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Somerset and Protector, then held the title of Viscount Beauchamp, though merged in the superior rank of his Earldom. He was attainted and all his honours forfeited in 1552; two years previous to which period, Walter Devereux, Baron Ferrars of Chartley, had been created Viscount Hereford. This dignity was merged in the Earldom of Essex in 1572, from which time, for nearly fifty years, none bore the title of Viscount as their chief honour; and the forfeiture of Robert, the celebrated Earl of Essex, in 1600, again suspended the Order, till his son was restored to his diguities, in 1603; on his death, in 1646, the Viscounty emerged by the extinction of the Earldom of Essex, and Hereford has since, without farther interruption, been borne as the principal title of the first English Viscount
In 1620, three Viscounts were created, and the number was gradually increased till 1628, when they amounted to nine, the largest number this rank has ever counted, before the accession of George III.; till which period they continued to vary somewhat between nine and four, except during a few years of the reign of William III., when there were no more than two, and afterwards three Viscounts. They are still not numerous as compared with Earls and Barons, but about equal with the Dukes and Marquises.
As Henry VI. borrowed the title of Viscount from his French dominions, so, after James VI. of Scotland had ascended the throne of England, it makes its first appearance in the Scottish Peerage. In 1606, the Viscounts of Fentoun and Haddington were created; of them, the former was advanced, in 1619, to the Earldom of Kellie, and the latter became extinct in 1625, but not till other creations had raised the number of Viscounts, independently of such as bore superior titles, from the one which remained, in 1619, to five; and though occasionally fluctuating, the number of this order continued on the whole to increase, till, in the year 1700, they amounted to seventeen, besides those that were merged; but from that period they have gradually declined, leaving at the present time no more than four. This
class has always been comparatively large in the Irish
ecrage. Early in the last century it numerically nearly doubled that of either Earls or Barons; at present it is exceeded in number by both these ranks, but is considerably more numerous than the English Viscounts.
The Viscount's style is "the Right Honourable Lord Viscount ;" he is addressed as " My Lord."
The robes of a Viscount are in form the same as have been described under the higher orders of the Peerage—differenced by having three rows of black spots on the right, and two on the left shoulder.
His cap is the same as a Duke's. His coronet is a circle of gold enriched with jewels, the upper rim of which is surmounted by fourteen balls set close together, as represented in the engraving above.
His sons and daughters arc all styled Honourable, there being no distinctive title for the eldest son.
An inferior order of territorial Nobility was known in the Anglo-Saxon polity, divided into the spiritual and secular classes, by the names of Messe Thegnes and World Tliegnes. The former were not Bishops who by that name (Bisceopcs) ranked with the Earls, but subordinate Priests, ranked by the laws of King Athelstan on an equality with the secular Thanes. The latter were hereditarily endowed with fair possessions, held of the King by tenure of Knight's service, and called Tainland. They belonged to the great nobility, though the officiary dignity of Highgerevc ranked before them.
To constitute a Thane, it was necessary he should possess
a distinct office in the King's Court; or, being a churle Or countryman, that he should have fully five hides of his own land, a church, a kitchen, a bellhouse, and a boroughgate with a seat. In these curious particulars, handed down by a Saxon writer, an interesting insight is afforded us into the manners and piety of our ancestors. A great Lord must have a church for the edification of his family and retainers; he must also keep a court in which justice may be administered to them, the original of the Court Baron, still existing in all manors, and here described under those simple words, "sitting in the gate," which we so often read in the Scripture; the hospitality required of them is expressed in the kitchen and the bellhouse being the only indispensable parts of a mansion; the bellhouse denoting the hall of entertainment to which the guests, no doubt, were summoned, as is still practised in the country seats of our gentry, by ringing a bell; and it is remarkable that a statute of Richard II. calls the King's Hall, " Tinel-le-Roy," from the tingling of a bell.
Under the Norman monarchy, the term Baron gradually superseded that of Thane; at first they were used indiscriminately, except that Baron is never applied, as in the Saxon description of a Thane, to the servants of the King's Court Mi that capacity; a Baron must hold territorial Barony, by feudal service, immediately of the King. Selden, iu his "Titles of Honour," describing the principles of the feudal Baronage, divides the time from the Conquest into three periods: the first comprehending from the Conquest to the latter end of the reign of King John; the second, to the eleventh year of Richard II.; the third, from the latter period to that in which he wrote, and which may now be extended to the present time.
In the first period, all who held any quantity of land of the King had, without distinction, a right to be summoned to Parliament; and this right being confined solely to the King's tenants, of consequence all the Peers of Parliament during that period sat by virtue of tenure and a writ of summons. But towards its close the conflux of Peers became so large and troublesome, that the King was obliged to divide them, and summon only the greater Barons in person; leaving the small ones to be summoned by the Sheriff, and (as it is said by Blackstone) to sit by representation in another house; which gave rise to the separation of the, two Houses of Parliament.
In the beginning of the second period—that is, in the last year of the reign of King John, this distinction was confirmed by Magna Charta, in which the King declares, faciemus summoneri archiepiscopos, episcopos, ablates, comites, et majores barones regni siyillatim per literas nostras, et pratterea faciemus summoneri in generali per vicecomites et ballivos nostros omnes alios, qui in capite tenent de nobis ad certum diem, tfc. Tenure, therefore, now began to be disregarded, and persons who held no lands of the Crown were summoned to Parliament by the King's writ; and it has been held that right by tenure ceased under Henry HI., and that no person was then considered to be entitled to sit in the Parliament, unless he was summoned thereto by the King's writ; though it is contended, on the authority of a proceeding in the Parliament of 1225, that the Crown never possessed the prerogative of omitting to summon to every Parliament the Barones majores, who had formerly been entitled to sit in right of their tenures. That the right to a seat in Parliament, as attached to the possession of certain lands, is now wholly abolished, is evidenced by the proceedings in the case of Benjamin Mildmay, Esq., who, in 1668, presented a petition, claiming the Barony of Fitz-Walter, as heir-general of Robert Fitz-Walter, summoned to Parliament in the twenty-third of Edward I., A.D. 1295, and was opposed by Robert Cheeke, Esq. Whereupon, his Majesty was pleased to order in council that the cause should be heard by the Privy Council, on the 19th January, 1669, when the two Chief Justices and the Lord Chief Baron were ordered to attend. The Counsel for the said Robert Cheeke affirmed, that tne same was a Barony by tenure, and ought to go along with the land:
which the Counsel of the Petitioner denied, and offered to argue upon the same. Upon which, both parlies being ordered to withdraw, the nature of a Barony by tenure being discoursed, it was found to have been discontinued for many ages, and not in being, and so not fit to be revived, or to admit any pretence of right of succession thereupon. And it was ordered by his Majesty in Council, "that the Petitioner is admitted humbly to address himself to his Majesty, for his writ to sit in the House of Peers as Baron Fitz-Walter." And he was so summoned accordingly. In every instance since, which has had any bearing upon the question of Baronies by Tenure, the resolutions of the House of Lords have tended to confirm that of the Privy Council in 1669.
The third period' commences in 1387, with the first instance of a creation by patent, when Richard II. created John de Beauchamp, Baron Beauchamp of Kydderminster, with remainder to the heirs male of his body, since which period Peerages have been indifferently created by writ or patent, but in modern times by patent only, and usually with limitation to the heirs male of tbe body, but without prejudice to the right of the Crown to grant to any other remainder, or, which is less frequently (if indeed ever) exercised, to create a Barony by writ.
With regard to the mode in which a Peerage is hereditary, it has been already shown, that in the first century and a half of Norman rule, a Barony appears to have appertained to the tenure of a certain demesne, the honour consequently following the land, however conveyed. Also, that the inheritance of Peerages conferred by patent is, by the instrument of creation, so defined, or rather limited from what would otherwise have been its natural course, as to be .ncapable of any other than the designed succession. It wberefore remains to explain the effect on the inheritance, of a title derived from a writ of summons, and a sitting under it, without which consummation the writ conveys no right And this effect is so intelligible to Englishmen, from its near si