The English title of marquess begins in medieval Germany with margrave (the French equivalent is marquis), the title of a noble who was responsible for a march, or borderland. The first creation in Albion was for Robert de Vere, 9th Earl of Oxford, who was made the 1st Marquess of Dublin by Richard II on December 1, 1385. Richard may have been inspired to create the title in England by his first wife, Anne of Bohemia, who had a brother, Sigismund of Luxembourg, who was the Margrave of Brandenburg. John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset, the second illegitimate son of John of Gaunt, was the recipient of the second marquessate created in England, when Richard II made him 1st Marquess of Dorset in September of 1397. In 1399, after his disgrace, the king revoked Beaufort’s marquessate; however, after Richard II was deposed in 1399 the House of Commons petitioned the new king, Henry IV, for the restoration of Beaufort’s title of Marquess of Dorset. In a famous reply, Henry IV rejected the plea, stating “the name of marquess is a strange name in this realm.” From this point forward, the title of marquess has been one of the least granted of any rank of the English peerage. The only woman to be created a marquess in her own right was Anne Boleyn, who was created 1st Marquess of Pembroke in 1532 in preparation for her marriage to Henry VIII. Once the title was finally and formally accepted into the English nobility, it was ranked above an earl, which, not surprisingly, made the existing earls rather unhappy. The reason a marquess was above an earl all comes down to land. By definition, a marquess’s land was in the marches (borders with another country), which made their land more strategically valuable to the king, as opposed to an earl’s land, which traditionally only abutted another internal county.
The Marquessate of Winchester, created in 1551 for William Paulet, is the premier marquessate of England.
An marquess’s wife is a marchioness (pronounced “marsh-a-ness”); she is address as “lady”; a marquess is addressed as “lord.”
A British marquess wears a coronet (a gold-plated metal circlet with faux jewels pressed from the metal) of four strawberry leaves and four silver balls (known as “pearls”). See above for an image of a marquess’s coronet. The coronet is worn only at coronations.
Image of a marquess’s coronet by Sodacan / Wikipedia. Image licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic, and 1.0 Generic licenses.