Aristocracy(1) is the class in which the distilling of this ideal human type, the quest for this perfection toward which all society should tend, was more complete. In other words, it fell to the aristocracy to realize the most perfect, the most elevated, and the most noble human type.
Hence, the human type of Our Lord Jesus Christ is at the heart of the Western concept of aristocracy.
In effect, the West developed its political, social, and cultural standards within the flux of Christian civilization.(2) The human type of the Christian gentleman, the model and prototype of Western aristocracy, had as its first and supreme ideal the imitation of the perfections of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
In fact, the virtues that compose the moral profile of the Christian aristocrat (honor, abnegation, courage, magnanimity, respect, honesty, and so on) were inspired by the example and teachings of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom they are found in a supreme and divine degree.
In conclusion, a true aristocracy is one which, seriously and enthusiastically, strives to realize the model of perfection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It withers and fades to the degree that it strays from this high ideal.
(1) We use the term aristocracy in its social sense as defined in Webster’s Third New International Dictionary: 1: government by the best individuals or by a relatively small privileged class; 2a: a form of government in which the power is vested in a minority consisting of those felt to be best qualified to rule… 3: a governing body made up of those felt to be outstanding citizens, especially nobles or others of high rank; an upper class made up of an hereditary nobility; a patrician order; 4: the aggregate of those felt to be superior.”
(2) The later division of Europe—and subsequently the Americas—into Catholic and Protestant blocs is beyond the scope of this study, which is sociological and historical, not religious, in nature. It is undeniable, however, that the foundations of the Western order, and more concretely of the social types it created, came from the great tradition of Christian civilization, and that this Christian civilization was based on the person of Our Lord Jesus Christ, as its name indicates.
Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites in the Allocutions of Pius XII: A Theme Illuminating American Social History (York, Penn.: The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property, 1993), American Appendix, p. 194.
Nobility.org Editorial comment: —
As this post makes clear, if so many members of the European nobility and analogous traditional elites give scandal and are a shame to their class today it is because they have strayed from the Christian foundations of aristocratic excellence. They do not strive to emulate the divine perfections of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Likewise, in the measure the nobility return to this emulation and make Our Lord the center of their lives, they will restore this Christian aristocracy and bring it to new levels of splendor. This is certainly achievable, for we are assured of the help of His supernatural grace. “Nothing [is] impossible for God” (Luke, 1:37).