Life in Elizabethan England Next

Ranks and Files

The ordinary ranking of the English Court, disregarding various offices, parents, patents, or orders of knighthood is as follows:

Men Women
Duke Duchess
Marquis (mar'-kwis) Marchioness (mar'-shon-ess)
Earl Countess
Viscount (vie'-count) Viscountess (vie-count-ess)
Baron Baroness
Knight Knight's lady

Royalty refers only to the monarch and his or her immediate family.

Nobility refers to peers and their families.

The Queen Before Parliament

The peers are barons and above, and sit by right in the House of Lords.

Gentry refers to anyone gentle but untitled, usually descended from nobility.

Knights are not noble. They are knightly. Knights and peers' sons may sit, by election or appointment, in the House of Commons.

An ordinary, undifferentiated knight is a Knight Bachelor.

Knight Banneret is an honour conferred on a man who distinguished himself on the battlefield in front of his monarch. It is a battlefield promotion which permits him to cut the tails off his pennon (making it a banner) and permits (requires) him to lead a company of his own men under it. In Elizabeth's reign, there are only three, including Sir Ralph Sadler.

Knights of the Garter outrank all the other knights.

Note: The rank of Baronet (an hereditary knighthood) will not exist until James I invents it as a money making scheme.

In 1558, there were no more than about 600 knights in the country.

Minors and women holding rank in their own right may not sit in the House of Lords. Minors must wait till they are old enough. A woman may send her eldest son "in her right," when he comes of age.

Bishops and archbishops are ranked with the peers. A bishops has a rank equal to that of an earl. Archbishops rank with the dukes, and are addressed as Your Grace.

The Queen has little use for churchmen, however, and seldom invites them 'round to dine.

::  Patronage: Retinue, Companions, & Livery
::  Precedence, Preferment, & Attainder
::  The Senior Peers
::  The Noble Style
::  Honor & Dueling

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26 March 2008 mrp