1902 Encyclopedia > Duke


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 was introduced into England when, by a charter dated 17th March 1337, the lordships, castles, lands, <fec, 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, earl of Lancaster, Derby, and Leicester, and count of Provence, who in 1351 was created duke of Lancaster.

Of the form and enrichment of the princely coronet of the Black Prince no representation or descriptive record is known to exist; nor is it known whether any distinctive coronet was ever assigned to the prince as the ensign of his ducal rank. 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. In representations, three only of the leaves, with two half leaves, are shown. Of late years this coronet has inclosed, and in representa-tions is shown to inclose, a cap of crimson velvet, sur-mounted by a rich golden tassel, and lined and guarded with ermine (fig. 1); but, still more recently, this coronet

Fig. 1. Fig. 2.
Ducal Coronets.

is commonly represented, with much better taste, with neither cap or lining of any kind, as in fig. 2. The opinion is prevalent that this distinctive form of coronet appears for the first time placed about the basinet of Prince John of Eltham, the younger brother of Edward III., who died in 1336, in his monumental effigy in Westminster Abbey. That there is no foundation for such a supposed origin of the ducal coronet is evident from the effigy itself; since the decorations of the headpiece and of the rest of the armour are precisely the same, and they also are identical with similar decorations that appear in other effigies of about the same date. The decoration, however, that is carved upon the basinet of Prince John may probably have suggested the crest-coronet, which in the 15th century so frequently supported knightly crests. It must be added that the basinet in the effigy of Prince John certainly once was encircled by a plain narrow fillet, probably of gold, for the reception of which a channel still appears, slightly sunk in the alabaster immediately below the band of conventional leafage that is carved in low relief. The effigy of the Black Prince himself (1376), at Canterbury, exhibits on the basinet a decorative accessory that may possibly have been the prototype of the leaf-crowned circlet restricted to dukes in later times. From the jewelled band or fillet that encompasses this basinet there rise sixteen leaves, with a second series of the same number of trefoils of much smaller size alternating with the larger leaves, the stalks of the whole being conjoined. These larger leaves differ very slightly from those that are carved upon the armour of Prince John of Eltham, and they are in exact accordance with a favourite form of decorative foliage in general use when the effigy was executed. In his will, Lionel, duke of Clarence, who died in 1368, bequeathed the "two golden circles," with one of which he states that he himself had been " created a duke," while with the other his elder brother, the Black Prince, had been " created a prince." It may be accepted as certain that for a considerable time the coronets of both dukes and earls were decorated rather after an arbitrary taste than in accordance with any estab-lished rule. Thus, more than a century after the death of the Black Prince, the coronet of John de la Pole, KG. duke of Suffolk, has the circlet heightened with fleurs-de-lys alternating with clusters of three small balls. The exact period at which the distinctive enrichments of the coronets of the different orders in the British peerage was determined and established still remains undecided.

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 at the present day 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, as it was in the days of Edward III.; but these royal dukedoms, notwithstanding 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. The duke dom of Cornwall is held by the heir apparent.

At various periods also, and in different countries, this same title, duke, has been in use to denote certain princes who were the actual sovereigns of small states, or others who, while vassals of some great suzerain, enjoyed in an approximate degree a virtual independence. The term duke, again, was introduced into their English version by the translators of the Old Testament, as a becoming title for certain chieftains and potentates, the Oriental sheiks of a remote antiquity.

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 then-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 ranks associated with it; thus a duke's eldest son always ranks as a marquis, and generally bears that title. The parliamentary mantle or robe of a duke is scarlet, and has four doublings of ermine. The royal dukes have coronets as princes. The coronet of a duchess is the same as that of her husband.

The titles arch-duke and arch-duchess, grand-duke and grand-duchess, are 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 has also been applied to certain of the minor Con- tinental independent princes. (o. B.)

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