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Facsimile of a German magazine of 1900 titled Mittheilungen an die Mitglieder des Geschlechtsverbandes des zum fränkischen Uradel gehörigen Geschlechtes Derer von Eberstein stammend vom „Eberstein“ auf der Rhön.

Uradel (German: "ancient nobility"[1]) are those families in northern European nobility whose noble rank extends sufficiently back in time that their time of ennoblement is unrecorded. The term came into use in the 19th century.

Germany and Austria[edit]

Uradel are noble families whose ancestral lineage may be traced back at least to the Late Middle Ages, approximately the second half of the 14th century. In contrast, Briefadel, are families of post-medieval nobility, ennobled by letters patent issued by a monarch. Allegedly influenced by French practice, the earliest letters patent conferring nobility in Germany were issued under Charles IV (r. 1346–1378).[2]

The term was first used in 1788, and assumed its present-day meaning no later than 1800.[3][4] The term is found in the Almanach de Gotha from 1907, where it applies to all persons and families known to have carried specific titles of nobility before the year 1400.

Uradel and other noble families are further divided into the categories adlig (noble and knightly), freiherrlich (baronial), and gräflich (comital). According to a more strict definition, described in Der Große Brockhaus in 1928 (vol. 1, s.v. "Adel"), an attestation prior to 1350 is required to establish Uradel status.

A similar term used more often than Uradel in Austria was alter Adel ("old nobility").[5]


The term Uradel can be found in Scandinavian genealogy from the early 20th century. The contrasting term Briefadel was calqued as brevadel.[6]

The 1926 edition of the Swedish Nordisk familjebok also cites 1350 as the required date, because "the oldest known letter patent dates to 1360".[7] The letter patent referred to here is that issued by Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV to Wicker Frosch, a burgher of Frankfurt, on 30 September 1360. In Norway, one of the earliest known letters patent is of 1458.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Godsey 2004, p. 58.
  2. ^ Ursula Siems, Kurt Kluxen (1979). "Politik, Gesellschaft, Wirtschaft von 800 bis 1776". In Tenbrock, Kluxen, Grütter. Von Zeiten und Menschen 2. Paderborn. pp. 39–41. 
  3. ^ William D. Godsey (18 November 2004). Nobles and Nation in Central Europe: Free Imperial Knights in the Age of Revolution, 1750-1850. Cambridge University Press. pp. 57–59. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511496752.004. ISBN 978-1-139-45609-8. 
  4. ^ Jacob Grimm, Deutsches Wörterbuch erst im 19. jh. gebraucht zur bezeichnung ältesten adels. ("in use only from the 19th c. for the designation of older nobility"), citing Eichhorn (1821, 1827).
  5. ^ Granichstätten-Czerva, Rudolf von (1947). "Altösterreichisches Adels- und Wappenrecht". Adler. Zeitschrift für Genealogie und Heraldik (1.4): 49–58. 
  6. ^ Salmonsens Konversationsleksikon (1915: 169)
  7. ^ Nordisk familjebok (1926:1120)