A View From Middle England - Conservative with a slight libertarian touch - For Christian charity and traditional belief - Free Enterprise NOT Covert Corporatism

Friday, July 24, 2009

My Lords, Ladies, and David Beckham, Esquire!

There was a time when everyone knew their place. David Frost famously introduced a sketch about social class acted out by John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett. You don't have to be posh to be privileged today. All sorts make it into the House of Lords. I bet the Hurlingham Club is less fussy these days. Debrett's People of Today certainly is. They have devised a remarkable scheme for sifting out who is and who is not an "esquire".

When I was a child, my father regularly got letters with "esq." after his name. Then as a teenager these letters faded away in favour of a more direct style. He was just Mr. and that was that. Now it seems to be back in style. It's a funny old world, as Margaret Thatcher once said. Under New Labour there is a new version of an old world.

Originally the title Esquire was for those considered somewhere between the Knights and the Gentlemen. Based on the word squire, they were people who in medieval times had a "managerial" position with regard to the knights and barons. Where it all ended up in the late 1950's I do not know, but my father was deemed OK for the letter-writers of the day. Then he fell off that esquire list!

One family story that was oft told by my mother was when my grandfather was asked to vet the village cricket team. What for, we were never told. He looked up and down the list and exploded with a sort of outrage verging on apoplexy. He had noticed that all the names were appended with "esquire". He muttered, "What's this? They're only village people!" How times have changed. Not that I'm in favour of my grandfather's views on social delineation continuing into the 21st century, not at all. But it is very peculiar that Debrett's have ressurrected it, albeit in a brand new form.

According to Debrett's Simon Cowell is an esquire as is David Beckham. Liam Gallagher is not. I detect a hint of favouritism here or possibly not wanting to offend those they may wish to please. I remember someone commenting on an advertisement at Victoria Station. "Gentleman required for cleaning public lavatories" the notice said. The comment was, "But that is hardly a suitable occupation for a gentleman!".

The thing is, could it ever be suitable for an esquire? One of the new generation esquires? I tend to doubt it!


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