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Posts: 2
Reply with quote  #1 
I have a few questions, which are all related, and I didn't want to waste threads because they are pretty simple questions.

1. I have read that in many European countries, only the eldest child of a noble could inherit. So any younger children were left with no inheritance. What happens to them? What I mean by that is, are they still nobles? Do they still have titles? If the Duke of Random (for example) has two male sons, the eldest inherits the title of Duke of Random. What does the younger son inherit? Does he get a title at all? Is he still noble? What if there are two younger sons? Can there be more that one duke of Random?

I have seen for example, that younger children of some French Kings I have looked up, are still nobles and are dukes of something. Where do all these 'dukedoms' come from? Does the King just take a chunk of his own land and give it to his son and make him a Duke of 'that land'?
I have tried to follow the descendents of younger sons of Kings, (on wikipedia haha) but when I get two or three generations down, the article about the next son is non-existent. So do these younger brothers just disappear into obscurity?

2. If a noble (e.g. Duke of RaRa) marries morganatically, he can't pass on his titles to his sons. So where do his titles go? Does his title of 'Duke of RaRa', go back to the King, so the King can give it to someone else, or does it go to the closest relative of this person who has married nobility?

Is a Dukedom connected with land? If you are 'Duke of RaRa', does it mean you own a specific piece of land called 'RaRa'? Or is it just a name?

If a Dukedom is connect with land, entailed (it cannot be sold, but only passed on as hereditary to sons), what happens if the Duke marries morganatically? Does the title pass back to the King? Does the land go back to the King? So does this Duke's sons not have a right to their father's land anymore?

3. I have read that the title 'Duke of Orleans' was not hereditary (initially) and given to younger brothers of the French monarch. For titles that are not hereditary, what titles do the sons of this duke have? For example, if a Duke of Orleans had children, what would his children be if the title of Duke of Orleans passed onto the King's younger brother?

4. In imperial Russia, a son and grandson of a Tsar was titled a Grand Duke, while great grandsons and further, were titled simply as Prince. Does this go on forever? So a great great great great great great great great great grandson would still be a prince?

I apologise for my lack of knowledge. Please correct me if I have stated anything incorrectly. I am more interested in the theoretical way in which nobility works. I know that there are exceptions to the rule, and that for example, 'Duke of Orleans' has become a hereditary title. But I am more interested in how it should work, or would work, in theory.

Thanks very much.


Posts: 7,534
Reply with quote  #2 
1. It varies by country, and over time. In both England and Scotland there was only ever one title-holder at a time, and younger sons and descendants of younger sons had no title at all, unless granted one for themselves. This is still the case, but the custom of courtesy titles grew up. By this, the younger sons of dukes and marquesses were entitled to be addressed as Lord given name surname, while younger sons of earls and all sons of viscounts and barons became entitled to the prefix 'the Honourable', usually abbreviated to 'the Hon'.

In most but not all Continental countries all male-line descendants of a title-holder can use that title. However only one at a time is its actual holder. He will be known as 'X, count of Y', for example, and will perhaps be numbered, while all others are 'count X of Y'.

2. Rules on morganatic marriage generally apply only to royalty, not nobility. If a noble makes an invalid marriage the children of it cannot be his heirs to the title, and should he have no other heirs the title will become extinct or revert to the Crown, depending (the distinction is technical and the effect identical).

At one time peerages were tied to land, and could be bought and sold with the land. This ceased to be the case at varying periods in varying countries, and arguably still is so in France for example. In England and Scotland (I think) feudal baronies can still be bought and sold, but they are just titles not peerages.

3. The title of Duke of Orleans was indeed hereditary, but became subsumed to the Crown when the July Monarchy was established. In general all titles granted to younger sons of French kings were hereditary, the famous line of Dukes of Burgundy being an but not the only example. The custom did grow up that the eldest son of the Dauphin would be Duke of Burgundy, once that line had expired, guaranteeing that this title would revert to the Crown as the holder would all things being equal in due course become king. Other titles such as Berry were granted as hereditary titles but never seemed to last long as holders' lines expired, or never commenced, which could give the impression that these titles were not hereditary as they were frequently regranted. They were hereditary, though, it's just that there was no one to inherit.

In Spain, however, what you describe for France is often but not always the case, titles granted to younger sons are specific to them and not heritable. Again, it varies by country and era.

4. Yes. Children of sovereigns and of their sons were Grand Dukes and Duchesses with the style Imperial Highness. Great-grandchildren in male line were Princes and Princesses with the style Highness. Further generations, Serene Highnesses. This last style would continue for ever, but that is subject to contracting approved marriages. The children of a marriage not approved, or ruled unequal, would not inherit the style.

These answers are hasty and sketchy, but I hope helpful.

Posts: 2
Reply with quote  #3 
That has been very helpful thanks.

I have read about a few people who have been ennobled by King Juan Carlos I of Spain, like Camilo José Cela, Mario Vargas Llosa, Vicente del Bosque.
In the case of Camilo José Cela, according to wikipedia, he was made Marquis of Iria Flavia. Iria Flavia is apparently the name of a town where Camilo Jose Cela was born. SO as I understand it, the King can just make us a hereditary title and name it after a place, and the person he bestows it on doesn't necessarily have to own land in that area, or even live in that area.

In most cases I have seen, it seems that younger sons of Royalty are granted titles such as Duke of X. It seems that if the family got larger, the number of titles which the King makes up for these relatives would increase to quite a large number, and if there is no land connected to those titles, they are pretty much just names that don't mean anything. I never really got what the purpose of a title was, besides just for the sake of it.

You mentioned that in Spain, younger sons received non-hereditary titles. What are some examples of such people?

Also, do you have any recommended books I can read to learn more about how this whole system of nobility works. When I read articles or books about monarchy, it is assumed that the reader knows about how nobility works. I am interested mostly in European Monarchies, nobility.

Posts: 7,534
Reply with quote  #4 
Titles can in many cases arguably be considered meaningless today, but they were not always so and there is a grand history behind them, and a considerable prestige still associated with the bearing of a title. It is normal for a person granted a title to have some kind of a connection with the place named in it, the exception being royalty who are considered to be connected with everywhere in the realm, besides which titles granted normally have a historical association with the royal family, the main title anyway.

A good resource on the Web is Heraldica. I don't know of any books specifically concerned with nobility, well I do but they tend to be academic works narrowly concerned with a specific era and region, but this site and the others it links to contain a lot of information and to me seem well-researched and authoritative, though not of course infallible, besides which there is in many cases room for more than one opinion on particular points. Which for me is part of the interest of it all. I don't have time at present to go into the question of the dukedoms held by Spanish Infantes, but I have observed that in some cases the title seemed to continue to their heirs, in others not, for example the Infante Jaime, son of Alfonso XIII was Duke of Segovia (his birthplace, so a clear connection there at least) but his son and grandson were (are) not.
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