There are obviously many perks and privileges to being a king or queen. While it’s clear from the characters of history that not all those born into the role of reigning sovereign are natural or even willing monarchs, there’s no doubt that there are considerable benefits to attaining the highest social position in the land.
The most obvious perks, at least witnessed from outside royal circles, are the sumptuous lifestyles. The lives of royalty throughout the ages have been synonymous with extravagant palaces of glittering gold, decadent parties, balls and entertainments, and vast banquets of the finest food and drink that money can buy.
In addition to the fine dining and luxurious abodes, royals have traditionally been clothed in the finest fashions and most expensive materials, they have travelled in the utmost luxury, comfort and style, and openly demonstrated their vast wealth with grand displays of priceless jewels, gems and diamonds.
These lifestyles – the ultimate fantasy for many ordinary people – have been the everyday reality for many of the royals throughout history. Alongside the sumptuous living, members of royalty have also customarily enjoyed unique privileges, freedoms, rights and powers that the rest of society can only dream about.
One such right and power, which could also be classed as an enviable privilege, is the ability to grant royal and noble titles as gifts. This is the aspect of royalty where the monarch in question turns their attention away from their own grand lifestyle and elevated position, and bestows their approval or appreciation upon their subjects and subordinates.
Royal Titles Granted As Gifts
As the head of the monarchy, a king or queen has the exclusive right to grant titles to their subjects.
While the nature of royal lineage has traditionally been the governing factor when it comes to royal status, it has historically been the right and privilege of sovereigns to grant royal titles as gifts, or for other, more strategic, reasons such as to secure an alliance or foster peace.
In medieval times, when the nations that we know today were less well-defined, the various territories were regarded as mini-kingdoms, in that the rulers of those lands were kings or queens. As a result, it was possible for some of the stronger leaders to apportion smaller lands to their favourites or most treasured subjects.
While it wasn’t common practice for a king to grant the title of king to a member of their circle – however deeply ran their gratitude – there were occasions when a subject could be gifted a small territory as a reward, and if this region grew into a principality in its own right, the favoured courtier would thus attain the royal title of prince.
The nature of these kingdoms and royal grants were much more fluid and informal during the Middle Ages, when the boundaries – both geographical and social – were much more blurred than they would become in the centuries that followed.
Another example of royal titles granted as gifts is that of the famous Medici family. As this 15th-century dynasty grew in power and influence – even attaining the position of Pope, the ultimate role within the mighty Catholic Church – the most powerful family members appointed other Medicis into the position of prince. However, given the nature and practices of this legendary family, it’s likely that these grants were more for power and strategic control than purely altruistic gestures.
Noble Titles Granted As Gifts
The granting of royal titles as gifts was a rare practice during the evolution of the social structures of the Middle Ages. Much more common was the practice of granting noble titles as gifts – an endeavour that gave rise to the social hierarchies that still endure today.
When a king or queen granted a noble title to an ordinary citizen (known as a commoner in royal circles), this was called ennobling. For example, if an ordinary peasant worker of the Middle Ages was granted the gift of a Lordship, they would assume a new rank and role within the nobility and this elevated status would be called an ennoblement.
This royal generosity or recognition is at the core of the entire system of the aristocracy. In fact, the nobilities of the world evolved from the practice of a king or queen granting a noble title to a subject, usually for loyal service or military prowess.
The earliest noble titles, such as those of Lord or Baron which rank among the most ancient aristocratic titles, were usually granted to a king’s right-hand man or trusted confidante. The roots of this practice stem back to Roman and medieval times, when kings and their subjects mixed more freely together in society.
The granting of a noble title by a king or queen was the traditional way for sovereigns to reward their most loyal acquaintances, or these esteemed titles may have been used as strategic gifts to assure advantageous support or allegiances.
This practice of granting noble titles continued throughout the entire evolution of the aristocracy, from the earliest times of the Roman Empire and throughout the medieval period and the Renaissance.
The noble and aristocratic titles and roles that we know today are the legacies of these gifts of ennoblement granted by the kings and queens of history.
Modern Royal and Noble Titles
In modern times, the granting of noble titles is increasingly rare, and the bestowal of royal titles even more so.
Modern societies have moved away from the sovereign states that were so prevalent during the Middle Ages, with many nations rejecting their monarchies and declaring a republic regime that was deemed to be more egalitarian and just.
So there are fewer monarchs in positions of power who could grant royal or noble titles, and of those that do remain, the custom to reward subjects with noble titles is much reduced.
Yet the royal right to grant titles as gifts does endure to modern times, for example in the New Year’s Honours Lists, when notable persons are granted a Knighthood or Damehood in recognition of their contributions.
While the days of powerful sovereigns doling out aristocratic ranks as thank you gifts may be over, it’s still possible for ordinary people to attain royal favour and elevate their social rank by performing great works and contributing outstanding service to their king or queen and country.