by Harald von Knorring
About our familys nobility...
To those (mererly the younger ones?) who wonders about
the nobility of our family…
Everyone named (von) Knorring are of the same family.
Although our family book has the title "the Knorring Families" (Ätterna Knorring)
there are only one huge family von Knorring.
According to the old swedish dictionary Nordisk
Familjebok, "ätt" means "noble family", and family means "…all persons who
by their origin are related to each other".
Even our new National encyclopedia shows that by "noble
family", and by "family" are ment "...individuals with common origin...".
So, a family consists of all persons with a common
origin, and if the family is noble, it could also be called "ätt" in swedish.
And of course, in the definition given above, there is
an implication of the relations among the family members to be shown (otherwise
all people on the earth would constitute one family and the concept of "family"
would be out of use).
Thanks to research of the former genealogist at the
Swedish House of Nobles, mr Pontus Möller, the earlier unknown and
misunderstood relationships where cleared up, and our common origin was
shown. What earlier had appeared as a few different families, without any
genealogical relation was now reduced into one, all shown in the family book.
The title of the book could therefore as well had been
"Ätten Knorring" (The Family Knorring), or rather "Ättegrenarna Knorring"
(The Knorring Family Branches) as the books structure follows the earlier
different branches, successfully connect by Pontus Möller.
The family von Knorring originates from the oldest
German nobility. As different branches has established i new countries, the
noble dignity has come to be confirmed by several House of Nobilities. Not
for the least of political reasons different branches has come to be members
of different House of Nobilities. For example, Finland as well as the Baltic
countries has been subject to revolutionizing changes, as the whole of
Finland had been a part of Sweden since the 1400th century. Major parts of
the Baltic countries was periodically ruled by different countries, not the
least by Sweden. Besides Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania there has also been
administrative concepts as Livonia, Courland, Ingria, Lettgallen, Semgallen
Therefore, these countries and provinces was parts of
different empires as their powerful rulers differed from time to time. Some
of them even no longer exist, while others has successfully reestablished as
independent nations. The most permanent situation in this aspect is that
Finland was about one half of Sweden from mid 1400th century until 1809,
when it was lost in the war against Russia. In connection to the Oktober
revolution, and the falling of the Russian czars in 1917, Finland managed to
declare its independence. Thereby they also had to found and establish a lot
of the institutions needed by an independent nation of that time, i.e. a
House of Nobles. That is why many of the earlier Swedish and Baltic noble
families are introduced around 1917 at the Finnish House of Nobles.
So, as a consequence of different political changes,
our forefathers came to live in different countries, despite they never
passed any borders.
Besides that, our forefathers also found new home
countries and citizenships by personal reasons.
During our familys journey, from the 11th century in
Eichsfeld (in todays mid Germany) until the 21st century in Sweden, our
noble dignity has therefore been confirmed several times, namely in Courland
1620, Stockholm 1672, Ösel 1741, Livonia 1745, Estonia 1746, Livonia 1747,
Stockholm 1756, Finland 1818, Livonia 1867, Stockholm 1916 and in Stockholm
Different branches of our family therefore bears
different titles (if any) and numbers on the different Houses of Nobility.
These branches came therefore to be the natural way of structuring the
earlier genealogical research, which by practical reasons has been kept
despite the modern research made by Pontus Möller.
The without comparison greatest branch of todays von
Knorrings is the one originating from lieutenant colonel Otto Wilhelm von
Knorring, born in 1681, the branch which mainly constitutes the Swedish von
Knorring Family Society. Otto Wilhelm was born on one of his three herited
estates, Koppelmann in the Kegel parish in Harrien in todays Estonia, during
the period when Estonia was a part of Sweden (1558 – 1721). Besides Otto
Wilhelm, his father, grandfather and grand grandfather was also born within
the Swedish Estonia.
Therefore it seems rather clear why he headed for the
remaining Sweden when Estonia was lost to the Russians at the battle of
Poltava. After having been a Russian war prisoner for 13 years he managed to
escape, and finally reached Stockholm on the 7th of May in 1722. Thereafter
he continued his service at the Dalecarlia Regiment.
Later the same year, he visited Estonia in his effort
to get back at least one of this three herited estates. But the permission
given by Czar Peter the Great was combined with the condition of Otto
Wilhelm accepting to be a Russian citizen. As he denied that he also lost
all his property.
The biggest von Knorring branch of today, mainly the
one originating from Otto Wilhelm and mainly living in Sweden, has never
been introduced on any House of Nobles since they where present in the
Baltics, that is why it is called unintroduced on the Swedish House of
Besides this branch, there is an introduced one in
Sweden since Carl von Knorring moved to Stockholm from Helsingki and became
a Swedish citizen in 1951. This branch is still present in Sweden, and is
registered as nr 1976 and nr 138 at the Houses of Nobles in Helsinki and
Two more branches has been registered at the Houses of
Nobles in Stockholm and Helsingki, nr 809 resp 66, and the baron branch nr
177 resp 9, however both of these are deceased.
Why is there a "von" in our family name?
The additions "von" and "af" are a prefix of peerage.
When somebody was nobelized for his efforts, besides to accept a coat of
arms he usually also took a more magnificent family name. Another
alternative was to add the "von" or "af" to the family name. But even among
the peerage there are degrees. The most excellent ones where those with a
noble title, and among those, the barons.
As of an even more excellent degree where those who
originated frpom the oldest German nobility considered, as the whole system
with peerage and nobility once was founded there.
Why do some write their von as "v." and others as
Periodically, due to the preferences of the ruling king,
many persons came to be nobelized in Europe, some of the older peerage felt
a kind of inflation among the nobility. They felt their prefix "von" as no
longer being as exclusive. To show their more substantial peerage they
therefore began to write only "v." instead of "von". Thereby the managed in
a discreet way to point out their older origin. On the contrary, the later
nobelized families of course took every chance to expose their newly won
peerage to its maximun...
Everything that once concerned the nobility has lost
its substantial meanings of rights and obligations, i.e. the freedom of
taxes and to supply knights. The meaning of being noble today maybe is the
presence of a thrilling and interesting family history, inspiring to
extensive genealogical research. An unbeatable advantage for noble families
is the access to a great amount of historical document, as the family name
is more unique and easy to search and trace than more common ones.
The House of Nobility in Stockholm (as well as others)
are therefore no longer of the governements interest, but an association for
the introduced families. They manage their own funds and real estate in
order to provide their activities. They also manage assets founded for
specific and introduced families, oftenly dedicated for specific a use as
education for the family members.