The Upper Class

A.k.A. The Gentry, The Quality

Within the upper class, tradition dictates that the first-born son takes control of the estates and businesses of the family. A second son should take a command in the military, and third and subsequent sons should take an education, if possible a guild education. The womenfolk of the upper class are raised to be polite, dainty and eloquent — they do not pursue vocations as do men and, where an education is received, it is usually in the arts, knowledge of which is considered desirable. In fact, it is fair to say that the upper classes consider their women to be useful for only three things: marrying, mothering, and hosting parties. Social activities such as croquet, bridge, readings and theatre take up most of a young woman's time in these circles.

There are several strata within the upper classes. The highest of all are the nobility, who by lack of necessity (or often inability to comprehend financial reality) do not work for a living. Even a noble who has fallen upon hard times (in relative terms — this often means they still have servants but may have to sell one of their country retreats), will view him - or herself as superior to non-titled persons (including other upper class people).

The nearest any noble will come to work may be as a hereditary peer in the House of Lords, Britain's upper legislative body. The ranks of nobility are (in descending order) King, Queen, Prince, Duke, Marquis, Viscount, Earl, Baron, Baronet, and Knight. Knighthoods are always awarded, rather than inherited (usually for brown-nosing the establishment or, more rarely, for great feats of public significance). It is interesting to note that male titles (such as King) rank higher than the parallel female title (such as Queen). So Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg is officially titled 'Prince Consort' and not 'King'. If he were king, then he would be superior to the Queen (and we can't have that!). Most titles are hereditary, although many of the lower ranks of nobility are awarded, for significant public service, particularly to successful military commanders (Arthur Wellesley for example was made Viscount Wellington of Talvera in 1809, followed by Marquis of Wellington in 1812 and Duke of Wellington in 1815).

The next sub-group of the upper classes is the squires. These are not titled nobility, but have to be from families with a recognized family crest and are distinguished from the lower gentry by virtue of land ownership. Such people are traditionally rural, and often the same family has owned the land for generations. Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England from 1653-58, was originally a country squire from Cambridgeshire. Of all the gentry, the squires tend to have the most amiable contact with the lower classes as, in rural England, there is little society to speak of. Often squires see themselves as benevolent parents towards their tenants, who effectively rent the land from the squires. However, the Industrial Revolution has broken this bond in many areas, as many squires have discovered valuable minerals, such as coal, on their land. This has led to large tracts of rural England, particularly in the north-east and midlands, being sold to coal speculators and to the destruction of traditional rural life.

The lowest, and consequently largest, sub-group of the upper class is the gentry. This group is also the hardest to define, as to be a gentleman has several meanings. It is acknowledged that mere good manners and caring about the welfare of others are not an automatic ticket to the title of 'gentleman'. However, such a person usually has at least one of the following pre-requisites: they are from a family with a recognized coat of arms; they have a degree from a recognized university; they perform a recognized profession (doctor, lawyer, clergy and accountant are most common); or they are a Justice of the Peace. The gentry are the most likely of the upper classes to be speculating in high-risk foreign ventures or to take a position within colonial administration, as this is the only way they can hope to gain additional status (such as the much coveted knighthoods or even a baronetcy) during peacetime. The gentry form the majority of the professions and the officer class in the army, as they have the necessary means to gain an education or to have their family purchase a commission within the armed forces. As can be seen, there is a crossover between the working gentry and the upper middle classes.


The upper classes have untold wealth; it is they who sponsor the military, the government and the colonial expansion into Africa and the East. The aristocracy also sponsors the Industrial Revolution in its infancy. The actual assets of an upper class family are simply vast. It would not be worth trying to work out an exact amount but it can be safely assumed that a typical family will have an ancestral home, packed with antiques and other valuables. The house will be at the center of the family estate, which will also contain tithe cottages, owned by the family and rented to the estate workers. Most upper class families also have several large properties in fashionable urban areas as well as several country houses purely for the personal use of the family. If one of the family wishes to stay in an area where the family does not own property, a property or hotel suite will usually be hired for the duration of the stay.

Male offspring can expect to receive an average allowance of twenty pounds and three shillings each week, which is used to hire several servants and to spend on living costs and pastimes. This is as much as many skilled lower class laborers can expect to earn in a year! Female dependents rarely receive a 'cash' allowance to spend on activities, as it is expected that they would not leave the estate without a relative or suitor to pay for them. Most young ladies only have to ask and they are given anything that money can buy, but they seldom receive the money itself. Each dependent will often have at least one personal servant; and whatever staff are required to run their home or estate.


The upper classes own the world, they are better than any of the other classes, and blue blood, breeding, money and power are the whetstones of upper class society.

  • Money? Money is an ugly subject to bring up in polite conversation.
  • Education? Education is wasted upon a woman.
  • Other classes? The middle classes are trying their best to ape your breeding. The lower classes are nothing but sloths and crooks, which is why they have so little.
  • Religion? Religion is fine provided that the preacher gives you the respect that your heritage deserves.
  • Marriage? Securing the bloodline. Marriages are usually arranged to ensure breeding quality - many men consider it to be an institution which only applies to the woman, and which is best entered with a mistress waiting.
  • Honor? Honor is the mainstay of society (maintaining a facade of honor, that is…)