But those talented people's children and children's children needn't do something notable to retain that exalted position.
That after all is the whole point of any aristocracy : it is the outward physical expression of a secret mental belief in the sheer randomness of great talent and of the rare chance that a particular great talent will be in perfect sync with the wishes of the contemporary powerful.
The Bakelite of Heredity
Only the hotly talented ( think of them as hot Bakelite) are poured into the initial mold of a particular aristocratic lineage but soon the family talent cools and hardens into dumb rigid solidity.
From then on, the lineage remains permanently in the shape of the original heroic mold, no matter how thick and useless is the actual current title holder.
A title, rather than transient wealth, is the permanent legacy given to one's offspring by the talented who know that statistically, their offspring are likely to be far less talented than they.
Titles are still around, as big, if not bigger, than ever.
But no longer is it Sir William Howard of Oxfordshire --- now it is Dr W Howard, PhD (Oxford University) .....