Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Question from Caroline - Differences in titles of the nobility


I am doing a project for school and I was wondering if someone could help me. I'm trying understand what the difference between a Duke, Earl, Baron, Viscount and (I don't know if I'm spelling this right but) Marquess.

What does each title mean? How do responsibilities differ and does each area (like Warwick) for example have a Duke, Earl, Viscount ect. of Warwick? And how would someone's standing at court be affected by their status.

1 comment:

Marilyn R said...

Hello Caroline,

Do you mean the structure of the Nobility now or in Tudor times?

In order of seniority the ranks are:
the Royal Dukes
Duke (Norfolk is the most senior)

*Baronets did not exist in Tudor times - they were minor titles sold by James I for money.

There is not a duke for every area and a duke’s son will not necessarily be marquess of the same place. The present Dukes of Devonshire, Bess of Hardwick's descendants, actually have their main residence (Chatsworth) in Derbyshire and it's not really clear why they are ‘of Devonshire', but when their title was created there was already an Earl of Derby. The Devonshires' family name is Cavendish, but the 12th duke signs himself ‘Peregrine Devonshire’; his mother, the famous IIth duchess signs 'Deborah Devonshire'. The duke's son and heir is called the Marquess of Hartington and his son will be the Earl of Burlington.

If you are near a public library you will probably find useful information in the introductions to ‘Complete Peerage' and ‘Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage'.
There should be plenty of information available online, but be aware that there is also an awful lot of rubbish on this sort of subject, and on history in general.

You might find what you need at:
which has footnotes telling you where the information came from.

All the best with your project.