The Elizabethan era had its own principles concerning the social structure predominant in their society, and the people of England were obligated to follow them. In fact, there were sumptuary laws placed whose purposes were said to be regulating the people’s spending. But, although this was accomplished, the true purpose of these laws was to establish and maintain a certain class structure. These laws described what colors and what types of clothing or accessories were required to be worn by certain individuals. They restricted the items people could buy according to their status. This allowed for easy identification of a person’s rank or privilege (Elizabethan Era Hierarchy).
The highest and most respected position in this system was the monarch. He or she was greatly regarded and all other classes were required to be loyal to the monarch. During the Elizabethan era, Queen Elizabeth I was in power and to be Queen in this period of time was believed to be God’s presentment on Earth. Because she was the monarch, there were no restrictions or limitations on her desires. She was in complete control and lived a luxurious life— free to do just about whatever she wanted because of her position in the hierarchy. Although it seemed she was overindulged, Queen Elizabeth was so successful in her forty five years as a ruler that the Elizabethan era came to be known as the Golden Age because of the accomplishments under her rule (Elizabethan Era Hierarchy).
Right beneath the monarch in the hierarchy were the nobles. This was the smallest of the classes during this time with only fifty noble families during Queen Elizabeth’s reign. Nobility membership of this class was typically hereditary. This group included the lords and ladies of the land with each family being managed by a Duke or Baron. They were people who were wealthy, authoritative, and owners of grand estates. There was a difference between old and new families that were part of this class. The newer families tended to be protestant while the older families were usually catholic. Although their religions had very conflicting views, most of the members were affiliates of the court and parliament together. Their jobs were to perform services of high offices. These jobs brought much debt and little profit. They also had to see that any nobles coming from distant places were well entertained and accommodated (Elizabethan Era Hierarchy).
After the nobility came the gentry. This class was made up of knights, esquires, and gentlemen. They were known as the magnates who possessed little land, but substantial wealth. All of the members constituted less than five percent of the total population but were slowly expanding. To become part of the gentry, one had to have enough wealth to be recognized by other important people. This is a general characteristic of someone in the gentry class (Elizabethan Era Hierarchy). Someone could be made a knight through the monarch, though this was not a military position but more of a title of honor. There were esquires who were not knights themselves but had knights in their past generations of their lineage (Weintrob, Elizabethan Social Classes). Gentlemen were not given a title but were considered gentry because they made money by purchasing large amounts of land and receiving income from the people who worked that land (Elizabethan Era Hierarchy).
The most common and dominant class in the Elizabethan social system was the yeomen. They are