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aristocracy


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A vague term, derived from the Greek aristokratia, meaning the rule of the best. It is broader than peerage or even nobility. In common parlance it was usually taken to mean the upper classes or ‘betters’, but was confined largely to landowners. The ‘golden age’ of aristocracy was between 1688 and 1832, with the monarchy safely limited yet the threat of democracy still distant. Its legacy was the parks and country houses, such as Belton (1685), Petworth (1690), Chatsworth (1696), Castle Howard (1700), Woburn (1747), Harewood (1759), and Heveningham (1778).


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