1. The Council of Nobility falls under the authority of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Is the Council also competent for foreign nobility?
No. The Council is only competent for Belgian nobility. This also applies to the Nobility Department and the Consultation Commission.
2. Are there privileges attached to a title of nobility in Belgium?
No (see article 113 of the Constitution).
3 Which titles of nobility exist in Belgium?
From lower nobility to higher nobility these are: jonkheer/jonkvrouw, knight (no female equivalent), baron/baroness, viscount/viscountess, count/countess, marquis/marchioness, duke/duchess, prince/princess.
4. Does a title of nobility have to be mentioned on official documents (identity cards, passports, etc.)?
Yes, because in Belgium the title of nobility is part of the person's identity. To avoid any misunderstanding, the title is not part of the name, which is subject to its own rules.
5. Is "jonkheer"/"jonkvrouw"/"knight" a title of nobility?
Yes (see decision of the Court of Cassation, 1927).
6. Should predicates such as "Nobleman/Noblewoman" or "My Lord" also be mentioned on official documents?
No, as these are terms of address which are comparable with "Mijnheer/Mevrouw/Mejuffrouw", "Monsieur/Madame/Mademoiselle", "Mr./Mrs./Miss".
7. Where can I find out whether a person belongs to the Belgian nobility and, if so, what title he or she can use officially?
At the Nobility Department: please contact: Attest.Adel-Noblesse@diplobel.fed.be
8. I would like to nominate someone for a title of nobility. Is this possible? Who should I contact? What are the requirements?
Applications for the granting of a title of nobility (for yourself or on someone else's behalf) must always be addressed to the King (c/o Royal Palace, 1000 Brussels) or to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Applications submitted directly to the Nobility Department, to the Consultation Commission or to the Council of Nobility are inadmissible.
There are no specific formal requirements, but a curriculum vitae and/or any useful information on the person in question should be attached. In effect, applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis by the Commission. The assessment takes into account, inter alia, the exceptional achievements of the person as regards our country.
It should be noted that this is always a favour and that, in principle, titles of nobility are only granted to physical persons with Belgian nationality.
9. I believe that I am the descendant of a noble ancestor. Am I eligible for a recognition of nobility? What are the conditions?
If the applicants consider themselves to be the legitimate direct descendent, in the male line, of an ancestor who belonged to the nobility in our regions until the end of the 'Ancien Régime' (i.e. until the abolition of the nobility in the French era) or who was officially a member of the nobility in his country of origin, they may lodge an application for recognition of nobility. The application must also be addressed to the King or to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The same applies to applications to restore nobility, i.e. if the nobility had already been lost by derogation prior to 1795.
In order to qualify for this procedure, it is required that the applicants themselves (or the descendant(s) for which they apply for recognition) are Belgian by birth. The procedure itself is carried out by the Council of Nobility on the basis of the application.
The full burden of proof lies with the applicants. Proof can be provided in the form of documents (certified true copies) (diplomas, birth, baptism or marriage certificates) proving beyond doubt, firstly, the nobility of the ancestor and, secondly, the direct and legitimate link in male line between the applicants and their noble ancestor. In view of the proof required, prior contact should be made with the Council clerk of the Council of Nobility (Attest.Adel-Noblesse@diplobel.fed.be).
Please note that this is always a favour and that the King is in no way obliged to recognise or restore a title of nobility.
10. Are there any costs relating to this procedure?
The examination itself by the Department, the Commission or the Council is free of charge. If the title of nobility is granted - which is initially done by Royal Decree - 'letters of nobility must be collected'. Indeed, this favor only takes effect when the King signs the letter of nobility and the document is subsequently officially registered. The Royal Decree that forms the basis only authorises the collection of the letter of nobility. The costs associated with this procedure are the following: the letter of nobility is produced by an independent artist and costs approximately €3.000; registration and chancellery rights must also be paid (minimum amount of €751,20), in the case of recognition or restoration, the cost is limited to the fees for the chancellery rights (€6.20).
11. As a Belgian, can I use a foreign title of nobility?
No. This is even a punishable act under art. 230 of the Belgian Criminal Code.
Foreign titles awarded to Belgians therefore have no value in Belgium; moreover, they can never be the subject of a recognition procedure.
12. Can foreign nationals use their title of nobility in Belgium? And what happens if they adopt the Belgian nationality?
Foreign nationals who officially belong to the nobility in their country of origin are allowed to use their title of nobility in Belgium without any problem. This is subject to the condition that the title is indicated on the official personal documents issued by the competent authorities in their country. If they become Belgian by naturalisation, they lose their noble status as a citizen of their country of origin and are no longer entitled to use their foreign title. Their descendants born in Belgium may, however, apply for recognition of nobility (see above under question 9).
13. Can I consult the library and/or archive of the Council of Nobility?
The manuscript collection of the Heraldic Fund (or Beydaels Fund) and the specialised library are (currently) not accessible to the public.
For consultation of the published works, as mentioned in the suggested reading list provided above, interested parties are referred to the public libraries, the Royal Library of Belgium and the specialised libraries of, inter alia, the Association of the Nobility of the Kingdom of Belgium/Association de la Noblesse du Royaume de Belgique. (Franklin Rooseveltlaan 25, 1050 Brussels; tel. 02/642.25.20; www.anrb.be), of the Genealogical and Heraldic Office of Belgium/Office Généalogique et Héraldique de Belgique (C. Thielemanslaan 93, 1150 Brussels; tel. 02/772.50.27; http://oghb.be) or Familiekunde Vlaanderen VZW, National Documentation and Study Centre for Family History (Van Heybeeckstraat 3, 2170 Antwerp-Merksem; tel. 03/646.99.88; http://familiekunde-vlaanderen.be).
The archives of the Council of Nobility and the Consultation Commission cannot, in principle, be consulted. Some more than 50 years old archive records can be consulted subject to a special approval by the Minister based on a substantiated request relating to a very specific case.