nobility,n. pl.1.Persons of social or political preeminence, usu. derived by inheritance or from the sovereign. • In English law, there are various degrees of nobility, or peerage, such as dukes, marquises, earls, viscounts, and barons, and their female counterparts. Nobility is generally created either by a writ of summons to sit in Parliament or by a royal grant through letters patent, and was once usu. accompanied by a large land grant. Nobility by writ descended to a person’s bodily heirs. The modern practice is to grant nobility by letters patent, which provide limitations as to future heirs. The U.S. Constitution prohibits granting a title of nobility. U.S. Const. art. I, § 9, cl. 8.
“In England nobility is apt to be confounded with the peculiar institution of the British peerage. Yet nobility, in some shape or another, has existed in most places and times or the world’s history, while the British peerage is an institution purely local, and one which has actually hindered the existence of a nobility in the sense which the word bears in most other countries…. Nobility, then, in the strict sense of the word, is the hereditary handing on from generation to generation of some acknowledged pre-eminence, a pre-eminence founded on hereditary succession, and on nothing else…. The pre-eminence so handed on may be of any kind, from substantial political power to mere social respect and precedence.” 17 Encyclopaedia Britannica 538 (9th ed. 1907).
2. Persons of high or noble character. 3. The collective body of persons making up the noble class.
[Blacks Law 8th]