Gentry in its widest connotation refers to people of good social position connected to the rural land estates (see Manorialism) including various ranks of nobility, clerical upper crust and "gentle" families of long descent who never obtained official rights to bear a coat of arms. In England the term often refers to the social class of the landed aristocracy or to the minor aristocracy (see landed gentry), and whose income derives from their large landholdings and thus designates the more narrow definition. The idea of "gentry" in the continental sense of noblesse is extinct in England, and is likely to remain so, in spite of the efforts of certain enthusiasts to revive it (see A. C. Fox-Davies, Armorial Families, Edinburgh, 1895, The right to bear arms, 1900).
The fundamental social cleavage in most parts of Europe in the Middle Ages was between the nobiles, i.e. the tenants in chivalry, whether counts, barons, knights, esquires or franklins, and the ignobles, i.e. the villeins, citizens and burgesses; and between the most powerful noble and the humblest franklin there was, until the 15th century, no "separate class of gentlemen". The division into nobles and ignobles in smaller regions of Europe in the Middle Ages, such as Sweden (incl. the province of Finland) was less exact due to a more rudimentary feudal order. As such the difference in the late middle ages between the medieval Swedish nobility and the wealthier strata of the peasantry was small. After the reformation the intermingling between the noble class and the often hereditary clerical upper class became distinctive feature in several Nordic countries.
The Indo-Europeans who settled Europe, Western Asia and the Indian Sub-Continent conceived their societies to be ordered (not divided) in a tripartite fashion, the three parts being castes . Castes came to be further divided, perhaps as a result of greater specialisation.
The 'classic' formulation of the caste system as largely described by Georges Dumézil was that of a priestly or religiously occupied caste, a warrior caste, and a worker caste. Dumézil divided the Proto-Indo-European into three categories: sovereignty, military, and productivity (see Trifunctional hypothesis). He further subdivided sovereignty into two distinct and complementary sub-parts. One part was formal, juridical, and priestly, but rooted in this world. The other was powerful, unpredictable, and also priestly, but rooted in the other, the supernatural and spiritual world. The second main division was connected with the use of force, the military, and war. Finally, there was a third group, ruled by the other two, whose role was productivity: herding, farming, and crafts.
This caste system can be seen to be that which flourished on the Indian Sub-Continent and amongst the Italic peoples.
Examples of the Indo-European Castes:
Kings were born out of the warrior or noble class.
The revolutions in British America and France and then elsewhere directly challenged Indo-European culture and swept away the native caste system and replaced it with a system based on class. But it is noticeable that in many countries the class system then followed a tripartite division like the caste system: for example the upper, middle and lower class used in Britain and the Dreiklassen system in Germany.
The Gentry is formed on the bases of the medieval societies' two higher estates of the estates of the realm, nobility and clergy both exempted from tax. Subsequent "gentle" families of long descent who never obtained official rights to bear a coat of arms was also admitted to the rural upper class society i.e. gentry.
The three estates
The widespread three estates order was particularly characteristic of France:
At the top of the pyramid were the princes and estates of the king or emperor, or with the clergy, the bishops and the Pope.
The feudal system was, for the people of the Middle Ages and early modern period, fitted into a God-given order. The nobility and the third estate were born into their class, and change in social position was slow, if possible at all. Wealth had little influence on what estate one belonged to. The exception was the Medieval Church, which was the only institution where competent men (and women) of merit could reach, in one lifetime, the highest positions in society.
The first estate comprised the entire clergy, traditionally divided into "higher" and "lower" clergy. Although there was is no formal demarcation between the two categories, the upper clergy were, effectively, clerical nobility, from the families of the second estate or occasionally, as the career of Cardinal Wolsey shows, from more humble backgrounds.
The second estate is the nobility. Being wealthy or influential does not automatically make one a noble, nor are all nobles wealthy and influential (aristocratic families have lost their fortunes in various ways, and the concept of the 'poor nobleman' is almost as old as nobility itself). Countries without a feudal tradition do not have a nobility as such.
The nobility of a person might be either inherited or earned. Nobility in its most general and strict sense is an acknowledged preeminence that is hereditary: i.e., legitimate descendants (or all male descendants, in some societies) of nobles are nobles, unless explicitly stripped of the privilege. The terms aristocrat and aristocracy are a less formal means to refer to persons belonging to this social milieu.
Historically in some cultures, members of an upper class often did not have to work for a living, as they were supported by earned or inherited investments (often real estate), although members of the upper class may have had less actual money than merchants. Upper-class status commonly derived from the social position of one's family and not from one's own achievements or wealth. Much of the population that comprised the upper class consisted of aristocrats, ruling families, titled people, and religious hierarchs. These people were usually born into their status and historically there was not much movement across class boundaries. This is to say that it was much harder for an individual to move up in class simply because of the structure of society. In many countries the term "upper class" was intimately associated with hereditary land ownership and titles. Political power was often in the hands of the landowners in many pre-industrial societies (which was one of the causes of the French Revolution), despite there being no legal barriers to land ownership for other social classes. Power began to shift from upper-class landed families to the general population in the early modern age, leading to marital alliances between the two groups, providing the foundation for the modern upper classes in the West. Upper-class landowners in Europe were often also members of the titled nobility, though not necessarily: the prevalence of titles of nobility varied widely from country to country. Some upper classes were almost entirely untitled, for example, the Szlachta of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
Before the Age of Absolutism institutions, such as churches, legislatures, or social elites. restrained monarchical power. Absolutism was characterized by the ending of feudal partitioning, consolidation of power with the monarch, rise of state, rise of professional standing armies, professional bureaucracies, the codification of state laws, and the rise of ideologies that justify the absolutist monarchy. Hence Absolutism was made possible by new innovations and characterized as a phenomena of the Early modern Europe, rather that of the Middle Ages where the clergy and nobility counterbalanced as a result of mutual rivalry.
In Germany, nobility and titles pertaining to it were bestowed on a person by higher sovereigns and then passed down through legitimate children of a nobleman. Alternatively, unlike men, women could legally become members of nobility by marrying a noble, although they could not pass it on. Nobility and titles (except for most reigning titles) were always inherited equally by all legitimate descendants of a nobleman.
Divisions of nobility in Germany
Junker in German means "young lord", and is understood as country squire. It is probably derived from the German words Junger Herr, or Young Lord. As part of the nobility, many Junker families have particles such as "von" or "zu" before their family names. In the Middle Ages, a Junker was simply a lesser noble, often poor and politically insignificant. Over the centuries, they rose from disreputable captains of mercenary cutthroats to influential commanders and landowners in the 19th century, especially in the Kingdom of Prussia.
Being the bulwark of Hohenzollern Prussia, the Junkers controlled the Prussian Army, leading in political influence and social status, and owning immense estates, especially in the north-eastern half of Germany (Brandenburg, Mecklenburg, Pomerania, East Prussia, Saxony, Silesia).
They dominated all the higher civil offices and officer corps. Supporting monarchism and military traditions, they were often reactionary and protectionist; they were often anti-liberal, siding with the conservative monarchist forces during the Revolution of 1848. Their political interests were served by the German Conservative Party in the Reichstag and the extraparliamentary Agrarian League. This political class held tremendous power over the industrial classes and the government. When Chancellor Caprivi reduced the protective duties on imports of grain, these landed magnates demanded and obtained his dismissal; and in 1902, they brought about a restoration of such duties on foodstuffs as would keep the prices of their own products at a high level.
As landed aristocrats, the Junkers owned most of the arable land in the Prussian and eastern German states. This was in contrast to the Catholic southern States such as Bavaria, Württemberg or Baden, where land was owned by small farms, or the mixed agriculture of the western states like Hesse or Westphalia. This gave the Junkers a virtual monopoly on all agriculture in the German states east of the Elbe river.
Jonkheer or "Jonkvrouw" is literally translated as "young lord" or "young lady", or "esquire". In medieval times such a person was a young and unmarried son or daughter of a high ranking knight or nobleman. Many noble families could not support all their sons to become a knight because of the expensive equipment. So the eldest son of a knight was a young lord and his brothers remain as esquires. However, in the low countries (and other parts of continental Europe) only the head of most noble families did and does carry a title and inheritability of it is via the male lineage. This resulted therefore that most of the nobility was and is nowadays untitled in the Netherlands and Belgium. Jonkheer, or its female equivalent jonkvrouw developed therefore quite early into a different but general meaning, i.e., an honorific to show that someone does belong to the nobility, but does not possess a title. The abbreviation jhr., or jkvr. for women, is placed in front of the name (preceding academic, but not state titles).
Jonkheer Lodewijk de Boisot (Lord Lodewijk de Boisot)
Jonkheer Theodorus Frederik van Capellen (1762-1824).
Jhr. Johan Adriaan Feith
Willem-Alexander der Nederlanden, Jonkheer van Amsberg.
The British upper classes consist of two entities, the peerage and landed gentry; any male member of either may regard himself as a gentleman, in a special sense mutually understood between hereditary members of the class which will often exclude life peers. In the British peerage, only the senior family member (typically the oldest son) inherits a substantive title (duke, marquess, earl, viscount, baron); these are referred to as peers or lords. The rest of the nobility is referred as landed gentry (abbreviation, gentry), and with the exceptions of the baronet, which is a title akin to a hereditary knighthood, and of those that are knighted (for life), being called Sir X Y, they bear no titles apart from the qualifications of esquire or gentleman (which are ranks recognised in law, although now without any legal consequence).
The term ‘Landed gentry' although originally used to mean nobility, "came to be used of the lesser nobility," in England around 1540. Once identical, eventually these terms became complementary, in the sense that their definitions began to fill in parts of what the other lacked. The term ‘Gentry' by itself as commonly used by historians, so Peter Coss argues, is a construct that historians have applied loosely to rather different societies. Any particular model may not fit a specific society, yet a single definition nevertheless remains desirable.
Titles, while often considered central to the upper class, are not strictly so. Both Captain Mark Phillips and Vice Admiral Timothy Laurence, the respective first and second husbands of HRH The Princess Anne lacked any rank of peerage, yet could scarcely be considered to be anything other than upper class. The same is true of Francis Fulford, who memorably featured in Channel 4's documentary The F***ing Fulfords and whose family has owned estates in Devon for over 800 years. In fact the Fulfords represent the group that makes up the largest component of the upper class: the landed gentry.
Portrait gallery of British Gentry
The portraits (below) are an illustration of people and surnames from the gentry.
Lady Elizabeth Hamilton, Countess of Derby
The Swedish nobility (Adeln) were historically a legally privileged class in Sweden, part of the so-called frälse (a classification defined by tax exemptions and representation in the diet that also applied to clergy).
Generally, the nobility grew from wealthier or more powerful members of the peasantry, those who were capable of assigning work or wealth to provide the requisite cavalrymen. In Sweden, there never existed outright serfdom. Hence, nobility was basically a class of well-off citizens, not owners of other human beings. In the Middle Ages and much of the modern age, nobles and other wealthy men were landowners, as well as lords of villeins and servants. Members of the nobility utilized their economic power and sometimes also other powers to have smaller farm-owners sell their lands to manor lords, so landowning centralized gradually more in the hands of the noble class.
There was a special group of petty nobility, the so-called knapadel, derived from the last centuries of the Middle Ages, who generally were not able to produce a royal letter of ennoblement to support their status. Regarding certain districts where there existed a disproportionally high number of such families, their introduction to the House of Nobility was often denied. However, in most cases, such petty noble families were ultimately registered as nobles (the concept of "ancient nobility" was a loose one, in many cases demonstrated only by privileges enjoyed for a long time, for example in taxation or holding offices). Thus, quite many families confirmed in their nobility in the 17th century were presumably actually without any original royal ennoblement, but only became frälse by decisions of past royal bailiffs of castles and such.
At the head of the Swedish clergy stood since 1164 the Archbishop of Uppsala. The clergy encompassed almost all the times educated men and was furthermore strengthen by by considerable wealth and thus it came naturally to play a significant political role. Until the reformation the clergy was the first estate but was relegated to the secular estate in the protestant north Europe. Clerical (pastor) Families is an concept in genealogy to characterize some families in the Swedish Church after the refoemation, in which members of the family had served for generations in the Swedish Church either as active as clergy in the Church, educational institutions or in the civil service.
Divisions of nobility in Sweden
Swedish nobility is organized into three classes according to a scheme introduced in riddarhusordningen (Standing orders of the House of Knights) 1626
The two last classes contains the so called untitled nobility (Swedish: obetitlad adel). The division into classes has roots in the middle ages when the nobility frälse was divided into lords in the Privy Council, knights and esquires.
Surnames in Sweden can be treaced to the 15th century where they where first used by the Gentry (Frälse) i.e. priests and nobles. The names of the where usually in Swedish, German, Latin or Greek.
The adoption of Latin names was first used by the Catholic clergy in the 15th century. The given name was preceded by given name preceded by Herr (Sir), like Herr Lars, Herr Olof, Herr Hans followed by Latinized form of patronymic names, (Lars Petersson, latinized Laurentius Petri). During the 17th century a Latinized form of their birthplace (Laurentius Petri Gothus, -from Östergötland) became a common naming practice for the clergy. Another subsequent practice was the use of the Greek language with the ending with "ander", the Greek word for man, (ex. Micrander, Mennander). The use of surnames was still quite uncommon in the 17 th century among the nobility and the educated class. Furthermore, the concept heredatary surnames was also limited to a a few families.
When a family was ennobled, it was usually given a name - just as lordships of England and other Western European countries. In 17th and 18th centuries, the surname was only rarely the original family name of the ennobled, rather a more imposing new names was chosen. This was a period which produced a myriad of two-word Swedish-language family names for the nobility (very favored prefixes were Adler, "noble"; Ehren - "ära", "honor"; Silfver, "silver"; and Gyllen, "golden"). The regular difference with Britain was that it became the new surname of the whole house, and the old surname was dropped altogether. When Augustin Schaeffer was ennobled, he did not continue to use the old surname, hence after the ennoblement "Lord Augustin Ehrensvärd".
It was usually that the descents of an bishop where ennobled, but not the bishop himself or any other member of the clergy. This was due to the fact that clergy represented the clerical estate and hence would have no use of nobility. The medieval tradition that continued in Catholic countries was that as the clergy was the first estate noblemen who took orders should not principally use their family coat of arms.
Portrait gallery of Swedish (Finnish) Gentry
The portraits (below) are an illustration of people and surnames from the gentry.
Province of Finland
Areas of modern day Finland were integrated into the Swedish realm in the 13th century, at a time when that realm was still in the process of being formed. The formal nobility in Finland dates back to 1280 when it was agreed in the entire Swedish realm by the Decree of Alsnö that magnates who could afford to contribute to the cavalry with a heavily equipped horse-soldier were to be exempted from tax - at least from ordinary land taxes - as the clergy already had been. The archaic term for nobility, frälse, also includes the clergy when referring to their exemption from tax.
At the time of Late Middle Ages Latin was still the language of instruction from the secondary school upwards and in use among the educated class and priests. As Finland was part of Sweden for 500 years, Swedish was the language of the nobility, administration and education. Hence the two highest estates of the realm, i.e. nobles and priests, had Swedish as the language of the gentry. In the two minor estates, burghers and peasants, Swedish also held sway, but in a more varying degree depending on regional differences.
In the Middle Ages celibacy in the Catholic Church was a natural barrier to the formation of an hereditary priestly class. After compulsory celibacy was abolished in Sweden during the Reformation, the formation of an hereditary priestly class became possible, whereby wealth and clerical positions were frequently inheritable. Hence the bishops and the vicars, who formed the clerical upper class, would frequently have manors similar to those of the nobility. Hence continued the medieval church legacy of the intermingling between noble class and clerical upper class and the intermarriage as the distinctive element in several Nordic countries after the Reformation. As a result, the gentry in Finland was constituted by nobles, clerical and some burgher families.
Among the nobility, a very large proportion of the families arrived directly from Sweden but significant amount had foreign origins (preedominantly German), but their descendants normally adopted Swedish as their first language. The clergy in the earlier part the formation of the Lutheran Church (in its High Church form) was constituted most often of the the wealthier strata of the peasantry with the closely linked medieval Finnish nobility and the rising burgher class in the expanding cities. Their descendants usually adopted Swedish as their first language, but, as the Church required fluency in Finnish from clergymen serving in predominantly or totally Finnish-speaking parishes (most of the country), they tended to maintain a high degree of functional bilingualism. In the Middle Ages, commerce in the Swedish realm, including Finland, was dominated by German merchants who immigrated in large numbers to the cities and towns of Sweden and Finland. As a result, the wealthier burghers in Sweden (and in Finnish cities as Åbo and Vyborg) during the late middle ages tended to be of German origin. In the 19th century, a new wave of immigration came from German speaking countries with predominantly connected to commercial activities, which has up to date has formed a notable part of the Swedish-speaking grand bourgeoisie in Finland.
The lowest, non-titled level of hereditary nobility was "adelsman" (i.e, "noble"). The untitled nobility was basically a rank without a fief. In practice, however, the majority of noble houses were fiefholder's until the late 19th century.
In contrast to the United Kingdom and the Benelux countries, no hereditary titles or honours have been possible to grant since 1917. The last baron created was August Langhoff in 1912; he was Minister State Secretary of Finland.
Nobility in the Kingdom of Hungary
The origin of the nobility in the Kingdom of Hungary can be traced back to the "men distinguished by birth and dignity" (maiores natu et dignitate) mentioned in the charters of the first kings. They descended partly from the leaders of the Magyar tribes and clans and partly from the immigrant (mainly German, Italian and French) knights who settled in the kingdom in the course of the 10-12th centuries.
By the 13th century, the royal servants (servientes regis), who mainly descended from the wealthier freemen (liberi), managed to ensure their liberties and their privileges were confirmed in the Golden Bull issued by King Andrew II of Hungary in 1222. Several families of the soldiers of the royal fortresses (iobagio castri) could also strengthen their liberties and they received the status of the "true nobles of the realm" (veri nobiles regni) by the end of the 13th century, although most of them lost their liberties and became subordinate to private castle-holders. Many leaders of the mainly Slavic, German and Romanian colonists who immigrated to the kingdom during the 11-15th centuries also merged into the nobility. Moreover, the kings had the authority to reward commoners with nobility and thenceforward, they enjoyed all the liberties of other nobles.
From the 14th century, the idea of "one and the same liberty" (una eademque libertas) appeared in the public law of the kingdom; the idea suggested that all the nobles enjoyed the same privileges independently of their offices, birth or wealth. Moreover, public law also recognized the existence of some groups of the "conditional nobility" (conditionarius) whose privileges were limited; e.g., the "nobles of the Church" (nobilis ecclesiæ) were burdened with defined services to be provided to certain prelates. In some cases, not individuals but a group of people was granted a legal status similar to that of the nobility; e.g., the Hajdú people enjoyed the privileges of the nobility not as individuals but as a community.
Spanish nobles are classified either as Grandes de España (also called in English grandees), or as titled nobles. Formerly, grandees were divided into the first, second and third classes, but now, all grandees enjoy the same privileges. Lower nobility held titles such as hidalgo, infanzon (aragonese equivalent to hidalgo), escudero (esquire), but these do not correspond to baron, a title unknown to Spanish nobility but in Catalonia. Hidalgo (plural:hijosdalgo) was the most common one, all the people of Biscay having been granted that noble title. All titled and untitled nobles are considered hidalgos.
An hidalgo or fidalgo is a member of the Spanish nobility. In popular usage it has come to mean the non-titled nobility. Hidalgos were exempt from paying taxes, but did not necessarily own real property.
Since at least the twelfth century, the words fijo dalgo (often literally translated as "son of something"), or its common contraction, fidalgo, was used in the Kingdoms of Castile and Portugal to refer to the nobility. In Portugal the cognate remained fidalgo, although these "nobles" had a somewhat different status from the Spanish hidalgos. In the Kingdom of Aragon the counterpart of the Castilian hidalgos were called infanzones (singular: infanzón). With the changes in Spanish pronunciation that occurred in the late Middle Ages, the [f] became silent giving rise to the modern pronunciation and spelling, hidalgo. (See, History of the Spanish language.)
The term is a calque of the Arabic expressions which used ibn ("son") or bint ("daughter") and an noun to describe someone. It should be noted that although the word algo generally means "something," in this expression the word specifically denotes "riches" or "wealth"; therefore, it was originally a a synonym of "noble" or ricohombre (literally a "rich man") in the Spanish of the period.
In literature the hidalgo is usually portrayed as a noble who has lost nearly all of his family's wealth but still held on to the privileges and honours of the nobility. The prototypical fictional hidalgo is Don Quixote, who was given the sobriquet 'the Ingenious Hidalgo' by his creator, Miguel de Cervantes. In the novel Cervantes has Don Quixote satirically present himself as an hidalgo de sangre and aspire to live the life of a knight-errant despite the fact that his economic position does not allow him to truly do so.Don Quixote's possessions allowed to him a meager life devoted to his reading obsession, yet his concept of honour led him to emulate the knights-errant.
The Polish term "szlachta" designates the formalized, hereditary noble class. In official Latin documents the old Commonwealth hereditary szlachta is referred to as "nobilitas" and is equivalent to the English nobility.
The Polish nobility probably derived from a Slavic warrior class, forming a distinct element within the ancient Polonic tribal groupings. This is uncertain, however, as there is little surviving documentation on the early history of Poland, or of the movements of the Slavonic people into what became the territory so designated. The szlachta themselves claimed descent from the Sarmatians (see paragraph 2.2 below) who came to Europe in the 5th century C.E. Around the 14th century, there was little difference between knights and the szlachta in Poland, apart from legal and economic. Members of the szlachta had the personal obligation to defend the country (pospolite ruszenie), thereby becoming the kingdom's privileged social class.
All children of the Polish nobility inherited their noble status from a noble mother and father. Any individual could attain ennoblement (nobilitacja) for special services to the state. A foreign noble might be naturalised as a Polish noble (Polish: "indygenat") by the Polish king (later, from 1641, only by a general sejm).
In theory at least, all Polish noblemen were social equals. Also in theory they were legal peers. Those who held 'real power' dignities were more privileged but these dignities were not hereditary. Those who held honorary dignities were higher in 'ritual' hierarchy but these dignities were also granted for a lifetime. Some tenancies became hereditary and went with both privilege and titles. Nobles who were not direct barons of the Crown but held land from other lords were only peers "de iure". The poorest enjoyed the same rights as the wealthiest magnate. The exceptions were a few symbolically privileged families such as the Radziwiłł, Lubomirski and Czartoryski, who sported honorary aristocratic titles recognized in Poland or received from foreign courts, such as "Prince" or "Count." (see also The Princely Houses of Poland). All other szlachta simply addressed each other by their given name or as "Sir Brother" (Panie bracie) or the feminine equivalent. The other forms of address would be "Illustrious and Magnificent Lord", "Magnificent Lord", "Generous Lord" or "Noble Lord" (in decreasing order) or simply "His/Her Grace Lord/Lady
According to their financial standing, the nobility were in common speech divided into:
Transformation into aristocracy
For many centuries, wealthy and powerful members of the szlachta sought to gain legal privileges over their peers. Few szlachta were wealthy enough to be known as magnates (karmazyni — the "Crimsons", from the crimson colour of their boots). A proper magnate should be able to trace noble ancestors back for many generations and own at least 20 villages or estates. He should also hold a major office in the Commonwealth.
Some historians estimate the number of magnates as 1% of the number of szlachta. Out of approx. one million szlachta, tens of thousands of families, only 200-300 persons could be classed as great magnates with country-wide possessions and influence, and 30-40 of them could be viewed as those with significant impact on Poland's politics.
Western Ukrainian Clergy
The Western Ukrainian clergy of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church were a hereditary tight-knit social caste that dominated western Ukrainian society from the late eighteenth until the mid twentieth centuries, following the reforms instituted by Joseph II, Emperor of Austria. Because, like their Orthodox brethren, Ukrainian Catholic priests could marry, they were able to establish "priestly dynasties", often associated with specific regions, for many generations. Numbering approximately 2,000-2,500 by the 19th century, priestly families tended to marry within their group, constituting a tight-knit hereditary caste.  In the absence of a significant native nobility, and enjoying a virtual monopoly on education and wealth within western Ukrainian society, the clergy came to form that group's native aristocracy. The clergy adopted Austria's role for them as bringers of culture and education to the Ukrainian countryside. Most Ukrainian social and political movements in Austrian-controlled territory emerged or were highly influenced by the clergy themselves or by their children. This influence was so great that western Ukrainians were accused of wanting to create a theocracy in western Ukraine by their Polish rivals. . The central role played by the Ukrainian clergy or their children in western Ukrainian society would weaken somewhat at the end of the nineteenth century but would continue until the mid-twentieth century.
Colonial families of the United States
The Colonial American use of gentry followed the British usage (i.e. Landed gentry); before the independence of the United States, Southern plantation owners were often the younger sons of British landowners, who perpetuated the British system in rural Virginia and Charleston, South Carolina, by employing tenant farmers, indentured servants, and chattel slaves. In the Northeastern United States the gentry included (colonial and British) offshoot families who established the city of Boston, Massachusetts, and Harvard and Yale colleges.
The Families of Virginia ((see First Families of Virginia, Colonial families of Maryland) which formed the Virginia gentry class as the old guard of plantation owners in United States. As General Robert E. Lee's paternal ancestors were among the earliest settlers in Virginia his family was considered among the oldest of the Virginia gentry class
The concept the gentleman farmer a man who farms mainly for pleasure rather than for profit, was not only a model for the Southern Gentry but very much the an ideal befitting some of founding fathers of America, such as Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. Thomas Jefferson, the patron of American agrarianism, wrote in his Notes on Virginia (1785), "Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God, if He ever had a chosen people, whose breasts He has made His peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue.
George Washington resumed himself the life of a gentleman farmer at his Mount Vernon estate in Virginia following his resignation as commander in chief of the Army, December 1783. Washington lived an aristocratic lifestyle—fox hunting was a favorite leisure activity. Like most Virginia planters, he imported luxuries and other goods from England and paid for them by exporting his tobacco crop. Extravagant spending and the unpredictability of the tobacco market meant that many Virginia planters of Washington's day were losing money.
The American gentry, even in cases where the family never had obtained official rights to bear a coat of arms in history, bore all the same hall marks of traditional elite as in the old continent.
The first Families of Virginia and Maryland
First Families of Virginia originated with colonists from England who primarily settled at Jamestown and along the James River and other navigable waters in the Colony of Virginia during the 17th century. As there was a propensity to marry within their narrow social scope for many generations, many descendants bear surnames which became common in the growing colony.
Many of the original English colonists considered members of the First Families of Virginia migrated to the Colony of Virginia during the English Civil War and English Interregnum period (1642-1660). Royalists left England on the accession to power of Oliver Cromwell and his Parliament. Because most of Virginia's leading families recognized Charles II as King following the execution of Charles I in 1649, Charles II is reputed to have called Virginia his "Old Dominion", a nickname that endures today. The affinity of many early aristocratic Virginia settlers for the Crown led to the term 'distressed Cavaliers,' often applied to the Virginia oligarchy. Many Cavaliers who served under King Charles I fled to Virginia. Thus it came to be that FFVs often refer to Virginia as "Cavalier Country". These men were offered rewards of land, etc, by King Charles II but they had settled Virginia and so remained in Virginia.
Most of such early settlers in Virginia were so-called "Second Sons". Primogeniture favored the first sons' inheriting lands and titles in England. Virginia envolved in a society of second or third sons of English aristocracy who inherited land grants or land in Virginia. They formed part of the southern elite in America.
Many of the great Virginia dynasties traced their roots to families like the Lees and the Fitzhughs who traced lineage to England's county families and baronial legacies. But not all: even the most humble Virginia immigrants aspired to the English manorial trappings of their betters. Virginia history is not the sole province of English aristocrats. Such families as the Shackelfords, who gave their name to a Virginia hamlet, rose from modest beginnings in Hampshire to a place in the Virginia firmament based on hard work and smart marriages. At the same time other once-great families were decimated not only by the English Civil War, but also by the enormous power of the London merchants to whom they were in debt and who could move markets with the stroke of a pen.
The Colonial families of Maryland were the leading families in the Province of Maryland. Several also had interests in the Colony of Virginia, and the two are sometimes referred to as the Chesapeake Colonies. Many of the early settlers came from the West Midlands in England, although the Maryland families were composed of a variety of European nationalities, e.g. French, Irish, Welsh, Scottish, Swedish, in addition to English.
The Carroll family is example a prominent political family from Maryland , of Irish descent and origin in the ancient kingdom of Éile, commonly anglicized Ely, as a branch of the ruling O'Carroll family. Another is the Mason family of Virginia who descended from the progenitor of the Mason family, George Mason I a Cavalier member of the Parliament of England born in Worcestershire, England
Charles I of England granted the province palatinate status under Cecilius Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore. The foundational charter created an aristocracy of lords of the manor for Maryland. Maryland was uniquely created as a colony for Catholic aristocracy and gentry, but Anglicanism eventually came to dominate, partly through influence from neighboring Virginia.
Historically, the nobles in Europe became soldiers. Actually, the aristocracy in Europe can trace their origins to military leaders from the migration period and the Middle Ages. For many years the British Army, together with the Church, was seen as the ideal career for the younger sons of the aristocracy, those who would not inherit their fathers' titles or estates. Although now much diminished, the practice has not totally disappeared, the slang term 'Rupert' being used to describe such blue-blooded, usually British public school educated, officers. Such practices are not unique to the British either geographically or historically. As a very practical form of displaying patriotism it has been at times "fashionable" for "gentlemen" to participate in the military, usually the militia, to fulfill societal expectations. It has been said that the title "Colonel" was the ultimate fashion accessory for a Southern gentleman.
The fundamental idea of "gentry", symbolised in this grant of coat-armour, had come to be that of the essential superiority of the fighting man; and, as Selden points out (page 707), the fiction was usually maintained in the granting of arms "to an ennobled person though of the long Robe wherein he hath little use of them as they mean a shield". At the last the wearing of a sword on all occasions was the outward and visible sign of a "gentleman"; the custom survives in the sword worn with "court dress". A suggestion that a gentleman must have a coat of arms was vigorously advanced by certain 19th and 20th century heraldists, notably Arthur Charles Fox-Davies in England and Thomas Innes of Learney in Scotland. But the suggestion is discredited by an examination, in England, of the records of the High Court of Chivalry and, in Scotland, by a judgment of the Court of Session (per Lord Mackay in Maclean of Ardgour v. Maclean  SC 613 at 650). The significance of a right to a coat of arms was that it was definitive proof of the status of gentleman, but it recognised rather than conferred such a status and the status could be and frequently was accepted without a right to a coat of arms.
Chivalry is a term related to the medieval institution of knighthood. It is usually associated with ideals of knightly virtues, honor and courtly love. The word is derived from the French word "chevalerie", itself derived from "chevalier", which means knight, derived from "cheval", horse (indicating one who rides a horse).
Christianity had a modifying influence on the virtues of chivalry. The Peace and Truce of God in the 10th century was one such example, with limits placed on knights to protect and honor the weaker members of society and also help the church maintain peace. At the same time the church became more tolerant of war in the defense of faith, espousing theories of the just war; and liturgies were introduced which blessed a knight's sword, and a bath of chivalric purification. In the 11th century the concept of a "knight of Christ" (miles Christi) gained currency in France, Spain and Italy. These concepts of "religious chivalry" were further elaborated in the era of the Crusades, with the Crusades themselves often being seen as a chivalrous enterprise. Their ideas of chivalry were also further influenced by Saladin, who was viewed as a chivalrous knight by medieval Christian writers.
The relationship between knights and the nobility varied based on region. In France being dubbed a knight also bestowed noble status. In Germany and the Low Countries, knights and the nobility were distinctly different classes. In England, the relations between knights, nobles and land-owning gentry were complex.
In the later Middle Ages, wealthy merchants strove to adopt chivalric attitudes - the sons of the bourgeoisie were educated at aristocratic courts where they were trained in the manners of the knightly class. This was a democratization of chivalry, leading to a new genre called the courtesy book, which were guides to the behavior of "gentlemen". Thus, the post-medieval gentlemanly code of the value of a man's honor, respect for women, and a concern for those less fortunate, is directly derived from earlier ideals of chivalry and historical forces which created it.
When examining medieval literature, chivalry can be classified into three basic but overlapping areas:
These three areas obviously overlap quite frequently in chivalry, and are often indistinguishable.
Different weight given to different areas produced different strands of chivalry:
One particular similarity between all three of these categories is honor. Honor is the foundational and guiding principle of chivalry. Thus, for the knight, honor would be one of the guides of action.
The term gentleman (from Latin gentilis, belonging to a race or "gens", and "man", cognate with the French word gentilhomme, the Spanish hombre gentil and the Italian gentil uomo or gentiluomo), in its original and strict signification, denoted a man of good family, analogous to the Latin generosus (its invariable translation in English-Latin documents). In this sense the word equates with the French gentilhomme (nobleman), which latter term was in Great Britain long confined to the peerage. The term "gentry" (from the Old French genterise for gentelise) has much of the social class significance of the French noblesse or of the German Adel, but without the strict technical requirements of those traditions (such as quarters of nobility). This was what the rebels under John Ball in the 14th century meant when they repeated:
To a degree, "gentleman" signified a man with an income derived from property, a legacy or some other source, and was thus independently wealthy and did not need to work.
The Far East also held similar ideas to the West of what a 'gentleman' is, which are based on Confucian principles. The term "Jūnzǐ" (君子) is a term crucial to classical Confucianism. Literally meaning "son of a ruler", "prince" or "noble", the ideal of a "gentleman", "proper man", "exemplary person", or "perfect man" is that for which Confucianism exhorts all people to strive. A succinct description of the "perfect man" is one who "combine[s] the qualities of saint, scholar, and gentleman" (CE). (In modern times, the masculine bias in Confucianism may have weakened, but the same term is still used; the masculine translation in English is also traditional and still frequently used.) A hereditary elitism was bound up with the concept, and gentlemen were expected to act as moral guides to the rest of society. They were to:
The opposite of the Jūnzǐ was the Xiǎorén (小人), literally "small person" or "petty person." Like English "small", the word in this context in Chinese can mean petty in mind and heart, narrowly self-interested, greedy, superficial, and materialistic.
The idea of "Noblesse oblige" "nobility obliges among Gentry is as the Oxford English Dictionary expresses that the term "suggests noble ancestry constrains to honourable behavior; privilege entails to responsibility". Being a noble meant that one had responsibilities to lead, manage and so on. One was not to simply spend one's time in idle pursuits.
General Robert E. Lee's definition speaks only to conduct.
Coat of arms
Heraldic device dating to the 12th century in Europe. It was originally a cloth tunic worn over or in place of armour to establish identity in battle.The Coat of arms is drawn heraldic rules for a person, family or organization. Family coats of arms where originally derived from personal one's which then became extended in time to the whole family. In Scotland family coats of arms are still personal ones and is mainly used by the head of the family.
The German Hyghalmen Roll from the late fifteenth century.
Illustration from Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary (1890—1907)
Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary (1890—1907)
Ecclesiastical heraldry is the tradition of heraldry developed by Christian clergy. Initially used to mark documents, ecclesiastical heraldry evolved as a system for identifying people and dioceses. It is most formalized within the Catholic Church, where most bishops, including the Pope, have a personal coat of arms. Clergy in Anglican, Lutheran, Eastern Catholic, and Orthodox churches follow similar customs.
Bishop Franz Christoph von Hutten zum Stolzenberg coat of arms
Cardinal Jaime de Barros Câmara coat of arms
Mgr. Ginoulhiac coat of arms
The four divisions of society refers to the model of society in ancient China and was a meritocratic social class system in China, and other subsequently influenced Confucian societies. The four castes -- gentry, farmers, artisans and merchants -- are combined to form the term Shìnónggōngshāng (士農工商).
Gentry （士） This means different things in different countries.
In China, Korea, and Vietnam, this meant that the Confucian scholar gentry that would- for the most part- make up most of the bureaucracy. This caste would comprise of both the more-or-less hereditary aristocracy as well as the meritocratic scholars that rise through the rank by public service and, later, by imperial exams.
In Japan, this caste essentially equates to the samurai class. In Edo period, with the creation of the Domains (han) under the rule of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, all land was confiscated and reissued as fiefdoms to the daimyo. The small lords, the samurai (武士 bushi ), were ordered to either give up their swords and rights and remain on their lands as peasants, or move to the castle cities to become paid retainers of the daimyo. Only a few samurai were allowed to remain in the countryside; the landed samurai (郷士 gōshi ). Some 5% of the population were samurai. Only the samurai could have proper surnames, which after the Meiji Restoration became compulsory to all inhabitants (see Japanese name)
（農） In a largely agrarian society, the farmers occupy a high position in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese society, at least in theory. Some sources, such as Xunzi, list them before the gentry, based on the Confucian view that they directly contributed to the welfare of the state. In China, the farmer lifestyle are also closely linked with the ideals of Confucian gentlemen, and aging scholars and bureaucrats often retire to a life of farming -- again, at least in theory.
There were two leading classes, i.e. the gentry, in the time of Feudal Japan was the Daimyo and the Samurai. The Confucian ideals in the Japanese culture emphasized the importance of productive members of society and hence so farmers and fishermen were considered of an higher status then merchants.
Daimyo (大名 Daimyō , Pronunciation (help·info)) is a generic term referring to the powerful territorial lord in premodern Japan who ruled most of the country from their vast, hereditary land holdings. In the term, "dai" (大) literally means "large", and "myō" stands for myōden (名田?), meaning private land.
The term "daimyo" is also sometimes used to refer to the leading figures of such clans, also called "lord". It was usually, though not exclusively, from these warlords that a shogun arose or a regent was chosen.
After the Meiji Restoration
In 1869, the year after the Meiji Restoration, the daimyo, together with the kuge, formed a new aristocracy, the kazoku. In 1871, the han were abolished and prefectures were established, thus effectively ending the daimyo era in Japan. In the wake of this change, many daimyo remained in control of their lands, being appointed as prefectural governors; however, they were soon relieved of this duty and called en masse to Tokyo, thereby cutting off any independent base of power from which to potentially rebel. Despite this, members of former daimyo families remained prominent in government and society, and in some cases continue to remain prominent to the present day. (For example, Morihiro Hosokawa, the former prime minister is a descendant of the daimyo of Kumamoto, but these cases are very few now.)
Samurai (侍) is the term for the military nobility of pre-industrial Japan. According to translator William Scott Wilson: "In Chinese, the character 侍 was originally a verb meaning to wait upon or accompany a person in the upper ranks of society, and this is also true of the original term in Japanese, saburau. In both countries the terms were nominalized to mean "those who serve in close attendance to the nobility," the pronunciation in Japanese changing to saburai." According to Wilson, an early reference to the word "samurai" appears in the Kokin Wakashū (905-914), the first imperial anthology of poems, completed in the first part of the ninth century.
By the end of the 12th century, samurai became almost entirely synonymous with bushi (武士), and the word was closely associated with the middle and upper echelons of the warrior class. The samurai followed a set of written rules called the Bushidō. They numbered less than 10% of Japan’s population. Samurai teachings can still be found today in modern day society with the martial art Kendō, meaning the way of the sword.
As de facto aristocrats for centuries, samurai developed their own cultures that influenced Japanese culture as a whole. The culture associated with the samurai such as the tea ceremony, monochrome ink painting, rock gardens and poetry were adopted by warrior patrons throughout the centuries 1200-1600. These practices were adapted from the Chinese arts. Zen monks introduced them to Japan and they were allowed to flourish due to the interest of powerful warrior elites. Muso Soseki (1275-1351) was a Zen monk who was advisor to both Emperor Go-Daigo and General Ashikaga Takauji (1304-58). Muso as well as other monks acted as political and cultural diplomats between Japan and China. Muso was particularly well known for his garden design. Another Ashikaga patron of the arts was Yoshimasa. His cultural advisor, the Zen monk Zeami, introduced tea ceremony to him. Previously, tea had been used primarily for Buddhist monks to stay awake during meditation.
In general, samurai, aristocrats, and priests had a very high literacy rate in Kanji. “The Nobles send their sons to monasteries to be educated as soon as they are 8 years old, and they remain there until they are 19 or 20, learning reading, writing and religion; as soon as they come out, they marry and apply themselves to politics."
Emperor Meiji abolished the samurai's right to be the only armed force in favor of a more modern, western-style, conscripted army in 1873. Samurai became Shizoku (士族) who retained some of their salaries, but the right to wear a katana in public was eventually abolished along with the right to execute commoners who paid them disrespect.
In defining how a modern Japan should be, members of the Meiji government decided to follow the footsteps of United Kingdom and Germany, basing the country on the concept of "noblesse oblige." Samurai were not to be a political force under the new order.
Kazoku (Meiji Restoration)
Under the Peerage Act of 7 July 1884, pushed through by Ito Hirobumi after visiting Europe, the Meiji government expanded the hereditary peerage with the award of kazoku status to persons regarded as having performed outstanding services to the nation. The government also divided the kazoku into five ranks explicitly based on the British peerage, but with titles deriving from the ancient Chinese nobility:
Samurai Kamakura Gongorō Kagemasa
Fujiwara no Teika was a Japanese poet, calligrapher, novelist.
Fujiwara no Sadanaga, Japanese Buddhist priest and poet.
Minamoto no Yoritomo founder and the first shogun of the Kamakura Shogunate of Japan.
Samurai Baba Nobuharu
Daimyo Ikoma Chikamasa
Daimyo Makino Tadayuki
Posing as a member of the gentry upper classes, privileged classes, elite, high society, haut monde, smart set; establishment, aristocracy; informal upper crust, top drawer. (The New Oxford American Dictionary (NOAD), Second Edition)
Gentry means “well-born people”. The origin of the word is from latin gentis which means “clan” or “extended family”. In England gentry is the social class below the aristocracy. It gets its income from large landholdings.