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Peerage facts for kids

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A peer is a member of the nobility. It is sometimes used instead of "Lord". In formal or old British documents, the House of Lords is called the House of Peers.


In the United Kingdom there are five ranks of the peerage:

  • Baron is the lowest. In Scotland this is called a Lord, short for Lord in Parliament.
  • Viscount
  • Earl - this is an old Saxon word. In Continental Europe this rank is called "count", the lord in charge of a county. An earl's wife is called a countess
  • Marquess - A special rank higher than an earl because a marquess's land was in the Marches, the border areas that must be defended. A marquess's wife is called a marchioness. There were not many marquesses in Scotland, and they usually spelled the title "marquis" like the French
  • Duke - the highest rank.

Informally Barons, Viscounts, Earls and Marquesses are called lords, and instead of their name when speaking to them, the term "my lord" is used. A Duke is never called a lord. "Your grace" is used for a Duke.

Since 2004 a list of peers has been kept by the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice. This list, called the Roll of Peerage had to be kept to prove who was a peer. The list of members of the House of Lords used to be the same until the hereditary peers were excluded. Official documents can only call someone a peer if their name is on the Peerage Roll.


Sorting out which peer should precede (come in front of) in a procession or other event depends on three different things:

  1. The rank. All dukes come before all marquesses, then earls, then viscounts and finally barons.
  2. Country the peerage was created in. All Dukes first created by the King of England come before those created by the King of Scotland. After this come Dukes of Great Britain whose titles were created between 1707 and 1801. In 1801 Ireland joined Great Britain to form the United Kingdom, so Dukes of Ireland come next, followed by Dukes of the United Kingdom. The other types of peer follow in the same order.
    1. England
    2. Scotland
    3. Great Britain
    4. Ireland
    5. United Kingdom
  3. Finally the order is decided on the year the title was created.


The only exceptions are the royal dukes, and the Duke of Abercorn.

  • The dukes of Gloucester, Kent, Edinburgh and York are the most junior dukes, but because they are princes they rank ahead of all other dukes. In 1952 the Queen ordered that her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, would be second only to her.
  • The Duke of Abercorn. When the Irish Marquess of Abercorn was "promoted" in 1868 the duke was listed as a duke of the kingdom of Ireland, but was given precedence as if it was a United Kingdom peerage. Irish peers cannot attend the House of Lords.
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