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In some countries, the local lord could impose restrictions on such a commoner's movements, religion or legal undertakings.

Nobles exclusively enjoyed the privilege of hunting.

Hereditary titles often distinguish nobles from non-nobles, although in many nations most of the nobility have been un-titled, and a hereditary title need not ipso facto indicate nobility (e.g., vidame).

Some countries have had non-hereditary nobility, such as the Empire of Brazil.

The privileges associated with nobility may constitute substantial advantages over or relative to non-nobles, or may be largely honorary (e.g., precedence), and vary by country and era.

The Medieval chivalric motto "noblesse oblige," meaning literally "nobility obligates," explains that privileges carry a lifelong obligation of duty to uphold various social responsibilities of, e.g., honorable behavior, customary service, or leadership roles or positions, that lives on by a familial or kinship bond.

Peasants were not only bound to the nobility by dues and services, but the exercise of their rights was often also subject to the jurisdiction of courts and police from whose authority the actions of nobles were entirely or partially exempt.

In modern usage, "nobility" is applied to the highest social class in pre-modern societies, excepting the ruling dynasty.

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.

Since the end of World War I the hereditary nobility entitled to special rights has largely been abolished in the Western World as intrinsically discriminatory, and discredited as inferior in efficiency to individual meritocracy in the allocation of societal resources.

Nobility came to be associated with social rather than legal privilege, expressed in a general expectation of deference from those of lower rank.

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