Aristocracy – WorldAtlas


Forms of aristocracy have existed since Antiquity. The original concept of aristocracy implied that those who were part of it were somehow intellectually or morally superior to the general public. Concretely, however, the aristocracy came to designate people belonging to certain families or very rich people. Over the course of history, different aristocracies have arisen in some countries, especially in Europe, where aristocracy was once the preeminent form of government. By the 19e century, however, the aristocracies in countries like the United Kingdom, France and Russia began to lose their power and importance. Today, traditional aristocracies still exist in some places, but have mostly been reduced to a ceremonial role, if they exist.

Define the aristocracy

The word “aristocracy” comes from the Greek and literally means kratos (“rule”) of the aristoi (“the best”). So, being a member of an aristocracy, otherwise known as an aristocrat, supposedly means being intellectually or morally superior, and therefore the best kind of person to rule. The term “aristocracy” is attributed to the famous philosopher Aristotle. In ancient Greece, aristocrats belonged to certain “noble” families. The ancient Romans had a definition of aristocracy similar to that of the Greeks, although in the ancient Roman society of the 4e century BC, it was possible for an ordinary person to rise through the ranks of the nobility.

In contrast, the concept of aristocracy in medieval times implied a rock-solid separation from aristocrats, which usually consisted of monarchs and their lords, from the people. In medieval times, it was rarely possible for a commoner to rise through the ranks and rise through the ranks of the aristocracy. Indeed, membership in the medieval aristocracy almost always involved someone who was already an aristocrat conferring status on a commoner, as when monarchs gave knights. Land ownership has also been an integral part of the concept of aristocracy throughout history, as people who were considered aristocrats both in ancient times and in the Middle Ages generally owned significant amounts of land. Further, it should be noted that although being an aristocrat implies having the intellectual and moral superiority to rule, at least according to the literal and ancient definition, an aristocracy can consist of both a ruling elite and a ruling elite. a non-governing elite. The non-governing elite might be just as wealthy as the governing elite, although they are not directly involved in government.

Historical aristocracies


Painting by Tom Roberts of the Duke of York, George V, opening Australia’s first Parliament on May 9, 1901. Tom Roberts, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The aristocracy of the United Kingdom is known as the peerage system and dates back almost a thousand years to the end of the Norman conquest of Great Britain in 1066 CE. Around this time, William I, otherwise known as William the Conqueror, divided the country into mansions, which were ruled by the noble Norman barons. The statute of nobility is transmitted by heredity, to the eldest son. In the 13e century, King Henry III brought these nobles together to create what is now known as the House of Lords. A century later, the House of Commons, made up of commoners elected from towns and counties across the country, was formed, joining the House of Lords to form the British Parliament.

Imperial Conference of 1926: George V and the Prime Ministers of the Empire.  Clockwise from center: George V, Baldwin (UK), Monroe (Newfoundland), Coates (New Zealand), Bruce (Australia), Hertzog (South Africa), Cosgrave (Free State) 'Ireland), King (Canada).
Imperial Conference of 1926: George V and the Prime Ministers of the Empire. Clockwise from center: George V, Baldwin (UK), Monroe (Newfoundland), Coates (New Zealand), Bruce (Australia), Hertzog (South Africa), Cosgrave (Free State) ‘Ireland), King (Canada). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

From 14e century later, several ranks of nobility were created by the monarchy of England. These include the ranks of Duke, Marquis, Count, Viscount and Baron. To this day, peerages are given by the British monarchy, although new hereditary peerages are only granted to members of the royal family. For example, Prince William was awarded the title of Duke of Cambridge by Queen Elizabeth II on her wedding day. There are also lifetime peerages which are granted by the British government to honor certain people. Becoming a Life Peer gives you the right to sit and vote in the House of Lords. In fact, most of the people who sit in the UK House of Lords today are life peers rather than hereditary peers.

Russian empire

Russian empire
Karl Bulla – “The procession of Emperor Nicholas II of Russia leads to the Spassky gate”. Illustration from the magazine “Niva”, AF Marx publishing house, Saint Petersburg, Russia, 1913.

The Russian aristocracy was born in the 14e century. They were known as Dvoryanstvo, a term derived from the Russian word dvor, meaning the court of a prince, duke or tsar. By the 17e century, this aristocracy included the majority of the landowners of the Russian Empire. A key change in the aristocratic system was made in the 17e century, by the Russian Tsar Peter the Great. He changed the system so that instead of aristocrats being promoted by virtue of heredity, they are instead promoted based on the value of their actual service that they provided to the monarchy.

In the 18e century, the rights and privileges of the Russian aristocracy were codified in a law known as the Charter of the Nobility. This charter established the organization of the aristocracy, including the Assemblies of the nobility which were convened in each Russian province. In the 19e century, however, the Russian aristocracy had become disorganized. In many cases, the estates of Russian aristocrats were poorly managed or neglected. In addition, political reforms, such as the abolition of serfdom, weakened the power and authority of the Russian aristocracy. In 1917, the Russian aristocracy came to an end after the October Revolution which brought the Communist Bolsheviks to power.


King Louis-Philippe I taking an oath to keep the Charter of 1830 on August 9, 1830
King Louis-Philippe I taking an oath to keep the Charter of 1830 on August 9, 1830. By: Eugène Devéria (1805-1865)., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The French aristocracy was born in the Middle Ages. Most French aristocrats acquired their status by heredity, although some were appointed members of the aristocracy by the French monarchy. Others bought their titles or became members of the aristocracy by marriage. French aristocrats had special rights and privileges, such as the right to hunt, to carry a sword, and to own land. They were also exempt from property taxes. Certain religious, civic and military posts were reserved for members of the French aristocracy. In return, these aristocrats were to be loyal to and serve the King of France.

During the French Revolution of 1789, the French aristocracy was briefly abolished. It was restored in 1805, but had very limited privileges. During the Revolution of 1848, the French aristocracy was again abolished, although hereditary titles were still granted until 1870. These titles, however, did not carry any special privileges. Today, the descendants of the French aristocracy retain the titles of their ancestors, but only as a social custom.

Aristocracies today

Aristocracies are still alive and well in some societies around the world. Family aristocracies, for example, control the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf. The aristocracies of Europe, however, have generally been reduced to ceremonies, if at all. Many argue that there is an informal aristocracy made up of the richest individuals in the world. This modern aristocracy is often referred to as the 1%, whose wealth supposedly gives them undue influence over the economies and politics of the world.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.