Manifesto of Emperor Paul I of Russia on the Russian Nobility
By the Grace of God
We, Paul I,
Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias,
et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
In ancient times, in all European states, the noble rank and the knight rank had the same duties: honour and courage were the main foundation of actions of both noblemen and knights. Upon the destruction of the ancient Roman Empire, when the whole Europe was benighted and, during the feudal rule, pulled apart by internal strifes of barons and other ranks of land-owning nobles; when pillages and robberies were plaguing all the European empires, which are now blissfully happy; and when virginity was oppressed by rape, then some people illuminated by the light of the Gospels and inspired by faith and love were joined in knight or cavaliere societies. Those very societies formed the nobility of that time, based on the feudal law and driven by the spirit of honour and courage, and made it single. Each nobleman believed it to be honourable and glorifying to be a knight and to receive knighthood signs and decorations. Shields of knights were decorated by coat of arms of their dynasties, composed of various images included in the coat of arms in memory or as a token of some emprises of the knight. Such symbols filled the hearts of the knight’s descendants with respect for the heroic exploits of their ancestors and with commitment to follow their example. The principles, on which the rules of cavaliere societies were based, became the principles of a noblesman’s duties. The obligations of both included protection of the homeland from enemies, provision of assistance to the poor and oppressed and, in general, spreading of Christian virtues. Honour, courage, infinite loyalty and love for the monarch and the native land were among the main qualities of a nobleman and a knight. All the world knows that the nobility of that time, driven by such principles, was able, being patronized by monarchs, to spread everywhere the Christian virtues and the morality centered around it. As is demonstrated by the history of our country, some descendants of such ancestors moved in the most ancient times to Russia and, having found in our native country noblemen driven by the same spirit of courage and honour, constituted generations of noblemen coming from abroad, having acquired the possession of estates just like other noblemen, who were rewarded in Russia and in other states for their service by granting to them such estates.
Princely families of Our empire descended primarily from sons of Prince Vladimir the Great, who illuminated Russia by the light of the Gospels. Many families of noblemen descended from princely families; therefore, all such families descend from Rurik and, therefore, are as ancient as the most ancient princely and noblemen families of other states.
The fact that the Russian nobility was always driven by the spirit of courage and honour is proved worldwide by famous works and heroic deeds of Russia noblemen, aimed at servicing their monarchs and the motherland. What a large number of Russian noblemen were famous for their love for their native country even in ancient times! And they also sealed this virtue of the nobles by heroic deeds!
Our ancestors resting in the grave, autocrats of all the Russias, always finding among nobles zealous followers of a monarch’s will and brave protectors of the motherland, distinguished such nobles by honours and showered them with their graces from the throne.
The blessed and eternally worthy to be remembered, Our monarch and parent, Emperor Peter III, sealed his infinite benevolence to Russian nobles by his most gracious manifest dated February 18, 1762, which granted to nobles benefits that they had never had before and that exceeded all the other mercies and riches awarded to noblemen by Our ancestors.
We, following in the footsteps of Our ancestors and supporting everything that may promote the glory and honour of Russian nobles loyal to Us and pleasing to Our heart, were well-pleased to issue a collection of coats of arms belonging to nobles, containing signs of merits of every noble family, for, in the absence of such collection, many coats of arms were either lost for good or from time to time changed. Wherefore We commanded by Our orders dated January 20 and July 27, 1797, to compose, under the supervision of Our Active Privy Councillor and Prosecutor General Prince Kurakin, a collective armorial for noble families with images of coats of arms of each family and evidence of their origin.
Having reviewed the first part of this armorial submitted to Us today and composed of three sections according to the rules established by the said orders of Ours, We approve it and order the following: 1е. All the coats of arms included in the armorial shall remain unchanged forever, so that nothing could be excluded from or included in it under any circumstances without Our special order or without a special order of our successors. 2е. Every nobleman belonging to the family, the coat of arms of which is included in the armorial, shall be provided with a certificate of a noble leader or famous relatives, confirming that such nobleman belongs to such family. Such nobleman shall be provided with signed identical copies of the coat of arms of such family and its description on parchment. Зе. In cases when a noble has to prove to anyone the merits of his noble family name, this collective armorial for noble families executed by Our order and kept in Our Senate shall be viewed as credible proof thereof.
Issued in Saint Petersburg on January 01, 1798.