The social rung below the nobility, but including those who were landed and entitled to a coat of arms, and who could sit in the House of Commons. It typically included the locally powerful, such as knights and other important people in towns and the counties.
Fact of the Day
Elizabeth I could cost her hosts so much on her visits that some tried to shut up their houses and stay away to prevent it. This did no good for the earl of Lincoln: Elizabeth broke into his Chelsea residence, had a feast, and then charged the bill to Lincoln.