The nobility represents, or has represented, the highest stratum of a society that is ordered by class. Most societies in history have recognized an elite or noble class. Nobles typically command resources, such as food, money, or labor, from common members of their societies, and may exercise religious or political power over them.

A nobleman was bound to his liege by a sworn oath of allegiance. The liege could be the monarch or another noble, forming a hierarchy, usually with a king at the top. Some of the other strata of feudal society were priests, burghers (i.e. city inhabitant) and peasants (i.e. farmer).

Table of contents
1 Ranks
2 Titles of nobility
3 External links


Traditional ranks among royalty, peers, and nobles are rooted in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Although they vary over time and between geographic regions (for example, one region's prince might be equal to another's grand duke), the following is a fairly comprehensive list that provides information on both general ranks and specific differences.

1) Loss of sovereignty or fief does not necessarily lead to loss of title. The position in the ranking table is however accordingly adjusted. The occurrence of fiefs has changed from time to time, and from country to country. For instance, dukes in England rarely had a duchy to rule.
2) The term Peer is used in Britain, but the division could be argued to be of general value.
3) Dukes who are not actually or formerly sovereign, such as all British, French, and Spanish dukes, or who are not sons of sovereigns, as titulary dukes in many other countries, would not be considered to be of princely rank.

In Germany, the actual rank of the holder of a title is, however, dependent on not only the title as such, but on for instance the degree of sovereignty and on the rank of the lord of the title-holder. But also such matters as the age of the princely dynasty play a role (Uradel, Briefadel, altfürstliche, neufürstliche, see: German nobility).

Thus, any sovereign ruler would be higher than any formerly sovereign, i.e. mediatized, family of any rank (thus, the Fürst of Waldeck, sovereign until 1918, was higher than the Duke of Arenberg, mediatized). Members of a formerly sovereign house ranked higher than the regular nobility. Among the regular nobility, those whose titles derived from the Holy Roman Empire ranked higher than those whose titles were granted by one of the German princes after 1806, no matter what title was held.

Titles of nobility

English French Italian Spanish German Dutch Norwegian Swedish Finnish Russian

Duke Duc Duca Duque Herzog Hertog Hertug Hertig Herttua3 князь Kniaz4

Prince¹ Prince¹ Principe¹ Príncipe¹ Fürst Prins Furst3 Furste3 Ruhtinas3

Marquess Marquis Marchese Marques Markgraf² Markgraaf Marki Markis3 Markiisi3 Boyar4

Earl / Count Comte Conte Conde Graf Graaf Greve Greve Kreivi

Viscount Vicomte Visconte Vizconde   Burggraaf Visegreve    

Baron Baron     Freiherr Baron Baron Friherre Paroni  

Baronet5 Baronnet              

Knight5 Chevalier Cavaliere Caballero Ritter Ridder Ridder Riddare3 Ritari

1) Prince/principe can also be a royal title, Prinz in German, Prins in Swedish; in the British system, the title Prince is not a rank of nobility but always a title held exclusively by members of the Royal Family
2) In the German system by rank approximately equal to Landgraf and Pfalzgraf
3) Not in current domestic use.
4) For domestic Russian nobility only the two titles Kniaz and Boyar were used.
5) Not counted as nobility in the British system

See also: Peerage, British honours system, Royal and noble styles, aristocracy, Chinese nobility, Korean nobility, Byzantine aristocracy and bureaucracy

External links