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Duke vs. Earl: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on December 17, 2023
A duke is a higher rank than an earl in British nobility, with the former often ruling over a larger area.

Key Differences

In British nobility, a duke holds a higher rank than an earl. The title of duke is one of the highest hereditary titles, whereas an earl is ranked below duke but above viscount.
Historically, dukes were rulers of large territorial areas, often holding significant political power. Earls, on the other hand, were originally local leaders or governors of a shire.
The title of duke was introduced in the United Kingdom by King Edward III, reflecting a status of nobility not just by land but also by bloodline. Earls, however, have a longer history, with their role evolving over time from governance to more ceremonial duties.
In the peerage system, dukes often have national or royal connections, whereas earls are typically associated with specific regions or counties.
Both titles carry significant social status and are often inherited, but the prestige and historical significance of a duke is generally greater than that of an earl.

Comparison Chart

Rank in Nobility

Higher than an earl, below a prince
Below a duke, above a viscount

Historical Role

Rulers of large areas, significant power
Local leaders or governors of a shire

Origin of Title

Introduced in 14th century by Edward III
Older title, existed since Anglo-Saxon times

Land Association

Often extensive lands or entire regions
Associated with specific regions or counties

Social Status

Extremely high, often with royal ties
High, more regional importance

Duke and Earl Definitions


A term used to denote a leader or ruler of a specific area.
The duke governed his lands with fairness and justice.


A British nobleman ranking above a viscount and below a marquess.
The earl hosted lavish parties at his ancestral home.


A nobleman of the highest hereditary rank below a prince.
The duke presided over the annual charity ball.


Historically, a governor or ruler of a shire or county.
As an earl, he was responsible for the wellbeing of his shire.


A title used in various honorary or ceremonial contexts.
The university chancellor was honored with the title of duke.


A title used for nobility with regional importance.
The earl was well-known throughout the county for his philanthropy.


In certain countries, a sovereign or hereditary ruler.
The duke had the final say in all matters of state.


In historical contexts, a title denoting a high-ranking warrior.
The earl led his troops bravely in battle.


A title given to members of the royal family.
The Duke of Sussex is a prominent figure in British royalty.


A term reflecting a nobleman with significant landholdings.
The earl owned several estates across the countryside.


A nobleman with the highest hereditary rank, especially a man of the highest grade of the peerage in Great Britain.


A British nobleman next in rank above a viscount and below a marquis, corresponding to a count in continental Europe.


A sovereign prince who rules an independent duchy in some European countries.


Used as a title for such a nobleman.


(entomology) Any of various nymphalid butterflies of the genus Tanaecia. Other butterflies in this genus are called counts and viscounts.


A nobleman of England ranking below a marquis, and above a viscount. The rank of an earl corresponds to that of a count (comte) in France, and graf in Germany. Hence the wife of an earl is still called countess. See Count.


The needlefish.


A British peer ranking below a Marquess and above a Viscount


Can the title of duke be inherited?

Yes, the title of duke is often hereditary.

Do earls have specific geographical associations?

Yes, earls are often associated with specific regions or counties.

What is the historical role of a duke?

Historically, dukes were rulers of large areas with significant power.

Can women inherit the title of duke or earl?

Inheritance rules vary, but in some cases, women can inherit these titles.

Are there female equivalents to dukes and earls?

Yes, the female equivalents are "duchess" for a duke and "countess" for an earl.

Is the title of earl still relevant today?

Yes, it remains a title of nobility, though its role is more ceremonial now.

Do earls still have political power?

Today, their role is largely ceremonial without significant political power.

Is "duke" a higher title than "earl"?

Yes, duke is a higher rank than earl in British nobility.

What responsibilities did an earl traditionally have?

Traditionally, earls were local leaders or governors of a shire.

What is the formal address for an earl?

An earl is addressed as "The Right Honourable Earl of [Name]".

How many dukes are there in the UK?

The number varies, but it is a limited and exclusive title.

How is a duke addressed formally?

A duke is addressed as "Your Grace" or "Duke [Name]".

Are earls involved in the House of Lords?

Historically, yes, but now only some hereditary earls are members.

What is the origin of the title "duke"?

The title originated in the UK during the reign of Edward III in the 14th century.

When was the title of earl first used?

The title has been used since Anglo-Saxon times.

Can a duke hold other titles?

Yes, a duke can hold multiple titles, including lower-ranked ones.

Are dukes part of the royal family?

Some dukes are members of the royal family, but not all.

Does an earl have a coronet?

Yes, an earl's coronet is distinct in design, denoting their rank.

What is the significance of a duke's coronet?

It symbolizes their rank and is used in ceremonial occasions.

Are new dukedoms still created?

New dukedoms are rare and usually created for royal family members.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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