Second company

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As Second Company were designated, in particular in Austria-Hungary , in the (barely) corporately structured society of the 19th century people and families who have been commercially successful, but neither the "First Company" ( High nobility and nobility or " Old nobility ”) still belonged to the“ people ”in the common sense, but to the (often newly ennobled) bourgeoisie .


Nobility diploma from Emperor Franz Joseph I for the industrialist Leopold Sachs von Sachsenhall, 1912

The second company ennobled business people, civil servants, artists, officers counted (military personnel in Austria-Hungary mainly because of the system related nobility ) and members of the professions, which in spite of a ennoblement by Adel letters therefore remained in their mentality and in their social behavior Bourgeois, of the Nobles who placed value on equality were not taken for full, but rather disparagingly viewed as parvenus .


The phenomenon, described by Voltaire for the Ancien Régime as a “cascade of contempt”, played a role especially in the Habsburg monarchy , where many of the newly ennobled banking and industrialist families were originally of Jewish origin. Typically, this kind of ennoblement only took place up to the rank of knight or baron , the ranks from count status were reserved for noble families . From the middle of the 19th century onwards, the Austrian Second Society formed the elite of the rising, liberal and - not least thanks to inflationary ennoblement - also the bourgeoisie loyal to the emperor. It was not uncommon for baptized Jews to be among the ennobled businessmen .

Prince Kraft zu Hohenlohe-Ingelfingen , civil registry lord and Prussian general, describes in his memoir the gap between the noble and the ascended category within the "first society" in the broader sense:

"Court Ball in Vienna" (by Wilhelm Gause , 1900)

“I already mentioned that the Viennese highest aristocracy was very closed. The Schoenburgs , Schwarzenbergs , Liechtensteins , etc., did not want to receive Minister Bach . But since a number of families [...] had worked their way up to the ranks of the ruling class, and intercourse with them was unavoidable, there were more ennobled banking families in Vienna than in other capitals, which also had an influence due to their enormous wealth one could not avoid counting these circles as part of the first society, which was then divided into two categories. These two categories were so intertwined that the gentlemen of the first went into the second, those of the second were invited here and there to the first. But one never saw a lady from the first in the second or one of the second in the first. If a gentleman from the first married a lady from the second, his family would not find access to the first. At the imperial court […] the second category is said to have also been invited to the large court balls. She was not allowed to attend the smaller so-called chamber balls. These two classes in the first society were certainly a phenomenon only belonging to Vienna. "

Well-known representatives of the Austrian “Second Society” included the Arnstein , Arthaber , Auspitz , Ephrussi , Epstein , Erlanger , Eskeles , Geymüller , Gomperz , Gutmann , Hofmannsthal , Lieben , Mautner-Markhof , Mayr-Melnhof , Portheim , Reininghaus and Rothschild families , Schoeller , Sina , Taussig , Todesco , Wertheimstein , Wittgenstein ; a Hungarian-German example are the Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon .


The French nobility of the 19th century was split into the families of the Ancien Régime and the Napoleonic noblesse impériale and both felt threatened by the rising bourgeoisie . Marcel Proust's series of novels In Search of Lost Time describes the rivalries and the “cascade of contempt” around 1900 very vividly.

In English society, the principle of " pecunia non olet " was more applicable , since the peers' nobility was inherited only in primogeniture , the gentry always represented a mixture of old and new elites and these and the industrial bourgeoisie the House of Commons and thus that Ruled the empire while the monarchy was constitutionally constrained.

Even for the Electorate of Hanover , which is in personal union with Great Britain, reports are made of the “indescribable arrogance” with which the mostly aristocratic court society looked down on the “second society”, the so-called “ pretty families ”.

See also


  • Kai Drewes: Jewish nobility ennobling Jews in 19th century Europe; Campus Verlag 2013, ISBN 978-3-593-39775-7 .
  • Adam Wandruszka : The "Second Society" of the Danube Monarchy . In: Heinz Siegert (Ed.): Aristocracy in Austria . Kremayr & Scheriau, Vienna 1971, ISBN 3-218-00205-2 , p. 56ff.
  • Heinz Gollwitzer : High and low nobility. Deposited . In: Heinz Gollwitzer: The noblemen. The political and social position of the mediatized 1815–1918. A contribution to German social history . 2nd revised and supplemented edition. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1964, p. 280 ff. And p. 318 ff.
  • Karlheinz Rossbacher: Literature and the Bourgeoisie - Five Viennese Jewish Families from the Liberal Era to the Fin de Siécle . Boehlau Verlag, 2003, ISBN 3-205-99497-3 .
  • Martina Winkelhofer: Nobility obliges. The fate of women in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy . Amalthea, Vienna 2009, ISBN 978-3-85002-686-4 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Kraft zu Hohenlohe-Ingelfingen: From my life. Vol. 1, Berlin 1897, p. 323.
  2. ^ Wilhelm LA von Hassell: The Electorate of Hanover from the Peace of Basel to the Prussian Occupation in 1806. C. Meyer, 1894, p. 98.