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The Upper Crass

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The nobility and aristocracy has long been known as very cultured, obsessed with politeness, aesthetics and decorum; but this wasn't always the case. Back in the early days of the feudal system, nobles were little more than barbarian warriors rewarded for valor. They ate with their hands, they spat on the floor, and were damn proud of their illiteracy.

This character is a leftover of the original kind of nobility that survived well into the age of cultured aristocrats. Usually by living in a remote place, this rustic breed of noble is as simple and practical as the peasants he lords over. He may be loud and foul-mouthed, and may be quirky to a degree unforgivable at the royal court. He may practice barbaric traditions such as Droit du Seigneur, and his home is a few centuries behind the times: if the aristocrats of the capital live in castles, this guy lives in a tower or fortified manor; if castles are no longer in vogue, a castle is exactly where this guy lives.

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Their attitude may come from being a case of Rags to Royalty, though their more cultured counterparts might also be a case of that. Maybe they were a Hidden Backup Prince and keep their old-fashioned attitudes even after being recognized. The Upper Crass tends more to Modest Royalty than your typical aristocracy. Compare Impoverished Patrician, which isn't as fancy due to lack of money, rather than lack of culture and personality. Might overlap with Nouveau Riche if a noble had commoner origins and was granted lands and titles for their service. Closely related to Upper-Class Twit, for when the wealthy are unsophisticated. If all the aristocrats are this, chances this trope veer into Aristocrats Are Evil territory.


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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • One Piece: Sabo is a son of a noble family in Goa Kingdom, but he prefers playing around with his commoner friends Luffy and Ace in the streets and the woods.

    Films — Animation 

    Literature 
  • In Nikolai Gogol's Dead Souls, the protagonist's scam involves visiting various quirky rustic nobles.
  • The Accursed Kings:
    • While the nobles are all along the refinement scale, Robert d'Artois plays up the image of a Large Ham Rich Idiot With No Day Job living only for wine, women and song, both because it's not much of an exaggeration of his natural temperament and because it makes his enemies underestimate him. His role in the "rescue" and downfall of the D'Aunay brothers goes completely unsuspected because no one thought it odd that he'd be found in a brothel-rich area or that he'd fight off bandits to save their victims.
    • Due to their poverty, the Cressay family is forced to live like peasants on their own land, having to hunt for their food. Despite this, they're very proud of their lineage, and refuse an otherwise perfect marriage between their sister Marie and the rich merchant Guccio, leading to all sorts of problems including the Accidental Murder of their child, Marie and Guccio being forced to think they've been abandoned by the other and both dying alone.
  • Discworld:
    • The Fifth Elephant: The werewolf clans of Uberwald are revealed to be exactly this way in their social setup. The von Uberwald clan are a family with titles, and have a castle and estates, but also the sort of social graces you might expect from people who spend at least half their time in a canine form. The patriarch has, by choice, spent so much time as a wolf that he is losing the knack of how to be human: a situation his rather snobbish wife calls him out on, a lot. And younger members of the family tend to sprawl in front of the fire in wolf form; at first, visitors take them to be rather large and boisterous dogs of the Alsatian type. Thud! takes the idea a step further: werewolf Angua von Uberwald feels inadequate, cloddish and condescended to in her interactions with vampire Sally von Humperdinck, who, being a vampire, carries nobility lightly with all the expected grace, style and confidence. Angua feels like a Dung Age peasant next to Sally, even though both are on the same social level as minor nobles.
    • Hogfather: Susan works as a governess for a Nouveau Riche couple despite being the Duchess of Sto-Helit (and her father having been awarded the dukedom for personally saving the life of the queen) and therefore ranking higher than all but maybe one or two people in Anhk-Morpork. The disconnect in a duchess working as a servant causes a severe crisis for the socially-conscious lady of the house, who is constantly trying to move into the upper classes by reading books on etiquette. When Mrs. Gaiter tremulously asks her how one addresses the second cousin of a queen, Susan responds without thinking "We called him Jamie, usually," and Mrs. Gaiter has to go and have a headache in her room.
      [...] such noblemen as [Susan] had met in her father's house had used neither serviette nor napkin but a state of mind, which was "Drop it on the floor, the dogs'll eat it."
    • Sam Vimes is the Duke of Ankh-Morpork (by marriage to the duchess, he was born a commoner) and hates every minute of it due to the Upper-Class Twit nature of the city's aristocracy. He was Commander of the Night Watch when he married and has remained a copper ever since, both because it's in his blood and because it pisses off the other nobs to no end that he can actually have them arrested.
  • In Interview with the Vampire, Lestat comes from a family of this type. They were French nobles but very poor and often had to rely on hunting to avoid starvation. After he becomes a vampire, he uses the money stolen from his victims to turn himself into a cultured, sophisticated noble.
  • The nobles in Mistborn are a mixed bag.
    • Ashweather Cett is first seen trying to assert his dominance over the new King Elend by inviting him to dinner, eating before he arrived, and deliberately serving messy food to make Elend uncomfortable. He also swears in the presence of ladies.
      • His descendants in Wax and Wayne have shades of this, too. Lord Waxillum Ladrian is a Cowboy Cop who hates attending noble parties, and gleefully talks about the time he shot a dog's tail off when aiming for his balls—during a wedding party, and in front of his date's father.
      • According to Wax, his distant cousins of the House of Cett are snobbish and greedy. He identifies a coach company owner as a Cett by the way he was about to shoo Wax away until he recognized him as rich, and then bent over backwards to accommodate him. Wax gets information out of him by correctly guessing that he illegally uses emotional Allomancy to drum up customers, and promising not to turn him in.
    • Straff Venture is the richest nobleman in Luthadel, and is so secure in his position that he can afford to be openly condescending in negotiations. During a parley with his rebellious son King Elend and Elend's girlfriend/assassin Vin, he brings one of his mistresses in as a serving girl, and they realize that he was showing off that he could get a younger, prettier version of Vin (Vin is eighteen, and this girl is estimated to be around fifteen). Mid-negotiation, Elend realizes that Straff isn't the genius Elend thought he was; he's a bully who only lasted because he inherited his wealth and didn't mismanage it.
  • In The Pillars of the Earth, William Hamleigh fits this trope, being interested in little other than sex, hunting, and fighting. This is why Aliena rejects William's marriage proposal. When William asks her to reconsider, she gives him a "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    "You want to know why I don't like you? All right, I'll tell you. I don't like you because you have no refinement. I don't like you because you can hardly read. I don't like you because you're only interested in your dogs and your horses and yourself."
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Robert Baratheon, to the disgust of pretty much everyone, even his best friend, Ned Stark. Having sunk in deep depression after the death of his beloved Lyanna, he has fully given into hedonism and become a rowdy, gluttonous and promiscuous drunk who wishes he weren't the king, doesn't give two shits about ruling or raising his children and the only thing that can raise him from his stupor is his violent hatred of the Targaryens. He beats his wife and children (although they certainly deserve it) and is always off hunting, drinking or whoring, relegating state affairs to his council.
    • Nearly all Northern nobles exemplify various sides of this trope. The Starks are exemplars of old-school values of honor, the Umbers and Mormonts are the champions in being crude and rustic, and the Boltons exemplify the dark side of the trope by practising many quaint local traditions, among which Droit du Seigneur is the least horrifying.
    • The Clegane family are very minor and recent nobility (founded when a houndsmaster saved a member of the Lannister family), and it shows. Ser Gregor Clegane is a Psycho for Hire with gigantism who takes great joy in murdering and raping defenseless victims. His brother Sandor Clegane (also a violent brute, but with actual morals somewhere deep down) hates being called "Ser" even though he's entitled to it, precisely because he sees knights as thugs with swords, as exemplified by his brother.
  • The High Crusade: The hero of the novel, Sir Roger de Tourneville, is a baron of a small town in northern Lincolnshire. His lands being poor and backward, and his few periods away being spent fighting, he is acknowledged by even his friends as lacking in "courtly graces", being a blunt, jovial, bombastic and at times crude man. But he is nevertheless a shrewd and highly cunning individual, as well as a great military leader. This is particularly highlighted compared to his wife Lady Catherine, daughter of a wealthy southern Viscount who was brought up in Winchester "amongst every elegance and modern refinement".
  • The Three Musketeers: Porthos is a gentleman (in the original sense) rather than a commoner, a very straightforward Boisterous Bruiser, and a Nouveau Riche at the end of the first book. However, he longs for some official title, which is the way d'Artagnan gets him to join in his mission. While very friendly and not overly bright, Porthos is acutely aware that he lacks the refined manners of other noblemen, and so always looks to copy Aramis and Athos' aristocratic attitudes. For their part they never look down on Porthos but on upjumped commoners playing at soldiers (especially those of the English civil war).
  • Tales of the Fox: Everyone except for Gerin and Rihwen qualify. Justified as the world is late a Bronze Age setting where almost no one is literate and most of Gerin's vassals are elevated peasants. Hygiene isn't so great, either.
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    Live-Action TV 
  • Blackadder
    • Lord Flashheart. He's an aristocrat in Elizabethan England in season 2, then a World War I squadron leader (and still an aristocrat) in season 4. In both cases, he's a boozing, farting, womanizing bro.
    • General Melchett in Series 4 seems to be of a high-class background (like most officers of the time). He's also a boisterous, slaphappy, oblivious dolt.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Robert Baratheon is Lord of the Stormlands and became king of the Seven Kingdoms after overthrowing the Targaryens. He's a Boisterous Bruiser who spends most of his time drinking, hunting and whoring, and boasts about his Glory Days as a great warrior in graphic detail. At a feast he openly makes out with a servant girl, at which his wife Cersei is also present, and he opens a tournament by bellowing for the fighting to start before he pisses himself, making her roll her eyes in disgust. His behavior underlines how much Robert hates being king; he only took the throne to bring stability back to the country after the rebellion but he has no interest in ruling, nor can he bothered acting the part. It's Played for Drama when he strikes Cersei during a nasty argument; he is remorseful and says it "wasn't kingly", but for Cersei it's the final straw and she arranges a Hunting "Accident" for him to install her own son (not his) on the throne.
    • Lord Walder Frey is a lecherous, foul-mouthed Dirty Old Man who flaunts his new wife in a sexualized manner; said wife is young enough to be his granddaughter. When he meets his new queen Talisa, whom Robb Stark had married instead of one of Walder's daughters, Walder remarks he thinks Robb married not for love but for "firm tits and a tight fit", only to add he'd have broken 50 vows for such a woman if he'd been younger. He then violates guest right - a huge taboo in Westeros - by having Robb and his bannermen massacred during his daughter's wedding to Robb's uncle; he sits there drinking wine and grinning at the carnage like it's a spectator sport.
  • A modern, realistic example: in the season 13 episode of Midsomer Murders "The Noble Art", Gerald Farquaharson is the local lord of the manor, but (in stark contrast to almost all other gentry in the series) he is an affable man of the people with no pretentiousness or interest in status who loves nothing more than gambling and boxing, while trying to do what is right by the people of the village.
  • In The Musketeers, Porthos genuinely is working-class, but one episode has a villainous example in Baron Renard, a Stupid Evil brute who rapes and kills peasants for fun and can't understand why Athos is upset about it. Porthos suggests that he and his very similar son must be the result of rustic inbreeding.
  • Played for Laughs in a recurring sketch on The Amanda Show. It starred Amanda Bynes as a high-society debutante who would attend formal events in the very best clothing and jewelry, only to do absolutely disgusting things like shaving her underarms at the dinner table or soiling herself because she didn't want to bother going to the restroom.

    Myth 
  • Classical Mythology: In one version of the Labors of Hercules, King Augeas is just as disgusting and unhygienic as his stables (whose claim to fame was that they'd never been cleaned out despite housing 3000 immortal cows, to the point where Hercules had to divert two rivers through them to remove all the manure). Not only that, but he refuses to pay Hercules for the job despite the hero doing the deed in a single day. Hercules kills him and gives the kingdom to one of his sons.

    Tabletop Game 
  • The Dark Eye:
    • This is basically the Hat of the Fountland's rural nobility. The Fountland is partly based on medieval Russia, and its landholders tend to be either brooding and saturnine...or Boisterous Bruisers who drink the local vodka-equivalent in gallon-sized mugs, wake up the next morning in a stable somewhere, and then go on a brisk ten-mile-run through the snow (wrestling a bear along the way) to work up an appetite for breakfast.
    • While most of the continent is moving well into the Renaissance in terms of technology and culture, the imperial province of Weiden is still very firmly medieval, with a strong focus on chivalric and feudal traditions. The nobles of Weiden are considered backwards by most of their peers from other provinces, while they themselves tend to view the more modern nobles as useless fops.
  • Imperial nobility in Warhammer 40,000 tends towards this. Backwater planets with little outside contact are more susceptible to falling to Chaos out of boredom or ambition. (Granted, the same can be said of the more cosmopolitan nobles, but they're far more likely to be removed by Inquisitors or conspirators.)

    Video Games 
  • Dragon Age: Origins: Teyrn Loghain Mac Tir is a commoner elevated to being the local equivalent of a duke. His fief Gwaren is nestled deep within the Brecilian Forest and is described as a largely rural place, with the town itself being a fishery and logging community. The Orlesian Empire views every Fereldan nobleman as being an upjumped barbarian, but that's not necessarily true. Teyrn Bryce Cousland of Highever, for example, is cosmopolitan enough to have deep connections to Antivan trading families (his son married the daughter of a wealthy Antivan merchant) and has positive diplomatic relations with the Grey Wardens. Loghain, on the other hand, acts completely out of step with the rest of Ferelden, and has very little political support.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
  • Gwent: The Witcher Card Game: Imerleth, The "Duke of Dogs", and Whoreson Junior all are upper class types who chose to be crude and downright vicious despite having noble/wealthy family. Their taunts reflect this.
    • Imerleth gets increasingly frustrated/hostile depending on the taunt (all in Elder Speech- high elf tongue!)
    • The Duke of Dogs sighs "Have some dignity- throw yourself on your sword!" and laughs at the opponent.
    • Whoreson Junior snarling "Foreplay's over, yellow belly...". As a bonus, he is described in-game as a "true monster".
  • Of the player's 4 enemies in Stronghold, only The Snake seems to have any taste or sophistication; The Pig is a Fat Bastard who's almost always shown eating, The Rat doesn't seem any more refined, and The Wolf seems more interested in military matters than in anything cultural.
  • Yes, Your Grace: Lady Via Lyt. While nothing in her appearance sets her apart from the other noble ladies, saying she speaks like a peasant is an insult to most peasants encountered during the game.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In Star vs. the Forces of Evil, the Johansen family that Star's father River was born into is a group of small barbarian nobles who live out in the wilderness, engage in savage capture-the-flag games, and apologize to people by handing out hunks of meat with "I'm sorry" engraved in them.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: While Toph Beifong's parents are clearly upper-class and rich, the fact that she was born blind caused them to treat her as a fragile porcelain doll (apparently unaware that her Disability Superpower still lets her "see" to an extent), and she rebelled out by secretly joining the local equivalent of an underground wrestling ring as the Blind Bandit, then became the Avatar's earthbending master.

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