Nobility of the First French Empire

Nobility Of The First French Empire

Nobility of the First French Empire

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Napoleon Bonaparte created titles of nobility to institute a stable elite in the First French Empire, after the instability resulting from the French Revolution.

Like many others, both before and since, Napoleon found that the ability to confer titles was also a useful tool of patronage which cost the state little treasure. In all, about 2200 titles were created by Napoleon:

  • Princes and Dukes:
    • sovereign princes (3)
    • duchies grand fiefs (20)
    • victory princes (4)
    • victory dukedoms (10)
    • other dukedoms (3)
  • Counts (251)
  • Barons (1516)
  • Knights (385)

Napoleon also established a new knightly order in 1802, the L├ęgion d'honneur, which is still in existence today.


Enoblement started in 1804 with the creation of the princely title for members of Napoleon's imperial family. Others followed. In 1806 ducal titles were created and in 1808 those of count, baron and knight.

Napoleon founded the concept of nobility of Empire by an imperial decree on 1 March 1808. The purpose of this creation was to amalgamate the old nobility and the revolutionary middle-class in one peerage system. This step, which aimed at the introduction of a stable elite, is fully in line with the creation of the Legion of Honour and of life senatorial peerages.

A council of the seals and the titles was also created and charged with establishing armorial bearings, and had a monopoly of this new nobility.

These creations are to be distinguished from an order such as the Order of the Bath. These titles...
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