Wouldn’t it be nice to have an understanding of the English Peerage System as we delve into Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and Masterpiece Theater? Have you ever wondered about the difference between a Duke and a Baron? Well, I ‘ve done my best to outline it here for you as I understand it. My list is in order of rank from highest to lowest.
Sovereign: King, Queen, Prince, Princess
Duke: Usually close relatives of the King or Queen. Landed. (addressed as “Your Grace”)
Marquis: A nobleman of heraldry rank who is a large landholder. Traditionally his land was called the “march” due to it’s location somewhere along the border of the country. The Marquis is charged with the first line of defense against outside invaders. This gives him slight rank over a count. (addressed as Lord or Lady)
Earl/Count: A nobleman of heraldry rank who has large land holdings in the country’s interior. These land holdings are called “counties”. (addressed as Lord or Lady)
Viscount: Close advisors, deputies, vicars etc. to the Count. (addressed as Lord or Lady)
Baron: Friends of the king who manage land and tenants for the defense of the King. (addressed as Sir or Dame)
Knight: Bestowed as an honor of service. Traditionally were soldiers of some type. (addressed as Sir or Dame)
Esquire(Squire): Title for office such as sheriffs, barristers of the law, justices etc. (addressed as Sir or Dame)
Gentleman: Usually not nobility but with a family crest that shows ancestry.
Yeoman: Born a free man, a servant to a household of the nobility.
Peasant: A serf, manual laborer.