna 1909, pp.  845–846 .
  11. The ruling Limburg-Styrum-Styrum line expired before the mediatization in 1800, the Limburg-Styrum-Styrum line, mediated in 1806, expired in 1809, which is why the gender was not listed in the list of German noblemen from 1869 and in the court calendar of 1917. The only line still existing today, Limburg-Styrum-Bronkhorst-Borculo, had already sold its imperial dominions in the 18th century and was later incorporated into the Dutch and Belgian nobility. As the direct descendants of the Counts of Berg-Altena , they belong to one of the oldest imperial dynasties in Westphalia.
  12. The Schlitz called von Görtz had an imperial count since 1726, but not an imperial class, they were only awarded this afterwards in 1829 by the German Confederation.
  13. Sternberg-Manderscheid was not listed in the list of German landlords in 1869 and in the court calendar in 1917, as the former imperial line expired in 1835 and the Bohemian lines that still exist today did not have a civil status.
  14. The Toerring was not in the list of German gentlemen in 1869, but was in the court calendar in 1917, as the Toerring-Gutenzell line, mediated in 1806, expired in 1860 and the Toerring-Jettenbach line, which was not previously a class, was only succeeded in 1888.
  15. Some of the houses of the Third Division have ruled sovereignly (or at least semi-sovereignly) in their history, for example Bagration in Georgia, Biron von Curland in Courland, Dadiani in Mingrelia, Boncompagni in the Duchy of Sora and in the Principality of Piombino , Murat in Berg and Naples.
  16. In many African states the tribal kings play a role - often also anchored in constitutional law - as traditional heads and representatives of their tribes and administrators of lands assigned to them; Their court keeping is mostly subsidized from state budgets, for example in the Republic of South Africa the King of the Zulu .

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