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naturally requires that some account should be given of those who are entitled to the distinction, as contrasted with those who enjoy it by courtesy. The following is a list of all who, by right, possess this title, and whom it would be incorrect otherwise to describe in any ceremonial or legal proceedings. The sons of peers, whether titular lords or titular
honourables. The eldest sons of peers' sons, and their eldest
sons in perpetual succession. The eldest sons of knights, and their eldest sons
in perpetual succession. The sons of baronets. The esquires of the knights of the Bath (each of
whom constitutes three at his installation). Esquires by prescription, as lords of manors, chiefs
of clans, &c.; and all others being tenants of the Crown in capite, and not being peers,
baronets, or knights. Esquires by patent, and their eldest sons in per
petual succession. Esquires by office, as
Justices of the peace while on the roll,
Sheriffs of counties, who retain the title for life. All who in commissions signed by the Sovereign
are ever styled esquire, retain that designation for life, as for example, captains in the army ; but the claim of captains in the navy is not founded on this, for though they are of higher relative rank, their commissions are only signed
by the lords of the Admiralty. Barristers at law,
Bachelors of divinity, of law, and of physic.
The above list does not profess to state the relative rank of these different esquires amongst themselves, but merely the elements which compose the class. For all particulars respecting rank, the reader is referred to the article on “ PRECEDENCE.”
The origin of the title esquire is of considerable antiquity, and its source is coeval with that of knighthood; the designations of armiger, scutifer, scutarius, écuyer, and esquire, are all derived from the carrying of knight's shields, and other portions of his arms. But it was not till the time of Richard II. that it came to be expressly conferred by patent or investiture; and this consists in the imposition of a collar of SS, or the putting on a pair of silver spurs, the knights having had golden spurs, and the squires silver.
The COLLAR OF SS. is a mode of creation fre. quently referred to, but not commonly understood.
By some authorities it is described as having been founded in memory of a Roman senator, Simplicius, who with Faustinus suffered martyrdom under Diocletian; and as consisting of a silver collar, between the links of which were twelve small pieces of silver engraved with the twelve Articles of the Creed, together with a single trefoil ; the image of St. Simplicius (SS.) hung at the collar, and from it seven plates representing the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost.
By others, the title of SS. is derived from the shape of the links representing the double S in their outline.
Others, again, maintain that these S links stood as the initial of the word “souvenez."
But whatever may have been the real meaning of the name which these collars bear, it appears that in the reign of Edward IV. they were made principally of silver roses, having a white lion attached; while those given by king Richard III. had a white boar suspended. These were called “collars of the king's livery" (from the liberate, it is said, which issued from the great wardrobe), and were granted by the sovereign to persons of both sexes and of various ranks; they continued to be conferred till the reign of Henry VII., by whom the ensigns of the order of the Garter were instituted. By a statute of Henry VIII., in 1532, it was enacted, that “no man, unless he be a knight, should wear any collar of gold, named a collar of S.;" and though it seems to have been then the peculiar badge of knights bachelor, its use is now confined to the chief justices and the chief baron, the lord mayor of London, the king's heralds, serjeants at arms, and a few other functionaries.
The addition of the word " esquire” to any name, does not continue necessary when the person has been raised to a higher rank, and therefore it differs essentially from the dignity of knighthood. A knight is not divested of his title by any subsequent advance in rank or precedence, and the word “knight" after his name is quite necessary, even if he became a duke; but an esquire, by receiving knighthood or any superior distinction, is stripped of his previous title, and totally removed from the class of which he was formerly a member.
The addition of the word esquire to the names of those who did not derive the title from being knights' attendants, is stated to have originated as far back as 1245; but now, in the ordinary intercourse of society, it is conferred on all who have any pretensions to the bearing of gentleman, and to such an extent is this carried, that its application confers no honour, though its omission constitutes a negative offence. The number of persons who by birth are legally entitled to the designation of esquire, far exceeds any possibility of calculation; for they include the eldest sons of all sons of peers, the eldest sons of esquires by patent, the eldest sons of knights, and all the eldest sons of these three classes in perpetual succession, as also all the sons of baronets; hence tens of thousands of gentlemen who receive this affix, apparently as a matter of courtesy, really enjoy a legal right; and though it be more frequently used than any other courtesy distinction, yet the right to it is more extensively possessed than readers in general are in the habit of supposing. There cannot be a more vulgar error, than to imagine that the affix of esquire, any more than the prefix of sir or lord, is dependent on what the world calls“ respectability.” The largest amount of funded property, or the most extensive estates, do not confer such a distinction legally, or even by courtesy, unless, indeed, the latter should carry with them the lordship of a manor, or a tenancy in capite. Mechanics and retail tradesmen are not called “gentlemen,” however vast their wealth, or irreproachable their conduct, until they retire from business, or else become master manufacturers or merchants.
Commercial letters are superscribed Mr. A-B-, or Messrs. -, though many of the parties so addressed are esquires in law; but merchants and manufacturers, if written to or designated in their private capacities, are always addressed and described as esquires. Inasmuch as the courtesy titles of " lord” and “honourable” are given to many thousands who legally are but esquires, so every one who is in law a gentleman, is by courtesy an esquire, in the same way that the son of a marquis is addressed as Lord Charles -, or Lord William ; and the son of an earl the honourable Frederick though in all legal instruments and gazettes, even these latter are merely styled esquires.
“ I freely told you all the wealth I had
Some authorities would have us believe, that whoever studies the laws of the realm, receives a university education, professes the sciences, practises a liberal art, or, in short, can live without manual labour, is entitled to the epithet of gentleman; while others tell us that no means can manufacture a gentleman by blood, but that the king and the heralds can make a gentleman by creation whose descendants will be all gentlemen by blood; by the latter, gentlemen are classed into four divisions.
1st, Gentlemen by blood; those in fact whose gen