The last patrilineal ancestor to officially carry a title was Sir John C. Clark, Knight of Wrotham, Kent, England, who passed from this earth in the year of our Lord, 1658; a full 180 years prior to the coronation of Queen Victoria. Of all the rotten luck! By the 19th century my ancestors were merchants and businessmen, cultivating their existence to the best of their acumen.
In the 1700 and 1800s the prevailing status symbols of wealthy Europeans a kept carriage, servants, land/House, ancient family name, and most importantly a title. A title which could only be granted by the reigning monarch. By these standards, how would my upbringing compare? Would I be nobility? Aristocracy? Gentry? Merchants? Farmer? Pauper?
My family has always had a carriage, though not all incarnations were “owned.” My father was fortunate to work in field that practiced the Company Car philosophy. I suppose, my family receives half a point for keeping a carriage.
Up until I was around five years of age we had a live in maid of all work who assisted my mother with domestic arts. There were two or three different women over the course of 10 years. So I suppose, it appears we “moved down,” since we have not had a live-in servant since then. –Another half point for a one point having a servant.
My family has always lived in nice homes, but none of them were “owned” in the true sense, in part because we simply moved due to the nature of my father’s job.–No point on that account.
My father’s name is practically biblical. Quite antediluvian. So I do carry an ancient family name that used to fill pages and pages in the now extinct telephone directory.–A full point!
As for title holding, does Miss qualify? Or how about my self-styled Lady alias? No? Well, then no point in that category. We achieved two full points out of five total, a measly 40%. By all appearances we are decidedly “un-gentried” nor aristocratic. Just as well.
The other aspect of the truly wealthy was the seemingly stupid aversion to anything that hinted at manual labor. Supposedly, achieving wealth and status during the 19th century is equated with infantile behavior. Clearly no gardening, no cooking, no cleaning, no packing one’s own luggage, nor arranging one’s hair, nor dressing one self. pretty soon, the people of means will not feed themselves, they will just simply sit upon one’s bottom until it is one with the chair and turn into a big ol slug with a full coffers in the vault. Ah, yes! It must be the 19th century European dream!
While I must admit I do find some appeal in delegating my most unwanted tasks to a servant, I cannot imaging not doing things myself. There is no self-respect or respect of fellow-man if one does not toil in some capacity. Likewise hearing the “no,” might also build a little character in some of the stereotypical titled rich so frequently seen in 19th century literature. Such privileges and exemptions of plebian manners derived the word entitled. Albeit the true origin stems from the late 1300s.