Nobility/The Aristocracy/Dansk: Adel
is the term of the highest social class in a country , which has some privileges and from the first beginning several commitments. Nobility has existed through many centuries and in many civilizations.
In Denmark some respected men rose above the peasants from about year 1000. They occupied the job as styresmænd , a position which was inherited in the male line. Next came hirdsmændene, the king's huskarle who had sworn him oath of allegiance. These two classes melt together during Valdemarstiden and the frame were extended. A new class emerged; the so-called herremænd. They committed themselves to do active service, and in return they escaped the taxes which were established at that time.
During the Middle Ages the Danish kings grew more dependent on herremændene, caused by the fact that wars were being fought with horsemen and borge (fortificated castle) were built. Herremændene attempted to limit the king's power by coronation charters. There were power-struggles between king and nobility, and the kingdom was beginning to dissolve in the first decades of the 1300s, where the Holstein nobility under grev Gerhard were beginning to take over the power in Denmark. During Valdemar Atterdag and queen Margrethe I the king's power was re-stabilized at the expense of the nobility and many adelsborge were destroyed.
From now on the Danish Adel changed into a fødselsadel (born to be) and the coat of arms began to play an important role; from about 1525 it was ordered to take a family name. Herremændene could take fines from their undergivne (subordinates), and they achieved gradually extended jurisdiction over them.During Frederik I the nobility actually had hånds- og halsret (power of life and death) over the peasants , but during Grevens Fejde (the civil war), the union of the king's power and the nobility succeeded with difficulty in crushing the peasant-rebellion. This brought the two parts together for good, and from that on the Danish nobility became much more the servants of the state and the king and could go on securing their privileges.
The technological development in warfare had caused that the high specialized ridder on horseback was out of date, the same concerned his fortificated borg. The gunpowder and the development of firearms made the ridder and his borg worthless.
Den danske Adel now established a new lifestyle. They placed themselves upon grand and well-respected jobs as rigsråder (state council) or lensmænd (vasals). Others went to universities at home or abroad or surrounded themselves with great luxury, and magnificent herregårde (manors)were built.
When disasters began pouring in over Denmark in the end of Christian IV's ruling period, the nobility was badly affected, and their fall was finally sealed under Fredrik III, when Enevælden (absolute monarchy) was established in 1660. From being maybe the most priviliged class in Europe den danske adel became the maybe less priviliged. It had no longer special access to offices and no exemption from taxation. In 1670 the nobility got exemption for taxation of the hovedgårdstaksten (their main farm's taxation), but this became more of a burden, since the nobility now had to answer for their fæstebønders taxes. (fæstebønder = peasants working for/and belonging under a herremand with no possibility of leaving = adscript. ) Before year 1700 the main part of the Danish adelsgods (nobility estate) was handed over to other owners.
In order to lend lustre to the Crown the kings now began to gain a new nobility by ennobling civilians and naturalize foreign nobility, and in 1671 Christian V founded a new højadel (high class nobility) consisting of lensgrever and lensbaroner with far more extended privileges than the other nobility had. Den danske adel had got a new character. It was totally dependent on the king's mercy, it was equipped with honorable rights and social privileges. It was especially represented at court, in the corps of the officers and at high posts. Especially the højadel had got a German mark.
Grundloven in 1849 ophævede " enhver i Lovgivningen til Adel, Titel og Rand knyttet Forret". (abolished any by law attached priority of nobility, title or rank.)
Den danske Adel includes today ab. 5000 persons and 189 families. A list in Dansk Adels Årbog.
Den danske uradel and den jyske uradel is the nobility which was in Denmark before the king began ennobling civilians and foreign nobilities.
uradel = ancient nobility
the Danish prefix ur = means ancient , i.e. the Danish word urtid =prehistoric times.