Nobile, traditionally abbreviated to Nob., is an Italian title of nobility ranking between that of knight and baron. As with some other titles of nobility, such as baron or count, nobile is also used immediately before the family name, usually in the abbreviated form Nob.. Sometimes is also abbreviated to "N.H." or "N.D." for women.
The word “nobile” is derived from the Latin “nobilis”, meaning honourable.
The heraldic coronet of a nobile is composed of a jewelled circlet of gold surmounted by five pearls, either on stems or set directly upon the rim. The armorial shield of a nobile is surmounted by a silver helm displayed in a ¾ side-view and surmounted by the coronet already described. A noble entitled to wear a coronet of noble status also customarily displays it above the shield in the full heraldic achievement associated with the particular title in question.
Following the creation and formal proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy, the existing Consulta Araldica, thenceforth denoted as the Italian Heraldic College, was updated to include an additional title of nobility, that of nobile, as the lowest rank in the hierarchy of Italian titles of nobility (but compare cavaliere ereditario, patrizio and coscritto). The terms by which the Consulta Araldica existed were, therefore, amended to include the addition of article 8 of the Royal decree dated 8 May 1870. Its great innovation lay in altering the coverage of the terms of noble patents by stipulating that the use of a title of nobility was no longer restricted to the first-born, as had previously been the case according to article 20 of the regulations governing such titles.
Prior to the creation of the Kingdom of Italy, the Heraldic Court of Milan (the legal body empowered to decide on matters regarding titles of nobility) awarded and registered the term nobile as a title of nobility, until Napoleon's army overran the Austrian Habsburg-controlled Duchy of Milan in 1796. When such a title was granted, the coat of arms of the new “nobile” was entered into the Book of Coat of Arms of Maria Teresa of Austria (kept today by the State Archives of Milan - ASMi) along with a painting of the arms concerned. The records of such grants and the depiction of their corresponding arms show that, at that period, the title of nobile did not include the right to have a corresponding coronet of rank.
In practice, the rank of nobile had existed for centuries, used to denote either titled nobles (baron, count) or the younger sons (cadets) of a titled nobleman. In this connection, it should be noted that by 1800 many signori (lords of the manor) in Sicily and vassals in Piedmont were recognised as barons, whereas formerly they would have been simple nobili.
The Italian Republic does not recognize titles of nobility. The Italian Constitution of 1948 abolished the Consulta Araldica, and with it any official registry of titles of nobility in use up to that time. There is, nonetheless, a private organisation, the Association of the Italian Nobility (Corpo della Nobiltà Italiana), which seeks to promote and continue the work of the former royal Italian heraldic regulatory entity, the Consulta Araldica.
References and notes
- J. H. Pinches: "European Nobility and Heraldry", Heraldry Today 1994, p. 146
- E. Genta, "Titoli nobiliari", in AA.VV., Enciclopedia del diritto, Varese 1992, vol. XLIV, pag. 674-684.
- Regolamento della Consulta araldica, approvato con regio decreto del 8 maggio 1870.
- Enciclopedia Storico-Nobiliare Italiana, MCMXXVIII - ANNO VII
- Archivio di Stato di Milano
- Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage of the UK.- 1914 ed.