I have a special treat for you today, readers! Austenesque author, Maria Grace is stopping in for a visit and chat about her newest release, Mistaking Her Character! Anyone who has seen Maria’s blog knows she has a passion for history and research. Last year, in conjunction with her release of Remember the Past, she talked about what it was like to be a child during the Regency era. Today her topic is gentlemanly professions! I hope you find this history lesson to be as useful and informative as I did!
The nuances of social class and what makes a gentleman a gentleman remains a perennial source of confusion for Austenesque and Regency readers. How these men provided a livelihood for themselves and their families proves even more bewildering as some gentlemen had a profession, others did not, some were wealthy and some could find themselves in very dire straits
Of Gentlemen and the Gentry
A gentleman was the lowest ranking member of a social class known as the landed gentry. The group was considered upper class, but definitely below the titled peers. The group included:
- Baronet. A position created by King James in 1611, giving the person a hereditary title that passed to the eldest son, and the right to be addressed as “Sir.”
- Knight. Originally a military honor, it was increasingly used as a reward for service to the Crown. This was not a hereditary title.
- Esquire/squire. Originally a title related to the battlefield, it included a squire or person aspiring to knighthood, an attendant on a knight. Later it was an honor that could be conferred by the Crown and included certain offices such as Justice of the Peace. A squire was often the principal landowner in a district.
- Gentlemen. This started as a separate title with the Statute of Additions of 1413. It is used generally for a man of high birth or rank, good social standing, and of wealth.
This group was distinct from the middle class because they did not work for a living. Many were landowners who lived entirely off income generated from a home farm and numerous rented (tenanted) farms and cottages. Revenues from agricultural enterprises and rents were the primary source of gentleman’s income. Continue reading »