Duke. The dukedom, the most elevated dignity in the British peerage, was first introduced by Edward III., who created his eldest son, Edward the Black Prince (so called on account of his sable armour), Duke of Cornwall, and subsequently Prince of Wales; when the dukedom merged in the principality, and has ever since been vested in the heir-apparent to the throne, who, at his birth, becomes Duke of Cornwall. A duke is officially addressed by the crown, "Our right trusty and right entirely beloved Cousin and Councillor." He is also entitled upon some occasions, "Puissant Prince." All letters to him are thus superscribed: - "To His Grace the Duke of - ," or "To the Most Noble the Duke of - ." His sons are Right Honourables, and Lords; his daughters Right Honourables and Ladies. Thus, in address ng them by letter - "To the Right Honourable Lord A or B." The sons of a royal duke are, however, styled princes. In writing to a duke or marquis, it is usual to distinguish him from nobility of minor rank by using the words, "My Lord Duke," or "My Lord Marquis." In writing to an earl, a viscount, or a baron, you simply say " My Lord." In like manner, an archbishop who takes precedence of a duke, and is "His Grace," is addressed by letter in no other form than simply "My Lord " You give him, and a duke, the title of "Grace" at the termination of the letter, when you say. "I remain, my Lord, your Grace's most obedient, etc." To all others, the marquis included, you simply say, "Your Lordship's most obedient," etc. And yet, notwithstanding such high-sounding titles are addressed to different orders of nobility, and as if the simple word "Sir" was after all the highest title of respect, the term "Sire," which is precisely the same word as "Sir," or "Sieur," in its original meaning, exclusively belongs to the king. He stands alone at the apex of society, and hence to him is assigned, as by Tight, an appellation signifying lord, or master. (For a duke's coronet, see p. 141.)
The addition of squire, after a surname, formerly belonged solely to a man of considerable landed property, next in rank knight; to an attendant on some noble warrior: or to one who had a place at court. Since the days of Shakspeare, who thus applied the word squire, it has been very generally appropriated, and is now given as a term of courtesy, to every one who holds a respectable position in society.
The word "gentleman," on the contrary, is more restricted ; it pertains to persons of good and honourable birth. In reference to which, and the great changes that take place in society, are the verses of an old Bong, which we quote from memory : "The king can make a belted knight, With banner bold, and spurs so bright, All meet for tournament or tight - But not a gentleman."
According to rules established in the Herald's Office, a person is entitled to the rank of gentleman, whatever may be his condition, or however dispossessed of broad lands and ancestral homes, who can show a coat of arms for five generations.
Duke. The highest rank of a British subject, with the title of lord, duke, and grace.