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The first instance in which barons appear to have been styled " peers,” is in the award of exile against Hugh le Despencer, and his son, in the year 1321; this instrument concludes, "therefore, we, peers of the land, earls and barons, in the presence of the king, do award," &c.
The hereditary rank in the peerage called baron, should not be confounded with “ Barons of the Exchequer,” for information respecting which the reader is referred to the article on that subject.
DURATION OF LIFE AMONG MEMBERS OF THE
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gare,
GRAY. The duration of life in different classes of society will of course be found to vary according to circumstances and pursuits. The several titled orders in this country, being for the most part persons of good fortune, adopt habits of life not materially different from the great body of the gentry; but, as respects the tens of thousands comprehended in the latter class, no suffi. cient statistical data have yet been collected, or at least none upon which implicit reliance can be placed. With reference however to the most distinguished portion of the higher classes this desideratum has been satisfactorily supplied, and the results cannot fail to be regarded with much interest and curiosity.
From the observations and calculations made by Mr. Edmonds, and published in the Lancet for February 10th, 1838, it appears, that out of a gross number of 675 peers whose lives formed the basis of the calculation, and none of whom died a violent death, the average age at which the heir succeeds to his title is 30 years; while the average period during which each enjoys his peerage is 262 years.
A resalt almost identical is obtained from examining the succession of sovereigns in England, from William the Conqueror to George IV., when those who died a violent death, or were deposed, are excluded from the calculation. Twenty-six years and one third is the average duration of the reigns of the twenty-four sovereigns who died in the ordinary course of nature while on the throne.
The proportion of peers constantly living at each of the following ages, is calculated out of a gross total of 1000 living at all ages.
(the proportion At from 1 to 9 years,
of peers con
15 out of 1000 : stantly living
is 10 to 19
63 20 to 29
135 30 to 39
194 40 to 49
217 50 to 59
185 60 to 69
125 70 to 79
53 80 to 89
12 90 to 99
Hence the mean age of peers is forty-five years ; for there are more peers between the ages of forty and fifty, that at any other decennial interval; it is also worthy of remark, that the numbers living at the succeeding and the preceding decennial intervals of age are nearly equal, each for each. That is to say, that forty-five years being the mean, the gradations are equal in the ascending to those in the descending direction.
When the calculation is restricted to that portion of the peerage who have seats in the house of Lords, and that the ages of all now alive are classified into decennial gradations, the following is the result:
From 1 to 21 years there are 10 peers.
57 40 to 50
84 50 to 60
94 60 to 70
The mean in this calculation is evidently about sixty, and the individuals on whom it is founded have not lived to the full limit of their lives. The discrepancy between the last and the preceding table arises from two causes. First, the number of ages taken into account is much smaller in the latter, than in the former instance, and it is a well known fact in statistics, that in proportion to the number of observations included in each calculation, is the reliance which can be placed upon the general result. The second reason for a discrepancy arises from the additions which are occasionally made to the peerage. These being founded either on political grounds or on services done to the state, it naturally follows, that the majority of those who have lived long enough to deserve and obtain peerages, must be considerably above the mean age of the general population ; and they are more frequently added to that portion of the peerage who enjoy seats in the house of Lords, than to the Irish or Scotch nobles, for the purpose, either of enhancing the value of the title, or extending the limits of political influence, or on account of the restrictions placed by the acts of Union, on the further creation of Scottish and Irish peers.
The mortality among peers under the age of sixtyfive increases at the rate of fifty per cent. for every ten years that they advance. This is a much higher rate of increase than has been observed outside the peerage; the average being thirty-four per cent., except in London and other large towns. At all ages above sixty-five years, the mortality in the peerage agrees very closely with that of the general population.
Although the average period during which each peer enjoys his title is 263 years, yet that result is only obtained when the average age at which each succeeds to his peerage (301) is made the basis of the calculation ; for by the following table it will appear, that the age at which each enters on the possession of his peerage, and the enjoyment of his estates, exercises a very material influence on the probable duration of that enjoyment.
Age at succeeding to
Probable duration the peerage.
of life. 10 to 19 or a mean of 143 years. 38.29 20 to 29
27.03 30 to 39
23.87 10 to 39
29.60 40 to 59
15.99 Thus it is evident that the mean duration of the life of those peers who succeed to their titles between the ages of twenty and thirty years, is four years less (and those between thirty and forty, two years less), than would be presumed upon a view of the average deduced from those who succeed earlier or later.
CLAIMS TO PEERAGES.
POPE The first instance in which a claim to a peerage was discussed by the house of Lords appears to have been in the eleventh of Henry VI. ; but the right to such titles as were not annexed to manorial or other pos. sessions, was formerly determined before the lord high constable, and earl marshal, not hy the rules of common law, but by the regulations and customs of chivalry; from the decisions of these two officers, an appeal could be made to the Crown as a dernier ressort. After the abolition of the office of high constable, it became very much the practice to submit the claims at once to the Crown for decision, and this course was first followed about the time of Henry VIII. In the reign of Elizabeth, commissioners who exercised