Research Paper: Feudal Ranks of 16th Century

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¶ … feudal system in medieval England has been romanticized through the movies and literature but few truly understand the makeup of the society that supported the system. Basically, English society in the 16th century was composed of two essential groups, the peerage and landed gentry (Debrett). Members of the peerage made up what now makes up the House of Lords in Parliament. This group (duke, marquees, earl, viscount, and baron) acquired their titles through hereditary and generally passed through the male line. Beneath the peerage was the group known as the landed gentry (Cokayne). Those in this group, with some exceptions, were known simply as esquire or gentleman.

Above the nobility, obviously, were members of the royalty. The royalty was headed by either a King or a Queen and such individual ruled the kingdom. Although the power of the king was technically sovereign his ability to develop a good working relationship with his Dukes was essential to the smooth operation of the kingdom. The Dukes had more direct contact with the remainder of the nobility and the wealth of the kingdom depended on the nobility remaining loyal to the King. The Dukes served this function.

The rest of the King's immediate family formed the remainder of the royal class in England. The Princes and Princesses were the sons and daughters of the King but they possessed little power within the kingdom. Although they were generally awarded a tract of land to reign over they rarely exercised any real power.

The highest rank of nobility was the Duke (Adonis). Their wives were known as duchesses. Dukes were often awarded a tract of land to rule over but the title was often granted without a corresponding grant of land. Dukes were the King's closest advisors and administered the day-to-day affairs inside England.

The next level of the nobility was the marquees. This group was operational on the county level and possessed authority to collect taxes for the crown and administering justice, as it was, throughout their appointed area. Similar in power but enjoying a slightly lower… [END OF PREVIEW]

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