Gentility
in Gentry culture in late-medieval England
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Sir Edward Hastings expected immediate understanding of the term 'gentilman', and sympathy for his claim that gentle status and imprisonment were radically incompatible. In Latin, 'generositas' seems to have signified nobility by birth in the early thirteenth century, but by 1295 it also signified gentility bestowed by royal title. The breadth of meanings that came to be associated with gentility may itself have encouraged extended usage of the terms, making them peculiarly applicable to women as well as men. Dress and material circumstances were certainly two common makers of reputation and markers of gentility. Virtues such as truthfulness, courage and courtesy were also taken to be concomitants of gentility. Claimants to gentility were involved in a world of fluid social meanings, where their social status was continually being tested and negotiated by peers and neighbours in their community of honour.

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