For many people around the world, calling to mind the typical idea of an aristocratic lifestyle likely includes a whirl of glamourous social events, dwelling in vast opulent palaces, the finest dining experiences and prestigious luxury travel.
These stereotypical ideas around a typical aristocratic lifestyle are no doubt based on the stories and legends of some of the world’s most famous nobles. These often include the wealthy and infamous noble characters from history, as well as some of the more contemporary high-profile aristocrats.
While it’s true that, historically, a great many of those in the higher echelons of society enjoy a privileged and rarified existence in comparison to the everyday people in the working and middle classes, it’s also true that the life of an aristocrat is not always pure decadence and frivolity.
Noble Values & Aristocratic Lifestyles
In the earliest days of the aristocratic classes, a range of noble values distinguished those selected to be the chosen favourites by the kings and queens of old.
These values include such traits as altruism, duty, service, honour, responsibility, and loyalty. These characteristics were what singled out the earliest nobles to become a new class that would evolve into the aristocracy.
The term aristocracy originally meant, the power (or rule) of the best, a reflection of the calibre of those chosen to be the right-hand men of the monarch, or the sovereign’s delegates in governmental roles.
So, it’s perhaps not surprising that back then, as now, the lifestyles of those in positions of nobility would include a strong element of duty, service and charitable acts.
While the lives of many modern aristocrats may appear to be privileged and glamourous, for a great number of modern nobles there is still a strong code of duty, to both the family name and society on the whole, which can include a wide range of charitable services.
For example, many nobles are patrons of various organisations that serve the public and work towards the greater good. They may be on the board of such groups, or involved in fundraising, or they may appear at public events to represent their causes.
These types of roles are typical of many aristocrats who embrace the idea that they are public servants, that they must use their privilege and influence to give back to society in some way.
Commitments, duties and responsibilities of this kind can be quite time-consuming and demanding, calling for a good deal of effort and attendance from these noble patrons.
So, the vision of a continual round of gaiety and glamour may be an inspiring idea for novelists and movie-makers, but many aristocrats would tell you that it’s not an accurate reflection of every noble lifestyle.
Another characteristic of nobles through the ages is the idea of being a humble servant, and so even those aristocrats who spend a great deal of time and energy doing charitable works or serving society in some way do so in a humble and unassuming manner, without fanfare or needing recognition and reward.
The Glamour Of Aristocratic Living
While there’s undoubtedly a very strong theme of altruism and service in the lives of many aristocrats, it’s also true that they do occupy a world that tends to include more of the finer things in life than that of many ordinary working people.
Whether it’s the gala dinners brimming with champagne and delectable canapés, or weekends at the family’s stately home, even the charitable works of aristocrats can be viewed as a delightful round of luxury residences, fine dining and social elegance.
After centuries of being regarded as the epitome of social excellence, there’s undoubtedly an expectation for aristocrats and nobles to uphold a certain degree of sophistication and refinement.
This is perhaps why so many nobles throughout the ages have appeared to be well-dressed or exquisitely groomed, especially when attending high-profile social functions.
Historically, there have also been expectations for nobles to display their wealth in obvious ways, in order to establish their role of power and influence in politics or society. These demands have led to a class of individuals renowned for donning expensive jewels – tiaras, brooches, rings, earrings, necklaces etc – and dressing in exquisitely tailored clothes created by the top designers or the finest fashion houses.
A duty to represent a fine family heritage, as well as the likelihood of press attention at society events, means that many nobles feel a duty to dress their best when in public, which no doubt adds to the idea of a glamourous aristocratic lifestyle.
While the tiaras at dinner may no longer be a requirement, modern media attention and the prevalence of camera phones no doubt add to the pressure for the aristocratic classes to dress well and be presentable, smart and impressive as often as possible.
Of course, there have always been exceptions to this rule – e.g. the nobles who love to dress down and wear clothes with holes in, perhaps as a reaction to their affluent heritage, or an attempt to close the gap between the upper classes and the rest of society. Yet these nobles are often regarded as notable or even eccentric precisely because they contrast with the commonly held view of the refined and elegant aristocratic lifestyle.
The expectations of nobles and aristocrats held in the minds of ordinary people have been created over centuries, with many generations adding to the image of what is a typical aristocratic lifestyle.
While there may be a higher standard of public respectability and charitable service, beyond the fine homes, expensive clothes and fancy dinners, many nobles – past and present – enjoy quite ordinary, simple lifestyles for much of the time.
Throughout the many centuries of noble living, there has often been a common desire for aristocrats to favour some of the quieter, simpler lifestyles that many ordinary people may regard as dull or boring.
Simple hobbies and pastimes such as gardening, painting, enjoying nature or craftwork have been a beloved part of many famous nobles and aristocrats, even those who had the fortunes and influence to travel the world in luxury or dine at the best tables.
Perhaps these more prosaic pastimes are particularly pleasurable because they provide a contrast to what may be a constant round of social gatherings or dressed-up finery.
While all of the above may be typical of aristocrats throughout the ages, what’s certain is that each has lived an individual life to a greater or lesser extent, choosing to adopt their own unique version of aristocratic living.