“I think Murbles put it to him pretty straight,” said Lord Peter.
“Quite so. But does he actually realize—imaginatively—that it is possible to hang an English peer for murder on circumstantial evidence?”
The Peerage is a legal system of largely hereditary titles in the United Kingdom, which constitute the ranks of British nobility and is part of the British honours system. The term is used both collectively to refer to the entire body of noble titles (or a subdivision thereof), and individually to refer to a specific title (and generally has an initial capital in the former case and not the latter). The holder of a peerage is termed a peer.
In modern practice, no new hereditary peerages are created (except for members of the Royal Family), but only life peerages which carry the personal right to sit and vote in the House of Lords. Peerages, like all modern British honours, are created by the British monarch, taking effect when letters patent are affixed with the Great Seal of the Realm. Her Majesty's Government advises the Sovereign on a new peerage, under a process which scrutinises appointments to political honours. Currently a few hereditary peers, who are elected to represent the others, also retain the right to sit and vote in the House of Lords.
The Sovereign is considered the fount of honour, and as "the fountain and source of all dignities cannot hold a dignity from himself", cannot hold a peerage (although the British Sovereign uses the style "Duke of Lancaster"). If an individual is neither the Sovereign nor a peer, he is a commoner. Members of a peer's family who are not themselves peers (including such members of the Royal Family) are also commoners; the British system thus differs fundamentally from continental European ones, where entire families, rather than individuals, were ennobled.
Certain personal privileges are afforded to all peers and peeresses, but the main distinction of a peerage nowadays is the style or title and traditional forms of address. The claim to an existing hereditary peerage is regulated by the House of Lords through its Committee for Privileges and Conduct.
Lord Peter considered this.
“Imagination isn't Gerald's strong point,” he admitted. “I suppose they do hang peers? They can't be beheaded on Tower Hill or anything?”
“I'll look it up,” said Parker; “but they certainly hanged Earl Ferrers in 1760.”
Earl Ferrers is a title in the Peerage of Great Britain. It was created in 1711 for Robert Shirley, 13th Baron Ferrers of Chartley. The Shirley family descends from George Shirley (died 1622) of Astwell Castle, Northamptonshire.
In 1611 he was created a Baronet, of Staunton Harold in the County of Leicester, in the Baronetage of England. He was succeeded by his son, the second Baronet. He married Lady Dorothy Devereux, daughter of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex. On the death of her brother Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex, she became the youngest co-heir to the baronies of Ferrers of Chartley and the barony of Bourchier, which had fallen into abeyance on the death of the third Earl. Shirley was succeeded by his eldest son, the third Baronet. He died unmarried and was succeeded by his younger brother, the fourth Baronet. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London by Cromwell and died there in 1656. On his death the title passed to his eldest son, the fifth Baronet. He died at an early age and was succeeded at birth by his posthumous son, the sixth Baronet.
He died as an infant and was succeeded by his uncle, the seventh Baronet. In 1677 King Charles II terminated the abeyance of the barony of Ferrers of Chartley in his favour and he became the thirteenth Baron Ferrers of Chartley. His claim to the barony of Bourchier was overlooked, however. He later served as Master of the Horse and as Lord Steward to the Queen Consort, Catherine of Braganza, and was Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire. In 1711 he was created Viscount Tamworth, of Tamworth in the County of Stafford, and Earl Ferrers, in the Peerage of Great Britain. He was succeeded in the barony of Ferrers of Chartley by his granddaughter Elizabeth, wife of James Compton, 5th Earl of Northampton. She was the daughter of the first Earl's eldest son the Hon. Robert Shirley (1673–1698), who predeceased his father (see the Baron Ferrers of Chartley for further history of this title). Lord Ferrers was succeeded in the baronetcy, viscountcy and earldom by his second son, the second Earl. He served as Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire from 1725 to 1729. He died childless and was succeeded by his younger brother, the third Earl. He was Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire from 1731 to 1742.
He died unmarried and was succeeded by his nephew, the fourth Earl. He was the son of the Hon. Lawrence Shirley, third surviving son of the first Earl. Lord Ferrers killed Mr Johnson, his land-steward, was tried, condemned for murder and hanged at Tyburn on 5 May 1760. He is the last British peer to die a felon's death. On his death the titles passed to his younger brother, the fifth Earl.
“Did they, though?” said Lord Peter. “Ah well, as the old pagan said of the Gospels, after all, it was a long time ago, and we'll hope it wasn't true.”
I’ve been unable to find any reference to an “old Pagan”.“It's true enough,” said Parker; “and he was dissected and anatomized afterwards. But that part of the treatment is obsolete.”
“We'll tell Gerald about it,” said Lord Peter, “and persuade him to take the matter seriously. Which are the boots he wore Wednesday night?”
“These,” said Parker, “but the fool's cleaned them.”
“Yes,” said Lord Peter bitterly. “M'm! a good heavy lace-up boot—the sort that sends the blood to the head.”
“He wore leggings, too,” said Parker; “these.”
Today, leggings seem to be really tight tights worn by women, over which they wear a dress. In the 1920s, leggings were extra pieces of cloth that men wore over the lower part of their trousers to prevent dirt getting on them.“Rather elaborate preparations for a stroll in the garden. But, as you were just going to say, the night was wet. I must ask Helen if Gerald ever suffered from insomnia.”
Although Wikipedia specifies this description is for military leggings, they also describe what Herald was probably wearing.
Since the late 19th century, soldiers of various nations, especially infantry, often wore leggings to protect their lower leg, keep dirt, sand, and mud from entering their shoes, and to provide a measure of ankle support. At first, these were usually puttees—strips of thick woolen cloth resembling a large bandage—were wrapped around the leg to support the ankle. They were usually held in place by a strap attached to the cloth. Later, puttees were replaced by some armies with canvas leggings fastened with buckles or buttons, usually secured at the bottom with an adjustable stirrup that passed under the sole of the shoe, just in front of the heel. The soldier placed the leggings around his calf with the buttoned side facing out and adjusted them and the strap to achieve a proper fit. Leggings typically extended to mid-calf and had a garter strap to hold them up and were secured with a tie just below the knee. Military leggings only extended to the bottom of the knee and buttoned to the bottom button on the knee-breeches. They are sometimes confused with gaiters, which only extend to the high ankle and are worn with full leg trousers.
“I did. She said she thought not as a rule, but that he occasionally had toothache, which made him restless.”
“It wouldn't send one out of doors on a cold night, though. Well, let's get downstairs.”
They passed through the billiard-room, where the Colonel was making a sensational break, and into the small conservatory which led from it.
In billiards and snooker (and pool), the balls to be hit into the pockets are arranged in a triangular pattern at one end of the table, and “broken” by sending the cueball down to them. If an appropriate ball goes into one of the pockets, the “breaker” continues his break by sending more balls into pockets. A sensational break could be one where he runs the table, or at leasr gets a very high score before missing.
Lord Peter looked gloomily round at the chrysanthemums and boxes of bulbs.
“These damned flowers look jolly healthy,” he said. “Do you mean you've been letting the gardener swarm in here every day to water 'em?”
“Yes,” said Parker apologetically, “I did. But he's had strict orders only to walk on these mats.”
“Good,” said Lord Peter. “Take 'em up, then, and let's get to work.”
With his lens to his eye he crawled cautiously over the floor.
“They all came through this way, I suppose,” he said.
“Yes,” said Parker. “I've identified most of the marks. People went in and out. Here's the Duke. He comes in from outside. He trips over the body.” (Parker had opened the outer door and lifted some matting, to show a trampled patch of gravel, discolored with blood.) “He kneels by the body. Here are his knees and toes. Afterwards he goes into the house, through the conservatory, leaving a good impression in black mud and gravel just inside the door.”
Lord Peter squatted carefully over the marks.
“It's lucky the gravel's so soft here,” he said.
“Yes. It's just a patch. The gardener tells me it gets very trampled and messy just here owing to his coming to fill cans from the water-trough. They fill the trough up from the well every so often, and then carry the water away in cans. It got extra bad this year, and they put down fresh gravel a few weeks ago.”