Nobility

noblemannoblenoblesnoble familynoblewomannoblementitle of nobilityennoblednoble familiesnoble house
Nobility is a social class normally ranked immediately under royalty and found in some societies that have a formal aristocracy.wikipedia
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Chivalry

chivalricchivalrouschivalric code
As referred to in the Medieval chivalric motto noblesse oblige ("nobility obliges"), nobles can also carry a lifelong duty to uphold various social responsibilities, such as honorable behavior, customary service, or leadership positions. The old nobility of landed or knightly origin, the noblesse d'épée, increasingly resented the influence and pretensions of this parvenu nobility.
The code of chivalry, as it stood by the Late Middle Ages, was a moral system which combined a warrior ethos, knightly piety, and courtly manners, all combining to establish a notion of honour and nobility.

Feudalism

feudalfeudal systemfeudal lord
In the feudal system (in Europe and elsewhere), the nobility were generally those who held a fief, often land or office, under vassalage, i.e., in exchange for allegiance and various, mainly military, services to a suzerain, who might be a higher-ranking nobleman or a monarch. Prior to the French Revolution, European nobles typically commanded tribute in the form of entitlement to cash rents or usage taxes, labour or a portion of the annual crop yield from commoners or nobles of lower rank who lived or worked on the noble's manor or within his seigneurial domain.
The classic definition, by François-Louis Ganshof (1944), feudalism describes a set of reciprocal legal and military obligations among the warrior nobility revolving around the three key concepts of lords, vassals and fiefs.

Nobiles

noblenobilisnobilitas
In ancient Roman society, nobiles originated as an informal designation for the political governing class who had allied interests, including both patricians and plebeian families (gentes) with an ancestor who had risen to the consulship through his own merit (see novus homo, "new man").
During the Roman Republic, nobilis ("noble", nobilitas, plural nobiles) was a descriptive term of social rank, usually indicating that a member of the family had achieved the consulship.

Social class

classsocial classesclasses
Nobility is a social class normally ranked immediately under royalty and found in some societies that have a formal aristocracy.
In the late 18th century, the term "class" began to replace classifications such as estates, rank and orders as the primary means of organizing society into hierarchical divisions.

Commoner

commonerscommon peoplecommon man
Prior to the French Revolution, European nobles typically commanded tribute in the form of entitlement to cash rents or usage taxes, labour or a portion of the annual crop yield from commoners or nobles of lower rank who lived or worked on the noble's manor or within his seigneurial domain.
The common people, also known as the common man, commoners, or the masses, are the ordinary people in a community or nation who lack any significant social status, especially those who are members of neither royalty, nobility, the clergy, nor any member of the aristocracy.

Duel

duelingduellingduels
During the early Renaissance, duelling established the status of a respectable gentleman, and was an accepted manner of resolving disputes.
Duels were fought not so much to kill the opponent as to gain "satisfaction", that is, to restore one's honor by demonstrating a willingness to risk one's life for it, and as such the tradition of dueling was originally reserved for the male members of nobility; however, in the modern era it extended to those of the upper classes generally.

Fount of honour

fons honorumfount of all honourstemporal protection
In other parts of Europe, sovereign rulers arrogated to themselves the exclusive prerogative to act as fons honorum within their realms.
The fount of honour (fons honorum) refers to a person, who, by virtue of his or her official position, has the exclusive right of conferring legitimate titles of nobility and orders of chivalry on other persons.

Novus homo

homo novusnovi hominesnew man
In ancient Roman society, nobiles originated as an informal designation for the political governing class who had allied interests, including both patricians and plebeian families (gentes) with an ancestor who had risen to the consulship through his own merit (see novus homo, "new man").
The consuls came from a new elite, the nobiles (noblemen), an artificial aristocracy of all who could demonstrate direct descent in the male line from a consul.

Royal court

courtimperial courtcourts
In the last years of the ancien régime the old nobility pushed for restrictions of certain offices and orders of chivalry to noblemen who could demonstrate that their lineage had extended "quarterings", i.e. several generations of noble ancestry, to be eligible for offices and favors at court along with nobles of medieval descent, although historians such as William Doyle have disputed this so-called "Aristocratic Reaction".
Hence the word court may also be applied to the coterie of a senior member of the nobility.

Primogeniture

agnatic primogenitureabsolute primogenituremale-preference primogeniture
In this respect, the nobility as a class has always been much more extensive than the primogeniture-based titled nobility, which included peerages in France and in the United Kingdom, grandezas in Portugal and Spain, and some noble titles in Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Prussia and Scandinavia.
The Holy Roman Emperor was selected for enthronement by a small number of powerful prince electors from among Europe's Christian males of inherited nobility.

Nobles of the Sword

noblesse d'épéeancient nobilitynoblesse militaire
The old nobility of landed or knightly origin, the noblesse d'épée, increasingly resented the influence and pretensions of this parvenu nobility.
The Nobles of the Sword (noblesse d'épée) were the noblemen of the oldest class of nobility in France dating from the Middle Ages and the Early Modern periods; and still arguably in existence by descent.

Upper class

upper-classhigh societyupper
Although many societies have a privileged upper class with substantial wealth and power, the status is not necessarily hereditary and does not entail a distinct legal status, nor differentiated forms of address.
Upper-class landowners in Europe were often also members of the titled nobility, though not necessarily: the prevalence of titles of nobility varied widely from country to country.

Baron

Baronessbaronsbarony
European ranks of nobility lower than baron or its equivalent, are commonly referred to as the petty nobility, although baronets of the British Isles are deemed titled gentry.
Baron is a rank of nobility or title of honour in England, often hereditary.

Style (manner of address)

stylestyledstyles
Although many societies have a privileged upper class with substantial wealth and power, the status is not necessarily hereditary and does not entail a distinct legal status, nor differentiated forms of address. Hereditary titles and styles added to names (such as "Prince" or "Lord" or "Lady"), as well as honorifics often distinguish nobles from non-nobles in conversation and written speech.

House of Lords

LordsBritish House of LordsThe House of Lords
For example, in the United Kingdom royal letters patent are necessary to obtain a title of the peerage, which also carries nobility and formerly a seat in the House of Lords, but never came without automatic entail of land nor rights to the local peasants' output.
For example, during much of the reign of Edward II (1307–1327), the nobility was supreme, the Crown weak, and the shire and borough representatives entirely powerless.

Petty nobility

petty noblepetty nobles
European ranks of nobility lower than baron or its equivalent, are commonly referred to as the petty nobility, although baronets of the British Isles are deemed titled gentry.
Petty nobility in Finland is dated at least back to 13th century and was formed by nobles around their strategic interests.

Coat of arms

armscoats of armscoat-of-arms
Various court and military positions were reserved by tradition for nobles who could "prove" an ancestry of at least seize quartiers (16 quarterings), indicating exclusively noble descent (as displayed, ideally, in the family's coat of arms) extending back five generations (all 16 great-great grandparents).
The Roll of Arms is a collection of many coats of arms, and since the early Modern Age centuries it has been a source of information for public showing and tracing the membership of a noble family, and therefore its genealogy across time.

Order of chivalry

chivalric orderorders of chivalryorder of knighthood
In the last years of the ancien régime the old nobility pushed for restrictions of certain offices and orders of chivalry to noblemen who could demonstrate that their lineage had extended "quarterings", i.e. several generations of noble ancestry, to be eligible for offices and favors at court along with nobles of medieval descent, although historians such as William Doyle have disputed this so-called "Aristocratic Reaction".
In most European monarchies, these new orders retained some outward forms from the medieval orders of chivalry (such as rituals and structure) but were in essence orders of merit, mainly distinguished from their republican counterparts by the fact that members were entitled to a title of nobility.

Manual labour

manual laborlaborlabour
Work involving manual labour or subordination to those of lower rank (with specific exceptions, such as in military or ecclesiastic service) was either forbidden (as derogation from noble status) or frowned upon socially.
For example, the American and French Revolutions rejected notions of inherited social status (aristocracy, nobility, monarchy), and the labour movements of the 19th and 20th centuries led to the formation of trade unions who enjoyed substantial collective bargaining power for a time.

Baronet

baronetcyBtBt.
European ranks of nobility lower than baron or its equivalent, are commonly referred to as the petty nobility, although baronets of the British Isles are deemed titled gentry.
In some continental countries, such as Poland, the nobility consisted of about 5% of the population, and in most countries titles are no longer recognised or regulated by the state.

Middle Ages

medievalmediaevalmedieval Europe
In the last years of the ancien régime the old nobility pushed for restrictions of certain offices and orders of chivalry to noblemen who could demonstrate that their lineage had extended "quarterings", i.e. several generations of noble ancestry, to be eligible for offices and favors at court along with nobles of medieval descent, although historians such as William Doyle have disputed this so-called "Aristocratic Reaction".
Manorialism, the organisation of peasants into villages that owed rent and labour services to the nobles, and feudalism, the political structure whereby knights and lower-status nobles owed military service to their overlords in return for the right to rent from lands and manors, were two of the ways society was organised in the High Middle Ages.

Grandee

Grandee of SpainGEGrandees
In this respect, the nobility as a class has always been much more extensive than the primogeniture-based titled nobility, which included peerages in France and in the United Kingdom, grandezas in Portugal and Spain, and some noble titles in Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Prussia and Scandinavia.
In addition, the term can refer to other people of a somewhat comparable, exalted position, roughly synonymous with magnate; formerly a rank of high nobility (especially when it carried the right to a parliamentary seat).

Privilege (law)

privilegeprivilegesLaw of Privilege
Nobility possesses more acknowledged privileges and higher social status than most other classes in society.
This meant the removal of separate laws for different social classes (nobility, clergy, and ordinary people), instead subjecting everyone to the same common law.

Magnates of Poland and Lithuania

magnatemagnatesmagnat
At the top, Poland had a far smaller class of "magnates", who were hugely rich and politically powerful.
The magnates of Poland and Lithuania (magnateria) were an aristocracy of nobility (szlachta) that existed in the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland, in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and, from the 1569 Union of Lublin, in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, until the Third Partition of Poland in 1795.

Chinese nobility

nobilitywang1st-rank princely peerage for imperial son of Ming Dynasty
Emperors conferred titles of nobility.
While the concepts of hereditary sovereign and peerage titles and noble families were featured as early as the semi-mythical, early historical period, a settled system of nobility was established from the Zhou dynasty.