Titles and Positions

There were a great deal of expectations and ceremonial behavior placed around one’s rank. Status informed on everything, from who one could speak to, who walked into rooms first, who sat next to whom at dinner, how much one’s income should be to maintain a pre-determined lifestyle, who one married, and even what one ought to look like.

Coronets of the British Nobility.  From top left: Duke, Marquess, Earl, Viscount, Baron, English King of Arms (senior Officer of Arms who has the authority to grant a coat of arms)

Coronets of the British Nobility.
From top left:
Duke, Marquess, Earl, Viscount, Baron, English King of Arms (senior Officer of Arms who has the authority to grant a coat of arms)

General Views

  • “Men squabble about precedence because they are doubtful about their condition” (Sketches and Travels in London 305).
  • “baronets hang together like bees or Scotchmen” (Pelham 1:16).
  • “It is absolutely necessary that a chaperon be perfectly well acquainted with the peerage, in all its intricacies and details. The débutante should likewise have a slight knowledge of that important work. Shakespeare must have laboured under a temporary aberration of intellect, when he wrote, ‘What’s in a name?’ Surely the names of Howard, Fitzroy, Russell, Lennox, Montague, &c., &c., will bear the palm over those of Brown, Johnson, Thompson, Figgins, &c., &c.” (Tales of Fashion and Reality 54-55).
  • “’it requires high birth, – undisputed rank to step out of the beaten path’” (The Governess 234).
  • “You may estimate the importance of Sir Greville Cleveland, by the quantity and severity of the censure lavished on him,’ said Lady Darley . . . “People do not satirize the insignificant’” (The Three Eras in Woman’s Life 1:185).
  • Lady Daventry “was single-hearted and guileless to a degree which Lady Jermyn thought quite incompatible with the worldly avocations of her station” (Granby 1:79-80).

The Aristocracy

  • “’You owe, also, duties to society . . . that must not be neglected. You are expected to appear at the houses of certain note, and to receive in your own all the persons of distinction. Your position . . . demands this; and such engagements, during the London season, are too numerous to admit of devoting any time to others. In the autumn, or during the winter, if we do not go abroad, you can give up a week or two to your father and mother” (Victims of Society 112).
  • “A countess ought to be young and beautiful – a duchess stately and splendid – your earl gallant and graceful – your baron one touch more martial, as if he had five hundred belted vassals waiting at his call” (Romance and Reality 2:228).
  • “A woman of fashion must be callous to the domestic affections. How could she fulfil [sic] the arduous duties of her post, were she watching by the sick-bed of some dear relative, or consoling some bereaved one?” (Victims of Society 155).

The Middle Classes

  • “Whenever he met a great man he groveled before him, and my-lorded him as only a free-born Briton can do. He came home, and looked out his history in the Peerage: he introduced his name into his daily conversation; he bragged about his Lordship to his daughters” (Vanity Fair 142).
  • “He double-barrelled his name, (as many poor Snobs do,) and instead of T. Sniffle, as formerly, came out, in a porcelain card, as Rev. T. D’Arcy Sniffle, Burlington Hotel” (The Book of Snobs 54).
  • “He is the fifteenth cousin to the duke, and so his favourite exordium is ‘Whenever I succeed to the titles of my ancestors’” (Pelham 1:153).
  • “For an honourable John Percy . . . to be called “Jack Percy,” implies the currency of good fellowship in the world of fashion; but for a Mister Baltimore, of Baker-street, to be called “Jack Baltimore,” infers decided disorderliness of morals or finances” (Mrs. Armytage 1:38).

Royalty

  • “He was now a citizen of the world, and if he had not much of its wealth, he had sixteen quarterings to his arms, and one of them contained les fleur de lis [indicating a royal ancestor]” (Country Houses 1:244).
  • “’The Plantagenets [the English royal family from 1154 to 1485] are, in fact, not people of the first fashion, having lived too much in the country’” (Hyde Nugent 1:239).

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