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Swedish nobility claims ownership of 260-year-old name

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17:36 CEST+02:00
Swedish aristocrats have lodged an official complaint after a woman from Umeå in northern Sweden applied to change her name to Ahlehjelm.

The King's right to grant noble rank in Sweden was removed in 1975. But one of the few privileges still enjoyed by the Swedish nobility is the legal protection of its family names.

As such, Riddarhuset (the House of Nobility) - an institution made up entirely of Swedish families of high rank - has written a letter to the Patent and Registration Office explaining that the name Ahlehjelm belongs to an aristocratic family that died out in 1747.

"To let just anybody take on the name of an extinct line simply because they happen to find the name pretty is to display a distinct lack of historical understanding," Riddarhuset wrote.

According to the letter, the children of those who assume aristocratic names run the risk of mistakenly believing themselves to be of noble stock.

The aristocrats were also up in arms a couple of years ago when a man from Malmö by the name of Karlsson tried to change his name to Gyllenpistol, a surname that translates as 'golden gun'.

As of 2006, the Swedish nobility consisted of 698 living families, of whom 49 have the rank of count, 136 are baronial and 513 aristocratic, with a total of some 26,800 members residing in Sweden and elsewhere.

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