I often think about the notion of "aristocracy", comparing what we think of it in historical terms and what is required to 'qualify' for that status now. We don't have a structural class system that might include 'the nobility', but how might that compare to societies of the past that did?
I don't know where the title of 'marquis' fit in the grand scheme of French nobility, but that was the title that Voltaire held until his death.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voltaire#Name. Voltaire may have been an anagram of AROVET LI, the Latinized spelling of his surname, Arouet, and the initial letters of le jeune ("the young"). According to a family tradition among the descendants of his sister, he was known as le petit volontaire ("determined little thing") as a child, and he resurrected a variant of the name in his adult life.
What if Voltaire (or le Chevalier de St. George) were in the passenger seat of the Nissan Leaf I was driving tonight? What if, instead of handing the wad of bills I gave to the girl panhandling under the overpass of 45, it was Jean Valjean? What if it was Rousseau or Voltaire that I picked up? Imagine Voltaire in an electric car in 2020. Not only is it freakily quiet, but the torque will throw your head to hit the headrest if the ECO mode isn't on. 65 mph is probably 3 times faster than a carriage ever carried Voltaire anywhere - and that would have involved at least 2 horses and a carriage that would have rattled the cobblestones. My Leaf would seem like a spaceship to anyone from 200 years ago.
I calmly took the ramp that takes me over Parmer (at 65 mph) when Carol called (interrupting the "Chainsmokers with ColdPlay" https://youtu.be/FM7MFYoylVs. Our conversation would have sounded foreign - even if he understood English:
(C) - What was the size of filter I was supposed to get?"
(R) - I got them at Wal-Mart.
(C) - So you don't know.
(R) - It's 18 by 24 and I got them at Wal-Mart.
(C) - OK, bye.
This conversation came over the car's audio system as I was taking the off-ramp at 100 kilometers/hour and changing lanes.
What would a "nobleman" - a member of the aristocracy from 200 years ago, have thought of these few seconds which, to me, could have been totally mundane? Would I have appeared as some sort of advanced alien?
We have electric appliances that can do the work of several servants from years ago. We have unbelievably easy access to information that was unknown even 100 years ago. We are all taller, stronger, healthier, more technologically advanced than kings of old.
All that, of course, leads to a consideration of the nature of wealth. If 'wealth' is relative, then what is its relativity compared to? Is my wealth compared only to my contemporaneous peers, or could it be compared with my 'relative' peers from centuries past?
Did King Louis XIV ever talk to his queen through wireless communication in his carriage, travelling at a speed faster than 100 horses could have carried him? Did that king have the ability to control the temperature, humidity, and cleanliness of his castles? Was that king capable of learning Mandarin Chinese without hiring a tutor?
How much richer am I than the richest mother fucker 200 years ago? Put that into perspective for a second.