Patrician (post-Roman Europe)

Patricianship, the quality of belonging to a patriciate, began in the ancient world, where cities such as Ancient Rome had a class of patrician families whose members were the only people allowed to exercise many political functions. In the rise of European towns in the 12th and 13th century, the patriciate, a limited group of families with a special constitutional position, in Henri Pirenne's view,[3] was the motive force. In 19th century central Europe, the term had become synonymous with the upper Bourgeoisie and can't be compared with the medieval patriciate in Central Europe. In the German speaking parts of Europe as well as in the maritime republics of Italy, the patricians were as a matter of fact the ruling body of the medieval town and particularly in Italy part of the nobility.

With the establishment of the medieval towns, Italian city-states and maritime republics, the patriciate was a formally defined class of governing wealthy families. They were found in the Italian city states and maritime republics such as Venice, Pisa, Genoa and Amalfi and but also in many of the Free imperial cities of the Holy Roman Empire such as Nuremberg, Ravensburg, Augsburg, Konstanz, Lindau, Bern, Basel, Zurich and many more.

As in Ancient Rome, patrician status could generally only be inherited. However, membership in the patriciate could be passed on through the female line. For example, if the union was approved by her parents, the husband of patrician daughter was granted membership in the patrician society Zum Sünfzen of the Imperial Free City of Lindau as a matter of right, on the same terms as the younger son of a patrician male (i.e., upon payment of a nominal fee) even if the husband was otherwise deemed socially ineligible. Accession to a patriciate through this mechanism was referred to as "erweibern."[4]

In any case, only male patricians could hold, or participate in elections for, most political offices. Often, as in Venice, non-patricians had almost no political rights. Lists were maintained of who had the status, of which the most famous is the Libro d'Oro (Golden Book) of the Venetian Republic. From the fall of the Hohenstaufen (1268) city-republics increasingly became principalities, like Milan and Verona, and the smaller ones were swallowed up by monarchical states or sometimes other republics, like Pisa and Siena by Florence, and any special role for the local patricians was restricted to municipal affairs. The few remaining patrician constitutions, notably those of Venice and Genoa, were swept away by the conquering French armies of the period after the French Revolution, although many patrician families remained socially and politically important, as some do to this day.

In the modern era the term "patrician" is also used broadly for the higher bourgeoisie (not to be equated with aristocracy) in many countries; in some countries it vaguely refers to the non-noble upper class, especially before the 20th century.[5]

Thomas Mann 1900
The Nobel Prize-winning author Thomas Mann belonged to a Hanseatic patrician family, and portrayed the patriciate in his 1901 novel Buddenbrooks.[1][2]
The German banker Johann Hinrich Gossler married Hamburg patrician heiress Elisabeth Berenberg, and became owner of Berenberg Bank. His descendants reached the highest positions in the "aristocratic republic", including as senators and head of state.

The patricius in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages

There was an intermediate period under the Late Roman Empire and Byzantine Empire when the title was given to governors in the Western parts of the Empire, such as SicilyStilicho, Aetius and other 5th-century magistri militari usefully exemplify the role and scope of the patricius at this point. Later the role, like that of the Giudicati of Sardinia, acquired a judicial overtone, and was used by rulers who were often de facto independent of Imperial control, like Alberic II of Spoleto, "Patrician of Rome" from 932 to 954.

In the 9th and 10th centuries, the Byzantine emperors strategically used the title of patrikios to gain the support of the native princes of southern Italy in the contest with the Carolingian Empire for control of the region. The allegiance of the Principality of Salerno was bought in 887 by investing Prince Guaimar I, and again in 955 from Gisulf I. In 909 the Prince of Benevento, Landulf I, personally sought and received the title in Constantinople for both himself and his brother, Atenulf II. In forging the alliance that won the Battle of the Garigliano in 915, the Byzantine strategos Nicholas Picingli granted the title to John I and Docibilis II of Gaeta and Gregory IV and John II of Naples.

At this time there was usually only one "Patrician" for a particular city or territory at a time; in several cities in Sicily, like Catania and Messina, a one-man office of patrician was part of municipal government for much longer. Amalfi was ruled by a series of Patricians, the last of whom was elected Duke.

Formation of the European patriciates

Franz Rudolf Frisching
The Swiss patrician Franz Rudolf Frisching in the uniform of an officer of the Bernese Huntsmen Corps with his Berner Laufhund, painted by Jean Preudhomme in 1785.

Though often mistakenly so described, patrician families of Italian cities were not in their origins members of the territorial nobility, but members of the minor landowners, the bailiffs and stewards of the lords and bishops, against whose residual powers they led the struggles in establishing the urban communes. At Genoa the earliest records of trading partnerships are in documents of the early 11th century; there the typical sleeping partner is a member of the local petty nobility with some capital to invest, and in the expansion of trade leading roles were taken by men who already held profitable positions in the feudal order, who received revenues from rents or customs tolls or market dues. Then in the 12th and 13th centuries, to this first patrician class were added the families who had risen through trade, the Doria, Cigala and Lercari[6] In Milan, the earliest consuls were chosen from among the valvasores, capitanei and cives. H. Sapori found the first patriaciates of Italian towns to usurp the public and financial functions of the overlord to have been drawn from such petty vassals, holders of heritable tenancies and rentiers who farmed out the agricultural labours of their holdings.[7]

At a certain point it was necessary to obtain recognition of the independence of the city, and often its constitution, from either the Pope or the Holy Roman Emperor - "free" cities in the Empire continued to owe allegiance to the Emperor, but without any intermediate rulers.

In the late Middle Ages and early modern period patricians also acquired noble titles, sometimes simply by acquiring domains in the surrounding contado that carried a heritable fief. However, in practice the status and wealth of the patrician families of the great republics was higher than that of most nobles, as money economy spread and the profitability and prerogatives of land-holding eroded, and they were accepted as of similar status. The Republic of Genoa had a separate class, much smaller, of nobility, originating with rural magnates who joined their interests with the fledgling city-state. Some cities, such as Naples and Rome, which had never been republics in post-Classical times, also had patrician classes, though most holders also had noble titles. The Republic of Ragusa was ruled by a strict patriciate that was formally established in 1332, which was subsequently modified only once, following the 1667 Dubrovnik earthquake.

Subsequently, "patrician" became a vaguer term used for aristocrats and elite bourgeoisie in many countries.

Transformations within patriciates

In some Italian cities an early patriciate drawn from the minor nobles and feudal officials took a direct interest in trade, notably the textile trade and the long-distance trade in spices and luxuries as it expanded, and were transformed in the process. In others, the inflexibility of the patriciate would build up powerful forces excluded from its ranks, and in an urban coup the great mercantile interests would overthrow the grandi, without overthrowing the urban order, but simply filling its formal bodies with members drawn from the new ranks, or rewriting the constitution to allow more power to the "populo". Florence, in 1244, came rather late in the peak period of these transformations, which was between 1197, when Lucca followed this route, and 1257, when Genoa adopted similar changes.[8] However Florence was to have other upheavals, reducing the power of the patrician class, in the movement leading to the Ordinances of Justice in 1293, and the Revolt of the Ciompi in 1378.

Of the major republics, only Venice managed to retain an exclusively patrician government, which survived until Napoleon. In Venice, where the exclusive patriciate reserved to itself all power of directing the Serenissima Repubblica and erected legal barriers to protect the state increased its scrutiny over the composition of its patriciate in the generation after the Battle of Chioggia. Venetians with a disputed claim to the patriciate were required to present to the avogadori di commun established to adjudicate such claims a genealogy called a prova di nobiltà, a "test of nobility". This was particularly required of Venetian colonial elite in outlying regions of the Venetian thalassocracy, as in Crete, a key Venetian colony 1211–1669, and a frontier between Venetian and Byzantine, then Ottoman, zones of power. For Venetians in Venice, the prova di nobiltà was simply a pro forma rite of passage to adulthood, attested by family and neighbors; for the colonial Venetian elite in Crete the political and economic privileges weighed with the social ones, and for the Republic, a local patriciate in Crete with loyalty ties to Venice expressed through connective lineages was of paramount importance.[9]

Recruitment to patriciates

Active recruitment of rich new blood was also a character of some more flexible patriciates, which drew in members of the mercantile elite, through ad hoc partnerships in ventures, which became more permanently cemented by marriage alliances. "In such cases an upper group, part feudal-aristocratic, part mercantile would arise, a group of mixed nature like the 'magnates' of Bologna, formed of nobles made bourgeois by business, and bourgeois ennobled by city decree, both fused together in law."[10] Others, like Venice, tightly restricted membership, which was closed in 1297, though some families, the "case nuove" or "new houses" were allowed to join in the 14th century, after which membership was frozen.

German cities of the Holy Roman Empire

Beginning in the 11th century, a privileged class which much later came to be called Patrizier[11] formed in the German-speaking free imperial cities. Besides wealthy merchant Grand Burghers (German: Großbürger), they were recruited from the ranks of imperial knights, administrators and ministeriales; the latter two groups were accepted even when they were not freemen.

Members of a patrician society entered into oaths of loyalty to one another and directly with respect to the Holy Roman Emperor.

German medieval patricians, Patrician (post-Roman Europe) did not refer to themselves as such. Instead, they organized themselves into closed societies (i.e., Gesellschaften) and would point to their belonging to certain families or "houses" (i.e., Geschlechter), as documented for Imperial Free Cities of Cologne, Frankfurt am Main, Nuremberg. The use of the word Patrizier to refer to the most privileged segment of urban society dates back not to the Middle Ages but to the Renaissance. In 1516 the Nuremberg councillor and jurist Dr. Christoph Scheuerl (1481–1542) was commissioned by Dr. Johann Staupitz, the vicar general of the order of St. Augustine, to draft a précis of the Nuremberg constitution, presented on 15 December 1516 in the form of a letter. Because the letter was composed in Latin, Scheuerl referred to the Nuremberg "houses" as "patricii", making ready use of the obvious analogy to the constitution of ancient Rome. His contemporaries soon turned this into the loan words Patriziat and Patrizier for patricianship and patricians. However, this usage did not become common until the 17th and 18th centuries.

The Patrizier filled the seats of town councils and appropriated other important civic offices to themselves. For this purpose they assembled in patrician societies and asserted a hereditary claim to the coveted offices. In Frankfurt the Patrizier societies began to bar admittance of new families in the second half of the 16th century. The industrious Calvinist refugees from the southern Netherlands made substantial contributions to the city's commerce. But their advancement was largely limited to the material sphere. At the time this was summed up as,

The Roman Catholics have the churches, the Lutherans have the power, and the Calvinists have the money.[12]

Jews were in any case never even considered for membership in patricians societies. Unlike non-Lutheran Christians and until their partial emancipation brought on by Napoleonic occupation, however, other avenues to advancement in society were also closed to them.

As in the Italian republics, this was opposed by the craftsmen who were organized in guilds of their own (Zünfte). In the 13th century they began to challenge the prerogatives of the patricians and their guilds. Most of the time the guilds succeeded in achieving representation on a town's council. However, these gains were reversed in most Imperial Free Cities through the reforms in 1551–1553 by Emperor Charles V (of the Holy Roman Empire, 1519–1556) and patricians consolidated their exclusive right to city counsel seats and associated offices, making the patriciate the only families eligible for election to the city council.

During the formative years of a patrician junker, it was common to pursue international apprenticeships and academic qualification. During their careers patricians often achieved high military and civil service positions in the service of their cities and the emperor. It was also common for patricians to gain wealth as shareholders of corporations which traded commodities across Europe.

In the territories of the former Holy Roman Empire, patricians were considered the equal of the feudal nobility (the "landed gentry").[13] Indeed, many patrician societies such as the Suenfzen of Lindau, referred to their members as "noble" and themselves as a "noble" or even "high noble" societies. Some patrician societies such as that of Bern, officially granted their members the right to use noble predicates whereas other patricians chose to use the noble predicate "von" in connection with their original name or a country estate, see e.g., the Lindau patrician families Heider von Gitzenweiler (also von Heider), Funk von Senftenau, Seutter von Loetzen (also von Seutter), Halder von Moellenberg (also von Halder), Curtabatt (also von Curtabat or de Curtabat). In 1696 and 1697 Emperor Leopold affirmed the noble quality (i.e., ebenburtigkeit") of Nuremberg Patrizier and their right to elevate new families to their society.[14]

Notwithstanding that membership in a patrician society (or eligibility there for, i.e., "Ratsfähigkeit") was per se evidence of belonging to the highest of social classes of the Holy Roman Empire, patricians always had the option to have their noble status confirmed by a patent of nobility from the Holy Roman Emperor which was granted as a matter course upon the payment of fee.[15] In any case, when travelling to other parts of Europe for example to the court of Louis XIV, members of the patrician societies of imperial free cities were recognized as noble courtiers as documented in the autobiography of Lindau Suenfzenjunker Rudolf Curtabatt.[16]

The Holy Roman Empire ceased to exist in 1806. Although not the arbiter of who belongs to the historical German patriciate, the modern Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels (= Genealogical Handbook of Nobility) following appropriate review by the fourth chamber of the German Adelsrechtsausschuss or Noble Law Committee, will include families even without a title of nobility affirmed by the Emperor, when there is proof that their progenitors belonged to hereditary "council houses" in German imperial cities. To the extent patricians and their descendants chose to avail themselves of a noble predicate after 1806 and, therefore, without imperial affirmation, such titles and predicates would also be accepted by the German Adelsrechtsausschuss if acquired through a legal mechanism akin to adverse possession, i.e., Ersitzung.[17]

In any case, in the Netherlands (see below) and many Hanseatic cities such as Hamburg, patricians scoffed at the notion of ennoblement. Indeed, Johann Christian Senckenberg, the famous naturalist, commented, "An honest man is worth more than all the nobility and all the Barons. If anyone were to make me a Baron, I would call him a [female canine organ] or equally well a Baron. This is how much I care for any title."[18]

In 1816, Frankfurt's new constitution abolished the privilege of heritable office for the patricians.[19] In Nuremberg, successive reforms first curtailed the patricians privileges (1794) and then effectively abolished them (1808), although they retained some vestiges of power until 1848.

Patricianship in the Netherlands

The Netherlands also has a patriciate. These are registered in Nederland's Patriciaat, colloquially called The Blue Book (see List of Dutch patrician families). To be eligible for entry, families must have played an active and important role in Dutch society, fulfilling high positions in the government, in prestigious commissions and in other prominent public posts for over six generations or 150 years.

The longer a family has been listed in the Blue Book, the higher its esteem. The earliest entries are often families seen as co-equal to the lower nobility (barons and counts), because they are the younger branches of the same family or have continuously married members of the Dutch nobility over a long period of time.

There are "regentenfamilies", whose forefathers were active in the administration of town councils, counties or the country itself during the Dutch Republic. Some of these families declined ennoblement because they did not keep a title in such high regard. At the end of the 19th century, they still proudly called themselves "patriciërs". Other families belong to the patriciate because they are held in the same regard and respect as the nobility but for certain reasons never were ennobled. Even within the same important families there can be branches with and without noble titles.


Members of the patriciate of Skien; the Altenburg/Paus families (late 1810s). To the right Henrik Ibsen's mother Marichen Altenburg

In Denmark and Norway, the term "patriciate" came to denote, mainly from the 19th century, the non-noble upper class, including the bourgeoisie, the clergy, the civil servants and generally members of elite professions such as lawyers. The Danish series Danske Patriciske Slægter (later Patriciske Slægter and Danske patricierslægter) was published in six volumes between 1891 and 1979 and extensively described Danish patrician families.[20][21][22] The term was used similarly in Norway from the 19th century, based on the Danish model; notably Henrik Ibsen described his own family background as patrician.[23] Jørgen Haave defines the patriciate in the Norwegian context as a broad collective term for the civil servants (embetsmenn) and the burghers in the cities who were often merchants or ship's captains, i.e. the non-noble upper class.[23] The bourgeoisie frequently intermarried with the families of higher civil servants and the nobility; the boundaries between the groups were not sharp.

See also


  1. ^ Charles Neider, The stature of Thomas Mann, 1968
  2. ^ Wolfgang Beutin, A history of German literature: from the beginnings to the present day, Routledge, 1993, ISBN 0-415-06034-6, p. 433
  3. ^ Pirenne, Medieval Cities: Their Origins and the Revival of Trade (1927) offers a late, developed view of the "Pirenne thesis" with origins in articles on the origins of urban constitutions in 1895: see Henri Pirenne#Pirenne Thesis.
  4. ^ Alfred Otto Stolze, Der Sünfzen zu Lindau. Das Patriziat einer schwäbischen Reichsstadt (Bernhard Zeller, Lindau/Konstanz, 1956) discusses this mechanism for accession to the Patriciate; "Wenn die Tochter eines Sünfzen Genossen sich mit Willen ihrer Eltern vermählte, so wurde der Ehemann aufgenommen, „der gleich der Sünfzen sonnst nit fähig wäre” gegen zwei Gulden, bzw. wie ein jüngerer Sohn"
  5. ^ T. K. Derry, A History of Scandinavia, London, George Allen & Unwin, 1979, p. 193, ISBN 0-04-948004-9
  6. ^ Hibbert, A. B. (1953). "The Origins of the Medieval Town Patriciate". Past & Present. 3: 15–27 [p. 18]. JSTOR 650033.
  7. ^ H. Sapori, article in International Historical Congress 1950, noted by Hibbert 1953 note 10.
  8. ^ Hall, Peter (1999). Cities in Civilization. London: Phoenix. p. 91. ISBN 0-7538-0815-3.
  9. ^ O'Connell, Monique (2004). "The Venetian Patriciate in the Mediterranean: Legal Identity and Lineage in Fifteenth-Century Venetian Crete". Renaissance Quarterly. 57 (2): 466–493. doi:10.2307/1261723. Stanley Chojnacki has also studied the Venetian patriciate in a number of articles.
  10. ^ Hibbert 1953:19.
  11. ^ This word is used for both the singular and plural form.
  12. ^ Körner, p. XIII. Later, the Huguenot refugees flocking to Frankfurt following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes by French king Louis XIV in 1685 proved similarly valuable additions to the city's economy, but they too found membership in the Patrizier societies elusive.
  13. ^ Endres, Rudolf. Adel in der frühen Neuzeit. Enzyklopaedie Deutscher Geschichte, Band 18, Oldenbourg, p. 72.
  14. ^ Endres, Rudolf. Adel in der frühen Neuzeit. Enzyklopaedie Deutscher Geschichte, Band 18, Oldenbourg, p. 72.
  15. ^ Der Titel "von" beruht also nur auf den Adelsbriefen, die man sich mit Geld erwerben konnte. Die eine Familie legte Wert darauf, sich den Titel 'von' beizulegen, und die andere nicht. Stolze, Alfred O., Der Suenfzen zu Lindau, Das Patriziat einer Schwaebischen Reichsstadt, 1956.
  16. ^ Das Leben des Lindauer Bürgermeisters Rudolf Curtabatt. Hrsg. von Franz Joetze, Sch.V.G.B. 35 S. 355 FF
  17. ^ Discussion relating the IV. Kammer of the ARA and to non-objection of noble status for descendants of Patrizier and Ersitzung of a noble predicate on pages 6-7 at
  18. ^ quoted in August de Bary's biography of Senckenberg, 2004 reprint of 1947 edition, p. 162: "Ein ehrlicher Mann ist mehr als aller Adel und Baron. Wenn mich einer zum Baron machte, ich wollte ihn einen Hundsfott oder auch einen Baron schelten. So lieb sind mir alle Titel."
  19. ^ Die Macht der Patrizier Archived 19 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Frankfurter Rundschau Online
  20. ^ Sofus Elvius and Hans Rudolf Hiort-Lorenzen (eds.), Danske Patriciske Slægter, Copenhagen, 1891
  21. ^ Theodor Hauch-Fausbøll and H. R. Hiort-Lorenzen (eds.), Patriciske Slægter, 3. vols., 1911–1930
  22. ^ Wilhelm von Antoniewitz, Danske patricierslægter: ny række, 2. vols., 1956–1979
  23. ^ a b Jørgen Haave, Familien Ibsen, Museumsforlaget, 2017, ISBN 9788283050455


  • Hans Körner: Frankfurter Patrizier. Historisch-Genealogisches Handbuch der Adeligen Ganerbschaft des Hauses Alten-Limpurg zu Frankfurt am Main. Ernst Vögel (publishers), Munich, 1971. [ISBN unspecified] (in German)
  • J.Dronkers and H.Schijf (2004): "Huwelijken tussen adel en patriciaat: een middeel om hun eliteposities in een moderne samenleving in stand te houden?." (in Dutch)
  • CBG. "Het Nederlands Patriciaat" (in Dutch)
  • Alfred Otto Stolze: Der Sünfzen zu Lindau. Das Patriziat einer schwäbischen Reichsstadt. Bernhard Zeller, Lindau/Konstanz 1956.
  • Christoph Heiermann: Die Spitze der Sozialstruktur: Organisation städtischer Eliten im Bodenseeraum. In Matthias Meinhardt und Andreas Ranft (Hrsg.): Die Sozialstruktur und Sozialtopographie vorindustrieller Städte. Akademie Verlag, Berlin 2005.
  • Wolfgang Reinhard: Oligarchische Verflechtung und Konfession in oberdeutschen Städten. In Antoni Mączak (Hrsg.): Klientelsysteme im Europa der Frühen Neuzeit. Oldenbourg, München 1988
  • Das Leben des Lindauer Bürgermeisters Rudolf Curtabatt. Hrsg. von Franz Joetze, Sch.V.G.B. 35 S. 355 FF.
  • Ewige Quelle : Das Lebensbuch d. Anna Stolze von Pfister. 1-3. Tsd., Speer-Stolze, Clara, Heilbronn, Salzer, 1937.

External links


Bildungsbürgertum (German: [ˈbɪldʊŋsˌbʏʁɡɐtuːm]) is a social class that emerged in mid-18th century Germany as an educated class of the bourgeoisie with an educational ideal based on idealistic values and classical antiquity. The Bildungsbürgertum could be described as the intellectual and economic upper bourgeoisie in contrast to the Kleinbürgertum (petite bourgeoisie).

Dutch nobility

With the constitutional reform of 1848, the nobles lost their constitutional role with regards to selecting members for the States-Provincial. Thereafter, the only privileges currently enjoyed by the nobility are the carrying of titles and the grant of coats of arms by royal decree.

The nobility are currently regulated by the Nobility Act, passed into law on 1 August 1994, and is overseen by the High Council of Nobility, an official state institution of the Kingdom of the Netherlands which also maintains the official nobility register.

Grand Burgher

Grand Burgher [male] or Grand Burgheress [female] (from German: Großbürger [male], Großbürgerin [female]) is a specific conferred or inherited title of medieval German origin and legally defined preeminent status granting exclusive constitutional privileges and legal rights (German: Großbürgerrecht), who were magnates and subordinate only to the Emperor, independent of feudalism and territorial nobility or lords paramount. A member class within the patrician ruling elite, the Grand Burgher was a type of urban citizen and social order of highest rank, a formally defined upper social class of affluent individuals and elite burgher families in medieval German-speaking city-states and towns under the Holy Roman Empire, who usually were of a wealthy business or significant mercantile background and estate. This hereditary title and influential constitutional status, privy to very few individuals and families across Central Europe, formally existed well into the late 19th century and early part of the 20th century. In autonomous German-speaking cities and towns of Central Europe that held a municipal charter, town privileges (German town law) or were a free imperial city such as Hamburg, Augsburg, Cologne and Bern that held imperial immediacy, where nobility had no power of authority or supremacy, the Grand Burghers (Großbürger) or patricians ("Patrizier") constituted the ruling class.

Hanseaten (class)

The Hanseaten (German: [hanzeˈaːtn̩], Hanseatics) is a collective term for the hierarchy group (so called First Families) consisting of elite individuals and families of prestigious rank who constituted the ruling class of the free imperial city of Hamburg, conjointly with the equal First Families of the free imperial cities Bremen and Lübeck. The members of these First Families were the persons in possession of hereditary grand burghership (Großbürgerschaft) of these cities, including the mayors (Bürgermeister), the senators (Senatoren), joint diplomats (Diplomaten) and the senior pastors (Hauptpastoren). Hanseaten refers specifically to the ruling families of Hamburg, Lübeck and Bremen, but more broadly, this group is also referred to as patricians along with similar social groups elsewhere in continental Europe.

The three cities since the Congress of Vienna 1815 are each officially named the "Free and Hanseatic City Hamburg" (Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg), the "Free Hanseatic City Bremen" (Freie Hansestadt Bremen) and the "Free and Hanseatic City Lübeck" (Freie und Hansestadt Lübeck), since 1937 merely the "Hanseatic City Lübeck" (Hansestadt Lübeck).Hamburg was one of the oldest stringent civic republics, in which the Hanseatics preserved their constitutional privileges granted in 1189 by Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor, until the German Revolution of 1918–19 and the Weimar Constitution. Hamburg was strictly republican, but it was not a democracy, but rather an oligarchy.

The Hanseaten were regarded as being of equal rank to the (landed) nobility elsewhere in Europe, although the Hanseaten often regarded the (rural) nobility outside the city republics as inferior to the (urban and often more affluent, and in their own view, cultivated) Hanseaten. Thomas Mann, a member of a Lübeck Hanseatic family, portrayed this class in his Nobel Prize-winning novel Buddenbrooks (1901), for which he received the 1929 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Landed gentry

The landed gentry, or simply the gentry, is a largely historical British social class consisting in theory of landowners who could live entirely from rental income, or at least had a country estate. It was distinct from, and socially "below", the aristocracy or peerage, although in fact some of the landed gentry were wealthier than some peers, and many gentry were related to peers. They often worked as administrators of their own lands, while others became public, political, religious, and armed forces figures. The decline of this privileged class largely stemmed from the 1870s agricultural depression; however, there are still a large number of hereditary gentry in the UK to this day, many of whom transferred their landlord style management skills after the agricultural depression into the business of land agency, the act of buying and selling land.

The designation "landed gentry" originally referred exclusively to members of the upper class who were landlords and also commoners in the British sense – that is, they did not hold peerages – but usage became more fluid over time. Similar or analogous social systems of landed gentry also sprang up in countries that maintained a colonial system; the term is employed in many British colonies such as the Colony of Virginia and some parts of India. By the late 19th century, the term was also applied to peers such as the Duke of Westminster who lived on landed estates. The book series Burke's Landed Gentry recorded the members of this class. Successful burghers often used their accumulated wealth to buy country estates, with the aim of establishing themselves as landed gentry.


Nobility is a social class normally ranked immediately under royalty and found in some societies that have a formal aristocracy. Nobility possesses more acknowledged privileges and higher social status than most other classes in society. 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. As referred to in the Medieval chivalric motto "noblesse oblige" ("nobility obliges"), nobles can also carry a lifelong duty to uphold various social responsibilities, such as honorable behavior, customary service, or leadership positions. Membership in the nobility, including rights and responsibilities, is typically hereditary.

Membership in the nobility has historically been granted by a monarch or government, unlike other social classes where membership is determined solely by wealth, lifestyle, or affiliation. Nonetheless, acquisition of sufficient power, wealth, military prowess, or royal favour has occasionally enabled commoners to ascend into the nobility.There are often a variety of ranks within the noble class. Legal recognition of nobility has been more common in monarchies, but nobility also existed in such regimes as the Dutch Republic (1581–1795), the Republic of Genoa (1005–1815), the Republic of Venice (697–1797), and the Old Swiss Confederacy (1300–1798), and remains part of the legal social structure of some non-hereditary regimes, e.g., Channel Islands, San Marino, and the Vatican City in Europe.

Hereditary titles and styles added to names (such as "Prince" or "Lord" or "Lady"), as well as honorifics often distinguish nobles from non-nobles in conversation and written speech. In many nations most of the nobility have been un-titled, and some hereditary titles do not indicate nobility (e.g., vidame). Some countries have had non-hereditary nobility, such as the Empire of Brazil or life peers in the United Kingdom.

Norwegian patriciate

The Norwegian patriciate (in Norwegian borgerskap or patrisiat) was a social class in Norway from the 17th century until the modern age; it is typically considered to have ended sometime during the 19th or early 20th century as a distinct class. Jørgen Haave defines the Norwegian patriciate as a broad collective term for the civil servants (embetsmenn) and the burghers in the cities who were often merchants or ship's captains, i.e. the non-noble upper class. Thus it corresponds to term patriciate in its modern, broad generic sense in English. The patricians did not constitute a legally defined class as such, although its constituent groups, the civil servants and the burghers held various legal privileges, with the clergy de jure forming one of the two privileged estates of the realm until 1814.

Old money

Old money is "the inherited wealth of established upper-class families (i.e. gentry, patriciate)" or "a person, family, or lineage possessing inherited wealth". The term typically describes a class of the rich who have been able to maintain their wealth over multiple generations, often referring to perceived members of the de facto aristocracy in societies that historically lack an officially established aristocratic class (such as the US).


Patrician may refer to:

Patrician (ancient Rome), the original aristocratic families of ancient Rome, and a synonym for "aristocratic" in modern English usage

Patrician (post-Roman Europe), the governing elites of cities in parts of medieval and Early Modern Europe

The adjective formed from Saint Patrick

Youngstown Patricians, a former semi-professional football team based in Youngstown, Ohio, USA

A student or former student of St Patrick's High School, Karachi, Pakistan

A member of the Argentine Regiment of Patricians

The Patrician, an annual publication of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry regiment

Packard Patrician, a large luxury car during the 1950s

Havelock Vetinari, the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series

The Patrician (video game), a series of historical trading simulation computer games

Ragusan nobility

The nobility of the Republic of Ragusa included several patrician families. Ragusa was ruled by a strict patriciate that was formally established in 1332, which was subsequently modified only once, following the 1667 Dubrovnik earthquake.

Thomas Mann

Paul Thomas Mann (UK: MAN, US: MAHN; German: [ˈpaʊ̯l ˈtoːmas ˈman]; 6 June 1875 – 12 August 1955) was a German novelist, short story writer, social critic, philanthropist, essayist, and the 1929 Nobel Prize in Literature laureate. His highly symbolic and ironic epic novels and novellas are noted for their insight into the psychology of the artist and the intellectual. His analysis and critique of the European and German soul used modernized versions of German and Biblical stories, as well as the ideas of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Nietzsche and Arthur Schopenhauer.

Mann was a member of the Hanseatic Mann family and portrayed his family and class in his first novel, Buddenbrooks. His older brother was the radical writer Heinrich Mann and three of Mann's six children, Erika Mann, Klaus Mann and Golo Mann, also became significant German writers. When Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, Mann fled to Switzerland. When World War II broke out in 1939, he moved to the United States, then returned to Switzerland in 1952. Mann is one of the best-known exponents of the so-called Exilliteratur, German literature written in exile by those who opposed the Hitler regime.

Mann's work influenced many later authors, including Heinrich Böll, Joseph Heller, Yukio Mishima, and Orhan Pamuk.

Upper class

The upper class in modern societies is the social class composed of people who hold the highest social status, usually are the wealthiest members of society, and wield the greatest political power. According to this view, the upper class is generally distinguished by immense wealth which is passed on from generation to generation. Prior to the 20th century, the emphasis was on aristocracy, which emphasized generations of inherited noble status, not just recent wealth. Because the upper classes of a society may no longer rule the society in which they are living, they are often referred to as the old upper classes and they are often culturally distinct from the newly rich middle classes that tend to dominate public life in modern social democracies. According to the latter view held by the traditional upper classes, no amount of individual wealth or fame would make a person from an undistinguished background into a member of the upper class as one must be born into a family of that class and raised in a particular manner so as to understand and share upper class values, traditions, and cultural norms.

The term is often used in conjunction with terms like upper-middle class, middle class, and working class as part of a model of social stratification.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.