From the Notebook: British Peerage

I took these notes for my High Victorian era novel on December 19, 2004. Thought I’d post a few of my notes every once in a while, either as a way to help my fellow fiction/historical fiction writers, and also as a fun way to remind me of all the information I’ve gathered.

The British Peerage
The following list is in order of importance, most to least. All of the following should be addressed as Lord and Lady BlankWhatever, in which BlankWhatever is the name of the title/name of the estate, and not the family name aka last name. Every once in a while the family name and title are the same.

  1. Duke, Duchess
  2. Marquis (Marquess), Marchioness
  3. Earl, Countess
  4. Viscount, Viscountess
  5. Baron, Baroness

– The eldest son of a duke, marquis, and earl take the lesser title.
– The younger son of a duke/marquis is called “Lord FirstName LastName” or simply “Lord FirstName.”
– The younger son of an earl is called “the Honourable FirstName LastName.”
– All children of viscounts/barons are called “the Honourable FirstName LastName.”
– Daughters of dukes, marquises, earls are called “Lady Given Name.”

Servants
It should be understood that the upper servants ate in the housekeeper’s room, and the lower servants ate in the servants’ hall and cleaned the upper servants’ rooms.

  • Upper Servants (not all households had full set): butler, housekeeper, parlor maid, cook, children’s nurse, valet, ladies’ maid.
  • Lower Servants: footmen, housemaids, under housemaids, kitchen and scullery maids, still-room maids, charwomen, nursery maids, pages.
  • Outside Servants: coachman, gardener, young boys.

* Manservants are much more expensive, so if a family owns even one, it’s a definite indication of their wealth.

* Middle-class families sometimes took over certain duties:
– housekeeper: domestic accounts and bills
– ladies’ maid: plain needlework for self and children
– governess: children’s education

* Jilting a fiance lowered a marriagable woman’s chances for making a “good match.”
– 1/4 middle-class women didn’t marry in late Victorian era

Information retrieved from: Jo McMurtry’s Victorian Life and Victorian Fiction: A Companion for the American Reader.