Switzerland is a confederation of states of which each one has its own history.
In the Middle Ages we find in the various Swiss cantons only families of feudal nobility and some ennobled families abroad. In Switzerland there was a great number of families of dynastes who were vassals of the Holy Roman Empire, of the House of Savoy or of the Kingdom of Burgundy. This diversity prevented the birth of a state with monarchical central authority.
- nobility acquired under the terms of the family right, i.e. by direct line (male and legitimate since the 16th century).
- nobility resulting from the concession or the recognition of a Sovereign, which can be one monarch or a collective Sovereign. This may be individual, family or collective concession. The Sovereign can also recognize an ennoblement conceded to one of his subjects by a foreign sovereign. Also there exists "reward's ennoblements" conceding only the possession of a title.
- nobility acquired by integration . This integration frequently results from a social rise and of one or more alliances with families belonging already to the nobility. Sometimes that was accompanied by the acquisisition of a noble domain (the seigniory of Mézières was bought in 1547 by Jost Freitag who was consequently qualified noble).
The loss of nobility did not exist in Switzerland where the social classes were closer than in other countries. Juridically there is neither misalliance nor loss of nobility due to the manual work or to the trade. So Noble Jean Gambach was in 1442 manufacturer of scythe, and Noble Louis de Daguet was a carter at the end of 18th century. The only cases of loss of nobility were the illegitimate line or the voluntary renunciation. This last case was met in Fribourg in order to be able to reach the load of banneret; it was in particular the case for some lines of the families Fégely, Gottrau, Reynold, Reyff, etc..
Each state had its own constitution, its currency, its jurisdiction, its habits and customs, its history and so its own nobility. So it's necessary to understand the Swiss nobilities to specify some nobiliary characteristics of some "cantons".
Read more about Swiss Nobility: Berne, Fribourg, Soleure, Lucerne, Uri, Schwyz, Unterwald, Zürich, Schaffhouse, Zug, Valais, Thurgovie, Tessin, Grisons, Glarus, Appenzell, Aargau, Vaud, Neuchâtel, Geneva, Basel, St. Gall, Current Situation
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... Since 1798 the nobility does not exist any more as a privileged class but simply on the historical level ... there are about 450 noble families remaining in Switzerland, either of one of the Swiss nobilities or of a foreign nobility ... Today the nobility not having legal existence in Switzerland, the titles of nobility appear neither in the registry offices nor in the official instruments ...