Duke: The age of prosperity, nobility and social elitism marks the Victorian age from 1837 to 1901 ruled by Queen Victoria. With monarchy playing a huge role in British history, royal titles and its equivalent social status played a pivotal role in the social strata of the age.
The Victorian society still retained a great deal of the pattern that had emerged over the previous centuries in terms of class distinctions. The upper-most classes consisted largely of the aristocracy. The aristocracy was made up of affluent members of society and members of the royal family or related to them.
British Peerage List
Duke is the highest ranking hereditary rank amongst all the four peerages of the British. Therefore, a Duke outranks the other holders of titles of nobility. A “Royal Duke” is a member of the royal family of Britain and is referred to as “His Royal Highness”.
A Duke in that age held the highest rank below the monarch. The title originates from the French word “duc” and Latin “lux” which stands for “leader” was first introduced by Edward III in 1337 and continued in the Victorian Age with great gusto.
High-ranking noblemen, landowner or a prince could become a Duke. Most dukedoms would carry a place name along with their title which suggests them to be the sovereigns of a land area such as Duke of Albany or Duke of Sussex.
Duke in the Victorian Era
Dukes could occupy castles with hundreds of rooms and be popular for hosting lavish balls, the descriptions of which have found a worthy place in the writings of Alexander Pope. In the political sphere, they enjoyed power because of their seats in the House of Lords.
With the ascension of Queen Victoria, one duke could even hold the special power of maintaining the only private army in Europe. Income from investment and farming were always in the flow.However.the title of the Duke could only pass down the male line which seemed fit to all in the Victorian age.
A Duke is “Most Noble”; he is also referred to as “My Lord Duke” but mainly referred to as “Your Grace” everywhere and all his younger sons are addressed as “Lords” and all his daughters “Ladies” with the prefix of “Right Honourable”. These titles are a part of the “Peerage”‘an ancient ranking system for the British nobles.
It is only the Monarchs who possessed the ability to hand out such titles of significance. The Monarch bestowed these titles on “peers of the realm”- men who swore loyalty to the crown in exchange for land or money, the Dukes being at the top of the social ladder right after the Monarch, enjoyed many luxuries unfathomable for the different sects of the society then.
In addition to being bestowed, the titles could also be inherited, but only by the male heirs. Dukes possessed immense political power at the time as well. They had a birthright to sit in The House of Lords which is the upper house of the British Parliament. The House of Lords was then made up of exclusively male hereditary Peers.
They would also earn all the income generated by the Royal family’s real estates. It was also a tradition for all the Dukes to get a new title when they got married. It is interesting to note that the Royals, however, had no last name at all. They were called by their significant titles and that has been only befitting to their social status, power, and stronghold over the country for centuries.