This concise historical presentation is intended not as an exhaustive sociological treatise, but as a general introduction for the layman. It is presumed that the reader has already reviewed Italian Heraldry, Nobility & Genealogy. Because of the highly individual nature of genealogical and heraldic projects, many of these observations are necessarily generalities.
Italian nobiliary practices cannot be compared directly to those of other countries, such as Scotland or Russia. Even within Italy, regional differences must be considered because until circa 1870 this nation did not exist as a politically unified state.
Very few works have been published in English on the topics of Italian heraldry, nobility and onomatology as these relate to genealogy. Yet all three fields depend upon genealogical research. This concise presentation is not intended as a historical treatise, but rather as a simple guide for those interested in these subjects.
In common parlance, heraldry (Italian araldica) refers to the study of coats of arms. Historically, the term referred to the functions of heralds, royal court officers responsible for maintaining records of coats of arms and titles of nobility. Although such officers are still attached to royal households in the United Kingdom and Spain, the Italian monarchy was abolished in 1946. Titles of nobility and coats of arms are not recognized by the government of the Italian government of the Italian Republic, but neither is their use illegal. A few private organizations in Italy recognize nobiliary titles, the Corpo della Nobilta Italiana and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta being the best known today. (such recognition requires extensive genealogical proof of patrilineal nobility.)