Corpo della Nobiltà Italiana

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The Corpo della nobiltà italiana (Italian, 'Body of the Italian Nobility'), sometimes referred to as CNI, is a private association established in 1957 in order to protect heraldic and nobility rights of Italian nobles after the republican constitution (in force since 1948) ended the public recognition and safeguard of nobility titles (including the condition of noble without title).

Italian nobility[edit]

Italy became a single State in 1861 when during the Risorgimento of the Parliament of the Kingdom of Sardinia – elected for the first time with representatives of all territories already conquered or otherwise annexed – adopted its first law which stated: "King Victor Emmanuel adopts for himself and his successors the title of King of Italy". The Sardinian constitution, or the so-called Albertine Statute, remained in force for whole Italy[”Notes” 1] stating that “Nobility titles are maintained to those who have right to them.[”Notes” 2] Thus, unified Italy had several Nobility laws, one for each pre-unitarian State: that is why its College of Arms, called Consulta araldica ('heraldic council'), was organised in several “regional” commissions, each corresponding – more or less – to a pre-unitarian State in order to apply the latter nobility law. A single nobility law started as late as 1926 when the female succession, still valid up to then in the former kingdoms of Naples, Sicily and Sardinia (only the island of Sardinia), was abolished. Titles could be granted to the eldest male (as in Frankish tradition), to all males (as in Langobard tradition) or to all family members; in all cases, all family members are noble, the condition of "noble" being the title which pertained to all members of families with or without other titles. Members of family where only the eldest male hold titles are indicated with "Noble of the [title of the eldest male] (plural)": for example, if Mr Rossi is granted with the title Baron of Nothing whose succession is for the eldest male, all his issue will be Mr Antonio Rossi Noble of the Barons of Nothing and Miss Valentina Rossi Noble of the Barons of Nothing, and the same will apply to all of his descent by male line. Official lists of all Italian families and noble people were published in 1921 and 1933.

Nobility under the republic[edit]

Following the establishment of the Italian Republic in June 1946, a new constitution entered in force in 1948, stating that "Nobility tiles are not recognized". As a consequence, they are “out of the world of law”: administrative powers may not use them and judges cannot appreciate their existence.[”Notes” 3] Their use is not forbidden, but there is no public safeguard against misuse.

The association[edit]

In order to overcome this lack of safeguard, some Italian aristocrats founded in 1955−1957 the Corpo della Nobiltà Italiana, with the aim of protecting the historical and heraldic rights of Italian nobles.[1] We can note that the word “heraldic” is always used by the CNI lato sensu, that is, considering all functions of heralds, not only relating to heraldry but also to all nobility issues. CNI bodies called “heraldic” are related to whole nobility issues and not only heraldic ones stricto sensu. The first offices were:[2]

  • Prince Emilio Guasco Gallarati, Marquis of Bisio, chairman;
  • Marquis Don Annibale Brivio Sforza, Marquis of Santa Maria in Prato, vice-chairman;
  • Don Enrico Amat of the Marquesses of St. Philip, vice-chairman;
  • Prince and Marquis Don Alerame Pallavicino, chancellor;
  • Baron Alessandro Monti della Corte, treasurer.

Some years later, the association merged with the previous Unione della Noblità Italiana (UNI, Union of Italian Nobility), founded beforehand on the example of the French Association d'entraide de la noblesse française (ANF). In 2020 some members of the Sardinian delegation of the CNI give life to a new CNI whose website is which unlike the first is uniform to the recognitions of the Italian Republic, regarding the noble titles of feudal predicates, officially recognized and protected by the Republic Italian.


The CNI aims to keep up to date the official lists of Italian Nobles, by applying rigorously the rules stated about the matter, the last ones being the Ordinamento dello stato nobiliare italiano (organisation of the Italian nobility) in 1943 (which of course has never been modified and will never be by the republican Italian institutions).[”Notes” 4] People entitled to be inscribed are: 1 – those already inscribed in the official registrars; 2 – those who had a grant of a nobility title (including the mere title of Noble) after the publication of the lists; 3 – legitimate and natural issue of the latter, meaning issue that is both legitimate, thus excluding children born out of lawful wedlock, and natural, thus excluding adopted children; children whose parents married after their birth are considered as fully legitimate as for the scope; 4 – illegitimately born children in whose act of legitimacy the succession in nobility titles is expressly provided (this could only happen during the kingdom); 5 – those who prove their descent by a man who had not been included in the lists at that time but whose right is proven according to the applicable rules.

Other aims are mutual assistance among Nobles, deriving from UNI tasks, and social events for young noble people.


Only Nobles can be part of the CNI. Some regional associations allow also wives of Nobles, not Noble themselves by birth, according to the fact that the wife follows the husband's nobility condition.[3] Due to the same rule, CNI states that noblewomen by birth cannot be elected to any office while married to a non-noble man.[4]


At local level[edit]

The CNI is composed of 14 regional Nobility associations, reflecting the organisation of the Heraldic Council (consulta araldica) in the Kingdom of Italy. Each one is autonomous and has a proper statute. They are:

  1. Piedmont (including Aosta Valley)
  2. Liguria
  3. Lombardy
  4. Veneto (including Friuli)
  5. Trentino (presently not operating)
  6. Julian March, Istria and Dalmatia
  7. Parma and Piacenza
  8. Modena and Reggio
  9. Tuscany
  10. Romagne (Papal Emilia and the whole Romagna)
  11. Latium, Umbria and Marches
  12. Neapolitan provinces: they include Campania, Abruzzo, Molise, Apulia, Basilicata and Calabria
  13. Sardinia[”Notes” 5]
  14. Sicily

Each association elect a “heraldic-genealogical commission” composed of 6 to 21 members for compiling the regional nobility registrar and assessing requests of inscriptions. Each commission elects within its members a chairman, a vice-chairman, a secretary, a delegate to the Central heraldic body (see below) and a vice-delegate.

Each association can be governed by a council, composed by a president, a vice-president, a chancellor, a treasurer, some counsellors and the representative of the youth club, but there is actually no difference between council and commission in all regional associations.

At central level[edit]

The CNI itself is governed by a National heraldic council (Consiglio araldico nazionale, sometimes referred to as CAN), composed by all members of regional commissions and the president of the youth club. This body elects the offices and decides main issues both as far as organisation and nobility matters are concerned. The CAN elect a chairman, six vice-chairmen, a chancellor, a treasurer and the representative in the CILANE.

Nobility issues and chiefly the rights to titles (including the mere title of Noble) are decided by a Central heraldic body (Giunta araldica centrale, sometimes referred to as GAC), composed by the 14 delegates of the regional commissions. They elect a chairman among all members of regional commissions and one (or two) of them as vice-chairman.

All CNI members aged less than 35 years are part of the CNI Youth club (Corpo della nobiltà italiana - circolo giovanile, also called referred to as CNI-CG),[5] that organise social events at national and international level. They elect a president, a vice-president, a secretary, a treasurer and the CILANE youth delegate and appoint a delegate in each regional association among its young members.

In case of problems between associates, the CAN elect a Court of honour (meaning it judges on matters relating to honour and reputation; in Italian, Corte d'onore, always referred to as “Corte d'onore”), composed by three ordinary members and two deputies, expert in law. Ordinary members elect one of them as chairman.

The main CNI ruling body is actually the Board of directors (ufficio di presidenza, sometimes referred to as UP), composed by:

CAN chairman;
CAN 6 vice-chairmen;
CAN chancellor;
CAN treasurer;
CAN delegate to the CILANE;
GAC chairman;
Chairman of the Court of honour;
President of the youth club, whenever youth issues are discussed.

A unique role[edit]

CNI consider themselves not to be one nobility association among the several ones existing in Italy, but as the nobility association par excellence.[6] This self-esteem depend on different facts:

  • the king in exile, H.M. Humbert II, considered to be still fons honorum depending on his being a non-defeated monarch (or, according to other authors, due to the illegitimate establishment of the Italian Republic with respect to agreed-upon rules), gave the association his high appreciation in the task of recognizing nobility titles;[7]
  • most Italian nobles recognize its role and task;
  • in recognitions of titles, they strictly apply the existing rules of the Italian State (which the Italian Republic simply chose not to apply, but that were never declared as illegitimate), meaning that, should the State ever restart to recognize nobility titles, rules application would lead exactly to the same recognitions made by the CNI.

Not all observers share this view,[8] with various arguments. Nevertheless, the important role played by the CNI as a representative of Italian Nobles is recognized by the CILANE, which recognize the Corpo della nobiltà Italiana as their only Italian member. Tight cooperation with the Order of Malta is operating, too, reaffirming the CNI authority in nobility questions. Lastly, in case of doubts titles are used as CNI officially state them by the Union of Italian clubs, most of which still use nobility titles for social purposes.

List of chairmen[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ By that time, Italy encompassed the entire peninsula except for Latium (present provinces of Viterbo, Rome, Latina and Frosinone, which were the remaining Papal State) and present regions of Trentino-Alto Adige, Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, or the so-called “Venices”, which were part of the Austrian Empire. The Veneto and the Friuli were annexed in 1866, the Latium in 1870, the Trentino-Alto Adige and the Venezia Giulia in 1918−1919 after World War I, together with Istria, passed afterwards to Yugoslavia in 1945 after World War II.
  2. ^ Article 79.
  3. ^ According to a 1967 sentence by the Supreme Constitutional Court.
  4. ^ Approved through Royal Decree N. 651 dated 7 June 1943. Its text can be found here Archived 2013-10-17 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ The association of Sardinia seceded from the CNI in 2010.
  6. ^ Emilio being the first name and Guasco Gallarati a double surname.
  7. ^ Annibale being the first name and Brivio Sforza a double surname.
  8. ^ Doimo being the first name and Frangipane and Strassoldo a double surname.


  1. ^ The CNI articles of association can be found in the Sardinia association website (by clicking on Statuto e Elenco Nobiliare Sardo, then on Statuto del Corpo della Nobiltà Italiana) (in Italian).
  2. ^ L. Michelini, CILANE et CNI, p. 17, n. 13.
  3. ^ Ordinamento dello stato nobiliare italiano, art. 12.
  4. ^ Massimario del CNI, N. 6
  5. ^ Whose website contains plenty of sources about the Italian nobility (in Italian).
  6. ^ L. Michelini, CILANE et CNI, p. 11
  7. ^ L. Michelini, CILANE et CNI, p. 12−16
  8. ^ L. Michelini, CILANE et CNI, passim
  9. ^ L. Michelini, CILANE et CNI, p. 17, n. 15
  10. ^ Although the actual surname is Barbiano, this house is usually called Belgiojoso.


Michelini di San Martino, Luigi (2010). "C.I.L.A.N.E. et C.N.I.: que signifient-ils ces deux acronymes pour les nobles italiens? Un demi-siècle au service de la noblesse". Notiziario dell'Associazione nobiliare regionale veneta – Rivista di studi storici – Nuova serie (in French). La Musa Talìa. II (2): 7–23.