Britannia, by William Camden


* Ingenuis. Big AAS to the division of our State, it consists of a King or Monarch, the Nobles, Citizens, * Freemen (which we call Yeomen) and Tradesmen.

The King. The KING, stiled by our Ancestors Coning, and Cyning, (a name (a) under which is couch’d both power and wisdom) and by us contracted into King, has in these Kingdoms the supreme power, and a meer government. He neither holds his Empire by vassalage, nor receives it by Investiture from another, nor owns any superior but God. Bracton, l.1. c.8. As that Oracle of the Law has deliver’d it, Every one is under him, and himself under none but God. He has very many † Jura Majestatis.Imperial Rights (which the learned in the law term The Holy of Holies, and Individuals, because they are inseparable; but the common People, The King’s Prerogative;) and these, they tell us, are denoted by the flowers in the King’s Crown. Seneca. Some of these the King enjoys by written Law, others by Custom, which without any express Law is establish’d by the tacit consent of the whole body: and surely he deserves them, since by his watchfulness every man’s House, by his labour every man’s Ease, by his industry every one’s Pleasure, and by his toil every one’s Recreation, is secur’d to him. But these things are too sublime, to belong properly to our present Subject.

(a) Either relating to cene, which in Saxon signifies stout, valiant, &c. or to cunnan, which signifies to know or understand; from whence a designing subtle man is called a Cunning man.

Next the King, is his Eldest son; and as he among the Romans who was design’d Successor,The Prince. was at first call’d * * Princeps juventutis.Prince of the youth, and afterwards (as flattery prevail’d) CæsarCaesar, Noble Cæsar, and the most noble Cæsar; so our’s was by our Saxon Ancestors term’d ÆthelingÆtheling.AEtheling, i.e. noble, and in Latin ClytoClyto., from the Greek Greek text, famous; that age affecting the Greek tongue. Upon which, that Saying concerning Eadgar, the last heir male of the Saxon line, is still kept up among the People, Saxon: Eadgar Saxon: Aetheling, Saxon: Englandes Saxon: Dearling, i.e. Eadgar the noble, England’s darling. And in the antient Latin Charters of our Kings, we often read, Ego E. vel Æ. Clyto, † Regis filius.the King’s son. But this name of Clyto, I have observ’d to be given to the King’s children in general. After the Norman Conquest, he had no standing honorary title, nor any other that I know of, but barely The King’s Son, or The King’s eldest Son; till Edward the first summon’d to Parliament his son Edward, under the title of Prince of Wales,Prince of Wales. and Earl of Chester; to whom also he afterwards granted the Dukedom of Aquitain. And the Son, when he came to be King Edward the second, summon’d his own son Edward to Parliament (then scarce ten years of age) under the title of Earl of Chester and Flint. But this Edward coming to the Crown, created Edward his son (famous for his mighty Exploits in war) Duke of Cornwall; since which time, the King’s eldest son (b) is born Duke of Cornwall. And a little after, he honour’d the same person with the title of Prince of Wales, by solemn Investiture. The Principality of Wales was conferred upon him in these Words, to him and his heirs Kings of England. And as the heirs apparent of the Roman Empire were (as I observ’d just now) call’d Cæsars; of the Grecian, DespotæDespotae, Lords; of the Kingdom of France, Dauphins, and of Spain, Infantes: so those of England have been ever since stiled Princes of Wales. And this title continu’d till the time of Henry the eighth, when Wales was entirely united to the Kingdom of England. But * * Now, C.when the divided Kingdoms of Britain † † Are, C.were reduc’d into one, under the government of the most potent Prince King James ⌈the first;⌉ his eldest son Henry, the darling and delight of these Kingdoms, ¦ ¦ Is, C.was stil’d Prince of great Britain: whom nature made capable of the noblest Attainments; and that God would bless him with all the richest virtues and honour immortal, that he † † May, C.might outdo both * * Our, C.Britain’s hopes and the glorious atchievements of his fore-fathers; that he † † May, C.might enjoy length of days, and all other Blessings; * * Is, C.was the constant and hearty prayer of Great Britain: ⌈But not more constant, nor more hearty, than are the Prayers of every true Briton at this day who has a just value and concern for his Religion and Liberty. That the like Blessings may be plentifully pour’d upon his Royal Highness, GEORGE Prince of Wales, together with his illustrious Consort, and their Royal Issue; upon whose Succession to the Throne (after his present Majesty, the best of Kings) not only the Happiness and Prosperity of these Nations, but the very Being of our Constitution, under God, entirely depends.⌉

(b) If he be the eldest Son; but if the first dies, the second is not born to the same Title. See concerning this in Cornwall, p.28.

Our Nobles are divided into Greater and Less. The Greater Nobles we call Dukes, Marquisses, Earls, and Barons; who either enjoy these titles by hereditary Right, or receive them from the King, as the reward of their merits.

AElius Formulae A DUKEA Duke. is the next title of honour to the Prince. At first, this was a name of office, and not of honour. About the time of Ælius Verus, they who were appointed to guard the Frontiers, were first called Dukes; and this Title, in Constantine’s time, was inferior to that of a Count. After the destruction of the Roman Empire, the title continu’d to be the name of an Office; and the great numbers who in the Saxon times are stil’d Duces in the antient Charters, were in Saxon only called Ealdormen. The same also who are named Dukes, are term’d Counts too: for instance, most people call William the Conqueror of England Duke of Normandy, whereas William of Malmsbury stiles him Count of Normandy. However, that both Duke and Count were names of Office, is plain from that form of Creation, which we find in MarculphusMarculphi Formulæ., an antient writer. The Royal clemency is particularly signaliz’d upon this account, that in all the people goodness and watchfulness are requir’d; nor is it convenient to commit the judiciary power to any, who has not first approved his loyalty and valour. Since therefore we have sufficiently experienc’d your fidelity and worth, we commit to you the * * Actionem.Office of a Count, Duke, orPatriciatus.President, ¦ ¦ In pago that Lordship which your predecessor govern’d, to act in and rule over it. Provided always, that you be entirely true to our Government; and that all the People within those limits, live under and obey your authority; and that you rule justly according to law and custom; that you zealously protect widows and orphans; that you severely punish the crimes of robbers and malefactors; so as those who live orderly under your government, may be easy and undisturb’d: and that whatever profit arises fromActione.that Office to the Exchequer, you bring yearly with your own hands into our coffers.

It began to be an honorary title underSigonius, l.5. Otho the Great, about the year 970.Regni italici. For he, to engage Persons of valour and wisdom more effectually in his interest, honour’d them with what he call’d * * Regalia.Royalties. Those Royalties were either Dignities, or Lands in Fee. The Dignities were those of Dukes, Marquisses, Counts, Captains, Valvasors, and Valvasins. It was late e’er it became an hereditary title in France; not till Philip the third, King of France, granted that they should be thenceforth stiled Dukes of Britain, who were before called promiscuously Dukes and Counts. But in England (in the Norman times, when the Norman Kings themselves were Dukes of Normandy) none had that honour for a long time; till Edward the third created Edward his son, Duke of Cornwall, by aSertum.garland on his head, a ring on his finger, and a * * A gold Verge afterwards came into use.silver verge: as the Dukes of Normandy were formerly created by a sword and banner deliver’d to them, and afterwards by girding on the sword of the Dutchy, and by a circle of gold garnish’d on the top with little golden roses. And the same King EdwardMat. Paris concerning John created D. of Normandy. the third created his two sons, Lionel, Duke of Clarence, and John, Duke of Lancaster, in Parliament, “By girding on a sword, and putting upon their heads a furr’d cap, with a circle of gold set with pearls, and by the delivery of a Charter.” From that time, many hereditary Dukes have been created in this Kingdom, with these and like expressions in the Charters, The name, title, state, stile, place, seat, preheminence, honour, authority and dignity of Duke of N. we give and grant; and do invest you therein, by the putting on a sword, and a cap with a golden circle upon your head, and the delivery of a golden verge.

A MARQUISSMarquisses. (ie. (a) according to the import of the word, one who is set to guard the marches or limits) is a title of honour, the next to a Duke. This title came late into England, none being invested with it before the time of Richard the second. For he made his Favourite, Robert Vere Earl of Oxford, Marquiss of Dublin; but that honour was merely titular: For they who had the care of the Frontiers, were commonly called Lords Marchers, and not Marquisses, as we stile them. They are created by the King, by the girding on a sword, putting on a Cap of honour and * * Dignitatis.dignity, and delivering a Charter. And here I shall take the liberty to relate what I find recorded in the Parliament-rolls. When4 Hen. 4. John de Beaufort, Earl of Somerset, was made Marquiss of Dorset by Richard the second, and was depriv’d of that title by Henry the fourth, the Commons in Parliament made an humble Request to the King, that he would restore him to the title of Marquiss; but he himself opposed the motion, and openly declar’d that it was † † Novam.a novel dignity, altogether unknown to our Ancestors; and therefore that he did not by any means desire it, nay, that he utterly refused it.

(a) From the Saxon mearc, a bound; and mearcan, mearcian, to set out, mark distinctly, &c. in the same language.

TheEarls. title of EARL, which holds the third place, seems to have been deriv’d from our German Ancestors. For, as Tacitus tells us, they had always * * Comites.Earls attending their Princes, for counsel, and for authority. But others are of opinion, that both the Franks and we receiv’d the title from the Romans. For the EmperorsCaesar, after the Empire was come to its height, began to keep about them a sort of domestick Senate, which was call’d Cæsar’s † Comitatus.retinue; and these, by whose Counsel they acted in war and peace, were called Comites, Attendants; from whence we find frequently in old Inscriptions, Comiti Impp. In a few years this name prevail’d so much, that all Magistrates * * Qui sacrum Comitatum observarunt.who gave their attendance at that Council, or had been of it, were stil’d Comites; and thereupon it was afterwards extended to all who had the supervisal of any business; and SuidasParatit. ad Cod. (as Cujacius has told us) defines Comes, Greek, a Governor of the People.

From whence also we learn, that before Constantine the Great, the name Comes was not a name of Dignity. But he, modelling the Roman government a-new, and endeavouring to oblige as many as possible by favours and honours, first instituted the title of Comes, as merely honorary, without any duty: And there were certain rights and privileges annex’d to the title; to accompany the Prince, not only when he appear’d in publick, but in his palace and private retirements; and to be admitted to his table, and to his secret consultations. Upon which we read in Epiphanius, Greek text, &c. i.e. Who also obtained of the King the Dignity of a Count. At length, such as had the favour of this title, had other honours confer’d upon them to which Duty was annex’d; and again, to those who were before in Office, and engag’d in the affairs of State, he super-added this honour. By this means, the name of Count came to imply both Dignity and Government; and, being at first but temporary, it was afterwards for term of life. But when the Roman Empire was divided into several Kingdoms, this title was still retain’d; and our Saxons call’d those in Latin Comites and Consules, who in their own tongue were named Saxon: Ealdormen. The same persons were stil’d by the Danes in their own language, EorlasEorles, at this day Earls, P. Pithæus in his Memorabilia Campaniæ., i.e. honourable men, as Ethelwerd tells us; and, by a little melting of that word, we call them at this day Earls. For a long time they were simply so call’d, till at last an addition was made of the name of the Place, over which they had jurisdiction. pithaeus Campaniae But this Dignity was not as yet hereditary. (The first hereditary Earls in France, by the way, were the Earls of Bretagne.) But when William the Norman Conqueror had possess’d himself of the Government of this Kingdom, Earls began to be Feudal, Hereditary, and Patrimonial: and these (as appears from Domesday) were stil’d simply Earls, without any addition, as, Earl Hugh, Earl Alan, Earl Roger, &c. Afterwards, as appears by ancient Records, Earls were created with an addition of the name of the place, and had the third penny of the County assign’d them. For instance; Mawd the Empress, daughter and heir of King Henry the First, created an Earl in this form of words; as appears from the Charter, now in my hands. I Mawd, daughter of King Henry, and Queen of England, do give and grant to Gaufred de Magnavilla, for his service, and to his heirs for ever, the Earldom of Essex; and that he have the third penny in the Sheriff’s Court, issuing out of the pleas, as an Earl ought to have from his County, in all things. This is the most ancient Creation-Charter that I ever saw. Likewise, Henry II. King of England, created an Earl in these words, Know ye that we have made Hugh Bigod, Earl of Norfolk, namely of the third penny of Norwic and Norfolk, so as no Earl in England may hold his County more freely. Which an old Book belonging to Battle-Abbey explains thus: It was an ancient custom throughout England, that the Earls of Counties should have the third penny for their own use; * * i.e. from Comitatus.from whence they were call’d Comites, Earls. And another anonymous Author delivers it more distinctly. Comitatus is deriv’d from Comes, or else this from that. Now he is call’d Comes (an Earl) because he enjoys in every County the third part of the profits arising from the Pleas. But yet all Earls do not enjoy them, but such only who have them granted by the King, hereditarily, or personally. So that Polidore Virgil, as to the custom of the present age, delivers this matter right; It is a custom in England, that titles of Counties be dispos’d of at the pleasure of the Prince, even without the possession of the places from whence they derive their title. Upon which account, the King usually gives to such as have no possessions in the County, a certain annual pension out of the Exchequer, in lieu thereof.

They were formerly created, without any farther ceremony than the bare delivery of the Charter. Under King Stephen, who seiz’d the Crown while the Kingdom was embroil’d with civil wars, there were several that usurp’d the title of Earl; whom the History of the Church of Waverly calls * * Pseudocomites.false Earls, and imaginary Earls, where it tells us how they were depos’d by King Henry II. But King John (as far as my observation has carry’d me) was the first who us’d theGirding of a sword. girding of a sword. For Roger Hoveden writes thus: King John, on his Coronation-day, girt William Marshall with the sword of the County ofPenbrochia in other writers.Strigulia, and Geoffry Fitz-Peter, with that of the County of Essex; and these, tho’ they were called Earls before, and had the government of their Counties, had not been yet girt with the sword of the County; but that very day they serv’d at the King’s table with their swords on. In the following age, there was an additional ceremony, of putting on a cap with a golden circle (which is now changed into a † Coronam radiatam.Coronet with rays) and a * * Trabea honoraria.Robe of State. Which three, namely, a sword and a belt, a cap with a Coronet, and a Robe of State, are at this day carry’d by three several Earls, before him who is to be created; and then he is introduc’d to the King upon his Throne, between two Earls in Robes of State, and himself in a † Supertunica.Surcoat: where, kneeling upon his knees while the Instrument of his Creation is read; at these words, The same T. we advance, create, appoint and constitute Earl of S. and accordingly do give, grant, and by the girding of a sword invest him with the name, title, state, style, honour, authority and dignity of Earl of S; the King puts on him a long robe, hangs a sword at his neck, puts a Cap with a Coronet upon his head, and delivers into his hand the Instrument of his Creation, as soon as it is read. But these things do not properly belong to my design.

As to a custom now in use, that whoever is to be created Earl, if he be not a Baron before, must first be advanced to the dignity of a Baron; it is a new thing, and only practis’d since the days of King Henry VIII. Among the Earls or Counts they were by far the most honourable, who were call’d (a) Counts Palatine.Counts Palatine. For as the Title of Palatine was a name common to all who had any office in the King’s Palace;P. Pithæus. so that of Count Palatine was a title of honour conferr’d upon such who were before Palatini, with a kind of Royal Authority to be Judges within their own territories.

(a) Of the nature and authority of these Counts Palatine, see Cheshire.

AfterViscounts. the Earls, the next in order are the VISCOUNTS; call’d in Latin Vice-comites. This, as an office, is an ancient title; as a dignity, but modern, for it was never heard of among us, before Henry the sixth’s time.

AmongBarons. the Greater Nobility, the BARONS have the next place. And here, tho’ I am not ignorant what the learned write concerning the signification of this word in Cicero; yet I am willing to close with the opinion of Isidore, and of an ancient Grammarian, who will have Barons to be mercenary Soldiers. This seems to be pretty plain from that known place of Hirtius in The Alexandrian war: They run to the assistance of Cassius: for he always used to have Barons, and a good number of Soldiers for sudden occasions, with their weapons ready, about him, and separate from the rest. Nor is the old Latin and Greek Glossary against us, when it translates Baro by Greek text, a man; as always, in the Laws of the Longobards, Baro is us’d for a man.

The Etymologies of this name which some have fansy’d, do not by any means please me. The French Heralds will have Barons to be so call’d from Par-hommes in French, that is, of equal dignity; the English Lawyers say it is from robora belli, the sinews of war; some Germans think it a contraction of Banner-heirs, i.e. Standard-bearers; and Isidore derives it from Greek text, i.e. grave or weighty. AlciatusIn his Parerga. thinks the name comes from the Berones, an ancient People of Spain, which he says were formerly stipendiaries. But that other, from the German Bar, i.e. a free man, pleases me better.

See Goldastus, p.414. The precise time when this name came into our Island, I have not yet discover’d: the Britains disown it; and there is not the least mention made of it in the Saxon Laws, nor is it reckon’d in Alfrick’s Saxon Glossary among the titles of honour; for there, Dominus is translated Laford, which we have contracted into Lord. Lords. And among the Danes, the Free Lords, such as our Barons are at this day, were called Thanes, and (as Andreas Velleius tells us) are term’d so still. In Burgundy, the use of this name is very ancient; for Gregory of Tours says thus, The Barons of Burgundy, as well Bishops as others of the Laity, &c.About the year 580. The first mention of a Baron in England, that I have met with, is in a Fragment of the Laws of Canutus King of England and Denmark; and even there, according to different copies, it is read Vironus, Baronis, and Thani. But that the Barons are there meant, is plain from the Laws of William the Conqueror; in which, that word in the Laws of Canutus is translated by Baro. Take the whole passage. Let the * * Heriots or Reliefs.Exercituals be so moderated, as to be tolerable. An Earl shall provide such things as are fitting, eight horses, four saddled and four unsaddled; four steel caps, and four coats of mail; eightLanceæ.javelins, and as many shields; four swords, and two hundred ¦ ¦ Possibly for Mancusæ, i.e. 30 pence.lanceae mancusaemancæ of gold. But a King’s Viron, or Baron, who is next to him, shall have four horses, two saddled and two unsaddled; two swords, four javelins, and as many shields, one steel cap, and fifty mancæ of gold.

Many Thanes in England in the Conqueror’s time. In the beginning of the Norman times, the Valvasors and Thanes were reckon’d, in order and dignity, next to the Earls and Barons; and the Greater Valvasors (if we may believe those who have written concerning Feudal-tenures) were the same that Barons are now. So that Baro may seem to have come from that name; which time has, by little and little, made somewhat smoother.

But even then it was not a title of any great honour; for in those times there were Earls who had their Barons under them: and I remember, I have read in the ancient Constitutions of France, that there were ten Barons under one Earl, and as many * * Capitanei.Chieftans under a Baron. It is likewise certain, that there are Charters since the Norman Conquest, wherein the Earls write thus, To all my Barons, as well French as English, greeting, &c. Nay, even Citizens of the better rank were called Barons: so, in Domesday-book the citizens of Warwick are stil’d Barons; and the citizens of London, with the Inhabitants of the Cinque Ports, had the same title given them. But, a few years after, as Senators of Rome were chosen according to their estates; so they were accounted Barons with us, who held their lands by an entire Barony, or thirteen Knights fees and one third of a Knight’s fee; every fee (as we have it in an ancient Book) being computed at twenty pounds, which in all make 400 Marks. For that was the value of one entire Barony; and they who had lands and revenues to this value, were wont to be summon’d to Parliament. It seems to have been a Dignity with Jurisdiction; which our Court-BaronsCourt Barons. do in some measure show. And the great number of Barons, is an argument that they were such Lords who could hold Pleas within their own jurisdiction (like those whom the Germans call Free-heirs,) especially if they had their castles; for then they answer’d the definition of Baldus the famous Lawyer, who calls him a Baron, that had aMerum mixtumque imperium.mere and mixt government in some Castle, by the grant of the Prince. And (as some would have it) all who held Baronies, seem to have claim’d that honour; so that some of our Lawyers think, that Baron and Barony, Earl and Earldom, Duke and Dukedom, King and Kingdom, were in the nature of Conjugates. Matt. Paris. pag.1262. It is certain, that in that age King Henry III. reckon’d 150 Baronies in England. From hence it is, that in the Charters and Histories of that age, almost all Noblemen are stil’d Barons: a name, which in those times was exceeding honourable; the Baronage of EnglandBaronage of England. including in a manner all the prime Orders of the Kingdom, Dukes, Marquisses, Earls, and Barons.

But that name has been much more honorable since King Henry III. out of such a multitude, which was seditious and turbulent, summon’d to Parliament, by Writ, some of the † only. For he (the words are taken out of an Author of considerable Antiquity) after those great disturbances and heart-burnings between himself, Simon de Montefort, and other Barons, were laid; appointed and ordained, that all such Earls and Barons of the Kingdom of England, to whom the King should vouchsafe to direct his Writs of summons, should come to his Parliament, and no others, unless their Lord the King should please to direct other Writs to them also. And what he began a little before his death, was strictly observ’d by Edward the first and his successors. From that time, they only were look’d on as Barons of the Kingdom, whom the King by such Writs of summonsSummons to Parliament. had call’d to Parliament; until Richard the Second, in the eleventh year of his reign, created John de Beauchamp of Holt, Baron of Kederminster, by the delivery of a Diploma, bearing date the 10th of October. From which time, the Kings have often conferr’d that honour by Diploma (or rather honorary Letters,) and the putting on of an honorary long robe. And that way of creating Barons by Diploma, and the other of Writs of summons, are in use at this day; tho’ they are mention’d therein not by the name of Baron, but of Chevalier. They who are thus created, are call’d Barons of Parliament, Barons of the Kingdom, and Barons honorary; to distinguish them from those who are commonly call’d Barons according to the ancient constitution; as, those of Burford, and Walton, and such as were Barons to the Counts Palatine of Chester, and of Penbroch; who were feudal, and Barons by tenure only.

The Parliamentary Barons are not (like those of France and Germany) Barons by name only; but are all by birth, Peers, Noblemen, † Magnates.the States, and Counsellors-born; being summon’d by the King in this form, To treat of the weighty affairs of the nation, and to give counsel upon them. They have their peculiar immunities and privileges; as, in criminal causes, to be judg’d by their Peers only; Not to be put to an oath, but to deliver the truth upon honour; Not to be impannel’d among the Jury of twelve to enquire into fact; Not to be liable to the Writs Supplicavit, Capias, Essoins; with many other privileges, which I leave to the Lawyers; whose proper business it is to treat of those, and other things of the like nature.

Bishops Barons. Besides these, the two Archbishops and all the Bishops of England, are Barons of the Kingdom, or Parliamentary Barons; and so (in the memory of our * * So said, ann. 1607.grandfathers) were several Governours of Monasteries, of whom this is a List.

Abbots, Parliamentary Barons.

Abbot of  Glassenbury.
St. Austin’s, Canterbury.
St. Peter’s, Westminster.
St. Albans.
St. Edmundsbury.
St. John’s, Colchester.
Waltham, S. Cross.
St. Peter’s Glocester.
S. Benedict of Hulm.
St. Mary’s at York.
Prior of  Coventry.
The Order of St. John of Jerusalem, commonly stil’d Master of the Knights of St. John; who would also be accounted the first Baron of England.

To these it belong’d (as it still does to the Bishops,) by right and custom, in every Parliament (as the Publick Records have it) to be present in person as Peers of the Realm, with the rest of the Peers; to consult, treat, order, decree, and define, by virtue of their Baronies held of the King. For William the first (as the Ecclesiasticks of that age complain’d, though those of the next look’d upon it as their greatest glory)Matth. Paris. put Bishopricks and Abbies (who held Baronies in Frank almoigne, and so were free from all secular services) under military service; enrolling every Bishoprick and Abbey at pleasure, according to the number of soldiers which he and his successors might demand of them, in times of war.

Since that, the Ecclesiastical Barons enjoy all the Immunities which the other Barons of the Realm do; except, that they are not judg’d by their Peers. For as they, by the Canons of the Church, are not to be present in sanguinary causes; so, in the same causes, themselves are be judg’d as to fact, by a Jury of twelve. But whether this be agreeable to the strict rules of the Law, let the Lawyers determin.

VAVASORS or VALVASORSVavasors. formerly took place next the Barons; a name, deriv’d by our Lawyers from ValvæValvae, folding-doors; and a dignity, that seems to have come to us from the French. Sigonius. For, during their dominion in Italy, they call’d those Valvasors, who govern’d the people, or part of them, under the Duke, Marquiss, Earl, or Chieftain, and (as Buteler, the Lawyer, words it) "Had a full power of punishing, but not the right of fairs and markets. This was a title of honour very uncommon among us; and, whatever it was, is long since grown into disuse. In Chaucer’s time it was not very considerable, as appears from what he says of his Frankelin, or freeholder.

A Sheriff had he been, and a contour
Was no where soch a worthy Vavasour

Lesser Noblemen. The LESSER Noblemen, are the ⌈Baronets,⌉ Knights, Esquires, and those whom we commonly call Gentlemen.

Baronets. ⌈BARONETS are (as appears by the name) an inferior sort of Barons, and the lowest degree of those that enjoy Hereditary Honour. This was first instituted by King James the first, in the eleventh year of his Reign, and is given by Patent to a Man and the heirs male of his own Body lawfully begotten. ⌉

Knights. KNIGHTS, call’d by our English Lawyers in Latin Milites, have almost in all Nations had their name from horses. Thus they are call’d Cavelliers by the Italians, Chevalier by the French, Reuter by the Germans, Marchog by the Welsh; all, with respect to riding. They are call’d Knights, only by the English; a word, that in the Saxon, as also in the German tongue, signifies promiscuously a servant (or one that does service) and a young man. And therefore in the old Saxon Gospels, the Disciples are call’d Leornung cnyhts; and in another place we read Incnyht, for a Client; and our old Common-Lawyer Bracton mentions the Radcnihtes, i.e. Serving-horsemen; who held lands upon this condition, that they should furnish their Lord with horses: from whence, by shortening the name (as we English love contractions) I have long thought that the word Knights descended to us.

Knights why call’d Milites. But for what reason the Laws of our Country, and all the Writers since the Norman Conquest, should term them in Latin, Milites; I do not well apprehend. Not but I know, that in the decline of the Roman Empire, the name of Milites was transferr’d to such as were always about the King’s person, and had the most considerable Posts in the Prince’s retinue. But if I am not much mistaken, the first who were call’d so among us, were they that held lands beneficiary or in fee, to serve in the wars. For such Fees were call’d Militarie, and they who in other Countries are call’d Feudataries, were with us stil’d Milites, Soldiers (as the Milites of the King, of the Archbishop of Canterbury, of Earl Roger, of Earl Hugh, &c.) because they had lands bestow’d upon them on this condition, that they should fight for them, and pay them fealty and homage; whereas, others who served in the wars † Pro solidis stipendiaries, were call’d Solidarii, and Servientes.

These (Milites or Equites, which you please to call them) are fourfold: The most honourable, are those of the Order of S. George or the Garter; the second, the Bannerets; the third, Of the Bath; and the fourth, such as we call simply, Knights, and in Latin Equites aurati, or Milites, without any addition. Of the Knights of the Order of S. George I will speak in their proper place, when I come to Windsor: Of the rest, briefly, in this place.

Bannerets. BANNERETS, otherwise call’d Baronets (but falsly,) have their name from a banner; for they were allow’d, upon account of their Bravery, to use a square banner as well as the Barons; and from thence they are by some, truly, call’d Equites Vexillarii, and by the Germans Banner-heires. I cannot trace their antiquity beyond the reign of Edward the third, when England was at it’s height for martial discipline; so that till time shall bring to light a more probable account, I must believe that this honorary title was then first invented, as a reward to Valour. In the publick Records of that age, among the military titles, there is mention made of Banneretts,Pars 2. Pat. 15 E.3. M.22, & 23. and of Homines ad vexillum, who seem to be the same; and of homines ad arma (men attending in arms.) And I have read a Charter of King Edward the third, by which he advanc’d John Coupland (for taking David the second King of Scots, prisoner in a battle at Durham) to the honour of a Banneret, in these words; Desiring so to reward the said John, who took David de Bruis, and deliver’d him up to us, and to set such a mark of Esteem upon his loyalty and valour, as may give others an example to serve us faithfully for the future; We have advanc’d the said John to the Dignity of a Banneret; and, to support that title, have for us and our heirs granted to the same John the sum of 500l. yearly, to him and his heirs, &c. Nor may it be improper to mention out of Frossardus, the form by which John Chandos, a celebrated soldier in his time, was made Banneret. When Edward Prince of Wales was ready to engage Henry the Bastard, and the French, in defence of Peter King of Castile; John Chandos came to the Prince, and deliver’d into his hands his banner folded, with these words; My Lord, this is my banner, may it please you to unfold it, that I may this day carry it. For I have, by the blessing of God, sufficient revenue for this. The Prince and Peter King of Castile who stood by him, took the banner in their hands, and restor’d it unfolded, with words to this effect, Sir John, as you expect success and glory, behave your self with courage, and shew what a man you are. Having receiv’d the banner, he return’d to his men full of joy, and holding it up, Fellow-soldiers (says he) behold my banner, and yours, if you defend it stoutly as your own. In after ages, whoever was to be honour’d with this title (either before a battle, to excite courage, or after, as a reward of bravery) was brought before the King or his General, carrying an oblong † Signum.Ensign call’d Pennon (wherein his Arms were painted,) and going between two of the senior Knights, with Trumpeters, and Heralds, before him; and the King or General, wishing him success, commanded the end of the Pennon to be cut off, that so the banner instead of an oblong might be made a square.

Knights of the Bath. Concerning the Milites or Equites Balnei (Knights of the BATH) I have observ’d nothing more ancient, than that this dignity was in use among the old Franks; and that Henry the fourth King of England, on the day of his Coronation, did in the Tower of London confer Knighthood upon forty six Esquires, who had watch’d all night before, and had bath’d themselves: that he gave to every one of them a green coat reaching down to the ancle, strait-sleev’d, and furred with minivere; and that they had on the left shoulder * * Duplicem funiculum ex albo serico.two white silk twists hanging loose, with † Torulis.Tossels. These in the * * So said, ann. 1607.last age, were such of the greatest of the Nobility as had not been Knighted before; and were chosen to this honour at the Coronation of the Kings and Queens, or at their marriages; and sometimes, when their sons were made Princes of Wales, Dukes, or Knights. It was then done with a variety of Ceremonies, which are now in a great measure disus’d.

At † † So said, ann. 1607.present, they who are appointed by the King to this honour (not that I intend a full account of the Order,) the day before their Creation, put on a grey Hermit habit, a hood, a linnen Coif, a pair of boots; and in that dress go devoutly to divine service, to begin their warfare there, as principally intended for the honour and service of God. They sup together that night, each one being attended by two Esquires, and a Page; after supper, they withdraw to their bed-chamber, where there is prepar’d for each of them a little bed with red curtains, and the arms of their families upon them; with a bathing Vessel close by, covered with a linnen cloth, in which, after having commended themselves to God, they wash, to put them in mind that they ought to keep their bodies and minds undefil’d. Early next morning, they are awaked with musick, and dress themselves in the same habit. Then, the High-Constable, the Earl-Marshal, and others appointed by the King, go to them, and call them out in order, and give them an oath, to fear God, and defend his Church; to honour the King, and maintain his prerogative, and to protect widows, virgins, orphans, and all others (as far as they are able) from injury and oppression. After they have taken this oath, they are conducted to Morning-prayer by the King’s musick, with the Heralds before them: and from thence to their chamber again, where they put off their Hermit-habit, and dress themselves in a mantle of red Taffata (the Emblem of Blood and War,) and a white hat adorn’d with a plume of white feathers over their linnen coif, with a pair of white gloves hanging at the * * Funiculus Chlamydis.pendant cordon of their mantle. Then, they take Horse; and their Horses are accouter’d with black saddles and Trappings, speck’d with white; and have a cross on their forehead. Each has his Page on horse-back, carrying before him a sword with a gilded hilt, at which there hang golden spurs, and also Esquires, riding on both sides of them. In this state, with trumpets sounding before them, they march to Court, where they are conducted by two of the Senior Knights into the King’s presence. Then, the Page delivers the belt, and the sword hanging in it, to the Lord-Chamberlain, and he with great reverence gives it to the King, who † Transversim cingit. puts it on over-thwart the Knight, and orders the two senior Knights there to put on the spurs. These formerly were wont, after wishing them joy, to kiss the knees of the person to be Knighted. After the Creation, they us’d heretofore to serve up the dishes at the King’s table. Then they dine together, sitting all on one side, each under an Escutcheon of his own Arms. At Evening-prayer, they repair to the Chapel, and offer their swords upon the altar, and then lay down money to redeem them. As they return, the King’s head-Cook stands with his knife in his hand, admonishing them to shew themselves faithful and worthy Knights, or he’ll cut off their spurs, with disgrace and infamy. On the Coronation-day, they attend the King in their proper station, with swords and spurs on, attired in a blue mantle; with a knot of white silk (the emblem of a clear and propitious day) in the form of a cross, and a hood upon the left shoulder. Thus much may suffice, upon a subject which my Design does not oblige me to treat of particularly.

Now,Knights. of the Knights simply so call’d, without other addition; an Order, tho’ lowest at this day, yet of greatest antiquity and honour in the original Institution. For, as the Romans, whose habit was a gown, gave the same to all, as they arriv’d at the state of manhood; so our ancestors the Germans presented their youth with arms, as soon as they were found of ability to manage them. ThisDe Moribus Germanorum. we learn from Cornelius Tacitus: No one by custom was to take arms, till the city judg’d him able to bear them. And then, in the publick assembly, either one of the Princes, or the father, or some Relation, honour’d him with a shield and javelin. This is the Gown with them, this the first honour confer’d upon their youth: before this, they are only members of a family; from that time, of the Commonwealth.

Now, seeing these military Youths were call’d in their language Knechts, as they are also in our’s; I am of opinion, that both the name and the institution are to be deriv’d from thence. This was the primitive and most plain method of creating Knights; that which was in use among the Longobards, and the Franks, and our fore-fathers; all, descended from the Germans. Paulus DiaconusLib.1. c.22. tells us of a custom among the Longobards, That the King’s son is not permitted to dine with his father, till arms are bestow’d on him by the King of some other Nation. And we find in the History of the Franks, that their Kings gave arms to their sons and others, and girt them with a sword; and Malmsbury says, that our King Alfred confer’d Knighthood upon his * * Nepotem.nephew Athelstan, a youth of extraordinary hopes; giving him a scarlet mantle, a belt set with jewels, and a Saxon sword with a golden scabbard.

Afterwards, when Religion had gain’d so great respect in the world, that nothing was thought to be done well or successfully, unless Religious men had the first hand in it; our Ancestors (a little before the coming-in of the Normans) were wont to receive the Sword from them. This, Ingulphus (who liv’d at that time) tells us. He who was to be consecrated to lawful warfare, did the evening before make confession of his sins, with contrition, to some Bishop, Abbot, Monk, or Priest; and being absolv’d, spent that night in the Church, in order to hear divine service next day; then, he offer’d his sword upon the altar, and after the Gospel, the Priest put it (as then hallowed) with a blessing, † Militis collo.upon the Knight’s shoulder; and so, having received the sacrament, he became a lawful Knight. Nor was this custom presently disus’d by the Normans. For thus says John of Salisbury in his Polycraticon: There was a custom, that on the day when any one was Knighted, he went to the Church, and laying his sword upon the altar, offer’d it there; by this solemn profession, devoting himself to the service of the Altar, and also obliging himself to be ever ready to assist it with his sword; that is, to do his duty to it. Petrus BlesensisEpist. 94. also: The young men at this day receive their swords from the altar, that they may thereby profess that they are sons of the Church, and that they take their swords, for the honour of the Priesthood, the protection of the poor, the punishment of malefactors, and the Liberties of their Country: Yet these good ends of the Institution are little remember’d in our days; for, from the very time of their Knighthood, they rebel against the Lord’s anointed, and make havock of the revenues of the Church.

As for the custom of having a sword girt on them, it is without doubt deriv’d from the disciplin of the Romans. For, as they thought it unlawful to fight an enemy before they had taken the military oath with their sword drawn; so our AncestorsCic. l.1. Offic. de Catonis filio. believ’d they could not lawfully go to war, before they were consecrated by this ceremony to the service. And in that manner, we find William Rufus King of England made a Soldier in form, by Archbishop Lanfranck. Yet this Custom by degrees grew into disuse; from the time, as Ingulphus says, that it was jested on and exploded by the Normans; and a Synod was held at Westminster in the year 1102, whereby it was decreed, that Abbots should not create Knights. Yet some interpret this, that Abbots should not grant Church-lands to be held by Knight-service.

Afterwards, it became a custom for Kings to send their sons to neighbouring Princes, to receive Knighthood at their hands. Thus, our Henry the second was sent to David King of Scots; and Malcolm King of Scots to our Henry the second on the same errand; and so, our Edward the first was sent to the King of Castile, to receive military arms, or the virilia; for such was the form and style in the Creations of that time. Then also, to the sword and girdle, were added the gilt spurs, as a further ornament; and hence they are call’d at this day Milites, and Equites, aurati. The privilege of a seal was also granted them; for till they were created Knights, they might not use a seal; as I infer from the Abingdon-Book, which has these Words. Which writing Richard Earl of Chester intended to seal with his mother Ermentrud’s seal; for (being not as yet Knighted) all his letters were seal’d with his mother’s seal. In the following age, it is pretty apparent, that Knights were made upon account of their Estates; for they who had a great Knight’s-fee (that is, if we may credit old Records, * * Others 800.680 acres of land) claim’d the honour of Knighthood, as thereby entitl’d to it. Nay, in Henry the third’s reign, whoever had the yearly revenue of fifteen pounds in lands, was compell’d in a manner to receive this dignity; so that the title was become rather a burthen, than an honour. In the year 1256Hist. Min. Matthæi Paris. the King issu’d a Proclamation, whereby it was order’d and declar’d throughout the Realm, that whoever had * * An entire Knight’s fee.fifteenLibratas terræ.Librats of land or above, should be Knighted, for increase of the military strength of England, as it was in Italy; and that they who would not or could not support the honour of Knighthood, should compound for a dispensation. This is the Reason why we so often find in the Records, For * * Respectus.respite of Knighthood, A. of N.J. H. &c; and such Presentments as these by the Jurors, R. of St. Laurence holds an entire fee, and is of full age, and not yet Knighted; and therefore amerc’d. To that time, and somewhat longer (unless I am much deceiv’d) in all our Law-forms, where a Jury of twelve is empannell’d to be judge of fact; he who had a Knights-fee, was stil’d Miles, or Knight, and those who were created by the King, Milites gladio cincti.

And in those days, when the King made a Knight, as the same Matthew Paris relates, he sat in state upon his throne, and in robes of gold of the most costly * * Bawdkino.Bawdkin, with a little crown of gold upon his Head; and to every Knight he allow’d 100s. forHarnesiamentis. Equipage. And not only the King, but the Earls also, confer’d Knighthood, in that age. For the same Author has told us, how the Earl of Glocester, having proclaim’d a Tournament, Knighted his brother William; and how Simon de Montefort, Earl of Leicester, confer’d the same Honour upon Gilbert de Clare. And so it was in France; as appears from the style of the Patents, whereby any one who has procur’d letters to that purpose, is allow’d to be created by what Knight he pleases. From that time, none have receiv’d this honour in England, but either from the King himself, or the Prince of Wales (permitted by his Father so to do) or from the General of the army as the King’s Lieutenant; and that, upon account of some brave Actions either done or expected, or else for services in the Civil Administration.

And this was, without question, a wise contrivance of our Kings, when they had no more Fees to give away. For nothing could be more effectual to encourage Bravery, and lay an obligation upon their best and most deserving Subjects, such as were nobly descended, and men of great estates; than, as a testimony of their favour, to bestow upon them the honourable title of Knights; which in old time was a name of Dignity only. For when the Prince confer’d it deliberately, and upon merit, it was thought a high reward and favour, and look’d on as a badge of the greatest honour. They who were thus Knighted, esteem’d it the price of Virtue, a lasting honour and memorial to their family, and the great glory of their Name. Miles a Name of dignity. So that it is said by our Lawyers, that Miles is a Name of dignity, but not Baro. For a Baron in ancient times (if he was not also a Knight) was written barely by his Christian name and the name of his family, without any addition, except that of Dominus, which is likewise applicable to Knights. But the name Knight seems to have been an additional title of honour to the greatest dignities; seeing Kings, Dukes, Marquisses, Earls, and Barons, were ambitious both of the name and dignity. And here I cannot but insert, what Matth. Florilegus writes, concerning the creation of Knights in Edward the first’s time. The King, to enlarge his Expedition into Scotland, publish’d a Proclamation throughout England, that whoever was by hereditary succession bound to be a Knight, or had wherewithal to support that dignity, should be present1306. at Westminster at the feast of Whitsontide, there to receive all Knightly accoutrements (saveEquitatura.Equipage) out of the King’s Wardrobe. Accordingly, there assembled thither 300 young Gentlemen, the sons of Earls, Barons, and Knights, and * * Distribuebantur purpurâ.had purple liveries, silk-scarves, and ¦ ¦ Cyclades.robes richly embroidered with gold, bestow’d upon them, according to their several qualities. And because the King’s Palace, though very large, was too little to receive the Concourse, they cut down the apple-trees at theNovum Temple in London, and ras’d the walls, and set up pavilions and tents, wherein the young Gentlemen might dress themselves, in garments embroider’d with gold; and that night, as many of them as the Temple would hold, * * Suas vigilias faciebant.perform’d their Watching therein. But the Prince of Wales, by his father’s order, together with the chief of them, watch’d in the Church of Westminster. And so great was the sound of trumpets, minstrels and acclamations of joy there, that theConventus jubilatio.chaunting of the Convent could not be heard from Quire to Quire. The day following, the King knighted his son in his Palace, and gave him the Dukedom of Aquitain. The Prince being thus knighted, went to the Church of Westminster, that he might confer the same honour upon his Companions. And such was the press and throng about the high Altar, that two Knights were kill’d, and many fainted, though every Knight had at least three or four Soldiers to conduct and defend him. The Prince himself, the throng was so great, was forc’d to knight them upon the high Altar, having made his way thither by his * * Per dextrarios bellicosos.warlike Guards. At present, he who is to be knighted, kneels down, and in that posture is lightly struck upon the Shoulder with a naked sword by the Prince, saying thus in French, Sois Chevalier au nom de Dieu, i.e. Be thou a Knight in the name of God : and then he adds, Avancez Chevalier, i.e. Rise up Sir Knight.

What relates further to this Order; how famous, how glorious, and how eminent a reward it was accounted by men of honour in former days; how Religious they were in the point of Fidelity and Plain-dealing, when it was a sufficient surety if they promis’d upon the Honour of a Knight; how liberal and generous they were; and what Contribution was due from every Knight’s-fee, when the King’s eldest son was honour’d with this Dignity; all these things I leave to other Writers. Degradations of Knights. As also, when they had committed a crime that was capital, how they were strip’d of their Ornaments; their military belt ungirt, their sword taken from them, their spurs cut off with a hatchet, their gloves taken away, † Clypeo gentilitio inverso. and their arms inverted; Just as it is in degrading those who have listed themselves in the Spiritual warfare; the Ecclesiastical ornaments, the book, chalice, and such like, are all taken from them.

I leave it likewise to be consider’d, whether these Knights have been by some rightly styl’d Knights Bacchallers, and whether BacchallersKnights Bachelors. were not a middle Order between Knights and Esquires. For some RecordsIn dorso Pat. 51. H.3. run, The names of the Milites, Baccalaurei, & Valecti, of the Earl of Glocester. Hence, some will have Bacchallers to be so call’d quasi Bas Chevaliers; though others derive the name from Battailer, a French word which signifies to fight. Let them examin further, whether the honour of Knighthood (which formerly, when very rare, was so very glorious, and the establish’d reward of virtue) becomes not mean and little, as it grows common, and is prostituted to every one who has the vanity to desire it. ÆmiliusAEmilius Probus formerly complain’d of the same thing, in a like case, among the Romans.

Esquires. Next to the Knights, in order, were the Armigeri, ESQUIRES, call’d also Scutiferi, Homines ad arma, and among the Goths Schilpor, from bearing the Shield; as heretofore, among the Romans, Scutarii: Who had that name, either from their coat of Arms, which they bore as badges of their nobility; or because they † Ab armis erant.carry’d the armour of Princes and great men. For anciently, every Knight was serv’d by two of these; they carry’d his helmet and buckler, and were his inseparable companions; holding lands of the Knight, their Lord, in Escuage, as he held of the King by Knights-service. Esquires are at this day of five sorts; for those I just now spoke of, are out of use. The Chief, are they, who are chosen to attend the King’s Person. Next them, are the eldeft sons of Knights, and their eldest sons successively. In the third place, the eldest sons of the younger sons of Barons and of others of the Greater Nobility: And when such heir-male fails, the title dies with him. The fourth in order, are they whom the King himself, together with a title, honours with arms, or makes Esquires; adorning them with a collar of S.S. of silver, and a pair of silver spurs: whence at † † So said, ann. 1607.this day in the west parts of the Kingdom they are call’d White-spurs, to distinguish them from Knights, or Equites Aurati, who have spurs of gold: and of these, the eldest sons only can bear the title. In the fifth place, they are reputed Esquires, who are in any great Office in the Government, or serve the King in any honourable station.

But this Name of Esquire, which in ancient times was a name of Office only, first crept in among the titles of honour, as far as I have observ’d, in the reign of Richard the second.

Gentlemen. GENTLEMEN, are either those in general who are descended of good families; or they whom Virtue or Fortune have rais’d above the common level. Citizens. CITIZENS, or Burgesses, are such, as are in publick offices in their several Towns or Cities, or are elected to sit in Parliament.

Yeomen, Gemen, in Saxon, i.e. common-people. The common people or YEOMEN, are such as some style Ingenui; the Law calls them homines legales, i.e. freeholder; those who can spend at least forty shillings of their own, yearly.

Labourers. * * Opifices.LABOURERS are such as labour for wages or profit; Artizans, Mechanicks, Smiths, Carpenters, &c. who were term’d capite censi, and Proletarii, among the Romans.


Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 13:06