One single word, nobility, has played a significant role throughout the history of society. The term usually creates images of lavish lifestyles and royal abodes filled with elegant parties and wait staffs. Today the word is still passed around in the countries of Europe, and continues to signify a prestigious society of women and men.

Getting Back to the Roots

The word, nobility, can be traced back to the Latin word, nobilitas. That word is derived from the abstract noun of the adjective, nobilis, meaning famous, well -known, or notable. In the society of ancient Rome, the nobiles represented a political governing class who had the same interests. These classes included patricians and plebians with ancestors who had risen to the top through their own merit and actions. As societies developed, noble people were the highest ranked in the social classes. The feudal system of Europe included those who owned land or an office position, in exchange for services or allegiances to higher ranking officials or monarchs. The noble position soon came to be part of hereditary castes, meaning the rank could only be passed down through the family. These noble families then received legal privileges and usually owned great property and establishments.

21st Century Noble Status

Today the holding of nobility titles is mostly honorary without any large privileges. However, countries such as the UK, Spain, and the Netherland still provide their noble families with grand living and monetary gifts. Other countries throughout Africa, the Pacific, and Asia still recognize the significance of being from a noble family. However, many modern countries have removed noble titles from their societies, removing all legal rights from the title. These locations include Iron Curtain countries as well as Austria, Mexico and Greece. Other countries including Italy and Germany have not eliminated the right to inherit titles, but they do not give any special legal privileges or protections to those holding a title.

Nobility Across the Continent

Noble titles are most well-known across the continent of Europe. However, each country had different ways of marking those with noble statuses. In Germany, titles were held by those of noble families like the Count of Falkenstein. These hereditary titles included exquisite crests featuring the name of the family and a symbol representing the name. In Ireland and Scotland, noble titles like the Laird of Glencairn or the Lord of Cork were held by those who owned parcels of land. A man was titled as a Laird and woman was titled as a Lady of a specific piece of land.

While nobility titles do not carry as much weight as they used to, they are still important parts of many family histories and heritages throughout the world.

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