The aristocrat is the living embodiment of a people’s identity. He maintains the dignity of his race throughout the rigors of daily life: he dresses nicely when he’d rather be a slob. He holds his tongue when he’s seething with curses. When everyone loses hope, he maintains a stalwart resilience. In short: he holds fast to the ancient traditions passed on to him.
Whether or not he’s really the best of the lot is irrelevant. He’s judged by his willingness to make himself, and consequently, all of reality, seem to be as his people believe it to be. The best aristocrats go beyond forms and functions and actually love the image they project. They’re not just playing a part, they *are* the part. They intuitively realize they’re projecting the spirit of their people and they love the spirit and the people.
As a side note, spiritual integrity is what really makes a race. Modernists have tried codifying this human phenomenon by emphasizing DNA, psychological affinities, language grouping, and all manner of cultural forces of cohesion – but they fall short because they all miss this mytho-poetic aspect of the group. Modernists don’t know anything about the spiritual. That’s why none of them understand poets or men of letters, unless the poets and men of letters are also modernists (in which case, they may be understood by other modernists but at the expense of their role as keepers-of-the-folk-mind).
The aristocrat, then, must listen and learn from the poet as Kings of old would listen and learn from prophets. If the aristocrat is, himself, a poet, so much the better, but he doesn’t have to be. He just needs to listen and learn from them.
Additionally, the aristocrat doesn’t even need to be rich or the owner of capital. While these things allow him to assume his proper authority in society, giving him the requisite voice to maintain the integrity of the people, he would still be an aristocrat without them. Side by side with those who used to offer him deference, he may not be distinguishable from them at all unless the observer takes a close, second look.
Lined up you might see five rugged and dirty men, but the aristocrat among them will have taken measures to present himself as well as possible, despite his means. He does it because he knows that through his demeanor and appearance he’s representing an entire people. The other men in line don’t have that sort of concern. He’ll be more well-spoken than the other men – because what he says has to be tempered by the grace of generations. He’ll be more well-read because he’s more concerned with all the people than the other men, who think mostly of themselves.
And when the others in line are blinded by oppressive times and forced to forget who they are, the aristocrat remembers.