Receiving Certificates - Distinguished Members





The International Commission & Association on Nobility (TICAN)

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There is nothing noble in being superior to some other person. The true nobility is in being superior to your previous self.

Of all varieties of foppery, the vanity of high birth is the greatest. True nobility is derived from virtue, not from birth. Title, indeed, may be purchased, but virtue is the only coin that makes the bargain valid.

(Robert Burton)

The term derives from Latin nobilis (well-known, famous), indicating those who were "well-known" or "notable" in society, and was applied to the highest social class in pre-modern societies. In the feudal system, 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 monarch or a higher-ranking nobleman. It rapidly came to be seen as a hereditary caste, sometimes associated with a right to bear a hereditary title and, for example in pre-revolutionary France, enjoying fiscal and other privileges.

While noble status formerly conferred significant privileges in most jurisdictions, today it is a largely honorary dignity in all nations, although a few, residual privileges may still be preserved legally (e.g. Netherlands, Spain, UK) and some Asian, Pacific and African sub-cultures may still attach considerable significance to formal, hereditary rank or titles.

Although many societies have a privileged 'upper class' with substantial wealth and power, the status is not necessarily hereditary and does not entail a distinct legal status, nor differentiated forms of address.

The French revolution that inspired ideals of democracy and the rule of the majority slowly changed the political landscape until today when nobility titles rendered them virtually powerless. In most European countries though, their influence is till rooted in the culture. Politically, the nobility has become largely ceremonial in nature, only to preserve traditions and cultures.  

Nobility is a historical, social and often legal notion, distinct from socio-economic status which is mainly based on income and possessions. Being wealthy or influential does not automatically make one a noble, nor are all nobles wealthy and influential (aristocratic families have lost their fortunes in various ways, and the concept of the 'poor nobleman' is almost as old as nobility itself). Countries without a feudal tradition do not have nobility as such.

Various republics, including the United States, Mexico, and Italy have expressly abolished the granting and/or use of titles of nobility - although the latter two did formerly recognize titles. Although many societies have a privileged 'upper class' with great wealth and power, the status is not necessarily hereditary and does not entail a separate legal status, or different forms of address.

One of the merits of which families can be particularly proud is their illustrious origin, which stamps a very important distinction between them and others of their class, especially when it is a matter of being descended from Sovereign Houses. 

This is due to the fact that all noble families have enjoyed, albeit in varying degrees for differing reasons, the superiority and prerogatives of their social status, while a distinguished origin for those who can demonstrate it gives a particular pre-eminence over others of their class, since that is what cannot be claimed by the other houses and on the other hand it is even held in esteem by those who show no respect for the nobility and the privileges enjoyed by it.

From this arises the desire to discover that the earlier generation of which Job wrote (Ch.8, v.8), which may be not only the most ancient but also the most illustrious. 

Yet it is to be admitted that the great Houses, beyond their direct and principal descendants whose continuous genealogy is certified by facts and historical documents, have had offshoots from secondary branches which themselves often constitute the origin of new houses, when these latter in no way contradict the illustrious derivation ascribed to them by reason of the importance of it.

This capital element should be taken into account when assessing the authenticity of assertions by heralds in respect of the derivation of sovereign Houses of Italian states and others for those families which are not themselves the historic house.

It can be demonstrated that in France there are today more than 300 noble names which issue from the blood of the Royal House in female lines and more than 300 families which include the fleur-de-lys in their ancestral arms.

With regard to these elements it is useless to quote the sources from which are drawn the descendant of the families concerned, being sufficient to consult the most notable heralds. In this respect will be found of the greatest use the Bibliography of Italian Genealogy produced by the Most Illustrious A. Gheno (Heraldic Review of the year 1915 and subsequently).

The political feudalism that Charlemagne had discovered in force under the Frankish Monarchy carried on in full vigor under his weak successors. It is thanks to that great King that it became widespread in the countries conquered by him, because he found it to be an opportune means of government, by means of concessions among which was foremost that of involving vassals in the authority of the Count; which thereafter had to be deemed to constitute a danger for the said royal sovereignty. 

When Charles the Fat was deposed in 887 the Kingdom of Italy found itself divided into numerous hereditary fiefs, kinds of Marches, of which the main ones were three: Friuli, to hold off the barbarians from the East, Spoleto and Camerino to resist domination by the Lombard element (the Dukes of Benevento) and Tuscany as a bulwark against a Saracen invasion. King Guy, the opponent of Berengar I, founded two more Marches, one to hold the northern Alps to which he designated his uncle Marquis Conrad and the other to hold the Western Alps which he entrusted to his brother Anscar.

Royalty, nobility, chivalry

The terms "royalty", "nobility" and "chivalry" seem to be taken from old ages. Nowadays a lot of people do not quite understand what they really mean.

"Royalty" means belonging to monarchs and their families.

"Nobility" means belonging to a class of persons distinguished by high birth or rank, possessing special hereditary privileges, rights and titles.In France the nobility was abolished under the Third Republic (1871-1945). In Germany, titles of nobility were abolished when the country became a republic in 1918. In Russia, titles of nobility were abolished by the Revolution of 1917. In Spain, titles of nobility still exist. In the United Kingdom the king (queen) still grants titles of nobility. The British nobility is divided into upper nobility and lower nobility. The upper nobility have the right to hereditary seats in the House of Lords.

"Chivalry" means the medieval system, principles, and customs of knighthood. The ideal knight should demonstrate knightly behavior: should be brave, loyal, generous, should take part in the Crusades to the Holy Land and should have good manners) and courtly love of women.

It is important to observe that the use of aristocratic titles in Italy is in no way outlawed, and historical titles are often used socially, with the titles of Cavaliere (Knight) and Dama (Dame) recognized in some cases. The Constitution of the Italian Republic did not abolish the use of noble titles, but established that they would not be recognized for use in legal documents after 1948.

While there exist no means to petition for "official" recognition of Italian noble titles or coats of arms, some private organizations, such as those associated with the former ruling dynasties, continue to recognize these.  The Italian Senate, consisting almost entirely of titled aristocrats, was appointed by the king. In Sicily, the nobility still exercised a certain amount of political and economic control until the early 1900s. In terms of social prestige, of course, the nobility remained the most important class. It still is.

The Italian Republic's recognition (for cultural purposes) of royal dynasties other than the House of Savoy served to bolster a return of adherence to nobiliary laws as these had existed before 1860. The dynasties of the Two Sicilies and Tuscany naturally recognize their own heraldic norms, rather than those of the House of Savoy. The two orders of knighthood (Order of Malta and Constantinian Order of St. George of the Two Sicilies) that recognize ancestral nobility for certain knights employ their own nobiliary standards, at least in theory, and in a few respects these differ from those employed in the Savoy dominions in recent centuries. Both dynasties maintain the tradition of chivalry by bestowing honors in orders of knighthood.

To some extent, it is a sense of historical memory, if not continuity, that distinguishes Italy's aristocratic families from others, but here we are reduced to generalities. For example, most noblemen did not support the revolution of 1848 or the arrival of Piedmont troops twelve years later, and in many noble families a certain oral tradition of these facts has been passed down to descendants born in the twentieth century. It is also true that certain noblemen, being quite secure socially, do not share most Italians' obsession with the superficial. Today, the main distinction of Italy's great noble families is their histories and the titles they bear.

One of the best general books on the history and traditions of the European nobility is Robert Lacey's Aristocrats (London, Boston, Toronto 1983), which describes titled families of five countries, including Italy.


"....For there is no denying that nobility, too, is a gift from God....

....Continue, therefore, to use this prerogative wisely; one truly noble use of it would be toward those who, though belonging to your class, do not subscribe to your principles. A few loving words from good friends could have a great influence on their minds, and a few prayers an even greater one. Tolerate with a generous heart the disagreements you may encounter. May God bless you your whole life long, as I pray Him to do with all my heart....

....Aristocracy, nobility, therefore, is a gift from God. Preserve it diligently, and use it worthily. You do so already with Christian and charitable works, to which you devote yourselves to the great edification of your fellows and to the great advantage of your souls....? (The allocution of Pius IX to the Roman Patriciate and Nobility on June 17, 1871).

Pope Pius IX was born in Senigallia, Italy, on 13 May 1792, the son of Gerolamo of the Counts Mastai Ferretti, and Caterina Solazzi, of the local nobility. He was baptized on the day of his birth with the name Giovanni Maria. Pope from 1846-78; Died in Rome, 7 February, 1878.

The Nobility of Italy comprised individuals and their families of Italy recognized by sovereigns, such as the Holy Roman Emperor, the Holy See, Kings of Italy or certain other Italian kings and sovereigns as members of a class of persons officially enjoying hereditary privileges which distinguished them from other persons and families. They often held lands as fiefs and sometimes were endowed with hereditary titles. Medieval "Italy" was a set of separate states until 1870, and had many royal bloodlines. Italian royal families were often related through marriage to each other and to other European royal families.

The Nature of Nobility

The Italian concept of nobility was very different from the English one. Whereas, in England, only a peerage bestows nobility on the holder, in France, nobility was a quality, a legal characteristic of the individual, which was held or acquired in specified ways, and which conferred specified rights and privileges. The manners of acquiring nobility being specific, Italian nobility aren?t the same as the English gentry either, which has no legal definition or status.

Nobility was usually a hereditary characteristic, but some forms of nobility could not be transmitted. When it was hereditary, nobility usually came from the father, but sometimes a higher percentage of noble blood might be required or that the family be noble for a certain number of generations. A nobleman marrying a commoner did not lose his nobility, but a noblewoman who married a commoner lost it, as long as she was married to the commoner.

Nobility was an important legal concept, in particular because of the privileges attached to it. Taxes were originally levied to help the sovereign in times of war; and since nobles were expected to provide help in kind, by fighting for their sovereign, they were usually exempted from taxes. This privilege lost its rationale after the end of feudalism and nobility had nothing to do with military activity, but it survived for the older forms of taxation until 1789.

Acquisition of Nobility

But one could also acquire nobility, and that was a numerically significant mode since the 16th c.

There were three main ways one could be noble:

By birth: usually, but not always, from the father, and the mother could be a commoner. Some regions of Italy allowed for transmission of nobility by the mother, but otherwise an edict of 1370 restricted transmission to the father. Bastards of nobles became noble when legitimated by letters of the sovereign, until 1600 when a separate act of ennoblement was required (royal bastards were always noble, even without legitimation).

By office: depending on the office, the holder of the office became noble either immediately or after a number of years, nobility was personal or hereditary, hereditary for 2, 3 or more generations, etc.

By "letters": that is, by royal grant.  The king could always ennoble anyone he wished. The earliest examples date from the last third of the 13th century. In times of financial distress, the king sold such letters of nobility, sending them blank to his provincial administrators.

Titles of Nobility

The status of nobility was a personal quality, inherited or acquired. Titles of nobility were a rank attached to certain pieces of land.  The two (nobility and titles) are therefore separate, although nobility was a pre-condition for bearing a title of nobility.  This explains, in particular, why so many noble families were untitled.

Among nobles, one also distinguished between cavaliere and scudiero (Squire). These were not titles, but ranks within the nobility.  Any nobleman, no matter how recent, was a scudiero, and only noblemen could be styled as such. Cavalieri (knights) were a subset of the nobility, which included all titled nobility, members of the orders of knighthood of the king, but also members of families of ancient nobility, even untitled. It should be noted that "cavaliere" was also used to refer to a member of an order such as the Knights of Saint John (a.k.a. Order of Malta) as well as members of royal orders: the use of the term makes it similar to a title but it was not; it simply indicated membership in such an order, a very common occupation for younger sons of the nobility.

Lord (signore/seigneur) was not a title.  The owner of a lordship, even a commoner, was its lord.  The term "lord" only meant "the possessor of a certain kind of property" in the feudal system, a mixture of actual real estate and rights over people (rents and fees could be collected from them, certain obligations could be imposed on them, etc).  Someone who was only a signore/seigneur was not titled. 

Italian Unification

In the sixteenth century Italy was not a unified country.  It was a collection of city-states, each with its own court and ruler, each attempting to gain power over the others. In addition to being a place of domestic intrigue, Italy was also a battleground for the power-hungry French, the Spanish, the Germans, and the forces of the Catholic Church under the Popes who were, in essence, as powerful as secular kings at this time. One of the major Italian city-states, the republic of Florence, had long maintained an alliance with the French, and when Pope Julius II defeated the French in 1512, Florence was defeated too. Pope Julius declared that he would not agree make peace unless Florence ceased to be a republic and accepted the Medici family as their rulers.

Italian nobiliary practices cannot be compared directly to those of other countries, such as Scotland or Russia. Even within Italy, regional differences must be considered because until circa 1870 the nation did not exist as a politically unified state.

The Nobility of Italy reflects the fact that medieval "Italy" was a set of separate states until 1870 and had many royal bloodlines. The Italian royal families were often related through marriage to each other and to other European royal families.

Until the 19th century, the peninsula we now call Italy was made up of many city-states. These independent nations exist under successions of various invading empires of the French, Turks, Germans, Austrians and Spanish. The individual states, although sharing a small geographical space, were each culturally unique. They spoke separate dialects, worshiped in different churches and had unique attitudes. The cultural movement of the 16th and 17th centuries created a sense of nationalism within the future Italy for the first time.

We must realize than less that 150 years ago Italy was comprised of about 10 separate small countries, and as result, great-great grandfather was not "Italian" but either Piemontese, Toscano, Veneziano, Modenese, Parmigiano, a subject of the Pope, or Napoletano , Siciliano, etc.

Prior to Italian Unification, the existence of the Kingdom of Sardinia, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (which before 1816 was split in Kingdom of Naples and Kingdom of Sicily), the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, the Duchy of Parma the Duchy of Modena, the Duchy of Savoy, the Duchy of Milan, the Papal States, various republics and the Austrian dependencies in Northern Italy led to parallel nobility with different traditions and rules.

In 1796, Napoleon, the Emperor of France, began his invasion of Italy and eventually liberated the city-states from the various foreign rulers. He politically unified them into the Kingdom of Italy, over which he proclaimed himself king. It is interesting to note that Napoleon was born Napoleone Buonaparte and later changed his name to the French Bonaparte, so he was actually Italian, not French. During his rule, Napoleon created Italy?s first centralized administrative, judicial and civil code. The feudalism that characterized prior centuries was virtually eliminated. The civil vital records for most regions began in 1809, during the Napoleonic era so we have Napoleon to thank for the many records we are able to discover today.

After Napoleon?s fall, Italy reverted to its reunification city-states and the European monarchs redrew their old boundaries. The north was ruled by the Austrian empire, the central region consisted of the Papal States and the south was ruled by Spain. Secret underground societies developed to encourage a free Italy. In the mid-1800s a movement called il Risorgimento (the resurrection) inspired a new Italy. During this political active decade between 1860 and 1870, il Risorgimento incited Victor Emmanuel II to unite the individual kingdoms into a single empire. By 1870, Italy as we know it was born.

Modern Italy became a nation-state during the Risorgimento on 17 March 1861, when most of the states of the peninsula and Kingdom the Two Sicilies were united under King Victor Emmanuel II of the Savoy dynasty, hitherto monarch of the Kingdom of Sardinia, a realm that included Piedmont. The architect of Italian unification was Count Camillo Benso di Cavour, the Chief Minister of Victor Emmanuel. Rome itself remained for a further decade under the Papacy, and became part of the Kingdom of Italy only in 1870. In September of that year, invading Italian troops entered the city, and the ensuing occupation forced Pope Pius IX to his palace where he declared himself a prisoner in the Vatican until the Lateran Pacts of 1929. The Lateran Treaty acknowledged all Papal titles created before that date and undertook to give automatic recognition to titles conferred by the Holy See on Italian citizens in the future

When Pius IX lost his papal territories, the city of Rome and his personal palace, the Quirinal, which was transformed into the seat of the Masonic government that usurped those properties of the Church, the Pope declared himself a prisoner in the Vatican to avoid the appearance of accepting the authority of the new Italian government and state. Aristocrats who had been ennobled by the Pope and were formerly subjects of the Papal States, including the senior members of the Papal Court, kept the doors of their palaces in Rome closed to mourn the Pope's confinement.

To manifest its solidarity with him, part of the Roman Nobility declared itself in a state of mourning and started to wear black. They were the most faithful followers of the Pope who rejected any compromise with the revolutionary new regime. Because of their mourning dress, those nobles who maintained allegiance to the pope. became known as the Black Nobility.

After the unification the kings of Italy continued to create titles of nobility to eminent Italians, this time with validity for all of the Italian territory. For example, General Enrico Cialdini was created Duca di Gaeta for his role during the unification. The practice continued until the 20th century, when nominations would be made by the Prime Minister and approved by the Crown. In the aftermath of World War I most Italians who were ennobled received their titles through the Mussolini government. When Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli became Pope in 1939, Mussolini had the title of Principe bestowed on the new Pontiff's late brother Francesco Pacelli, who had already been made a Marchese by the Holy See during his lifetime. After the invasion of Abyssinia the Mussolini government recommended further Italians to the king for titles of nobility. For example, Marshal Pietro Badoglio was created Marchese del Sabotino and later Duca di Addis Abeba, and General Rodolfo Graziani became Marchese di Neghelli.

In 1946, the Kingdom of Italy was replaced by a republic. Under the Italian Constitution adopted in 1948, titles of nobility are not legally recognized. Certain predicati (territorial designations) recognized before 1922 may be attached to surnames and used in legal documents, and in most cases these were historic feudal territories of noble families. A high court ruling in 1967 definitively established that the heraldic-nobiliary legislation of the Kingdom of Italy (1861-1946) is not current law.

Pius XII emphasizes vigor and fertility of works as characteristic of genuine nobility and encourages the nobles to contribute such qualities to the common good.

"Vigor and fruitful works! Behold two characteristics of true nobility, to which heraldic symbols, stamped in bronze or carved in marble, are a perennial testimony, for they represent as it were the visible thread of the political and cultural history of more than a few glorious cities of Europe. It is true that modern society is not accustomed by preference to wait for your class to "set the tone" before starting works and confronting events; nevertheless, it does not refuse the cooperation of the brilliant minds among you, since a wise portion thereof retains an appropriate respect for tradition and prizes high decorum, whatever its origins. And the other part of society, which displays indifference and perhaps disdain for ancient ways of life, is not entirely immune to the seduction of glory; so much so, that it tries very hard to create new forms of aristocracy, some worthy of respect, others based on vanity and frivolity, satisfied with merely appropriating the inferior elements of the ancient institutions" (1958 allocution to the Roman Patriciate and Nobility.)

In this paragraph, Pius XII seems to be refuting an objection possibly raised by discouraged aristocrats appalled by the egalitarian wave already spread throughout the modern world. According to these aristocrats, the world scorns the nobility and refuses to collaborate with it.

Regarding this objection, the Pontiff reasons that one can distinguish two tendencies in modern society in face of the nobility. One ?retains an appropriate respect for tradition and prizes high decorum, whatever its origins,? by which ?it does not refuse the cooperation of the brilliant minds among you.? The other tendency, which consists in exhibiting ?indifference and perhaps disdain for ancient ways of life, is not entirely immune to the seduction of glory.? Pius XII notes expressive evidence of this disposition of spirit.

In accordance with these observations, an adaptation to the modern world?so much more egalitarian than pre-World War II Europe?does not mean that the nobility should renounce its traditions and disappear in the general leveling. Rather, it means that it should courageously continue a past inspired by perennial principles. The Pontiff emphasizes the highest among these, namely, fidelity to the Christian ideal.

?Also do not forget Our appeals to banish from your hearts all despondency and cowardice in face of the evolution of the times, and Our exhortations to adapt yourselves courageously to the new circumstances by keeping your gaze fixed on the Christian ideal, the true and indelible entitlement to genuine nobility.? (1958 allocution to the Roman Patriciate and Nobility.)

In consequence, the nobles should not renounce their ancestral glory. Instead, they ought to preserve it for their respective lineages and, even more; for the benefit of the common good as the worthwhile contribution they are still capable of making. The Pontiff does not desire, then, the disappearance of the nobility from the profoundly transformed social context of our day. On the contrary, he invites its members to exert the necessary effort to maintain their position as the leading class among the groups that direct the present world. In expressing this wish, the Pontiff includes a singular nuance: The persistence of the nobility among these groups should have a traditional meaning, that is, a sense of continuity, of permanence.

Pius XII insists on the nobility?s permanence in the post-war world, so long as it truly distinguishes itself in the moral qualities it should manifest.

Pius XII knows that situation in all its minute details, particularly regarding the Roman nobility.

Indeed, he hails from a family decorated with high titles of nobility; and the top nobility is his natural sphere of relationships. His brother bears the title, Prince Pacelli. The Pope has an imponderable that recalls nobility: his tall and lanky profile, his gait, gestures and hands. This Pope, so universal and friendly with the lowly and humble, is very Roman and a very close friend of the Roman aristocracy.

The Holy Pontiff does not forbid the Italian nobility to seek a change in the form of government. But his speech in no way delves into what might be, in concrete, the best form of government for Italy. He limits himself to teaching what the role of the nobility is in a well-ordered democratic society and in the convulsions and anomalies of the present hour.

He also shows, in a monumental item in his luminous Christmas speech of 1944, that a well-ordered democratic society has nothing in common with the utopias and errors of revolutionary egalitarianism.

Pope Pius XII born Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli ; 2 March 1876 ? 9 October 1958), was the head of the Catholic Church from 2 March 1939 to his death in 1958. He is the last pope to take the name "Pius" upon his election. His pontificate coincided with the Second World War and commencement of the Cold War.

In reality, the crisis undermining the Italian nobility also affects, mutatis mutandis, all the countries with a monarchical and aristocratic past. It also affects those countries presently living under monarchical regimes whose respective nobilities find themselves in a situation analogous to that in Italy before the fall of the Savoy dynasty in 1946.

Even in countries with no monarchical past, aristocracies were constituted by the natural course of events, in fact if not in law. In these countries, too, the wave of demagogic egalitarianism born of the 1789 Revolution and brought to its height by communism, created in certain environments an atmosphere of resentment and misunderstanding in relation to the traditional elites.

According to the revolutionaries of 1789, the nobility was essentially constituted of pleasure seekers. Holding honorific and economic privileges, the nobles allegedly lived extravagantly off the merit and credit acquired by distant ancestors. This allowed them the luxury of enjoying earthly life, especially the delights of idleness and voluptuousness. This class of pleasure seekers was also highly burdensome to the nation and harmful to the poorer classes, which were hard-working, temperate, and beneficial to the common good. According to d´Argenson, "La Cour tait le tombeau de la nation" (the Court was the nation´s tomb).

This led to the notion that the life of a noble, with the station and wealth that normally accompany it, induces a moral negligence that sharply contrasts with Christian asceticism. This perception contains some measure of truth. The first signs of the terrible moral crisis of our day were already visible among the nobility and the analogous elites of the late eighteenth century. It is necessary, however, to stress that this perception is much more false than true and is harmful to the good reputation of the noble class.

In 1948, the republican Constitution of Italy abolished all titles of nobility. That dealt the final blow to the political scope of a class that was more than a thousand years old and is still vigorous today. And so, a social problem was created, one that was complex in all its aspects.

One can already perceive that complexity in the antecedents of the issue. Contrary to what occurs in other European countries such as France, Spain and Portugal, the composition of the Italian nobility is very heterogeneous. Before the movement for political unification took place on the peninsula, the various sovereigns who ruled over some part of its territory would grant titles of nobility: Emperors of the Holy Roman German Empire, Kings of Spain, of the Two Sicilies, of Sardinia, Grand Dukes of Tuscany, Dukes of Parma and others, not to mention the patriciates of cities like Venice, and the Popes?our special interest in this study. As temporal sovereigns of a relatively large nation, the Popes also granted titles of nobility. And they continue to do so to this day.

In 1870, when the unification of Italy was consummated with the invasion of Rome by the troops of Garibaldi, the House of Savoy tried to amalgamate all these elites into a single whole.

Politically and legally, the move failed. Many noble families remained loyal to the deposed dynasties, from which they had received their titles. Most notably, the Roman aristocracy continued to participate in Vatican solemnities, refused to recognize Italy?s annexation of Rome, rejected any rapprochement with the Quirinal Palace, and closed its drawing rooms in protest. That mourning nobility was called the black nobility.

From the social standpoint, however, this amalgamation did take place throughout the country, and in no small scale, by marriage, social relations, etc. so that the Italian aristocracy today is in many ways a single whole.

Art. 43 of the Lateran Accords secured the Roman nobility a special situation by recognizing the Pope´s right to confer titles of nobility and by accepting those previously granted by the Holy See. As a result, the two nobilities legally continued to exist side by side: the Italian and the Roman nobility.

Other factors of complexity were added to that situation. In the Middle Ages, the nobility constituted a social class with specific functions within the State and their corresponding tasks and honors.

During the Modern Era, this situation gradually lost its substance, shape and color. It suffered successive mutilations with the egalitarian revolutions of the 19th century to such an extent that the political power of the nobility in the Italian monarchy, as it existed at the end of the last war, survived merely as a ghost or a trace. And that trace or ghost, the Republic destroyed.

Now then, while the quickly descending curve of the political power of the aristocracy loomed large on the landscape of history, its social and economic situation followed the same course but only very, very slowly. With their farms, palaces, art treasures, the social prestige of their titles and family names, the eminent cultural and moral value of their traditional family ambiance, their manners and lifestyle, the nobility still found itself at the apex of the early 20th century?s social organization.

The crises arising from the First World War brought some change to that framework, depriving part of the noble families of their livelihoods and forcing many of their members to accept menial jobs unbecoming their psychology, habits and social prestige.

On the other hand, contemporary society was increasingly shaped by finance and technology, creating new relationships and situations and new centers of social influence totally unrelated to the classical stomping grounds of the aristocracy. And so a whole new order of things was born next to the old one, still alive. All this lessened the social importance of the nobility.

Finally, to the detriment of this class, adding to all this was an ideological element of absolutely primary importance. The worship of technological progress and equality, a fruit of the Revolution, created a climate of hatred, suspicion, slander and sarcasm against the nobility attached to tradition and founded on the type of inequality that demagoguery hates the most: that of blood and birth.

Clearly, the new and even worse economic collapse that the Second World War brought to many noble families, and the abolition of titles of nobility in Italy, caused all these problems to attain an extreme degree of severity. The acute crisis of a great social class was thus defined.

Contemporary genealogical functions in Italy

THE ITALIAN REPUBLIC was established by popular vote in a referendum held in 1946, democratically removing the Sovereign from the Throne. The laws of the new republic were to be very explicit indeed. The deposed monarch, King Humbert II, was exiled, his heirs forbidden from setting foot on Italian soil.

 The accusation of corrupted vote

The birth of Italian republic is a highly controversial historical passage in Italy, where suspects of fraud are advanced by monarchists.

As probably known, the results of the referendum were object of a deep protest by monarchists. They stressed that for a series of reasons these results were not true, had been falsely reported or interpreted.

It is also true that monarchists presented lots of judicial complaints: protesters assume that no one of them was examined, but actually the possibility that some of them really were not examined, seems to be concrete.

Concisely, monarchists estimated that some 3 million votes had been lost and stressed that this number was higher than the difference between respective votes.

Savoy descendants in exile

The new republican constitution was released together with a group of minor dispositions, the 13th of which prescribed that the male descendants of the Savoy family have to stay in perpetual exile. This disposition was abolished in October 2002, and Victor Emmanuel entered Italy with his family in the following December, for a short formal visit to the Pope.

The abolition of the exile follows a deep political and juridical discussion which lasted several decades. It's important to remember that today's Italy is a successor state to the Kingdom of Italy ruled by the House of Savoy until 1946. It is not the same nation state that was established by a far more dubious referendum - in which the Savoys were confirmed by an incredible 99% of the voting population.

The Republic today - observed on June 2nd - commemorates establishment of the Italian Republic by popular referendum on June 2nd 1946. Historical nuance of this kind escapes most Italians, who will simply enjoy an extra holiday.

Victor Emanuel II

Victor Emanuel II (Vittorio Emanuele Maria Alberto Eugenio Ferdinando Tommaso; 14 March 1820 ? 9 January 1878) was king of Sardinia from 1849 until, on 17 March 1861, he assumed the title King of Italy to become the first king of a united Italy since the 6th century, a title he held until his death in 1878. The Italians gave him the epithet Father of the Homeland (Italian: Padre Della Patria).

On 23 October 2002, the provision in the Constitution of Italy that prohibited Vittorio Emanuele's return to Italy was repealed, after he signed an agreement recognizing the Republic as the valid government of the state. Vittorio Emanuele was permitted to re-enter the country from 10 November 2002

Article 139 of the Constitution of the Italian Republic codifies the exile of the King of Italy and his male heirs, a provision being abrogated only fifty years later. On 27th September, 1947, the Italian Republic abolished titles. Those granted after 28 October 1922 are revoked (during the Fascist era) but those existing before then though no longer titles of nobility are recognized as part of the family name. In practice, however, and socially, titles whenever granted are borne now just as in the days of the monarchy.

The Founder of the Caputo Family Association was born in 1942, five years before the referendum.

In reality, after a period of uncertainty the Italian aristocracy continued to use their titles in the same way as they had in previous centuries. This behavior was cemented by the continued publication of Il Libro d'Oro della Nobiltá Italiana, (Golden Book of the Italian Nobility) published as much to prevent self-styled aristocrats social climbing as to list the established nobility. It is not an official publication of the Italian state, which does not recognize titles of nobility or personal coats of arms.

Although a democratic republic since 1946, Italy boasts two non-regnant royal families as well as three non-regnant grand ducal houses, each of which bestows honors upon Italian citizens. Three sovereign governments exist entirely within Italian borders, and each bestows honors as well.  few Italians are hereditary knights bachelor, forming a kind of Italian baronetage. Indeed, for a nation having no throne, and entertaining no serious plans for the re-institution of a monarchy, the Italian Republic is endowed with a plethora of gentlemen entitled to the ancient address "Cavaliere."

The parliamentary law of 1951 establishing the first order of the Republic while formally abrogating continued recognition of those orders bestowed by the exiled King of Italy constitutes the framework of Italian policy in this regard, but the statute itself makes it clear that Italian citizens decorated by the King of Italy before that date were not thereby deprived of pre-existing rights to their honors, decorations and forms of address, even if their court privileges and precedence were rescinded.

While the social use of the old titles of nobility was not banned, peers could no longer expect any legal precedence or other privileges. Their titles remained lawful only in so far as these could be incorporated into the surname. The Consulta Araldica (College of Arms) was formally abolished, its operations assumed by private bodies such as Colleggio Araldico, formerly a heraldry society. Although the Republic would not grant titles or armorial bearings, it would bestow knightly honors upon outstanding in citizens?titles which would confer little more than national recognition.

In the XIV transitory disposition of the Italian Constitution, noble titles have never been abolished, simply they are not recognized, but the fact they are not recognized just means that republicans are not interested in titles, that they are private wealth before being historic. The Constitutional Assembly could not deprive citizens of an inborn right, because it would be the same as if a law were approved in the future that canceled certain surnames. 

In Italy, so long as criminal impersonation is not involved, one may call oneself by any title of nobility desired based on principles of freedom of expression and the simple fact that such titles are not regulated in law in the Italian Republic.

The Sovereign Military Order of Malta recognizes certain titles, but it should be borne in mind that in the case of a knight in a nobiliary grade the juridical determinations of the Order of Malta focus principally on the status of hereditary nobility per se rather than titles held by firstborn sons. In theory, and certainly in law, the heads of Italy's extant royal dynasties (Savoy, Bourbon-Sicilies, Bourbon-Parma, and Hapsburg-Tuscany) may recognize titles of nobility. In practice, they rarely do. 


No private Organisation has the authority to recognize titles of nobility on behalf of Italy's royal dynasties or the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. This includes the Corpo della Nobiltá which, contrary to a popular misconception, is not a "college of arms," court of chivalry or "legal successor to the Consulta Araldica,"  


(While the president of Caputo Family Association is descended from an ancient lineage, he makes no claim to royal, princely or ducal against what might appear on some websites and makes no pretension or claim to be such) 

The Libro d'Oro (Italian: Golden Book), once the formal directory of nobles in the Republic of Venice, is now a respected directory - privately published - of members of Italian nobility. Following World War II and the fall of Fascism, democratic Italy officially abolished titles and hereditary honors in its republican Constitution. Titles bestowed after 28 October 1922 (i.e. after the rise to power of Fascism) were declared never to have existed.

The Caputo Family is registered in the "Il Libro D´Oro della Nobiltá Italiana" the Heraldry College of Arms. By visiting the pages Caputo name can been seen in different place such as: 

"Elenco delle famiglie che possedettero feudi in Contado di Molise fino al 1806" (List of families that possessed Feudal in Molise to the year 1806)

Under   "LEGISLAZIONE ARALDICO NOBILIARE"  (Legislation of Nobiliary Heraldry)

Elenco per famiglie delle Concessioni Ducali nel Regno delle Due Sicilie  1485 - 1806 (List of families that were obtained Ducal titles in the Reign of Two Sicilies 1485 - 1806)

Caputo Torano 27 feb. 1701 (esec. 30 apr. 1701)

Caputo Duca sul cognome 1724

Under " PATRIZIATO DELLA CITTA? DI NAPOLI (Patriarchs of the City of Naples)

C)    SEGGIO DI MONTAGNA (stemma: cinque monti di verde in campo d?argento): 25.  Caputo

E)     SEGGIO DI PORTANOVA (stemma: una porta d?oro in campo d?azzurro). Caputo


LIBRO D?ORO DELLA MELITA (Maltese Golden Book)

The Imperial Family of Hohenstaufen - Corrado (Caputo) of Antioch


NOBILI NAPOLITANI (Napolitan Nobles) 



Caputo - Armory of the Kingdom of Sicily
Families of the Sicilian nobility recognised from 1282 to 1860 



 Caputo - Tutte le famiglie reali, principesche e ducali italiane a partire dal 1700

(All Royal, Princely and Ducal Italian families since the 18th century)

(Heraldry Almanac of the Neapolitan Nobility) 
 Year 1880 - Page 36, Year 1882 - Page 168 , Year 1884 -  Page 145 , Year 1891 -  Page 75 , Year 1894 - Page 65, 73 , Year 1903 -  Page 89 , Year 1905 ? Page 91 
(Heraldry Almanac of the Neapolitan Nobility) 
 Year 1880 - Page 36, Year 1882 - Page 168 , Year 1884 -  Page 145 , Year 1891 -  Page 75 , Year 1894 - Page 65, 73 , Year 1903 -  Page 89 , Year 1905 ? Page 91
(Heraldry Almanac of the Neapolitan Nobility) 
 Year 1880 - Page 36, Year 1882 - Page 168 , Year 1884 -  Page 145 , Year 1891 -  Page 75 , Year 1894 - Page 65, 73 , Year 1903 -  Page 89 , Year 1905 ? Page 91



Most medieval Italian heralds were independent; one would never think to associate them with particular houses. Later, when Italy's rulers established courts of chivalry to regulate the use of arms, the courts—and the rulers—were too often foreign ones. Italy had far too many small duchies to allow for widespread heraldic control, and there were no Visitations.

 Thus, we find in Italy today no fewer than half a dozen unrelated families bearing the famous arms "azure a bend or". Doubtless the Lombard and Sicilian families sharing these arms never envisioned the day when both would be subjects of the same monarch, much less citizens of the same republic. Because the lawful possession of an ancient coat of arms by a family of distinta civiltad (distinguished gentility) constitutes lesser nobility in Italy, many nobili (landed, untitled nobles) and patrizi (patricians) lay claim to their rank in this manner.

This is significant because the group that Italians consider the "gentry" is little more than a largely non armigerous bourgeosie  emerged during the nineteenth century and today provides the vast majority of the political and commercial elite. The bearing of arms takes on even greater importance because Italian lacks onomastic prefixes (such as the French de and German von) designating noble origins.

With the abolition of the Consults Araldica (College of Arms) by the Republic, a non-official body (Colleggio Araldico) patronized by the House of Savoy assumed certain heraldic functions—primarily the recording of various families' titles and arms. In practice, the role served by Colleggio Araldico is aptly compared to that of Burke's and Debrett's in England. The Libro d'Oro della Nobilta. Italiana (Golden Book of the Italian Nobility) issued every few years by Colleggio Araldico lists blazons and concise pedigrees of titled families who remit a fee to defray high publication costs—this in addition to the price of the volume itself.

Hence, numerous names are absent from its pages, having become casualties of the economy or mere oversight. Prominent heraldic scholars, notably Count Guelfi Camaiani and Count Coccia Urbani, both Florentines, assist Italians with armorial claims. Grants of arms are only rarely devised by the two royal houses, and the Italian government exercises no authority in armorial.

In the middle of the twelfth century, during the Norman rule of much of Italy, coats of arms developed as distinctive insignia painted on the shields of knights and other nobleman. In combat, friend and foe could identify the fully armored knight, whose face was concealed by a helmet, according to the colorful design on his decorated shield. The same design appeared on his surcoat - hence the term "coat of arms." With time, the right to use certain (blazons), as well as feudal titles (i.e. count, baron, etc.), passed from father to son. Since these insignia and titles are incorporeal property of particular families, it is oblivious that unrelated families which by mere coincidence share their surnames (whether Ferrar, Rosso, Smith or Jones) cannot claim these coats of arms or titles of nobility as their own. To do so would like Mr. Johnson of Wales claiming the estate of the late Mr. Johnson of New York simply because he happens to have the same surname.

The hereditary nature of coats of arms and titles of nobility is readily apparent if their historical development is considered. So closely linked is heraldry to genealogy that the Italian word for coat of arms, stemma is the Latin for family tree. In most countries, including Italy, a coat of arms is an indication of nobility (i.e. hereditary aristocracy). Genealogical research is the only means of demonstrating this.

Some family historians appropriate for themselves (or their ancestors) coats of arms or aristocratic lineages drawn from references discovered from public libraries. The researcher probably shares no more than a surname with the famous family whose history he has claimed. Thousands of ordinary families coincidentally bear such famous surnames as Medici, Este, Grimaldi, Visconti, and Savoia, having no kinship whatsoever to the ancient dynasties which also bear these names.

Onomatology the study of proper name origins must be approached with caution. Any native speaker of Italian knows that Ferraro derives from the word for blacksmith, and that Rosso meant redhead; the origins of toponymic names (Veneziano, Calabrese, Milano) seem equally obvisious. However, the origin of a less frequent may depend greatly upon the dialect of the region in which the family originated. In other words, the same surname might have a particular derivation in Sicily, but another root in Piedmont. Unless the researcher knows the regional origin of the family, he might attribute the Piedmontese etymology to the Sicilian surname, or vice versa. Because Piedmontese is as distinct from Sicilian as Romanian is from French, onomatologies can vary considerably. While onomastic research is more likely to be accurate when the family's region of origin is known, most firms conduct such research without this knowledge. Furthermore, onomatologies attributed to certain surnames by some authors are flawed.

Onomastic conclusions are often flawed where patronymic surnames are concerned. The surname Di Cesere for example, derives from the acient Latin root Caesar, but this etymology has little to do with the familial use of this name in Italy today. In actuality, the Italian families who bear this surname descend from medieval ancestors who bore Cesare as a given name, having no descent from the Julian emperors of ancient Rome. By way of analogy, not every Frenchman named Louis descends form the Bourbon kings of France.

The accuracy of heraldic, nobiliary and onomastic knowledge depends upon genealogy; objective interpretation of these topics can spell the difference between real family history and fanciful family folklore.

These are some of the honorifics used in Italy.


As part of the republican constitution that became effective in Italy on, titles of nobility ceased to be recognized in law (although they were not, strictly, abolished or banned), and the organ of state which had regulated them, the Consulta Araldica, was eliminated.


1 However the so-called predicati — territorial or manorial designations that were often connected to a noble title by use of a nobiliary particle such as di, da, della, dei, could be resumed as part of the legal surname upon judicial approval for persons who possessed it prior to (date of Italian fascism 's accession to power). 

2 In practice, this meant that, e.g., "John Doe, Duke of Somewhere" or "Princess Jane of Kingdom" might become "John Doe di Somewhere" or "Jane della Kingdom", respectively.

Nonetheless, titles are often still used unofficially in villages, private clubs and some social sets. Signore and Signora (formerly signifying landed nobility) are translations of "Sir" and "Lady", used also in the military hierarchy and for persons in official positions or for members of a society's elite.

A few titles are also common in diminutive form as terms of affection for young people (e.g. Principino for "Princekin" or Contessina for "the Little Countess"). Re (King) / Regina (Queen) Principe (Prince) / Principessa (Princess) Duca (Duke) / Duchessa (Duchess) Marchese (Marquis) / Marchesa (Marchioness) Conte (Count or Earl) / Contessa (Countess) Visconte (Viscount) / Viscontessa (Viscountess) Barone (Baron) / Baronessa (Baroness) Coscritto (Select) no female equivalent Patrizio (Patrician) no female equivalent Nobiluomo – n.h./n.u. (Nobleman) / Nobildonna – n.d. (Noblewoman) Cavaliere Ereditario (Baronet) no female equivalent.

3 Use of the prefix "Don" as a style for certain persons of distinction spread to the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily during the Spanish domination of southern Italy in the 16th Century. Officially, it was the style to address a noble (as distinct from a reigning) prince (principe) or duke (duca), and their children and agnatic descendants.

Any Italian monarch (as in Spain) might informally be addressed or referred to with this prefix, for example King Carlos III of Spain was widely known in his Neapolitan realm as "Don Carlo". Genealogical databases and dynastic works still reserve the title for this class of noble by tradition, although it is no longer a right under Italian law. In practice, especially in the countryside, Don was also used as an honorific title for untitled noblemen, such as knights. The feminine is "Donna".