Thursday, June 26, 2008

Question: What is an Earl?

I've heard of the designation Earl of an area but what would an Earl's wife's designation be?

I actually don't know what an Earl is either, perhaps you could explain.

Thank you for your questions.

The title of Earl is part of the British Peerage, and along with the title of Baron, is one of the oldest peerages. It ranks below a Marquess and above a Viscount. It derives from the Middle English "erl" meaning warrior, nobleman. While we no longer associate 'warrior' with an earldom, the 'nobleman' remains the correct definition. Earldoms tend to take their names from towns, or surnames/families (Earl Spencer) with ones named for counties retaining more prestige. When the Earldom of Snowdon was bestowed on Antony Armstrong-Jones it was a nod to his Welsh ancestry. Usually it is a title that is inherited by the eldest son, who is known by a subsidary or courtesy title prior to that: (Earl Spencer) Viscount Althorp, (Earl of Snowdon) Viscount Linley, Earl of Wessex (Viscount Severn). Daughters are titled 'Lady' and younger sons have 'The Honorable' before their names. An earldom normally passes to the eldest son. Only under exceptional circumstances does it pass to a daughter, as in the case of Patricia, Countess of Mountbatten.

Unlike Prince, Duke, Marquess, there is no female version of the title Earl. An Earl is regarded as the equivalent to a Continental Count, so the wife takes the title Countess. An example of this would be Sophie, Countess of Wessex , the wife of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex.

I hope this answers your questions!

© Marilyn Braun 2008

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1 comment:

cc said...

But is an earl considered royalty, or simply an important status? And is nobility royalty?