TV Casting for Nobility?? Sunday, Sep 28 2008 

By William Pherrel

Unbelievable but true, a casting show in Germany began airing a casting show to find the most suitable partner for four gentry candidates (one of which is a true Count) and hopes in this way to find the most suitable partner for the lucky hopefuls.

For the sake of the show, all four noblemen were given the title of Count in their search for a Countess, and were of course accompanied by a television camera and crew guaranteeing the highest possible level of quality, and in the interests of the broadcaster, a high audience quota. The German television broadcasting station SAT1 is hoping to attain at least an 11% audience quota with over 2 million viewers (which is excellent for German television viewer statistics, but that is besides the point …)

The idea is based on the reality TV shows popular the world over like “America’s Next Top Model” and similar. For the Europeans of course, the nobility is still a relatively interesting and current topic, even though noble families are hardly ever seen in public or heard of in the press. All the more interesting is it to see citizens in “elevated” positions in this kind of television show with the intention of convincing one of the candidates of why she should pick him, or better yet, why she was chosen by him. Only at the end of the show, is it intended to reveal the true colors of the four gentlemen and of course who the real Countess will be.

Like I mentioned earlier, only one of the candidates is a true Count – Moritz Count to Reventlow, who incidentally is the innovator of the show. The other three bear titles of letter aristocracy, meaning that, members of the letter aristocracy were issued a letter of nobility from a higher noble, typically a King or Prince at some time in history. The name is then passed on from generation to generation. Thus the other three candidates Benedikt von Hobe, Michael von Miller and Constantin von zur Muelen are merely of heritable noble descent, indicated by the “von” in their names and are by no means from direct royal lineage. In fact, Michael von Miller’s descendants were given a peerage as recently as 1875, being merely a nobleman of the court.

In any case, the show is promising to be highly entertaining and is groomed to all levels of viewers. This might perhaps be the beginning of a renewal of concrete interest in matters of peerage and nobility, as the public eye is drawn to a topic that has been long forgotten – the German (and European for that matter) heritage of heraldry.

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Castles for sale … Monday, Sep 15 2008 

Growing Trend — Castles for Sale

By William Pherrel

Well, now things are getting increasingly interesting. I have mentioned in my earlier posts that there is a rising trend in the purchase of noble titles, now there seems to be a rising trend in the sale and purchase of castles!!

There are only a small number of castles for sale in the UK per year and a number of castles in Scotland have come on the market in recent years. On continental Europe, castles in France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Slovakia, the Ukraine and the Czech Republic have come onto the market, at least as far as I have discovered so far.

Perhaps one of the most famous purchases in recent months has been that of a three year lease for the French castle Chateau Miraval by Angelia Jolie and Brad Pitt, near the tiny village of Brignol in southern France. Actually, it is more of a mansion than a castle, but whatever the case may be, the price tag matched the property — $ 60 million with 1,000 acres!! The castle itself has over 35 rooms, billiards rooms, an indoor pool, gyms, sauna and jacuzzi and a marvelous banquet hall. Of particular interest is a recording studio installed by one of the previous owners, Jacques Loussier, which has been used for recordings by Sting, The Cranberries and Pink Floyd, to name a few. The estate is surrounded by gardens and a moat and includes even a fountain and a chapel. A vineyard modernized in 1993, an olive grove (with 13 different types of olives) and a mixed forest of evergreen and oak add to a very private and secluded atmosphere, all set back three miles from the main road.

Owning a castle is of course, not something for just anyone. Alone the heating costs and potentially problematic electrical and plumbing, are sources of constant maintenance. The upkeep of the grounds and outer facades of the buildings themselves is also a substantially high cost factor. Some privately owned castles are partially open to the public and therefore require a certain amount more maintenance, including the provision of public toilets and/or souvenir shop. Generally however, the larger privately owned castles are located away from touristy districts and are not open to the public.

There is a surprising number of castle types to choose from. Beginning with ancient several hundred year-old defensive castles and ending with brand new turreted castles complete with swimming pool and other luxurious installations. Depending on the location and age of the castle, the prices can begin with as little as a mere dollar for complete ruins (albeit with the requirement to renovate and/or to keep up the grounds for tourism purposes), or perhaps $ 1 million for a relatively small but renovated castle, up to the above mentioned $ 60 million and even more. The price also depends on the amount of property belonging to the castle and its prior owners, usually of some kind of royal descent.

Of course, the definition for “castle” has been altered over time. In the Middle Ages, a castle was designed to defend the noble families residing in them and were fortified with a protective outer wall surrounding the complex. However, as in the case of Pitt’s and Jolie’s Chateau Miraval, this is far less a castle and would be strictly defined as a stately home or mansion once belonging to a noble family of the French court. The modern castles of today include a broad spectrum of ornately designed homes to larger complexes, housing hotels and/or restaurants.

Whatever the case may be, the purchasing of castles will become most certainly a growing lucrative opportunity for their owners, as the continuously rising upkeep costs prevent them from investing badly needed funds in a cause that may be only historical in nature. Another factor – those castles in Eastern Europe could become more interesting, as many of their owners are unable to afford any kind of upkeep and are looking for rich dollar-owning individuals seeking investment opportunities or quite simply, a very secluded spot to rear their children.

French Titles for Sale … Wednesday, Sep 10 2008 

By William Pherrel

It is simply amazing what I have discovered in the last few days ever since I first began my research on the purchasing of noble titles. It seems that there are quite a few sources to procure so-called noble titles in Britain (See my post on Aug. 19, 2008), but it is apparently possible in other European countries as well.

Let’s have a brief look at France. The legal status of nobility was abolished in 1789 and has since then never been reinstated. Titles in the sense of hereditary marks of honor were re-established in 1808, abolished in 1848, restored in 1852 and remain as such to this day.

It must be noted here, that these are mere titles to be considered as a part of the legal name and offer no privileges or ranking within the nobility, as is often the case in Great Britain. The French Revolution (1789–1799) had completely done away with nobility and titles, whereas a legal system of titles was later reinstated in 1808 by Napoleon Bonaparte I, albeit, without any particular privileges attached – again to be abolished by decree in 1848 to be in turn annulled in 1852 after Napoleon III restored the Empire. The following governments have to date not passed any changing laws on the subject of titles and have left the French courts to determine for themselves how to resolve problems evolving out of title claims and the hereditary passing on of titles.

According to the Constitution of 1958, all citizens are equal, thereby nullifying the concept of nobility once and for all. The establishment of the French Republic in 1875 left the title bearers in a state of pendency requiring a series of court cases to determine their legal status. This has in the meantime, been well established, where the president of France has ceased to grant or confirm any form of titles. The state however, continues to authenticate them, the courts protect them and criminal courts can prosecute their abuse.

As in the case of German noble titles (as mentioned in my earlier blog), the titles remain merely an integral part of the family name but are, for various reasons not equally inheritable. The original granting or creation of the title determines the rules of inheritance (possible only through the male family line, for example) and serve only as an accessory to complement the identity of family members.

Consequently, the only way to acquire a title legitimately is to inherit it in accordance to these rules. It cannot however, be earned or purchased and consequently used as a legitimately recognized title.

Scottish “peerage” titles for sale?? Tuesday, Sep 9 2008 

Another trend — Scottish “peerage” titles for sale!

By William Pherrel

I have mentioned in an earlier blog that the only genuinely purchasable noble title is that of Scottish baron. But first, I would like to explain what a baron is.

“Baron” takes its origin from the old French word baron, itself having its roots from the Frankish baro, which means “freeman” or “warrior.” It was later combined with the cognate Old English word beorn meaning “nobleman” and is essentially known among the Scottish as “Laird.”

William I of England (1027 – Sept. 9, 1087) or otherwise know as William the Conqueror, had first introduced the title of baron as a rank to distinguish those who had vowed allegiance to him. Until then, the king’s companions bore the titles of Earl in England and Thane in Scotland. All those who bore the new title became equally “in chief of the king” and were thus pledged to undertake various services and were welcome to attend the king’s council.

The rank of baron is the last in the consecutive list of ranks beginning with Emperor, King, Prince, Grand Duke, Archduke, Duke, Marquess, Margrave, Count/Earl, Viscount and finally ending with Baron.

The legal right to bear this title is now obsolete in England but has remained in Scotland, merely related to the feudal nobility of Scotland; meaning, the holder has feudal superiority over a given territory set up into a “free barony” or manor by a Crown Charter, but does not possesses a rank of peerage. Hence, the Scottish Baron is classified merely as Lord of Parliament.

With this in mind, it would be erroneous to conclude that the purchase of the baron title would automatically provide the bearer with a rank within the peerage or nobility of Scotland or England. The Scottish barony titles can either be bought in one’s own right as a single owner, or on a shared basis, i.e. co-ownership of shares within a lordship or manor. The purchase prices range from approximately $ 1,000.00 to approximately $ 120,000.00 and are on a first come first serve basis.

In 2004 for example, the title of Baron of MacDonald was up for sale, along with the Knock Castle in Skye for $ 1.5 million. In this case, the single title bearer would then be considered to possess the lordship of Knock Castle. A similar lordship can be shared however, where the purchaser can obtain the title of Baron for a much lesser sum. Being that there is a limited number of lordships to claim (as such titles were once connected to the “free barony’s” territory, the scarcity of land dictates the number of titles to claim, as well as the value and worth of said titles.

To Those Interested in International Trends Tuesday, Aug 19 2008 

How to Get Your Own Royal Title???

By William Pherrel

Recently I had been doing a bit of research involving the acquisition of noble titles for non-royalty and was astonished to discover the following.

(I would appreciate your comments on this blog entry, especially if some of the information presented is fragmentary or incomplete. Of course, those of you who may be interested in obtaining a genuine peerage title, please feel free to contact me, as I have made some interesting contacts during my research that could be of great help.)

In England (and even in the United States), it has become a money-making opportunity under the guise of so-called “gift ideas” to sell noble titles ranging from approximately $ 49.00 for non-official titles to over $ 160,000.00 for apparently genuine titles, depending on the type and “authenticity” of title. Titles for sale include: Sir (Knight), Lord or Lady, Baron or Baroness, Viscount or Viscountess, Earl/Count, Countess, Marquis or Marchioness, Duke or Duchess and in some cases even Prince/Princess. Impossible to attain through purchase are obviously the genuine titles of King/Queen.

The discussion of the validity of such “purchased” titles has hence gained the attention of the royal families respectively, and has lead to the founding of various societies and commissions operating at international levels to protect the interests of regal houses.

On the website of one particular commission, harsh words were used to describe “modern day pirates who impersonate, and by their fraudulent declarations defame, those who hold authentic titles and valid claims” when attempting to denigrate the various internet sites and press sources that offer the sale of nobility titles. Whereas this could very well be fraudulent in the eyes of commissions, societies and genuine title bearers, it has yet to be proven that such acts are truly punishable by law.

What truly needs to be taken into consideration here, is the differentiation between the acquisition of titles through purchase and the transfer of a title through marriage, birth, adoption or by way of example, traditionally, through the Sovereign of that particular country, e.g. the knighting of Sir Elton Hercules John, CBE (Knight Bachelor) by Queen Elisabeth II of the United Kingdom on the 24th of February, 1998.

While it is perfectly legal to change your name through a registry office or similar, it remains only that, a name, and is for the most part quite inexpensive. Whatever one decides to call oneself, it will not give them a title, noble or otherwise, no matter what the investment might be. The purchase of a genuine noble title is simply not possible in any country, with the exception of Baron in Scotland.

In this case, when purchasing land as part of a transaction where a noble title is to be transferred, there are a few guidelines to be taken into consideration, especially because so very few genuine titles of nobility can be transferred for money at all. These “manorial” titles can be sold without land attached, but remember, these are in no way titles of nobility! Peerage titles have not been sold for centuries, a topic much discussed among many historians, especially concerning the validity of such purchases. Scottish baronial titles, if indeed genuine, used to be sold together with a minimum of a couple of acres and had to be agreed upon by the governing Lord Lyon or decided upon by the Court of Session in Kidston-Montgomerie of Southannan (1951 SLT [Lyon Court] 3) who possessed valid superiority, but even this has been recently changed by law.

In Germany however, I have stumbled across several websites offering through marriage or adoption, truly genuine titles (albeit German) to solvent individuals seeking a noble title for the purpose of bettering their corporate image or for various personal reasons to gain recognition in upper class circles. (See Aristokratie.org) According to German legislation passed in 1919, the noble titles do not remain as such, but are judicially acceptable as a name supplementation the world over. With that, it remains an integral part of the family name and can continue to be passed on through adoption or marriage. A good example is the name of a German politician, Hermann Otto Solms whose official title is Hermann Otto Prince of Solms-Hohensolms-Lich; or the late sociologist Max Graf zu Solms, whose official title is Maximilian Ludwig Count of Solms-Roedelheim and Assenheim. The title in front of the name is no longer allowed.

Obviously, there is a price attached. The fee descriptions are not readily available on the websites, as it is sought to reach only those who are truly interested in attaining a genuine title and not a “gift idea” nor for other vain purposes. The honorarium is generally in the six-figure realm and is usually agreed upon during a personal meeting with a member of the family in the strictest of confidence. The ensuing procedure of marriage or adoption is generally carried out in absolute confidentiality through a solicitor and notary office for the protection of the original title bearer from unnecessary press coverage which seeks to scandalise such ventures.

To conclude, according to my research so far, this seems to be the only truly legitimate method to attain genuine noble titles at least in Germany (and perhaps in other parts of the world). Noble titles will continue to be obtained through purchase, but their authenticity remains yet to be taken seriously and the dubious sales are not to be taken lightly. If one is “guaranteed” a genuine noble title for the price of up to $ 160.000,00 only to later discover that the title is a fake, it is nearly impossible to get the money back, as the purchaser is considered to have partaken in a contract that is binding. In the modern world of Internet, it is always worth the investment of time spent researching the claims, before a monetary investment is made, filling only the pockets of possible scammers.