TERMS RELATING TO RANKS AND TITLES
Order of Merit. — Instituted by King Edward on his Coronation, 1902, and consisting of one class of members, subjects of the Crown, who have rendered exceptionally meritorious service in the Navy and Army or towards the advancement of Art, Literature and Science, the number not to exceed twenty-four.
Privy Councillor. — The Privy Council includes the responsible ministers of the Crown, a few of the judges, some diplomatists, and many peers and commoners distinguished in the public service. In number it is unlimited. Under its authority many acts are done, but the measures which pass under its name chiefly proceed from its own sub-committees — the Cabinet, the Judicial Committee, the Board of Trade, Sec. Privy Councillors enjoy the title of Right Honourable, and are ex-officio entitled to become magistrates in every county without being required to possess landed qualification. They also possess the privilege of the entrée at drawing rooms, levees, state balls, &c.
Royal Victorian Order. — This was created in 1896, for bestowal by the Sovereign upon those subjects whose personal services it might be desired to recognize, and any foreign princes and persons upon whom the Sovereign may think fit to confer it. It consists of five classes, Knights Grand Cross, Knights Commander, Commanders, and members of the fourth and fifth classes, who take precedence as indicated on pages 36 and 37. The Royal Victorian Chain is decoration founded by King Edward VII. in 1902, to be bestowed on special occasions.
Viscount. — This is the most modern of all the ranks in the Peerage. It was introduced into England in 1440, and has always been conferred by letters patent. The word vice-comes had long been used to designate the sheriff of a county, and the French modification of that term, viscount, was adopted when a titular dignity was created, to which, however, no shadow of official trust was assigned. It has never been largely conferred, and as a chief title does not at present constitute one-twentieth of the English peerage; in Ireland, however, it bears a much larger proportion to the whole body, being about one-fifth.