The Complete Guide to the British Peerage & Baronetage
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Precedence and Scales of General and Social Precedence
The Law of Precedence dates from the Middle Ages. The first regulation concerning precedence was "The Order of all Estates of Nobles and Gentry of England" issued in 1339.
In the reign of King Henry VIII the "Act for Placing the Lords" was passed by Parliament. Although it concerned directly only the Great Officers of State and only indirectly referred to the places of the nobility, it has long been considered the chief authority for the ordering of dignities and titles. In the preamble to this Act it states although it is part of the King's prerogative to give such honour, reputation and placing to his Councillors and subjects as the King wished, nevertheless the King was pleased and contented for an Order for the placing of the Great Officers and Lords to be determined by Parliament. In many ways this was what we would call nowadays consolidating legislation as it confirmed the ancient and pre-existing Law of Precedence.
In the early 17th century there was a dispute between barons' and viscounts' younger sons, and the then newly created order of Baronets, as to which should take the higher place. King James I determined the dispute in favour of the peers' sons.
A leading principle of the Law of Precedence is that precedence emanates from the father or husband, and cannot be derived from a female, unless in the case of a peeress in her own right.
Scale of General or Social Precedence
Scale of General or Social Precedence of Ladies
The Scale of General Precedence in Scotland
The Scale of Precedence for Ladies in Scotland
There are also Tables of Precedence for Northern Ireland, the Dominion of Canada (1923 as amended), the Commonwealth of Australia (1953), the Dominion of New Zealand (1947), the Union of South Africa (1950), India (1951), Pakistan, the Dominion of Ceylon (1952 as revised), the Colony of Southern Rhodesia (1949) and for the Colonies in general (1951 as revised). Few, if any, of these tables of precedence have any relevance today.
Last updated 12 Aug 2008
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