The Indian Biographical Dictionary (1915)/Appendix VII


Terms Relating to Ranks and Titles

The following is a summary description, in alphabetical order, of the various ranks which confer titles upon individuals; together with a brief account of a few terms which frequently occur in the personal memoirs of each possessor of these dignities: —

Archbishops. — The highest dignity in the Church is that of “metropolitan prelate” or archbishop. He exercises control over Bishops; and the limit of his archiepiscopal jurisdiction is called “a province”. But in addition to these functions, he has the actual care of a diocese, in which he performs all the duties of a suffragan prelate, owing obedience, however, only to the Crown and the Parliament. The Archbishop of Canterbury can issue licences for marriages to be solemnized at any time or place; and he has the power of granting degrees like those of a University.

Baron. — This though now the lowest rank in the peerage is the most ancient. It may be derived from a writ of summons or from letters patent. The former, if followed by an actual sitting in the House of Lords, constitutes a title heritable by heirs male and female of the body of the person summoned. The latter always prescribes the course of descent in express words. Both these kinds of Baronies are in existence; but formerly another class drew their honours from the possession of certain lands. These “Baronies by tenure” are obsolete, though many heirs of such titles exist, possessing baronies by writ or patent.

Baronets. — This order of titled persons was founded in England by James I., 1611; in Ireland, to promote the plantation of Ulster, by the same King, 1619; and in Scotland, for the advancement of Nova Scotia, by Charles I., 1625. It owes its birth to the necessities of James, who sought to recruit his finances by the condition annexed to the title of paying into the exchequer about 1095l., being ostensibly three years’ pay of thirty soldiers at 8d. a day per man. The institution of the order in Scotland was connected with a scheme for colonizing Nova Scotia, and down to 1638 the patents contained a grant of lands in that colony, though it had before that date passed into the possession of the French. The dignity in modern times has~ always been created by patent, in which the course of its descent is prescribed — usually to the heir male of the body of the first grantee. Many patents, previous to 1827, contained a clause, under which the eldest son of a Baronet may claim Knighthood on coming of age. The rank of Baronet is a “necessary” addition to the name in all cases, and has to be written in full in official signatures. The abbreviation “Bt.” (not “bart.”) is permissible in ordinary use.

Bishop. — Every Bishop must have been in priest’s orders, must be at least thirty years of age, must be born in lawful wedlock, and must be recommended by the Crown to the dean and chapter by whom he is elected. Each new Bishop is “consecated”; but when a prelate is removed from one see to another the process is called “translation”. The majority of the Bishops have no seats in the House of Lords, being Prelates of Scotland or Ireland, or Colonial or Missionary Bishops. Of the English and Welsh Prelates, the two Archbishops, the Bishops of London, Durham, and Winchester, and 21 of the remaining 30 Bishops, sit as spiritual peers, the eight junior Bishops being excluded. The Bishop of Sodor and Man has a seat but no vote..

Countess. — The wife of an Earl, or the female possessor of a peerage of that rank in her own right by descent or by creation.

Distinguished Service Order. — This Order was instituted by royal warrant, dated 6th September, 1880, for the purpose of adequately rewarding the distinguished services of commissioned officers of the Naval and military services who have been honourably mentioned in despatches. It is to consist of the Sovereign and Companions.

Duke. — This, the highest rank in the British peerage, dates its origin from the 11th of Edward III., in which year that King created his eldest son a Duke: previously the Kings of England had themselves been styled “Dukes” of Normandy, and were naturally restrained from conferring an equal titular designation upon any subject; but Edward III. claimed to be “King of France”, and he was the first to create an English Duke. This order of nobility disappeared wholly in 1572 by the extinction of the heirs of all upon whom it had been conferred, or by the attainder of the remaining possessors of the title; the first peer subsequently raised to this rank was Ludovic Stuart, Duke of Richmond, 17th May, 1623. There are at present only two dukedoms in Ireland, those of Leinster and Abercorn, besides the Royal Dukedom of Connaught.

Earl. — The title of Earl may be traced to the Saxon earldorman, or the Danish jarl; but its constitution as a dignity is, of course, subsequent in date to the Norman Conquest, when the designation comes. Count, or Earl, took a prominent place in the peerage. Till the reign of Henry III, this dignity, together with that of Baron, wholly constituted the nobility of the realm; and previous to that period earldoms seem in several instances to have been enjoyed, like baronies, as a consequence of the tenure of certain lands. Originally the title was derived from the name of a county, the government of which was attached to the honour; but in modern times the dignity and the duty have long been divided, and towns, villages, and country seats occasionally furnish the name of an Earl.

Imperial Service Order. — Instituted by King Edward on his Coronation, 1902, for members of the Civil Service of the Empire, to be conferred after Long and Meritorious Service.

Knight Bachelor. — This rank is far more ancient than any of the fraternities existing under the name of Orders. By the mere imposition of the Sovereign’s sword on the shoulder, accompanied with the words “Arise, Sir — ”, its privileges are conferred; and even the members of the Orders of Knighthood must all now receive this accolade before they can assume the designation of “Sir”. When residence abroad prevents the personal reception of this honour, it has of late become the practice to issue letters patent granting the “style, title, and dignity of a knight” to the favoured individual. The prefix of “Sir” is exclusively English as appertaining to Knighthood, and is not necessarily borne by any Foreign knight. In Ireland the Lord Lieutenant can confer the honour of Knighthood. The origin of the designation Knight Bachelor is plausibly derived by some authors from the words bas chevalier, indicating the superiority of the class of Knights Banneret who were created under the royal standard displayed in open war.

Knights of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath. — The practice of creating Knights with various ceremonies, of which bathing was one, is undoubtedly a custom of considerable antiquity; but the institution which now bears the name cannot be traced as a State Order, regulated by statutes and ordinances, beyond the year 1725. The close of the war led to a re-modelling of its constitution in 1815, and the long continuance of peace produced an analogous result in 1847. The new statutes published in the latter year introduced the means of extensively rewarding civil services, and, by abolishing a mass of absurd or conflicting ordinances, reduced the whole to a consistent and rational institution. It contains three classes, viz. Knights Grand Cross, Knights Commander, and Companions. The latter are not entitled to the prefix of “Sir”, but the two former always receive the accolade. These three classes are each sub-divided into three minor divisions, viz. Military, Civil and Honorary. Services in the navy or army are rewarded by the first of these minor divisions; services in diplomacy, on the bench, in high official stations. &c, are acknowledged by the second; services rendered by foreign princes or officers are rewarded by the third.

Lords Spiritual. — The Bishops collectively in their legislative capacities are called Lords Spiritual, as the other members of the House of Peers are called Lords Temporal.

Marquess. — This title was unknown in England till Richard II. created a Marquess of Dublin. It is said to derive its origin from the word Marchio, Lord Marcher, whose duty it was to guard the Welsh and Scottish frontiers, which were called Marches. Till of late years it occurred very sparingly in the lists of Peers and even at present it furnishes the smallest number of any rank in the nobility.

Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George. — This Order was established by letters patent in 1818, and enlarged in 1832 and 1839 for the purpose of affording an appropriate medium by which marks of royal favour might be conferred upon the natives of Malta and the Ionian Islands, as well as upon British subjects whose services may be connected with these dependencies of the Crown. It consists of three classes — Knights Grand Cross, Knights Commander, and Companions (substituted for Cavalieri in 1851). In 1809 the Queen was pleased to sanction such a modification of the statutes of this order, and such an enlargement of its numbers as to render it available as a reward for distinguished merit or service in any of the colonial possessions of the Empire. In 1879 and 1887 this Order of Knighthood was still further enlarged and new statutes issued, and the number of members is now not to exceed 100 G.C.M.G., 300 K.C.M.G.. and 600 C.M.G., inclusive of those assignable for foreign services, and honorary members, consisting of foreign princes, &c.

Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire. — This Order was instituted by the Queen on the 1st of January, 1878, to commemorate the event of the proclamation of Her Majesty’s style and title of Empress of India in the Indian Dominions and for the reward of important and useful services rendered to the Indian Empire. It was enlarged in 1886 again in 1887, on the occasion of the first Jubilee, and again in 1911, and now consists of the Sovereign, a Grand Master (Viceroy for the time being). Knights Grand Commanders (not exceeding 40), Knights Commanders (not exceeding 120), and Companions (nominations not to exceed 40 in any successive year); persons who by their services, official or other, to the Empire in India, and such distinguished representatives of Eastern Potentates as His Majesty may think fit and eligible for appointment. The Councillors for and in the Indian Empire are ex-officio and for life Companions of the Order.

Most Exalted Order of the Star of India. — This Order was instituted by Queen Victoria in 1861, and enlarged in 1866, 1876, 1897, 1902 and 1911 for the express purpose of rendering high honour to conspicuous loyalty and merit in the princes, chiefs and people of her Indian Empire. The Order consists of the Sovereign, a Grand Master (the Viceroy of India), forty-four Knights Grand Commanders; one hundred Knights Commanders, and two hundred Companions, exclusive of extra and honorary members.

Most Illustrious Order of St. Patrick. — This fraternity of Knights was instituted in 1783 as a national Order for Ireland, corresponding to the Thistle in Scotland and the Garter in England. The Lord Lieutenant, Lords Deputy, or Lord Justices were appointed ex-officio Grand Masters, and the Order consists of twenty-two Knights, in addition to which all persons who have held the office of Lord-Lieutenant are authorized to retain the insignia of the Order after they have retired from the government of Ireland.

Most Noble Order of the Garter. — The year 1848 is that usually assigned as the date of the institution of this fraternity. Popular tradition attributes its foundation to the accident of a lady’s garter being picked up by Edward III. at a court festival, When he checked the mirth of bystanders by the exclamation Honi soit qui mal y pense, and permanently converted a trivial accident into a source of honour and distinction by founding; a fraternity of Knights with that motto and the decoration of an embroidered garter. It consists of the Sovereign, the Prince of Wales, twenty-five Knights Companions, and such lineal descendants of George II. as may be elected extra Knights.

Order of the Crown of India. — was instituted on 1st January 1878 to commemorate the assumption by Queen Victoria of the title of Empress of India. To consist of the Sovereign, Princesses of the Royal and Imperial House, the wives or other female relatives of Indian princes, and of other Indian ladies the Sovereign may think fit; and also of the wives or other female relatives of any of the persons who have held, now hold, or may hereafter hold the offices of Viceroy of India and Governor-General of India, Governor of Madras or Bombay, or of Principal Secretary of State for India. The decoration consists of a badge and the inscription V.R.I. on it.

Order of the Guelphs of Hanover. — This, though no longer a British fraternity, enjoyed that distinction for nearly a quarter of a century, and Englishmen have more largely participated in its honours than the natives of Hanover. It was founded by George IV. in 1815, and consists of three classes — Knights Grand Cross, Knights Commander, Knights; the latter, however, in this country, have no other attribute of Knighthood than the name, and correspond exactly to the Cavalieri or Companions of other Orders; but in Hanover they enjoy several privileges.

The Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem. — incorporated by Royal Charter, 1888, under the title of the “Grand Priory of the Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem in England”, is the English Langue or branch of the celebrated Order of the Knights of St. John, established at Jerusalem at the time of the 1st Crusade and was founded at Clerkenwell about 1100 A.D. It was suppressed by Elizabeth, and not revived until after the dispersal of the Order on the capture of Malta by Buonaparte. The head of the fraternity is the Sovereign, and the various grades are a Grand Prior, a Sub-Prior, a titular Bailiff of Eagle, Honorary Bailiffs, Commanders. Knights and Ladies of Justice, Knights and Ladies of Grace, Esquires, and Serving Brothers and Sisters. The Chancery of the Order is in the gateway of the original Priory in Clerkenwell, which is still standing.

Order of Merit. — Instituted by King Edward on his Coronation, 1902, and consisting of one class of members, subjects of the Crown, who have rendered exceptionally meritorious service in the Navy and Army or towards the advancement of Art, Literature and Science, the number not to exceed twenty-four.[1]

Privy Councillor. — The Privy Council includes the responsible ministers of the Crown, a few of the judges, some diplomatists, and many peers and commoners distinguished in the public service. In number it is unlimited. Under its authority many acts are done, but the measures which pass under its name chiefly proceed from its own sub-committees — the Cabinet, the Judicial Committee, the Board of Trade, Sec. Privy Councillors enjoy the title of Right Honourable, and are ex-officio entitled to become magistrates in every county without being required to possess landed qualification. They also possess the privilege of the entrée at drawing rooms, levees, state balls, &c.

Royal Victorian Order. — This was created in 1896, for bestowal by the Sovereign upon those subjects whose personal services it might be desired to recognize, and any foreign princes and persons upon whom the Sovereign may think fit to confer it. It consists of five classes, Knights Grand Cross, Knights Commander, Commanders, and members of the fourth and fifth classes, who take precedence as indicated on pages 36 and 37. The Royal Victorian Chain is decoration founded by King Edward VII. in 1902, to be bestowed on special occasions.

Viscount. — This is the most modern of all the ranks in the Peerage. It was introduced into England in 1440, and has always been conferred by letters patent. The word vice-comes had long been used to designate the sheriff of a county, and the French modification of that term, viscount, was adopted when a titular dignity was created, to which, however, no shadow of official trust was assigned. It has never been largely conferred, and as a chief title does not at present constitute one-twentieth of the English peerage; in Ireland, however, it bears a much larger proportion to the whole body, being about one-fifth.

Indian Titles of Distinction and Honour

The exact date of the institution of these titles is not known but in some cases they are hereditary, though they are purely personal. Since the Durbar of 1911, the holders of these distinctions are allowed in all public functions to wear a badge corresponding to the distinction conferred on them. The following is a list of Indian Titles now in general use: Maharaja; Raja; Sardar; Sardar Bahadur; Dewan Bahadur; Rai Bahadur, Rao Bahadur; Rai Sahib; Rao Sahib; Rani; Jang; Manne Sultan; Mahamahopadhyaya; Vaidyaratna; Amir; Sultan; Nawab; Shams-u-ulema; Shaifa-ul-Mulk; Khan-Bahadur; Khan Sahib. These titles are conferred by H.E. the Governor-General of India on behalf of the Sovereign.

The above medal was instituted by Her late Majesty Queen Victoria, Empress of India, on the 10th April, 1900, as a reward for important and useful services rendered in Her late Majesty’s Indian Empire in the advancement of Public Interest.

The Medal consists of an oval-shaped badge or decoration - in gold for the first class, and in silver for the second class with the Royal cypher in the centre on one side, and on the reverse “Kaisar-I-Hind, for Public Service in India”, and is suspended on the left breast by a dark blue ribbon.

  1. The recipients in 1902 were late Earl Roberts, Visct. Wolseley, Visct. Kitchener, Lord Rayleigh, Lord Kelvin, Lord Lister, Hon. Sir Henry Keppel, Right Hon. John Morley, Right Hon. W. E. H. Lecky, Sir Edward Hobart Seymour, Sir William Huggins, and George Fredk. Watts. R. A.