Here is the approximate pecking order of the English caste system,
compiled from various sources.
A. ECCLESIASTICAL (CLERGY)
General: originally meant to be of similar 'birth' or 'class' with the sovereign;
the more recent use is to be familiar with all facets of the army, no longer
a specialist in one area, a 'general officer'.
Colonel: an officer commanding a 'column' of soldiers and support trains.
Captain: an officer entrusted with a command or fort under a sovereign or general.
Lieutenant: an officer representing and exercising powers on behalf of his lord or
Sergeant: servant; attendant upon a knight in the field.
Corporal: influenced by 'corps'; head, chief.
Private: having attained no title of rank, a 'private soldier'.
a. Nobility (peerage, sometimes called "high nobility")
iii. Earl, Count
lord or nobleman; the most general title of nobility in England
judge of the court of exchequer
vassel holding directly from the king
b. Dignity (degrees of honor, sometimes called "low nobility" though not nobility)
Knights Baneret, created by sovereign in person on field of battle
Can lead vassels into battle under his own banner.
Knight (not hereditary), a soldier, assistant to a superior
commonly in return for land, "sir", a mounted man of arms serving a superior
Knights of the Garter, aka Knights of the Order of St. George
Baronet, granted by patent, lowest hereditary dignity or degree
of honor but not a title of nobility, baronets are commoners
Knights Baneret, created by sovereign NOT in person on field of battle
can lead vassels into battle under his own banner.
Knights of the Bath (took a bath the night before his creation)
The order originally consisted of the sovereign, grand master,
and 36 knights companion
Knights Bachelors (the lowest, but most ancient of the ranks of knight)
Knights of the Chamber (title awarded in sovereign's chamber in peacetime)
title of office for sheriffs, serjeants, barristers at law, justices,
One without title, but with a coat of arms showing ancestry
A person of superior birth, above a yeoman.
yeoman, freeholder, a man freeborn, butler for nobility,
gentleman attendant in royal household, "young man"
serf, countryman, tiller of the soil, laborer
NOBILITY, depends on context. If no discernable context or a legal context, then
"nobility" only refers to duke, marquis, earl, viscount, and baron. In a non-legal
context lower ranks are sometimes called low nobility while the upper ranks are
called high nobility. Sometimes "nobility" includes both high and low nobility.
SQUIRE short for esquire
GENTRY of noble birth
GENTLEMAN can refer to all of the nobility.
Its meaning depends on the context in which it is used.
A nobleman; as a peer of the realm; the House of Peers, so
called because noblemen and barons were originally
considered as the companions of the king
In England, persons belonging to the five degrees of
nobility are all peers [members of the peerage].
1. The native of a city, or an inhabitant who enjoys the freedom
and privileges of the city in which he resides; the freeman
of a city, as distinguished from a foreigner, or one not
entitled to its franchises.
2. A townsman; a man of trade; not a gentleman.
3. An inhabitant; a dweller in any city, town or place.
4. In a general sense, a native or permanent resident in a city
or country; as the citizens of the United States.
5. In the United States, a person, native or naturalized, who has
the privilege of exercising the elective franchise, or the
qualifications which enable him to vote for rulers, and to
purchase and hold real estate. If the citizens of the United
States should not be free and happy, the fault will be
entirely their own. Washington