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An Italian noble's coronet.

Nobile or Nobile Uomo is an Italian title of nobility in general equivalence to a baron. However, unlike a baron, whose powers are concentrated to a very specific location, attached to the title in the form of a seat (i.e. the baron of (x)- a certain city, for example), a nobile may have political rights over a more general locale, say an entire Region of Italy, without the need of establishing a specific seat of which his powers are specifically granted to.

While a baron may be viewed as having more power than a nobile over a specific territory, a nobile has the benefit of more general rights over a greater locale. Hence, a baron may be all powerful within his own estate, but have no political rights anywhere else in the region and no insured rights over any future property he may purchase, while a nobile has less rights in a single given territory, but the flexibility of having noble rank honored anywhere and over all property owned within a particular region. Therefore, the title of nobile was desirable, and sometimes specifically sought after, for its versatility.

Like the other titles of nobility, such as baron or count, nobile is also used immediately before the family name, usually in the abbreviated form: Nob. or NU.

Nobile is derived from the Latin nobilis, which means honourable. The title is also generally used to define any person belonging to the nobility class.

The other European equivalents of nobile are the “baronet” in England and, to some extent the Austrian and South German title of “Edler von”.

The heraldic coronet of a nobile is a jewelled circlet of gold surmounted by five visible pearls, supported by stems or set directly upon the rim. The shield of a nobile is surmounted by a silver helm ¾ side view and surmounted by the coronet. A person entitled to wear a coronet customarily displays it in their coat of arms above the shield.

The History

Following the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy, the Italian Heraldic College (Consulta Araldica) was updated with the inclusion of a title of nobility “nobile”, which is the lowest in rank of the Italian titles of nobility. The Consulta Araldica was therefore amended to include article 8 of the Royal decree dated 8 May 1870. In effect, this title was a big innovation in the sense that the usage of a title of nobility was no longer restricted to the first-born as per article 20 of the regulation. However, during the period the Duchy of Milan was in Austrian hands until it was overrun by the French army of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1796, the Heraldic Court of Milan (legal body empowered to decide on matters regarding titles of nobility), awarded and registered the nobility tile “nobile”. Subsequently, the coat of arms was painted in the ‘Book of Coat of Arms of Maria Teresa of Austria’ (kept today, by the Archive of the State of Milan - ASMi) . However, at that time, the title of nobile did not have a corresponding coronet placed on top of the helm.

The Law

The Republic of Italy does not recognize titles of nobility. The Italian Constitution of 1948 revoked the Consulta Araldica and therefore all titles of nobility, including nobile, have no effect under civil law. However, there exists a private association of the Italian Nobility (Corpo della Nobiltà Italiana) which advocates a continuation of the activities of the Consulta Araldica.

References

  • E. Genta, "Titoli nobiliari", in AA.VV., "Enciclopedia del diritto", Varese 1992, vol. XLIV, pag. 674-684.
  • Regolamento della Consulta araldica, approvato con regio decreto del 8 maggio 1870.
  • Enciclopedia Storico-Nobiliare Italiana, MCMXXVIII - ANNO VII
  • Archivio di Stato di Milano
  • Burkes Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage of the UK.- 1914 ed.
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