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Weird History

What Did It Actually Mean To Be "The Nobility" In European History?

They toppled monarchies, caused civil wars, and occasionally lost their head to the guillotine's blade. Despite their darkest moments, however, members of the aristocracy have fascinated and beguiled us common folk for centuries with their lavish lifestyles. Whether ensconced in the gilded cage that was Versailles, or running amuck marrying "cash-for-title" heiresses to keep their castles from crumbling, the European nobility formed privileged ranks.

But how did someone become a noble? It began with military victories in the Middle Ages, then soon turned into a matter of bloodlines, and proceeded to become quite confusing and pretentious after that. While always subservient to their ruler (at least in theory), the nobility has more than once turned the world on its head and sent history in a totally different direction; how this unique and tightly formed social group came to dominate the world stage for so long is a fascinating story that reaches back through the centuries.

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