Feudalism: Bureaucracy 101

Recently, Queen Elizabeth II demoted her son, Prince Andrew, stripping Prince Andrew of many of his titles and royal duties. But if Prince Andrew is actually convicted of pedophilia, the Queen might have to demote Prince Andrew even further down the Feudal pecking order. So, using my Fractured Feudalism, let’s examine the Feudal pecking order to see who is who and how they got their titles in what is, arguably, one of the world’s oldest bureaucracies: 

Feudalism, as practiced in England and with some variations in Scotland, Ireland and in Western Europe divided people into three classes: Royalty, Nobility, and Commoners. As with all bureaucracies, those at the top put a great deal of effort into inventing offices (with titles) to get those below them to do the work that they are supposed to do. Bureaucracy 101. 

The Royal Titles are: King, Queen, Prince, and Princess. Duke and Duchess are not Royal Titles per se; however, it is not uncommon for some Royals to also carry Noble titles such as Duke and Duchess. For example, Prince Andrew is also the Duke of York.

In days of yore, Feudal Kings divided their kingdoms into Counties. And, in some cases Shires. Weary of dealing with so many Counties, the Kings created Counts to do the heavy lifting. But, in England, Counts are called Earls; however, the wife of an Earl is called a Countess. Go figure. When the work of the Counts or Earls became tiresome they invented Viscounts to do the work. But wait, there’s more:

Counties bordering on potentially hostile neighboring nations were organized into a defensive unit called: a March, taken from the Latin “marca,” meaning borderland. The typical March included many Counties. Viola! A special overseer was needed. So, the English invented the title: Marquess, (pronounced MAR-kwess). The Spanish invented: Marques (mar-KESS). The Italians coined: Marchese (mar-KEEZE-a). The French came up with: Marquis (mar-KEE). The March bureaucrats rank below Dukes and above Counts or Earls.

In England, some Nobles are included in what is called the Peerage, and some are not. Within the Peerage the ranks, in descending order, are: Duke/Duchess, Marquess/Marchioness, Earl/Countess, Viscount/Viscountess, and Baron/Baroness. 

England’s King or Queen can confer Knighthoods on Commoners for services to the Crown. Knights are styled and addressed as “Sir.” All Members of the House of Commons are, of course, Commoners; however, many Members are also Knights. Peers may only serve in the House of Lords; however, Peers can and do serve as Cabinet Ministers. Confusing? You bet.

President George Washington was adamant that the United States not be burdened with Royal or Noble titles. Actually, President Washington did the Brits a favor. Tourists who crave to see people all dressed up and acting strangely flock to the British Isles and spend a lot of tourism money there. But let’s face it. These days you can see people all dressed up and acting strangely in the White House, on Capitol Hill, in the DOJ/FBI, and at the Pentagon. They just think they are Lords. 

Suggested reading:An Darach, the newsletter of the Clan Hamilton Society, Volume 45, Issue 1, September 2021; Burke’s Peerage, 1847- present.©2022. William Hamilton.