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  #1  
Old 06-03-2012, 10:54 PM
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How Nobles & Royals Earned their Living?

I'm a big fan of watching movies with old English settings, such as literature adaptation films (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, etc), even Sherlock Holmes and Wolfman (2010).

I'm always fascinated with the life of the nobles depicted in those movies; living in a huge mansion, dining with formal attire on, surrounded by full time servants who live within the compound (such as in Brideshead or Downton Abbey). So from where I see in them, they seem to live a life of eternal financial security.

I was wondering, how did (or do) the nobles earn their living?

As far as I know, they have land that they lease it to the peasants/farmer surrounding their territory. But is that all?

I imagine if the nobles and royals are still widely prevalent in current time, most of them would be listed in Forbes 400 of richest individuals or something.
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Old 06-03-2012, 11:03 PM
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Most of the original wealth came from the ownership of the land and the rents etc that the peasants, or others, paid for the land.

When the Industrial Revolution came along many of them invested in factories etc to diversify their income stream.

They also invested in other wealth creation.
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Old 06-03-2012, 11:49 PM
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The Princely House of Thurn and Taxis made their money by having an almost monopoly over the postal service of the Holy Roman Empire.
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Old 06-04-2012, 03:32 AM
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Land=Wealth was the basic formula. Also there was no such thing as the minimum wage so all those servants were paid what the nobles thought they were worth. Good, high ranking servants were well paid or not depending on how genrous their masters were.
By the 18th/19th century many of the British nobles were becoming poorer because of new taxes etc. So they found a new source of income, rich heiress'. Suprising how good a miners daughter or an american can look when she comes with lots of cash. In Downton Abbey that you mentioned, the Countess is an American who came with a huge dowry.
Some of the European nobles, like the Thurn und taxis earned their money through business but most were huge landowners. Even today some of the families still own vast tracts of progitable farming and timber. The Lippes come to mind (though the socialist govt. in that german state is trying to steal their land in the name of conservation).
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Old 06-07-2012, 02:54 PM
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didn't some of the royals rely on queen victoria for money
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Old 06-07-2012, 05:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Tsar bobo Iv View Post
didn't some of the royals rely on queen victoria for money
In the beginning of her reign QV was herself quite poor, most of the families wealth came from an injeritance from some really rich bloke who had a fascination with QV. She may have supported some of her relatives, like the Tecks and Battenbergs but I don't think she supported any of the general nobility.
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Old 06-07-2012, 06:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Iluvbertie View Post
They also invested in other wealth creation.
Don't forget investing in privateer ships, Privateer - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
And of course trading with India and the Far East. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_India_Company
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Old 06-08-2012, 02:16 AM
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Originally Posted by fearghas View Post
In the beginning of her reign QV was herself quite poor, most of the families wealth came from an injeritance from some really rich bloke who had a fascination with QV. She may have supported some of her relatives, like the Tecks and Battenbergs but I don't think she supported any of the general nobility.
This is very interesting. Can you share the source of this?
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Old 06-08-2012, 02:19 AM
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Don't forget investing in privateer ships, Privateer - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
And of course trading with India and the Far East. East India Company - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
I've read somewhere that nobles and royals were 'forbidden' to work to earn money. Is that true to some extent?
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Old 06-08-2012, 02:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Konigsplein View Post
I've read somewhere that nobles and royals were 'forbidden' to work to earn money. Is that true to some extent?
Not forbidden ny a law or anything just that they looked down upon people in 'trade'.
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Old 06-08-2012, 02:59 AM
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This is very interesting. Can you share the source of this?
Most QV biographies will mention it.
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Old 03-08-2015, 06:45 PM
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Did Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll get paid for any of the sculptures she made?
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Old 03-18-2015, 07:36 PM
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Originally Posted by CyrilVladisla View Post
Did Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll get paid for any of the sculptures she made?
According to this book review, The Mystery of Princess Louise: Queen Victoria's Rebellious Daughter by Lucinda Hawksley – review | Books | The Guardian , she insisted on being paid for her work, so most likely she was.
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Old 09-17-2018, 09:12 PM
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How the Nobles Earned Their Living

I'm a big fan of watching movies with old English settings, such as literature adaptation films (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, etc), even Sherlock Holmes and Wolfman (2010).

I'm always fascinated with the life of the nobles depicted in those movies; living in a huge mansion, dining with formal attire on, surrounded by full time servants who live within the compound (such as in Brideshead or Downton Abbey). So from where I see in them, they seem to live a life of eternal financial security.

I was wondering, how did (or do) the nobles earn their living?
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  #15  
Old 09-17-2018, 09:31 PM
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Originally Posted by lupacexi View Post
I'm a big fan of watching movies with old English settings, such as literature adaptation films (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, etc), even Sherlock Holmes and Wolfman (2010).

I'm always fascinated with the life of the nobles depicted in those movies; living in a huge mansion, dining with formal attire on, surrounded by full time servants who live within the compound (such as in Brideshead or Downton Abbey). So from where I see in them, they seem to live a life of eternal financial security.

I was wondering, how did (or do) the nobles earn their living?
The “Downton Abbey” type of nobles were basically landowners. Most of their income came from land leases to tenant farmers.
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Old 09-17-2018, 09:37 PM
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In the 19th century especially, noble families in the north of England allowed coal mining on some of their land holdings and grew wealthy on that. Others, in Cornwall, had money from the extremely profitable tin mines. Some land owners promoted coastal villages on their land in the hope they would grow into prosperous seaside resorts. Still others bought land/properties in Town, especially London, like the Grosveners.
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Old 09-17-2018, 09:46 PM
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If we go back to 1066 the King said he owned all the land and split some of it up as rewards for his supporters often making them nobles in the process - if they weren't already Norman nobles.

Along with the land came the people to farm the land - the peasants. The peasants paid the noble or knight or church for the right to work the land - usually in the form of produce from their pieces of land. In addition the noble had some land for himself which the peasants also worked. This produce, in whatever form provided the wealth of the nobles. They also controlled large areas of land in the later middle ages for the grazing of sheep as the wool industry took off.

As time went on a couple of things started to change - the enclosure acts meant they were able to remove many of the peasants, become more efficient in their farming methods and also graze animals like sheep which produced wool and continued.

As the industrial revolution took off many of them invested in mills on their land to take advantage of the new technology but even if they didn't they still owned the land producing the food and other primary produce that was sold for trade as well as still had many families living in rented properties on their land (some families are still living in the villages that their ancestors lived in in the middle ages and still work for the 'lord of the manor'.)

In the 17th - 19th century many of these nobles were involved in a range of trade initiatives with the new world - including in some cases slaves - as well as investing in property in the new cities.

As they already had the wealth they were able to invest in the new means of producing wealth over the centuries.

Sometimes they were lucky - e.g. one of the ancestors of the present Duke of Westminster was a woman whose father gave her husband a large block of poor land as her dowry in the 17th or 18th century. It was in an area of London where nobody really wanted to live and then William III based himself at Kensington Palace and Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace and this area became a gold mine for the Westminster family as rents skyrocketed.

In something like Pride and Prejudice it is the number of acres that are important as that equates to farming land and from that they got their wealth e.g. Darcy had 10,000 pounds a year due to the number of acres and number of tenants.

These estates can be large enough to have several villages actually situated on the estate - e.g. today the Sandringham Estate of The Queen has a 'big house', a number of other houses including Anmer Hall and Wood House (where William and Philip live) along with villages such as Anmer and Dersingham. Not everyone who lives in these villages works on the estates but back in the middle ages that would have been a given.

Remember that agriculture was the world's largest employee until about a decade ago but going back centuries it employed up to 98% of the workforce.

Land = wealth due to what the land could produce such as food and wool for making clothes or hides for leather goods.
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Old 09-17-2018, 10:08 PM
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Mostly land. These families go back centuries so what made a family wealthy 300 years ago may not be the same thing that is making them wealthy today. Also some families are less wealthy now than they were during the 18th and 19th centuries.


Going by families who married into the British Royal Family, the Bowes-Lyons (QEQM) had land and their coal mining interests added to their wealth. The Montagu Douglas Scotts (Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester) were / are large landholders. The Spencers (Princess Diana) had land and were sheep farmers. I don't know if it is adding to their wealth but the Spencers are now involved in tourism. Other noble families are also opening their homes to the public to make money.
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Old 09-17-2018, 10:29 PM
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There was a wide-spread agricultural depression in Britain in the 1870s that continued until World War One (partly exacerbated by technology finding a way of transporting frozen beef from the Argentine and Canada, lamb from NZ, cheese and butter from other countries as well as wheat from Canada.) Landowners that hadn't diversified into other things were hit hard. Taxation went up in the 20th century, partly as a result of two world wars, and many stately homes and estates suffered.
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Old 09-17-2018, 10:41 PM
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A major issue for the large estates has been death duties which has seen many noble families have to sell assets, transfer their homes to the National Trust, English Heritage or in the case of the Warwicks Madame Tussards to be turned into a theme park rather than a stately home anymore. Most others, including The Queen, have opened their homes or at least part of them, and their grounds to the public to keep their homes in their families.
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