GEN-MEDIEVAL-L ArchivesArchiver > GEN-MEDIEVAL > 2009-05 > 1241595097
Subject: Re: Armiger means Esquire
Date: Wed, 6 May 2009 00:31:37 -0700 (PDT)
Dear Newsgroup ~
Below is another weblink that discusses the term esquire. I've copied
some of the information below. Not all the statements are entirely
accurate, but it gives the general idea which is close to the truth.
The material below implies that a coat of arms had to do with being an
esquire. As far as I can tell, that is incorrect. Being an esquire
had to do with property ownership, not having a coat of arms.
Best always, Douglas Richartdson, Salt Lake City, Utah
+ + + + + + + + + + + + +
The English word ''squire'' comes from the Old French
''escuier'' (modern French ''écuyer''), itself derived from the Late
Latin ''scutarius'' ("shield bearer"). The Classical Latin equivalent
was ''armiger'', 'arms bearer'. A squire was originally a young man
who aspired to the rank of knighthood and who, as part of his
development to that end, served an existing knight as his attendant or
shield carrier. However, during the middle ages the rank of esquire
came to be recognized in its own right and, once knighthood ceased to
be conferred by any but the monarch, it was no longer to be assumed
that a squire would in due course progress to be a knight. The
connection between a squire and any particular knight also ceased to
exist, as did any shield carrying duties.
The term "esquire"
In the post-mediaeval world, the title of "esquire" came to belong to
all men of the higher gentry; an esquire ranked socially above a
gentleman but below a knight. In the modern world, where all men are
assumed to be gentleman, the term has correspondingly often been
extended (albeit only in very formal writing) to all men without any
higher title. It is used postnomially, usually in abbreviated form —
"Thomas Smith, Esq.", for example. In the United States, this style
is most common among attorneys, borrowing from the English tradition
whereby all barristers-at-law were styled Esquires. (Solicitors were
only entitled to the style "Mr".)
In English village life from the late 17th century through the early
20th century, there was often one principal family of gentry, owning
much of the land and living in the big house. The head of this family
was often called "the squire."
Squires were gentlemen with a coat of arms and were often related to
peers. Many could claim descent from knights and had been settled in
their estates for hundreds of years. The squire usually lived at the
village manor house, and owned an estate comprising the village with
the villagers being his tenants. If the squire owned the living (was
patron) of the parish church—and he often was— he would choose the
rector, a role often be filled by a younger son of the squire. Some
squires also became the local rector themselves and were known as
squarsons - a combination of the words squire and parson. The squire
would also have performed a number of important local duties in
particular that of justice of the peace or MP. Politically, during the
19th century squires tended to be Tories whereas the greatest
landlords tended to be Whigs.
The position of squire was traditionally associated with occupation of
the manor house which would often itself confer the dignity of squire.
It is unclear how widely the village squire may still be said to
survive today; but where it does, the role is likely more dependent
upon a recognition of good manners, lineage and long family
association rather than land, which, while relevant, is nowadays
likely to be considerably smaller than in former years due to high
post-war death duties and the prohibitive costs associated with
maintaining large country houses.
In Scotland, whilst Esquires and Gentleman are technically correctly
used at the Court of the Lord Lyon, the title Laird, in place of
Squire, is more common. Moreover, in Scotland Lairds append their
territorial designation to their names as was traditionally done on
the continent of Europe (e.g. Donald Cameron of Lochiel). The
territorial designation fell into disuse in England early on, save for
peers of the realm.