December 23rd, 2015

Title, name and background for a German character with a stereotypically aristocratic name.

Anyone who has a name that strongly suggests a national, class or other stereotype has to learn to deal with the reactions of other people. I want one of the characters in my novel, a German living in Britain, to have a name and title that sounds to British ears almost ridiculously typical of a German noble; like something from a movie. As a result they tend to react to him based on his name. Some people are hostile, some are interested, some are amused. He'd prefer to be judged for himself, but understands that these preconceptions are something he's just going to have to work around.

A rough model for the sort of rank and name I see this character as having would be that of the former politician Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg ( ), or in full  Karl-Theodor Maria Nikolaus Johann Jacob Philipp Franz Joseph Sylvester Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg. I would like my character to have the rank of Freiherr (i.e. Baron) and to be "von und zu" somewhere.

I would be grateful for suggestions as to a realistic sounding place for him to come from and be named after, and for any corrections to misunderstandings I may have about how the system works. I would particularly welcome advice from German readers.

Would a Frieherr with "von und zu" in his name be likely to come from a specific region in Germany, and if so, which region?

I read in the Wikipedia article on German nobiliary particles ( that  "von und zu" / "from and at" in a title implies the holder still owns his traditional family estates. Is that always the case? And if the person loses ownership of the estate during his lifetime, must he drop the "zu"?

Can readers also confirm that a person with "von und zu" in his name is usually just known by the "zu" part? So, for example, the politician I mentioned above is usually known as Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg.

Am I right in thinking that (unlike the sytem for the British aristocracy) all the sons of a Freiherr / Baron are themselves Barons?

I've read in Wikipedia and elsewhere that such a person would be correctly addressed as "Herr Baron". My impression is that this has mostly dropped out of use in modern Germany, but are there situations where the old form of address is still used?

Finally, how would the title combine with a military rank, both as a form of address and being referred to in the third person? (Yes, to add to his troubles with British stereotypes of aristocratic Germans, my character is in the military.)

Thank you in advance for any help you can give.

Later edit: And thank you for the very useful help you have already given! I should have said that the story is set in the near future. I didn't want to specify exactly when, but far enough ahead that I don't tangle with current affairs but not so far that the memory of the world wars has completely lost its sting.