Is America really an aristocracy now?
An insider says: How do the German nobility live today?
Remnants from a bygone era or a projection screen for (secret) longings? What is really behind the fascination for the Royals? And what social and pop cultural significance do they have? We are devoting a separate theme week to these questions on Vogue.de.
"My mother grew up in the country in a manor house. But because my father is a middle-class man, I don't have a 'von' in my name. Fortunately, my mother's marriage was never a problem for my grandparents Years ago in the same place that used to belong to a well-known German principality. There our ancestors served the princes as officers until they finally became farmers three generations ago. The current house was built in the 16th century. It is a special feeling when you know that something has been passed on for so many generations. I didn't grow up on the estate myself, but my grandparents still live there today. We are always with them at Christmas. The first time I even noticed that not every grandparent with a house like this was when we were supposed to draw a poster about our family in elementary school.
Even if only my mother grew up aristocratic, we are all shaped by it. The family is particularly important. Especially when you compare it to how others in my generation deal with the topic. The motto is: Family first. In the back of your mind you always have to think less about yourself and more about your family first. Your own actions should lead to the fact that the properties can be preserved or enlarged, especially lands. The coming generations should benefit from the current actions of the family. What many are not aware of: A large part of the nobility has financial problems. Maintaining lands, castles or manors costs a lot of money. All that glitters is not gold.
In contrast to other families, there is a lot of pressure in noble families. There may be more freedom with families who can afford it. But many families live in large houses for which they are admired or envied from the outside, but which they actually cannot afford. Agriculture alone cannot finance this. In addition, many noble families have lost their goods for historical reasons. In the Baltic States, for example, many have been expropriated - and some of them are still trying, for many decades, to buy them back from the state.
"In the back of your mind you always have to think less about yourself and more about your family first."
At home, nobility was all about values. The self-image of my mother's family, especially that of my grandfather, is that your own deeds ennoble you and that you have to live up to the title with your deeds. But especially if you are called Kleist or Bismarck, for example, you are always in the shadow of your ancestors. Stepping out of it is difficult. Especially because it is difficult to transfer this past into the modern age. This is hardly possible in everyday life. For example, if you have the title of prince and work in a normal job, there is a gap in between. There are some nobles who have emigrated to America and have completely abandoned their titles there. Simply because they wanted to free themselves from the pressure and reinvent themselves.
There is also some controversy about the nobility. Many nobles gloss over the past. There is hardly any awareness of what has historically been done wrong by one's own family. Instead, they prefer to talk about the positive achievements, such as the resistance against Hitler, which was initiated by noble families. I personally understand something like that as real nobility. Someone who stands up for his or her values, for interpersonal relationships and respect for others of all origins - without referring to the 800-year-old family history. So I think the British approach of being labeled a 'lady' or 'sir' is the way nobility can still have a place today. 'You have to rely on virtue, not on blood,' my grandfather always says.
I am gay myself. My family is ok with that. But I am often left out at balls of noble friends and acquaintances. Many take advantage of these events to get to know someone they can marry. Of course, that doesn't apply to me. Many nobles want to marry like-minded people and stay in the circles they know. They all have the same jobs - like bankers, diplomats, farmers and so on. I've now made my peace with it. I can't meet expectations anyway and see the balls more as an opportunity for new contacts. So I just see who is nice and interested in me as a person. Such a network can be helpful, after all, a lot of business is done among each other. On the other hand, it is also a kind of 'golden cage' that you can hardly break out of. Everyone knows everyone. Everything is incredibly tightly interwoven - if you want to be part of the game, you have to play it.
If one adorns oneself too much with a title or as a non-aristocrat marries nobly and accepts the name, that is frowned upon, because one was not born pure. Adoptions do not count either. Nobility cannot be earned in this form - that is in the nature of things. One cannot ascend into a certain position like everywhere else, but only be born into it. In the modern world, many nobles miss security and stability above all else. That everyone has their place. That is why most of them vote conservatively, to a large extent, the CDU. Important places in which to orientate themselves are university cities such as Bonn, Heidelberg, Berlin, Hamburg, Munich.
"Being noble polarizes. Everyone is fascinated, but nobody knows what is really behind it."
Perhaps many nobles want to be friends with other nobles or be together because they understand the inner struggle out of responsibility for the family history and their own happiness. On the other hand, there are also many nobles who want to keep their circle explicitly exclusive. Nobody should go in who does not meet certain criteria. I think this has a lot to do with self-affirmation. The aristocracy is a social hierarchy that is practically non-existent in our society today, but which is still artificially maintained by some. Tradition for the sake of tradition.
At school I was always the oddball, the weird nobleman. For example, when I told you that we listen to classical music at home, don't have a television or read books - which are actually not necessarily noble attributes, but rather values or traditions that we have cherished. As a teenager, I was often present at noble youth camps. These are classic registered associations. Basically nothing more than a rabbit breeders association. That was my opposite pole. You meet people from other noble families there. There I got the feeling that all of this was normal or even received praise. Then I felt right. Not because I imagined something on it. But simply because I was among like-minded people whose families had the same values as my family.
One can say that being noble is polarizing. Everyone is fascinated, but nobody knows what is really behind it. I stood between the worlds and could - at least now in retrospect - choose what I wanted to take over from both of them. I've always found it terrible that many are so conservative and not open to new ideas. It was clear to me early on that I wanted to distance myself from it. But it was also a process until I had the strength not to let it influence me anymore. I had to fight for freedom. "
More royal topics on Vogue.de:
The Vogue editorial team on Royals: Executive Editor Alexandra Bondi de Antoni and the Vogue editors talk about their feelings towards the royals.
Leading the way?With Meghan Markle, a woman of color married into the British royal family. What is the symbolic value of that? Author Kemi Fatoba investigates the question.
This is how German designers see the royals: They told us how they would dress the royals - and also drew sketches.
In conversation with a legendary aristocratic expert: Rolf Seelmann-Eggebert spoke to us about his job in the royal houses.
What would happen if a royal came out today? Author Florian Siebeck designed a "What if ..." scenario for us.
Princesses Revisited: Author Hanna Klimpe believes that the myth does not have to be abolished, but told differently. We show the strong female figures in the royal houses.
The royals should be abolished! Author Mary Scherpe on why royalty is a nonsensical elite fetish that has no place in a democracy.
An insider says: How do the German nobility live today? How does growing up in a noble family affect a young person? We spoke to someone who had this experience.
The 9 curious rules of British royalty: Never seafood and planned delays - the royal protocol has a few surprises in store.
Why everyone has a right to (royal) fairy tales: We were all born to be queen, writes author Alexandra Kruse. However, she has her own interpretation of it.
Why do so many girls want to be princesses, boys but not princes? Our columnist Fabian Hart has found four explanations for this.
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