of the titles of nobility of the Holy Roman German Empire,
Palma de Mallorca March 5th, 2008
Introduction to the development of the titles of nobility.
For centuries, the titles of nobility have been a way to recognise relevant services and to honour those persons and families that have contributed significantly to the development of a country. Usually, only after significant contributions in the fields of diplomacy, the arts or other cultural activities, bravery in the battlefield etc. was a title of nobility conceded.
Initially the nobility was linked to a territory. During the feudal period the property and control of the land was an essential part of the nobility and in those days it would make little sense, if any, to have a title of nobility without lands. In his own territory the noble administered justice and had almost all the other prerogatives of a sovereign, although usually coin production was restricted only to the sovereigns. The relationships of monarchs with the feudal nobles have at times been hard, but nominally the nobles were vassals of the sovereign and as such they had certain obligations, including contributions of soldiers for the wars. Usually it was not required for the noble himself to go to war when the sovereign called him for help but most of the nobles did go with their soldiers. The war was a natural part of their lives and, moreover, they preferred to maintain control of their own soldiers.
At the end of the medieval
period, the old castles were replaced by new palaces with gardens and bigger
windows. With the discovery of the
The feudal nobility
progressively developed into court nobility. The old landlord usually got the
title of count (earl). His second in command (often his own son) was under him (viscount).
The rest of the nobility become barons or knights. Charlemagne in
Although it was some times possible to get a title of nobility with influence and money because of the well known weakness of human nature, it was traditionally assumed that a title of nobility could be obtained only on merit. The title of nobility was given by a “fons honorem = fount of honour”. It was very clear during the previous centuries who was considered as fount of honour. Normally only sovereigns were fount of honour: The Pope (who was also a sovereign), the emperors and the monarchs were, with very few exceptions, the only recognised founts of honour. They could give a title of nobility to one person (“ad personam”) without the right of transmission, but usually the titles were given with the right to be transmitted to their descendants. The royal charter or letters patent normally specify this point. Once the hereditary title of nobility was given the fount of honour had no right to take it away. Only in rare cases of treachery or felony etc. the title was removed from the person and given to the next in succession but it usually needed a previous agreement with the noble council.
After the French Revolution many other countries followed in eliminating the monarchy and the nobility. Many royal families and nobles went into exile.
Is a monarch in exile still fount of honour? The majority of the experts consider that only an active head of state is fount of honour. In the former kingdoms that now are republics the fount of honour is the president of the republic. Obviously if the country does not recognise the nobility the president will not give a title of nobility but the fount of honour is without any doubt him/her.
It must be emphasized that, no matter what can be found on certain web sites or elsewhere, a true title of nobility cannot be bought. Those buying a title of nobility given by a more or less fantastic non reigning king or prince, have to know that the title is worth less than the paper that it is written on. These kinds of titles will not increase any social status of the holder and will be seen among the true nobility and high society as stupid and petulant. The feudal titles (such as Lord of the Manor) can be bought legally but they will not give any noble status. A true title of nobility can only be obtained if granted by an active head authority of the country (Monarch, President, etc).
The titles of the Holy Roman
German Empire and
Napoleon put an end to the Holy
Roman German Empire. He arranged for himself not only a marriage within the
Hapsburg family, but also forced the transformation of the Holy Roman German
Empire into the Empire of Austria. Thus Francis II, become Francis I of
The titles of Russian Empire.
The situation of the titles of the Russian empire is even worse. The rules of the old empire were very clear, but it must be taken into account, that never ever did the rulers consider that such a tragic fate would befall so many members of the imperial family and the nobility. Actually the Romanov family is divided: the great majority of the Romanov descendants consider Nikolay Romanovich Romanov as the head of the family and the head of the dynasty (he uses the style of Prince), while a few follow Maria Vladimirovna Romanova, who styles herself as Grand Duchess and considers herself as the head of the imperial house. A third opinion sustained by some experts is to consider that actually there is no one that fulfils the requirements as to be the head of the imperial family.
Another complication of the
noble titles in
Also the translation of the
noble title of “Kniaz” may bring great confusion.
This title was given to the territorial lords of the Rus,
who were, more or less, equivalent to feudal nobility. Also to other similar
nobles incorporated much later from territories gained under the Ottoman influence.
The title of “Kniaz” was also a “given” title (although
very seldom) as it was in the case of Empress Catherine’s favourite Grigori
Finally it was also a title for some members of the Imperial or royal families.
The nobility of
It must be considered that, according to the Russian Empire rules, the title of Grand Duke (“Biliky Kniaz”) can only be given at birth by the Tsar. Consequently, as there has been no Tsar for about 90 years, all born Grand Dukes have died.
The Russian nobles in any case,
have no legal status in
In conclusion, a descendant of a noble of these empires (Hapsburg, Romanov) can legally use the title of nobility only if authorised by an active high authority of another country. As mentioned before this is a true fount of honour and this is the rule followed by H.I. & R.H. Archduke Dr. Otto von Hapsburg (as he replied in writing to Dr. Marco´s query regarding this). Following his proposal Dr. Marco has obtained the legal authorisation to use the title of Count Marcov. The legality of this situation has been confirmed both academically and by protocol experts.