England had 2 major classes: The aristocrats (those who inherited land and titles), and the commoners (everyone else). Still, most Victorians knew that their society was three-tiered.
In the upcoming posts I will show a sampling of the social classes that were present in Europe during the Victorian era.
Young Woman in a Boat, 1870 by James Tissot.
" They sat together in a window [of Thrushcross Grange] whose lattice lay back against the wall, and displayed, beyond the garden trees, and the wild green park, the valley of Gimmerton, with a long line of mist winding nearly to its top (for very soon after you pass the chapel, as you may have noticed, the sough that runs from the marshes joins a beck which follows the bend of the glen). Wuthering Heights rose above this silvery vapour; but our old house was invisible; it rather dips down on the other side. "
A plaque has been placed at the sight by the Bronte society in response to many inquiries.
Social classes with a great deal of power are usually viewed as "the elites" within their own societies; as in Wuthering Heights, property and titles were very important assets. The hereditary land-owning class was made up of aristocrats and the gentry. In the case of the aristocrats, the title and land usually went to the oldest son. With nineteenth century moral reforms coming to the forefront, the upper-class life of leisure and enjoyment lost favor. During this period, when the oldest son received the land, he was expected to actually do something besides just mulling about, as it seems the characters Wuthering Heights did. He was expected to sit in Parliament, have a hand in local affairs, and use his influence in a charitable cause, even though he did not do any paid work.
"Etiquette" is the one word that aptly describes life during the reign of Queen Victoria.
“We Victorians take the rules of propriety very seriously. It is who we are. If one does not conform they are considered outcasts in proper society.”
For those in the upper echelons of society, rules such as the proper forms of address, and even what to wear, were all considered very important.
Christmas morning in a gentry household.
During this time period, there were about two thousand squires with estates of between one thousand and three thousand acres. The squire was expected to be a justice of the peace and to take interest in the countryside, and also to promote local charities.
The aristocracy formed a separate class under law. The children of aristocrats were also aristocrats with special rights.
Lady Sybil Myra Caroline Grant (1879–1955) was a Bristish writer, designer and artist. She was the eldest child of Archibald "Archie" Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery and his wife Hannah ( nee de Rotheschild) Lady Sybil married, on 28 March 1903, General Sir Charles John Cecil Grant (1877–1950).
On the death of her father in 1929, she inherited his estate, "The Durdans" at Epsom, which became her home. Grant later became an eccentric, spending most of her time in a caravan or up a tree, communicating to her butler through a megaphone. She died a widow in 1955, survived by her son, Charles Robert Archibald Grant, who had married Honourable Pamela Wellesley (born 14 May 1912), granddaughter of the 4th Duke of Wellington.
Victorian prosperity for the elites, was built on the development of new machinery, new work methods and an underpaid workforce consisting of adults and children living in wretched poverty.