Nobility by Tomas Bragesjö

Introduced and unintroduced nobility in Sweden

In Sweden there is introduced and unintroduced nobility. Introduced means member of Riddarhuset ("The House of Nobility") and unintroduced means nobility livning in Sweden but not members of Riddarhuset.

In order for the family to be included in introduced nobility, it is necessary that the family be ennobled or naturalized by a Swedish king, which no longer possible, and that the ennobled had money for the introduction fee, which was very expensive, which several families did not have so they received a nobility letter and a coat of arms but never became members of the Riddarhuset with accompanying privileges. There are also some other cases why the ennobleds new House was never introduced, like in some cases the ennobled died or fell out of favor.

Unintroduced nobility is partly living Swedish ancestry that was never introduced but the majority is ancestry that was bred in other countries but where member (s) moved to Sweden. The unintroduced nobility, whether foreign or domestic, owned no right of representation at Riksdagen (the parlament), or at the nobility meetings at Riddarhuset.

The unintroduced nobility in Sweden has never automatically had privileges or powers, like the Swedish nobility, but only the rights and obligations that belong to all Swedish citizens.

Many, but not all, of the unintroduced nobility are members of Ointroducerad Adels Förening ("The Association of the Unintroduced Nobility"). The association has no official position and decides after examination which families are allowed to join the association.

Ranks

Ranking in terms of both introduced nobility and unintroduced nobility is considered equivalent. However, it is not possible to compare nobility titles because of the large differences between different countries nobility systems and the number of degrees. At Riddarhuset there are ordinary nobles, kommendörsätter, friherre (baron) and greve (count).

Kommendörsätt was a Swedish unique rank that was only awarded by Gustav III and Gustav IV and was ranked higher than ordinary nobility but ranked bellow baron. Gustav III invented the rank to be able to promote ordinary nobles without upsetting barons who thought that there was too many nobles promoted into barons.

A new rule was introduced in Sweden in 1809 that only the newly ennobled or newly promoted got the noble title or the new rank if they where raised to a higher rank. When the ennobled died the new title or the nobilety passed only to the eldest son or eldest male line who descended from the ennobled. This could mean that only one person was noble at the same time for the new house.

The 1809 rule was created since the nobles wanted to decrease the numbers of newly enobled and also the decrease the numbers who was promoted into barons or counts. Those houses who was ennobled or promoted before that date was unaffected by that rule with a few exceptions like Beck-Friis where the nobility letter says that one person is count and the others are barons.

Ordinary nobility is most common and the lowest rank. Kommendörsätt is the next rank and also the least common since it only existed for a short period and becouse of the new 1809 rule where only one person at time has the title. Baron comes next and is more common than count since count is ranked higher than baron and the most counts are promoted barons and most barons are promoted ordinary nobility.

In Ointroducerad Adels Förening there are foreign titles with rank higher than count that has never existed in Swedens nobility system such as marquis, duke and prince (furste).

The title prince (furste) is not the same as king but the rank of a noble, unless it is sovereign prince ie prince of something, such as Prince of Pontecorvo or Prince of Monaco, then it is a head of state.

Duke also has different meanings in different countries. Swedish dukes are royal but not noble as a king is not a nobleman. In most other countries it is in many cases the opposite and duke is a nobility title.

Among the unintroduced association there are for example Belgian princely ennobled Bernadotte (descendants Belgian count) ,at least one continental duke , the papal ennobled marquis Lagergren and also the Luxembourg ennobled count Bernadotte af Wisborg.

Privileges

The nobles only privileges today in both Sweden and Finland are at coat of arms drawings. In both Sweden and Finland, it is world-unique that burgher coat of arms should carry a closed helmet while noble coat of arms should carry open helmets. In the rest of the world there are no signs of rank. The rule is a remnant from a failed attempt when nobles tried to make coat of arms exclusive to nobles. Nobles can also be granted more than one helmet.

On the coat of arms, nobles may also have a corresponding rank coronet on top of the shield instead of the helmet and crest or the number of helmets assigned to the letter of nobility.

The letter of nobility may also prescribe a heart shield or supporters holding the shield or royal monograms or flags as mantling.

Furthermore, nobles can became members of exclusive private clubs, like Riddarhuset for introduced and Ointroducerad Adels Förening for others, where they can apply for scholarships.

Finland

In Finland there is Finlands Riddarhus ("The House of Nobility in Finland") which was opened during the time as a Russian Grand Principality. There every former Swedish noble houses living in Finland became naturalized with new numbers as a result where also all members are nobles regardless of the original ennobled year. An example is af Schulten, when ennobled in Sweden only one person became noble at the same time but when naturalized at Finlands Riddarhus all members on male lines became nobles as well.

Some houses like House Uggla exist at both Riddarhuset and at Finlands Riddarhus. Finlands Riddarhus has also noble houses that was ennobled later and not only former Swedish noble houses.

An other thing to note about Finlands Riddarhus is that Furste (Prince) was also introduced as a new rank. But it was only given once. It was given in 1833 to the Governor General of Finland, Alexander Sergeyevich Menshikov so that he would become Finland's foremost nobleman. The house was extinct in 1893. No later Governor or other person got that rank.

Also, at Finlands Riddarhus the rank of Kommendörsätt does not exist since they are linked to towards Swedish Royal orders of Knighthood during Gustav III and Gustav IV.

Nobility titles in some countries

The titles is arranged so that the highest comes first.

Sweden
1. Greve.
2. Friherre.
3. Kommendör.
4. Riddare.

Finland (uses the same titles as Russia but with Swedish translated names)
1. Furste.
2. Greve.
3. Friherre.
4. Riddare.

Germany (also used in Austria)
1. Kurfürst/Kurfürstin.
2. Fürst/Fürstin.
3. Herzog/Herzogin.
4. Markgraf/Markgräfin.
5. Graf/Gräfin.
6. Freiherr/Freifrau.
7. Ritter.

France (also used in Belgium)
1. Prince/Princesse.
2. Dauphin.
3. Duc/Duchesse.
4. Marquis/Marquise.
5. Comte/Comtesse.
6. Vicomte/Vicomtesse.
7. Baron/Baronesse.
8. Chevalier.
9. Ecuyer.

UK peerage
1. Duke/Duchess.
2. Marquess/Marchioness.
3. Earl/Countess (foreign corresponding are called Counts).
4. Viscount/Viscountess.
5. Baron/Barones.

UK gentry (does not always counts as nobles)
1. Baronet.
2. Knight.
3. Esquire.
4. Gentleman.

Dutch (I have only found english translations of the names)
1. Prince.
2. Duke.
3. Marquis.
4. Count.
5. Viscount.
6. Baron.
7. Knight.
8. People in the nobility who have not been granted a title carry the predicate Jonkheer.

Poland (I have only found english translations of the names)
1. Prince.
2. Marquis.
3. Count.
4. Baron.
5. Medieval magnates (możnowładcy).
6. Knight.

Italy (several titles existed only in some distinct regions)
1. Principe/Principesse.
2. Duca/Duchessa.
3. Marchese/Marchesa.
4. Conte/Contessa.
5. Visconte/Viscontessa.
6. Barone/Baronessa.
7. Nobile, or Nobiluomo/Nobile, or Nobildonna.
8. Cavaliere ereditario/Dama.
9. Patrizio of certain cities/Patrizia of certain cities.

Spain
1. Infante.
2. Grandee.
3. Duque/Duquesa.
4. Marqués/Marquesa.
5. Conde/Condesa.
6. Vizconde/ Vizcondesa.
7 Barón/Baronesa.
8. Señor/Señora or Don/Doña.
9. Hidalgo or Escuderoo.
Some regional titles in Spain

  • Knight of the Order of Charles III caballero de la Orden de Carlos III: the bestowal of the highest order of knighthood on an individual grants personal nobility and certain heraldic privileges such as a heraldic mantle. The King of Spain continues to bestow this honor.
  • Knight of the Royal Order of Isabella the Catholic caballero de la Orden de Isabel la Catolica: the bestowal of the second highest order of knighthood on an individual grants personal nobility and certain heraldic privileges such as a golden heraldic mantle. The King of Spain continues to bestow this honor.
  • Ricohombre (fem. Ricahembra): used during the Reconquista. By the 17th century, it was a synonym of nobleman.
  • Condestable: cognate with "constable", it was a hereditary title used in the kingdoms of Castile and León for the official second in authority to the king. It became hereditary in the Velasco family which, however, gradually lost the powers once attributed to the Condestable of Castile.
  • Caballero: equivalent to knight, it was very rare in the kingdom of Castile, but common in the kingdom of Aragon, where there were four types of caballeros:
    • Golden-spur caballero: borne by those infanzones (descendants of one of the cadet branches of the kings of Aragon which did not inherit the throne) who had been knighted. They were the highest ranking knights.
    • Royal-privilege caballero: a personal, non-hereditary title granted by the king to doctors of the law. It was rarely used by its holders, since the doctoral status enjoyed more privileges.
    • Caballero Mesnadero: borne by the cadet sons of a Ricohombre. It fell into desuetude during the 18th century, when the Bourbon kings purged the ranks of the nobility.
    • Caballero franco: borne by those of hijosdalgo or infanzone status, but who were commoner-born.
  • Potestad: borne only in the kingdom of Aragon, the equivalent of the Italian podestà, an administrative title. It disappeared with the Nueva Planta decrees in 1713.

Portual
The Nobility of Portugal consists of Dukes, Marquesses, Counts, Viscounts, Barons and Knight/Fidalgo.

Denmark and Norway

  • Denmark has Hertug, Markis (only awarded in Norway), Lensgreve, Greve, Lensbaron, Friherre and Riddare as ranks.
  • Lensgreve was the holder of a county and Lensbaron the holder of a barony.
  • Norway had its own nobility during the Middle Ages. However Norway became part of Denmark for a long time and part of Sweden for a short time.
  • When Norway became independent the law says that nobility does not exist in Norway.

There has been nobility in most European countries and contested lands and even regional titles but I can not cover more here. Many of todays nations like Italy and Spain used to be different smaller nations with regional titles.

My point is only that most countries uses different unique titles systems so it is not possible to make an accurate comparasion between different systems and the same English name is not not necessarily the same rank or position in each country. And some times the same english word can describe more than one title since for example the Danish titles Lensbaron and Friherre are both translated into Baron while Lensbaron was a higher rank.

The nobles has lost all its privileges in most countries and in for example Germany the titles does not exist anymore as ranks since 1919 but are instead part heritable only as part of the legal surname like for example "Graf von Stauffenberg".

Books with nobility coat of arms

Magnus Bäckmark made an excellent triologi with digital photos at the coat of arms plates at Riddarhuset and has an introduction to all houses called "Riddarhusets vapensköldar".

G Granfeld wrote a book in in 1889 with every nobility coat of arms that existed at Finlands Riddarhus in 1889 with the title "Finlands ridderskaps och adels vapenbok".

Riddarhuset gives out "Sveriges Adelskalender", Finlands Riddarhus has "Finlands ridderskaps och adels kalender" and Ointroducered Adels Förening gives out "Ointroducerad Adel".

Closest thing to ennoble in Sweden today

In Sweden, the law officially ruled out ennoblement in 1974. However the last person who was ennobled by a Swedish King was Sven Hedin in 1902.

In Sweden there is "Serafimerorden", an offical Royal Knight order. However its only given to Swedish Royal members on birth and to their partner on marriage. It is never given to other swedish citizens. It is mostly given to none swedish citizens that belongs to foreign Royal Houses or are former high ministers or in a few cases to high military ranks.

In Sweden we have also a title system, but without Knighthood and coat of arms, called "hedersdoktor" (honorary doctor). Its often given to popular cultural figures such as musicians, writers and journalists. Sometimes it also given to amateur researchers or sometimes also politicians or ministers get the title as reward for long service. The title is linked to an university and are not a real academical title nor a nobility title.

There are also private organizations like Freemasons or Odd Fellow or Par Bricole that uses coat of arms and Knighthood.

However Sweden has a long history of burgher coat of arms, one can even be borned into a family or family compound like Ryssnäs-släkten that has a coat of arms, so a coat of arms has nothing to do with nobility in it self and there are several heraldic associations even within Sweden where some are local associations of either Svenska Heraldiska Föreningen or Societas Heraldica Scandinavica.

But my own coat of arms has symbols on it that can be interpretated like it.

  • My coronet has in different artists reinterpretations of my coat of arms blazon been drawed in a way where it almost looks like a nobility coronet.
  • My cups can be interpretated for Royal Blood (Sangreal or Sang Real).
  • My coat of arms was designed by the Danish Royal Courts arms painter Ronny Andersen.
  • My coat of arms has been reinterpreted by Davor Zovko who is member of of "Heliga gravens orden" who gave it hes seal of approval.
  • At my family tree the professional genealogist Magnus Bäckmark added a supporter holding the shield.

Reinterpretation of my coat of arms by Björn Fridén

Further reading

I have written articles for both Svenska Heraldiska Föreningens magazine Vapenbilden and also for Svenska Heraldiska Föreningens homepage.

I have also written som articles in English for use on this site that is not going to be published else where. Some articles are translations and slight modifications of articles I wrote for Svenska Heraldiska Föreningen.