; male, abbreviated as Frhr.
; his wife, abbreviated as Frfr.
, literally "free lord" or "free lady")
, his unmarried daughters and maiden aunts) are designations used as titles of nobility
in the German-speaking areas of the Holy Roman Empire
, and in its various successor states, including Austria
, etc. Traditionally it denotes the titled rank within the nobility
) and Edler
(nobility without a specific title) and below Graf
) and Herzog
(duke). The title superseded the earlier medieval form, Edelherr
It corresponds approximately to the English baron
orthography of the German language, however, references the French nobility title of Baron
, itself of Germanic origin, as corresponding to the German "Freiherr"; and that Baron
is a corresponding salutation for a Freiherr
Freiherr in the feudal system
The title Freiherr
derives from the historical situation in which an owner held free (allodial
) title to his land, as opposed "unmittelbar" ("unintermediated"), or held without any intermediate feudal tenure; or unlike the ordinary baron, who was originally a knight (Ritter
) in vassalage
to a higher lord or sovereign, and unlike medieval German ministerials
, who were bound to provide administrative services for a lord. A Freiherr
sometimes exercised hereditary administrative and judicial prerogatives over those resident in his barony instead of the liege lord
, who might be the duke (Herzog
) or count (Graf
Freiherr vs. Baron
The German-language title of Freiherr
is rendered in English as "Baron", although the title was derived separately in the two languages.
Even in German, a Freiherr
is often styled as and addressed by the more elegant, Latin equivalent "Baron" in social circumstances, although not the official title.
Separately, in the 19th century some families of the Baltic German nobility
who had historically carried the title of Freiherr
were recognized by the Tsardom of Russia
as noble in the form of ukases
additionally awarding the equivalent Russian title of Baron
. When in 1919 privileges to members of dynastic and noble families were abolished by the constitution of the Weimar Republic
and hence titles became part of the last name some members of the affected families chose to be officially named Freiherr
while others preferred Baron
to emphasize their Baltic-German heritage. This is why members of the same family can have different official last names.
The original distinction from other barons was that a Freiherr'
s landed property was allodial instead of a fief
Barons who received their title from the Holy Roman Emperor
are sometimes known as "Barons of the Holy Roman Empire" (Reichsfreiherren
), in order to distinguish them from other barons, although the title as such was simply Freiherr
. Since the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, Reichsfreiherren
do not at present belong to the noble hierarchy of the realm. By a decision of the Congress of Vienna
in 1815, their titles were nonetheless officially recognised. From 1806 the then independent German monarchies, such as Bavaria, Württemberg and Lippe
could create their own nobility
, including Freiherren
(although the Elector of Brandenburg had, as king of the originally exclusively extraterritorial Prussia
even before that date, arrogated to himself the prerogative of ennoblement
). Some of the older baronial families began to use Reichsfreiherr
in formal contexts to distinguish themselves from the new classes of barons created by monarchs of lesser stature than the Holy Roman Emperors, and this usage is far from obsolete.
Prior to abolition of nobility
As with most titles and designations within the nobility
in the German-speaking areas of Europe, the rank was normally hereditary and would generally be used together with the nobiliary particle
(sometimes both: von und zu
) before a family name.
The inheritance of titles of nobility in most German-speaking areas was not restricted by primogeniture
as is the baronial title in Britain. Hence, the titles applied equally to all male-line descendants of the original grantee in perpetuity: All legitimate sons of a Freiherr
shared his title and rank, and could be referred to as Freiherr
. The wife of a Freiherr
is titled Freifrau
(literally "free lady"), and the daughter of a Freiherr
is called Freiin
(short for Freiherrin
). Both titles are translated in English as "Baroness".
and some other countries in northern Europe, the title of Freiherr was, as long as the monarchy existed, usually used preceding
a person's given name
(e.g. Freiherr Hans von Schwarz
). In Austria-Hungary
, however, it would be inserted between the given name and the family name (e.g. Hans Freiherr von Schwarz
Since abolition of nobility
After the First World War
, the monarchies were abolished in most German-speaking areas of Europe, and the nobility
lost recognition as a legal class in the newly created republics of Germany
The Republic of Austria abolished hereditary noble titles for its citizens by the Adelsaufhebungsgesetz
of 3 April 1919
and the corresponding decree of the state government.
The public use of such titles was and still is prohibited, and violations could be fined. Hans Freiherr von Schwarz
, as an Austrian citizen, therefore lost his title of Freiherr von
and would simply be named as Hans Schwarz
in his Austrian passport.
In practice, however, former noble titles are still used socially in Austria; some people consider it a matter of courtesy to use them. The late Otto von Habsburg
, in his childhood Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary, was styled Otto Habsburg-Lothringen
in his post-1919 Austrian passport, and Otto von Habsburg
in his German passport (he was a Member of the European Parliament for Germany).
In 2003, the Constitutional Court (Verfassungsgerichtshof
) ruled that an Austrian woman having been adopted by a German carrying an aristocratic title as part of his name is not allowed to carry this title in her name. The Federal Administrative Court (Verwaltungsgerichtshof
) in a similar case asked the European Court of Justice
whether this Austrian regulation would violate the right of the European Union
; the European Court of Justice did not object to the Austrian decision not to accept the words Fürstin von
as part of an Austrian woman's name.
The German republic, under Article 109 of the Weimar Constitution
of 1919, legally transformed all hereditary noble titles into dependent parts of the legal surname
. The former title thus became a part of the family name, and moved in front of the family name. Freiherr Hans von Schwarz
, as a German citizen, therefore became Hans Freiherr von Schwarz
. As dependent parts of the surnames ("nichtselbständige Namensbestandteile"
) they are ignored in alphabetical sorting of names, as is a possible nobiliary particle
, such as von
, and might or might not be used by those bearing them. Female forms of titles have been legally accepted as a variation in the surname after 1919 by a still valid decision of the former German High Court (Reichsgericht
). The distinguishing main surname is the name, following the Freiherr, Freifrau or Freiin and, where applicable, the nobiliary particle – in the preceding example, the main surname is Schwarz
and so alphabetically is listed under "S"
Similar titles have been seen in parts of Europe that have historically been dominated by Germany (in the cultural sense): the Baltic States, Austria–Hungary, Sweden, Finland and to some extent in Denmark–Norway. Swedish and Danish–Norwegian title
From the Middle Ages onward, each head of a Swedish noble house
was entitled to vote in any provincial council when held, as in the Realm's Herredag
, later Riddarhuset
. In 1561, King Eric XIV
began to grant some noblemen the titles of count (greve
) or baron (friherre
). The family members of a friherre
were entitled to the same title, which in time became Baron or Baronessa colloquially: thus a person who formally is a friherre
now might use the title of "Baron" before his name, and he might also be spoken of as "a baron".
However, after the change of constitution in 1809, newly created baronships in principle conferred the dignity only in primogeniture.
In the now valid Swedish Instrument of Government (1974)
, the possibility to create nobility is completely eliminated; and since the beginning of the twenty-first century, noble dignities have passed from the official sphere to the private.
, the title of Friherre
was of equal rank to that of Baron,
which has gradually replaced it. It was instituted on 25 May 1671 with Christian V
privileges. Today only a few Danish noble families use the title of Friherre
and most of those are based in Sweden, where that version of the title is still more commonly used; a Danish Friherre
generally is addressed as "Baron".
The wife of a Danish or Norwegian Friherre
is titled Friherreinde
, and the daughters are formally addressed as Baronesse
With the first free Constitution of Denmark
of 1849 came a complete abolition of the privileges of the nobility. Today titles are only of ceremonial interest in the circles around the Monarchy of Denmark
In 1561, the Swedish king Eric XIV
conferred the hereditary titles of count and vapaaherra
("baron") on some persons, not all of them nobles. This prerogative was confirmed in the constitutional arrangements of 1625. All family members of vapaaherra
(baronial) families were entitled to that same title, which in practice, came to mean that they were addressed as Paroni
. The Finnish nobility
shares most of its origins with Swedish nobility
. In the beginning, they were all without honorific titulature, and known just as "lords". In subsequent centuries, while Finland remained an autonomous grand duchy
, many families were raised in rank as counts, vapaaherra
s, or as untitled nobles. Theoretically, all created vapaaherra
families were given a barony (with some rights of taxation and jurisprudence), but such fiefs were only granted in the 16th and 17th centuries. Thereafter the "barony" was titular, usually in chief of some already-owned property, and sometimes that property was established as a fideicommiss
. Their property tax exemption continued into the 20th century, being, however, diminished substantially by reforms of the 19th century.
- ^ a b "Freiherr – Britannica Online Encyclopedia", Britannica Online Encyclopedia, 2008, webpage: EB-Freiherr
- ^ A number of English-language historians specializing in Germany do not translate Freiherr. Agatha Ramm in Germany 1798–1919 (1967) states that she is preserving Freiherr because Baron carries a different association in English.
- ^ Duden; Definition of Baron, der (in German). 
- ^ a b Johannes Baron von Mirbach: Adelsnamen, Adelstitel. C.A.Starke Verlag, Limburg an der Lahn, 1999, ISBN 3-7980-0540-0
- ^ For example: Karl-Theodor Maria Nikolaus Johann Jacob Philipp Franz Joseph Sylvester Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg
- ^ Nobiliary particles used by German nobility
- ^ "Law in the original version of 1919".
- ^ "Decree of 18 April 1919 in the original version".
- ^ "CURIA – Suchformular". curia.europa.eu.
- ^ a b "Friherre". ARTbase.dk.
- ^ The formula used is that a person "upphöjdes i friherrlig värdighet jämlikt 37 § 1809 års regeringsform, innebärande att endast huvudmannen innehar friherrlig värdighet"; literal translation: "was raised to the dignity of baron in accordance with §37 in the Instrument of Government (1809), implying that only the head of the family possesses the dignity of baron". The formulation is found, for example, with reference to the family Bildt in the 2013 edition of the Sveriges ridderskaps och adels kalender: that family was ennobled much earlier than 1809, so all its (agnatic) members belong to the untitled nobility, with the exception of a single baron; the great-grandfather of Carl Bildt was created a baron in 1864, but, because this was after 1809, Carl Bildt is just an untitled nobleman while his cousin Lars Bildt is a baron.
- ^ "Friherre". Gyldendal.
- ^ "Vor tids grever og baroner (in Danish)".
Last edited on 10 June 2021, at 03:31
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