Duke (Latin, dux), next to the princes and princesses of the blood royal, and the four archbishops of England and Ireland, the highest order and rank of the British peerage. The title of Duke, though first in rank, and in its derivation the most ancient, is much later in its introduction to our hereditary Peerage than that of Earl and Baron. The word is found almost literally in the Latin Dux, which in the Lower Empire became the title of a local military Lieutenant of the Emperor ; in this sense it was transferred to the Western Empire, under the Franks and Germans, but speedily grew in the latter into the designation of hereditary feudal rank and power, inferior only to that of a King. Among our Saxon ancestors the title was in frequent use in its Latin military sense ; but the title soon acquired a territorial signification, and in the earlier Saxon documents it is subscribed as synonymous with Comes, or Ealdonuan, till the reign of Canute, when the Danish word Eorle began to prevail, though it did not entirely supersede the more ancient term before the time of the Normans.
After the Norman Conquest, which changed the military polity of the nation, the Kings themselves continuing for many generations Dukes of Normandy, they would not honour any subjects with the title of Duke. Edward III., claiming to be King of France, and thereby merging the Ducal in the Boyal dignity, in the eleventh year of his reign created his son, Edward the Black Prince, Duke of Cornwall The title of duke was introduced into England by a charter dated 17th March 1337, the lordships, castles, lands, etc., constituting the earldom of Cornwall, were erected by King Edward III into a duchy, and were conferred upon his eldest son Prince Edward of Woodstock, afterwards so well and honourably known as the Black Prince, who thus as Duke of Cornwall was the first English duke. When, in 1343, he was created to the dignity of Prince of Wales, the Black Prince was invested with a coronet, a gold ring, and a silver rod. And, as duke of Cornwall, he had already been invested with a sword.
The second of the English dukes was Henry Plantagenet, earl of Lancaster, Derby, and Leicester, and count of Provence, who in 1351 was created duke of Lancaster. From the time of Richard II dukedoms and marquisates were for some centuries commonly created by charter, but, like earldoms, they were sometimes created by investiture in Parliament. Many, of the royal family especially, were afterwards raised to the like honour. "However, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, A.d. 1572, the whole order," says Judge Blackstone, " became utterly extinct." Bat this expression requires some qualification, for though the attainder of the Duke of Norfolk in that year for the time extinguished the highest grade of the Peerage, yet it contained in itself the principle of vitality ; since the heirs of two attainted Dukedoms, those of Norfolk and Somerset, enjoyed the honours of the Peerage by the respective' titles of Earl of Arundel and Earl of Hertford, till the higher rank was restored to each by King Charles ?., with its original precedency.
Soon after the temporary suspension of the Ducal title in England, King James VI., then reigning in Scotland, bestowed it, for the first time in that kingdom (with some unimportant and temporary exceptions), on a subject not the son of a King; the nobleman so advanced being Esme Stuart, Earl of Lennox, the King's near relation on the father's side, whom, in 1581, he created Duke of Lennox. The same King having acquired the sovereignty of the three kingdoms, by succeeding to the throne of Elizabeth after her decease, under the name of James I., revived this order in England in 1623, by raising Ludovic, second Duke of Lennox, to the rank of Duke of Eichmond ; and the following day bestowed the same honour on his favourite, George Villiers, whom he created Dnke of Buckingham. James added no other Dukes to the Peerage ; and great as was the need of his son, King Charles, for the support of his most powerful nobles, he refrained from increasing this small number in England, though he renewed the title of Duke of Richmond to James Stuart, the brother and heir of the first Dnke, on whose death it had become extinct by the failure of issue male ; and in Scotland he created the Duke of Hamilton only.
The Ducal dignity existed at the restoration of Charles II. in no families but these three. But that monarch, prodigal in all things, not only restored the two forfeited Dukedoms of Norfolk and Somerset, but gave new patents for the title with unsparing hand, especially to his illegitimate sons. Five English and three Scotch Dukedoms of this reign are still in existence, though two of the latter merge in the superior titles of Richmond and Buccleuch. To the same King Ireland was also indebted for the Ducal title, to which James, Marquis and twelfth Earl of Ormonde, was elevated in 1661, and subsequently was also created Duke of Ormonde in England. The English title was attainted in 1715, in the person of his grandson the second Duke ; and the Irish Dukedom finally became extinct in 1758. The only Dukes now existing in Ireland are the Duke of Leinster, of the family of Fitz-Gerald, so created in 1766 ; and the Duke of Abercorn, so created in 1868.
In early times, the rank, dignity, and title of duke were directly associated with power, authority, and local possessions, which constituted and were inseparable from his dukedom; but, after a while, these associations gradually became weakened, and at length for the most part they ceased to exist of necessity, so that by the end of the 19th Century the connection between a duke and the locality that gives the title to his dukedom may be very slight indeed.
This same title, duke, is borne still, with their princely rank and title, by the princes of the royal family, but these royal dukedoms, notwithstaniing that they constitute peerages and are hereditary, are created chiefly with a view to connect the members of the reigning house with the great cities or with certain provinces of the realm. The old royal dukedom of York is now so far in abeyance that since the last duke of York died without issue no duke of York has been created. The rival royal dukedom of Lancaster since the accession of Henry IV has been merged in the crown. Tha dukedom of Cornwall is held by the heir apparent.
A duke in the British peerage, not of royal rank, is styled "Your Grace." and he is "Most Noble;" his wife is a "duchess," and she also is styled "Your Grace," and is "Most Noble." All their sons are "lords," and all their daughters are "ladies;" but their eldest son bears his father's "second title," since each of the higher ranks of nobility has one or more of the lower rinks associated with it; thus a duke's eldest son always ranks as a marquis, and generally bears that title.
As now worn, a duke's coronet has eight golden leaves of a conventional type (commonly called, but without any reason whatever, "strawberry-leaves"), set erect upon a circlet of gold, and having their stalks so connected as to form them into a wreath. The coronation robe of a Duke (and that in which he would be invested, were not the ceremonies of investiture now dispensed with in the patents of creation) is a mantle of crimson velvet, lined with white taffeta, and trimmed with a cape of ermine reaching from the neck to the elbow, distinguished by four rows of black spots. His parliamentary robe is of fine scarlet cloth, lined with taffeta, and doubled with four guards of ermine at equal distances, with gold lace above each guard, and is tied up to the left shoulder with white ribbon. His cap is of crimson velvet, lined with ermine, having a gold tassel on the top. His coronet, worn over the cap, is a circlet of gold enriched with jewels, and set round with eight golden strawberry-leaves rising from its upper rim.
In heraldic documents, a Duke is styled the High, Puissant, and Most Noble Prince : his general style is, His Grace, and Most Noble : in letters of form he is addressed, " My Lord Duke, may it please your Grace. The eldest son of a Dnke, though in law only an Esquire, takes by courtesy his father's second title, and is legally styled thus- " Charles Henry Gordon-Lennox, Esq., commonly called Earl of March ;"-but to whatever grade of the Peerage that courtesy title may belong, he ranks next after the Marquises. The Duke's daughters and younger sons take by courtesy the title of Lady or Lord before their Christian and surnames, and are styled ürlaw, " Mary Fitzalan-Howard, commonly called Lady Mary Fitzalan - Howard ;" or " Edmund Bernard Talbot, Esq., commonly called Lord Edmund Bernard Talbot ;" all the children also bear by courtesy the style of Right Honourable."
At various periods alsopand in different countries, this same title, duke, has been in use to denote certain princes who were the actual sovereigns of small states, or other vassals cf some great suzerain. The titles arch-duke and arch-duchess, grand-duke and grand-duchess, were in use on the Continent, the former in Austria and the latter in Russia, to distinguish the princes and princesses of the imperial families. The title grand-duke was also applied to certain of the minor Continental independent princes.
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