This is a guest post by John Lehman of the Coats of Arms Database website.

In London in the 16th and 17th centuries basically the levels of society were commoners, gentleman, knights, baronet, baron, viscount, earl (count), duke, prince, and king or queen. The main focus here is the titles of Knight and above. We will first discuss what the titles represent and then look at a few of the title holders from London between 1600-1700.

Gentleman – A Gentleman was a distinguished man that received his income from property, that was inherited or from another source.  Otherwise they were wealthy and did not need to work.   They could not claim nobility of any kind including the rank of an Esquire.

Esquire – An Esquire was originally called a Squire.  They were the assistant to a Knight (someone who held a shield), or the eldest son of a Knight.

Knight– A knight was given the honour in recognition of merit or service. Knights are allowed to use Sir in front of their name.  During the Middle Ages a Knight was a mounted soldier in armour that fought for the Crown.

Baronet / Baronetess–  A baronet is given to a commoner, and unique in nature.  It can be passed down as a hereditary honor but they are not allowed to a have a seat in Parliament.  It is also not considered an order of knighthood but it does rank above Knights. The only knightly orders it does not is the Order of the Garter and the Order of the Thistle.   This title was created by James I of England as a means of raising funds.  The female title of this rank is a baronetess but it is very rare as there have only ever been four in history.

Baron / Baroness–  This title was granted directly from the King or Queen, usually for their loyalty to the crown.  Originally anyone who was given land by the King / Queen for military service was considered a Baron no matter what their other title may have been.  This rank was discontinued in England when King Edward I recognized the dangers it posed to the monarchy structurally and financially.

Viscount / Viscountess– Viscounts in history were originally what was considered a Sheriff and was appointed by the ruling monarch of the kingdom. Although today this title is very much hereditary and is given to an heir of a Marquess or Count.  Their responsibility was for an area known as a viscounty, viscountship or viscountcy which was their jurisdiction to watch over and enforce the kingdom’s laws.

Earl (Count) / Countess– An Earl or County was a honorary title given by the monarch for services to the King / Queen, it could also be given to someone with no estate.  The Counts / Earls that were given lands by the monarch were given a small area of the kingdom called a county or countship.  This was not a hereditary title but the Earl/Counts with larger estates could occasionally pass the land to their son’s.

Marquess / Marchioness – A Marquess was the ruler over land called a mark or march.  They were responsible for the defense of any border lands of the kingdom and usually had more men that they commanded at arms than other nobles.

Duke / Duchess – A Duke is usually a relative of a King’s or Queen’s family. Their lands are called a duchy. They hold some responsibilities within the kingdom.

Prince / princess – A Prince is usually a son or member of the King’s or Queen’s family.  It is a title that is hereditary and is given to Europe’s highest nobility.

King / queen – A King / Queen is the second highest title within the sovereign nations and the only title that ever out ranks them is the Emperor. They are the head of state and rule over an entire kingdom or realm.

Now that we have a bit of history on the ranks within the kingdom we can understand the ability to hold a Coat of Arms / Crest within that kingdom.  In the following lists of the Knighthood it can be seen that they came from all walks of life and that it was an honor that was bestowed upon them for service to the crown.  The Coat of Arms / Crest was given to a particular person and there were variations of that Coat of Arms / Crest when the titles were passed down through hereditary means.  To make this a bit more clear, the King has a Coat of Arms his son the Prince has a similar Coat of Arms but it has differences within that Coat of Arms / Crest. This is so that the shield of the King and the Prince are distinguishable among one another within battle.  More information on the Coat of Arms / Crests / Genealogies for any particular surname can be found at  Below you will find four arms holders from London in the 16th and 17th centuries along with their arms information:

BARTHOLOMEW GRACEDIEU– 1697, Nov. (Oct.) 17.

BARTHOLOMEW GRACEDIEU, of London, salter, sheriff of London.  He was the 3rd son of Thomas Gracedieu of St. Botolph Bishopsgate, he married Frances and had two daughters. One of them died without having children.  He was knighted by the King on November 17, 1697 when he presented the London Address on the Peace, at Kensington.  He started an apprenticeship with Thomas Collet who was a salter and a member of the Vinters’ Company.  His father died in 1679 and he and his brother Daniel inherited London property. At this time he became a freeman. Starting in 1686 he was trading with Jamaica, and he was counsel for Jamaica after the Revolution to remit funds to London and eventually became an agent for the colony around 1693.   He died in 1715.

Grantee Information:

BARTHOLOMEW GRACEDIEU of London, salter, sheriff of London, born 1697, son of Thomas Gracedieu of St. Botolph Bishopsgate (possibly: Ar. a fesse dovetailed in base gu. betw. three torteaux.)


EDMUND HARRISON, of London, merchant, a director of the New East India Company  – Joseph Brooksbank, of Healaugh, born 1725 ; married to Elizabeth, daughter and co-heiress of Benjamin Bond, of London, and died 1759.  His widow married William Snell, a Director of the Bank of England, and of Hon. East India Company, son of William Snell, by his wife Cecilia,  daughter and co-heiress of Sir Edmund Harrison, Knight by his wife Mary Fiennes, niece of Viscount Saye and Sele. Mr. Brooksbank left (with a daughter Catherine, to. Thomas Page, of Poynters, Surrey) an only surviving son.

Grantee Information:

EDMUND HARRISON of London, merchant, director of the New East India Company, born 1698 (possibly: Gu. an eagle displ. and chief or. Crest—A snake vert entwined round a broken column or)

OWEN BUCKINGHAM was born approx. 1649 the son of George Buckingham an innkeeper of Stanwell, Middlesex. He was an English merchant, alderman, MP, Lord Mayor of London and Sheriff of London.  He was knighted in 1695, Oct. 14, upon congratulating the King on his safe return and success.  By the time he was 40 he had become involved in politics and was a common councilman for London and then became an Alderman from 1696 to his death. He was appointed the Sheriff of London for 1695-96, was knighted the same year and elected the Lord Mayor of London for 1704-05.. From a promise to manufacture sailcloth in the town that he was elected MP for reading in 1698 and then again in 1701, 1702, and 1705.  He only resigned his seat in favor of his son, Owen Buckingham.

He was married 6 times and became quite wealthy and was able to purchase the Fettiplace family estates near Reagin in 1706.  He died in 1713 and was survived by his only son and heir Owen and two daughters from his first marriage.

Grantee Information:

OWEN BUCKINGHAM – born 1649, son of George, Lord Mayor of London

(possibly: Or, a lion ramp. gu. debruised by a bend az. charged with three bezants. Crest—A lion ramp. gu.)

HENRY FURNESE– Henry Furnese was born May 30, 1658 the son of Henry Furnese of Sandwich Kent and pursued a career in the City of London as a merchant trader.  He was a member of Draper’s Company and was knighted on October 21, 1691 at the Hague, on a Sunday for carrying the news of the defeat of the Irish at Limerick.  He was one of the original directors of the Bank of England when the bank was founded in 1694.  He was also a director of the New East India Company from 1698 to 1703.  He was a Member of Parliament for Bramber in 1698 and was expelled on February 14, 1700.  Then re-elected for Sandwich in 1701 but was again expelled the following month, only to be re-elected again, after which he held the seat until his death.  He was the Sheriff of London 1700-01, and was created a baronet on 27 June 1707.  In 1711 he was selected an Alderman for the City of London. He was married twice first to Anne Brough in 1684 who was the daughter of linen draper Robert Brough of St. Lawrence Jewry.  He was married second to Matilda who was the daughter of fellow London merchant Sir Thomas Vernon.  He died November 30, 1712 and was succeeded by his son Robert.

Grantee Information:

HENRY FURNESE – born 1658, son of Henry, knighted 1691, member of Draper’s Company

(possibly: Ar. a talbot sejant sa. a border of the last)