Some nutty commentary during the recent royal wedding made it clear that the British class structure confuses most Yanks. While the U.S. has socioeconomic classes and the associated prejudices, it's a different species.
Here’s the British social structure as Patrick Colquhoun analyzed it in 1814. The figures at the end of each class indicate (1) total heads of families, and (2) total everyone else in the category. Does anything here make you say, "Hmmmm"?
HIGHEST ORDERS.1ST. The Royal Family, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal the Great Officers of State, and all above the degree of a Baronet, with their families.....
576 — 2,880
SECOND CLASS.2nd. Baronets, Knights, Country Gentlemen, and others having large incomes, with their families.....48,861— 234,305
THIRD CLASS.3rd. Dignified Clergy, Persons holding considerable employments in the state, elevated situations in the Law, eminent Practitioners in Physic, considerable Merchants, Manufacturer upon a large scale, and Bankers of the first order, with their families.....12,200 — 61,000
FOURTH CLASS.4th. Persons holding inferior situations in Church and State, respectable Clergymen of different persuasions, Practitioners in Law and Physic, Teachers of Youth of the superior order, respectable Freeholders, Ship Owners, Merchants and Manufacturers of the second class, Warehousemen and respectable Shopkeepers, Artists, respectable Builders, Mechanics, and Persons living on moderate incomes, with their families.....233,650 — 1,168,250
FIFTH CLASS.5th. Lesser Freeholders. Shopkeepers of the second order, Innkeepers, Publican’s, and Persons engaged in miscellaneous occupations or living on moderate incomes, with their families..... 564,799 — 2,798,475
SIXTH CLASS.6th. Working Mechanics, Artisans, Handicrafts, Agricultural Labourers, and others who subsist by labour in various employments, with their families..... 2,126,095 — 8,792,800
SEVENTH, OR LOWEST CLASS.7th. Paupers and their families, Vagrants, Gipsies, Rogues, Vagabonds, and idle and disorderly persons, supported by criminal delinquency.....387,100 — 1,826,170
THE ARMY AND NAVY.Officers of the Army, Navy, and Marines, including all Officers on half-pay and superannuated, with their families..... 10,500 — 69,000
Non-commissioned Officers in the Army, Navy, and Marines, Soldiers, Seamen, and Marines, including Pensioners of the Army, Navy, &c. and their families..... 120,000 — 862,000
—Patrick Colquhoun, A treatise on the wealth, power, and resources of the British empire, 1814.
Upper left: Thomas Lawrence, The Prince Regent, 1816.
Lower right: Thomas Rowlandson, Seaman.