There are five degrees of Nobility in Great Britain, Dukes, Marquesses, Earls, Viscounts, and Barons, to which may be added a sixth, i.e., the Archbishops and Bishops, who, as spiritual lords, possess for their lives all the privileges of the peerage.
DUKE, in Latin _Dux,_ signifying the leader of an army, noblemen being anciently either commanders of armies, wardens of marches, or governors of provinces. This is now the first rank of nobility, but it was not until 1397 that the dignity was introduced into Scotland, when King Robert III created his eldest son David, Duke of Rothsay, and his brother Robert, Duke of Albany. The creation of this dignity formerly took place in full parliament with much ceremony, but the honour is now conferred simply by patent under the Great Seal. The mantle and surcoat which a duke wears at the coronation of a king or queen is of crimson velvet, lined with white taffeta, and a mantle is doubled from the neck to the elbow with ermine, having four rows of spots on each shoulder; his parliamentary robes are of fine scarlet cloth, lined with taffeta, and doubled with four guards of ermine at equal distances, with gold lace above each guard, and is tied up to the left shoulder by a white riband; his cap is of crimson velvet, lined with ermine, having a gold tassel on the top; and his coronet, which is also of gold, is set round with golden strawberry leaves. He is styled "His Grace," and by the king or queen in public instruments, "Our Right Trusty and right entirely Beloved Cousin," and if of the privy council, then with the addition of "Counsellor." His general style is "the most Noble"; all his sons are by courtesy styled "Lords," and his daughters "Ladies."
MARQUESS (Marchio) was first styled so from the government of marches, the title in Saxon being "Markin Reeve," and in German "Markgrave." This dignity is next to that of a duke, and is created in the same manner. The coronation robes of a Marquess are of crimson velvet, lined with taffeta, and have four guards of ermine on the right side, and three on the left, set at equal distances, with gold lace above each guard, and tied up to the left shoulder by a white riband; his cap is of crimson velvet, lined with ermine, having a gold tassel at the top; his coronet is of gold and has pearls and strawberry leaves mixed alternately round, of nearly equal height, His general style is "Most Honourable," and he is styled by the king or queen "Our right Trusty and entirely beloved Cousin." His sons, by the courtesy of England, are styled Lords," and his daughters, Ladies."
EARL, anciently called "Comes," as it was his duty _comitari,_ to accompany or wait on the king to assist him with his counsel. This honour, which was of Saxon origin, was of great dignity and power, and continued the highest in Scotland till the reign of Robert III, when the superior title of Duke was conferred on the king's eldest son and uncle. In ancient times there was no thane or earl without a county or shire for his earldom; subsequently, however, they have taken their titles from any town or village, and sometimes from the name of their own seat or family. Anciently an earl was created with nearly the same ceremony as a duke or marquess, but they now receive merely letters patent. An earl's coronet has pearls raised upon points and strawberry leaves low between them. His style if "Right Honourable," and he is addressed by the king or queen as "Our right Trusty and well Beloved Cousin."
BARON. This title is extremely ancient. The Saxon word was "Thane," which the Normans changed into "Baron." The creation is either by writ or patent, and in the former case the honour descends to heirs general, and in the latter according to the limitations of the patent. The robes of a baron have but two guards of white fur with as many rows of gold lace; in other respects they are the same with those of other peers. King Charles II granted a coronet to the barons, who till his reign wore only a plain circle of gold; it has now four pearls set at equal distances on the circle. The style of a baron is "Right Honourable," and he is addressed by the king or queen as "Right Trusty and well Beloved."
The ceremony of the admission of a baron, as well as of other ordered of the temporal peerage, into the House of Peers, is thus: He is brought into the House between two peers of his own rank, who conduct him up to the Lord Chancellor, his patent and writ of summons being carried by Garter King of Arms, who presents it to the Lord Chancellor, who directs the same to be read; which being done, the oaths are administered, and the peer takes his seat, from which he again rises and returns to the Chancellor, who congratulates him on becoming a member of the House of Peers, or on his elevation as the case may be.
Scottish peers take precedence of all British Peers of the same rank created since the Union with Scotland.
1. They are free from all arrests for debts, as being the king's hereditary counsellors. For the same reason, they cannot be outlawed in any civil action, and no attachment lies against their persons. Formerly their servants enjoyed the same privilege, but they were deprived of it by Act of Parliament in 1770. Peers are also free from attending courts leet, sheriff's turns, or in case of riot, attending the "posse comitatus."
2. In criminal cases they can only be tried by their peers, in a court erected for that purpose in Westminster Hall. The peers give their verdict not upon oath as other jurors do, but only upon their honour.
3. There is an express law called "scandalum magnatum," by which any man convicted of making a scandalous report against a peer (though true) is condemned to pay an arbitrary fine.
Lord Kingsale is the only peer who has the privilege of being covered in the royal presence without permission.
EXCERPTED FROM: The Peerage of Scotland. Edinburgh: Peter Brown, 1834.
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