The aristocracy has been a unique and exclusive social order for many centuries. Since the nobility evolved into a formal hierarchy of ranks and titles during the Middle Ages, people from all walks of life have been fascinated by the lives of the esteemed and eminent members of the aristocratic ranks.
Throughout the centuries of the medieval period and the Renaissance period that followed, the members of the aristocracy have held an allure and appeal for many, from the historians of the times to the ordinary working classes.
These days the modern aristocracy remains a source of interest to many. The young nobles enjoy great popularity and interest on social media. Some of the more established or reclusive aristocrats are the subject of attention from the more traditional media such as newspapers, magazines, TV and radio.
While times have changed enormously since the medieval village folks lined the streets to watch the local nobles pass by in their sumptuous carriages, there’s no denying that popular culture is as captivated by the modern aristocracy as the most ardent fans and followers of the Middle Ages.
But who are the members of this esteemed and historically social group? Who belongs to the modern aristocracy? And how do these contemporary nobles live, work and spend their time?
Here are some insights into the lives of today’s modern nobles and their enviable lifestyles.
Hugh Grosvenor, 7th Duke of Westminster
One of the most famous modern aristocrats is undoubtedly Hugh Grosvenor, who is the latest in a long line of Dukes of Westminster, a dukedom created by Queen Victoria in 1874.
This young duke is one of the more well-known modern nobles due to his family’s substantial wealth. The Duke’s fortune is believed to be worth around £10 billion, so it’s not surprising that there are many in the media as well as the general public who are keen to follow his life and work.
Unfortunately for the interested parties, the Duke of Grosvenor is an unusually private individual. Unlike a great many of his generation, the young aristocrat has just a private account on social media, and has never opted for the celebrity of any of the many modern reality TV shows.
As appealing and intriguing as his life must be, the rest of the world is left to wonder about many of the precise details of day-to-day living for such a high-ranking and staggeringly wealthy modern aristocrat.
One thing that is common knowledge about the duke, however, is his fascinating lineage, which includes not only the historic dukedom but also ties to the imperial Russian family through his family links to the Romanov dynasty.
Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer
The current Earl Spencer is the latest to bear the title of his noble family name, which was formerly styled Viscount and Viscountess Althorp, the name of the family’s country estate in Northamptonshire.
A modern aristocrat in his own right, the Earl is perhaps best known for his famous sister, Diana, Princess of Wales who was married to the current king of England, King Charles III.
This close proximity to royalty has been an enduring feature of the aristocracy throughout the ages, and is a trend that is likely to continue as members of the nobility are frequently connected to members of royalty, both in terms of social engagements as well as through family ties and marriage.
For example, as the brother of Princess Diana, Earl Spencer is the uncle to the current heir to the British throne, Prince William, Prince of Wales, as well as his brother, Prince Harry.
Earl Spencer has had a very public and turbulent relationship with the modern media, featuring a number of disputes and debates, mostly relating to his famous royal sister. In recent years, he has been recognised for his work in preserving the memory of his sister Diana, including the burial place and museum in her honour at the ancestral family home of Althorp.
Peregrine Cavendish, 12th Duke Of Devonshire
Another notable noble of modern times is the current Duke of Devonshire, whose most famous role is that of the owner of the iconic Chatsworth House in Derbyshire.
Chatsworth House is one of England’s grandest and most beloved historic houses, welcoming thousands of visitors every year to its lavish rooms and vast gardens.
This aristocratic family home is perhaps the epitome of noble residences in the whole of England. Its calibre and stature made it the perfect representation of the fictional Pemberley from Jane Austen’s classic book, Pride & Prejudice when it was used in the film version featuring Keira Knightley as the famous heroine, Elizabeth Bennet. It’s even believed that Chatsworth House was in fact the inspiration for the great Pemberley mansion, as it’s well-known that Jane Austen travelled in the area.
The current occupants, the duke and his family, have taken on the role established by the previous owners to ensure the upkeep and maintenance of such a historic noble residence. The duke’s mother, Deborah Mitford (one of the famous Mitford Sisters), was renowned for her tireless work in maintaining the legacy of Chatsworth for future generations.
This pattern of stewardship is another enduring theme within the nobles of the ages. For centuries, new generations have inherited vast country estates, which may appear to be an enviable inheritance, yet they undoubtedly bring with them a great deal of pressure and lifetimes of work to maintain these ancestral homes for future dukes and duchesses.
Peregrine Cavendish is continuing this noble work and the great house of Chatsworth continues to thrive, both as a popular tourist destination and a valuable piece of English history.
These modern aristocrats may have inherited a rich legacy of noble tradition, along with the associated homes, assets and family fortunes. Yet the nobles of the 21st century have one thing in common with people from all points on the social spectrum – the desire to make their own name in the world, to put their stamp on their family history, and to enjoy life according to their values and passions, as much as possible – just like the rest of us.