Cracroft's Peerage
The Complete Guide to the British Peerage & Baronetage

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The Peerage of England


Dukes of England

Marquesses of England

Earls of England

Viscounts of England

Barons of England


The Peerage of England is the senior peerage.  None of the earliest medieval peerages, deriving from Writ of Summons or created by Letters Patent, have survived in unbroken succession through the male line.  Most became extinct or dormant or fell into abeyance during the 15th and later centuries.  Some of their holders lost their titles by attainder during the Wars of the Roses (for backing the wrong side);  others were killed in battle.  The Yorkist and Tudor monarchs broke several ancient houses by attainder or by having their senior representatives executed.  In 1485, when Henry VII became King, with what was regarded as a tenuous claim, few great noble houses had survived, thus making it easier for Henry to consolidate his position.  The execution of Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, at the hands of Henry VIII in 1521 removed one of the few surviving possible rivals for the Tudor crown.  There were 42 lay peers in England when Henry VIII came to the throne in 1509.  Only 50 (two dukes, one marquess, 15 earls and 32 barons) were summoned to the Parliament he called in 1539.


Some early peerages were revived in later centuries.  For example, the earldom of Devon, in the family of Courtenay since 1335, was forfeited in 1471, when the 8th earl was attainted.  The title was revived in 1485 for Edward Courtenay, who died in 1509, under a cloud, for his son and heir William, had been attainted.  In 1511 Henry VIII forgave William and created him Earl of Devon, but he died a month later.  In 1525 the 2nd earl of the new creation was made Marquess of Exeter, only to be attainted before execution in 1539. In 1553 Mary I created the earldom again for his son, who died childless in 1556.  The remainder, however, was to all his male heirs - that is, male members of his wider family.  The peerage remained dormant until 1831, when another branch of Courtenays established their right to his earldom.  In 1916 the ancient baronies of Burgh, Dudley, Strabolgi and Wharton were called out of abeyance on the same day.


A very few English peerages created by Letters Patent which exist today date from the 15th century.  Some date from the 16th century, even though the Tudors were sparing in their creation of peers.  Most date from the 17th century.  The holders of a number of them possess titles of a higher grade in another peerage category.  Thus the Duke of Manchester (cr. 1719 - peerage of Great Britain) is also Earl of Manchester (cr. 1626), Viscount Mandeville and Baron Montagu (cr. 1620), all in the peerage of England.


from "Aspects of Britain:  Honours and Titles", Office for National Statistics Crown Copyright 2000




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