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William Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester, image courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

For some time now the team have been arguing over which is the ‘correct’  form – is it the Marquis or the Marquess of Winchester?   Both spellings have their supporters, and it’s fair to say that both seem to be in common usage. However, we thought it would be a good idea to adopt one form as our standard in all Basing House publications;  website, onsite interpretation, guidebook , advertising, etc.  The burning question has been … which one?  

Having swung one way and then the other (much to the annoyance of our webmaster who has had to edit and re-edit. Sorry Ian!)  it was decided that we should seek help from our esteemed colleagues at Hampshire Archives & Local Studies.  Their prompt and fascinating response was:

“The title Marquess of Winchester was created in 1551 in the Peerage of England, making it the oldest English (and British) Marquessate still in existence. Therefore, the holder is considered the Premier Marquess of England. The Marquess of Winchester, incidentally, is the only Marquess in the Peerage of England without a higher title; all other Marquesses in that Peerage are also Dukes.

Middle French marquis (feminine, marquise) from Old French Marchis from Medieval Latin marca “frontier, frontier territory”, ultimately from a Germanic word for ‘border’ (mark) which in English became march, plural marches. The French form marquis, recorded in English since 1300, is still sometimes used (especially in Scotland), though marquess is now the preferred British usage.”

So there you have it:  Marquess it is!

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