In the Middle Ages , during the period known as the Old Regime, the Nobility it was part of the three estates together with the Third Estate ( plebe ) and clergy . In this article we will make you aware Who were the nobles in the middle ages?
After the bourgeois revolutions, this social stratum was abolished from political power. This was mainly due to the fact that its legitimacy was not supported by the popular will, however it maintained its social influence. There were various types of nobility and this one had specific characteristics. This estate dominated reality for centuries in Europe, basing its power on prestige and superiority from birth, with kinship relationships that unify the nobility as a separate estate from the others. The primogeniture principle extends the dominance of a family through time. The nobility is above the peasants who are the majority of the population .
What was the nobility?
It was a social class that was made up of people who had noble titles inherited from their ancestors or even granted by the king . It was a quality that was transmitted by inheritance, many times following the principle of primogeniture, that is, the territorial entity was transmitted to an heir (the eldest son). We must not forget that during the Middle Ages the earth was the most desired good and the one that gave power to a lord . Rights to land also included rights to the people who lived on it (the serfs).
The true nobles were those who descended from the nobility and were also called gentlemen or knights . The group of people that made up the nobility were separated and distinguished from the rest of the men, known since the 16th century as commoners or commoners .
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How did the nobility live?
The nobility lived in castles and their main occupation was hunting. They regularly waged wars against other groups of nobles or used to train in violent tournaments. The castles of the Middle Ages consisted mainly of a tower that was surrounded by a wall.
The nobles did not marry the commoners , in fact it was dishonorable for a noble to marry a commoner and it was even more so in the opposite case. This alliance was frowned upon and its offspring were not considered to be a true noble. We must understand marriage as a tool to build alliances and power; marriage could mean the union of two powerful noble families. On the other hand, to continue being noble it was strictly necessary to live nobly , which meant not working in any kind of trade. The nobility could live without working because they had a lot of command power over the serfs.
The work also was considered dishonorable and made the nobility lost. When King Louis XIV tried to convince the nobility to settle in the colonies and engage in commerce, he made a decree. It was established that the maritime trade was an activated one that would not allow to lose the nobility.
Types of nobility
- Nobility of privilege: It was granted by the king of each nation as a reward for services rendered or glorious actions. This could be personal or transferable.
- Nobility of blood: It is the one that comes from the lineage and is inherited from the elders. If this is transmitted long before to the records that exist, it is known as immemorial nobility. This was the case of almost all hidalgos, who enjoyed their rank without possessing any executive letter or document granting nobility.
Ranks of the nobility
The nobility was divided into different ranks. The magnates occupied the most important rank, among them were the counts , marquises and dukes . They were known for owning extensive land. Viscounts , barons , etc. followed . that had smaller tracts of land. The last rank was that of the knights , who had horses and harness, these were part of the personal guard.
The fiefdom or lordship of a lord was a condition that, depending on the wealth he possessed, offered the resources required to choose a life according to the nobility. Other conditions that allowed a noble obtain sufficient income to access the nobility, was the position occupied in court ( court nobility ) or war.
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The nobility and military role
The military role played by the nobility was of great importance during the Middle Ages and Modern Ages . It was considered the payment that the nobles offered to society in order to maintain privileged economic and social status. In places like Spain, the nobility began to lose their military vocation towards the end of the 16th century. The charges were handed over to mercenaries.
In other countries, nobles continued to play an important role in the military . In the 18th century reforms were made to try to grant military positions to the Spanish nobility again. Finally, this requirement disappears in the 19th century.
The nobility built their power from the earth, having the castle as the center control the peasants who pay them tribute in the form of money or products . The threat of violence against the dominated is always latent, as is the probability of conflict with people outside their territories. During the Middle Ages armed conflicts are very common and military action is considered as proof of honor and courage, through war the nobles increase their prestige and, therefore, their power. Also in wars booties were captured that were later divided among the knights; behind military action there were also economic interests.
Finally, we must not forget that the nobility developed and existed only in Europe but also extended its power over the colonies, that’s the case of America after the Spanish conquest .
Features of the nobility
Among the characteristics that the nobility had as a social class in the Middle Ages can be mentioned:
- They were not required to pay taxes.
- They owned large tracts of land.
- They had large numbers of serfs or peasants who did the work for and for them.
- They were owners of weapons and castles.
- As they did not work, they had enough free time to dedicate themselves to activities such as hunting, fishing or to organize tournaments such as sword fighting in peacetime or jousting.
- If an armed conflict broke out, the nobles were obliged to volunteer to serve the king in wars .
- The relationship of the nobility with military service resulted in reserving the leadership positions of the army to those who were part of this establishment . They were also free from the mandatory levies.
- The nobility became one of the formulas used by monarchies to recruit militia personnel.
- The nobility is the great consumer of prestigious goods during the Middle Ages, long distance trade existed thanks to their consumption.
Privileges of the nobility
In Spain the privileges held the nobility were governed by laws, specifically the newest collection and The Seven Games . Among the most prominent prerogatives were:
- They were free of the tributes related to the commoners , although they had to contribute to repair walls, fountains, fences and bridges.
- They could not be imprisoned for civil debts, but it was possible for crimes, almost crimes, values or real rights. In the latter case, they were placed in a separate jail from the others.
- They were not subjected to any form of torture nor were they sentenced to be hanged.
- Nor were they condemned to turn aside from the wrong done to others.