Queen's Counsel | August 17, 1878
A correspondent of the Times has plunged, apparently a propos de rien, into the thrilling question of "The social rank of Queen's Counsel."
After dwelling at some length on the terms of their patents, he arrives at the conclusion that "the place, precedence, and pre-audience," thereby given to each learned gentleman next after some other learned gentleman, only refers to their precedence in the courts and not to their social precedence.
Otherwise we should have this terrible result, which we give in "A.B.C.'s" own words: "If A.B. were appointed next after C.D. (a duke's younger son), then A.B., a mere commoner, would take social precedence over all viscounts and those under them." Apparently "A.B.C." has not been able to find such a frightful example in real life as this which he has imagined. But he refers to Mr. Charles Clark, who was appointed in 1874 with precedence next after the Hon. A.H. Thesiger, the son of a baron. If the patent gave social precedence, the horrifying result would be that "Mr. Charles Clark would now be entitled to social precedence, not only over the oldest baronet, but over the sons of barons junior to Lord Justice Thesiger."
This result is so terrible to "A.B.C." that he not only shrinks from it, but uses its monstrosity as a clear proof of its impossibility. For after stating it, he says, "The result, therefore, seems to be that Queen's Counsel are entitled to precedence in the Queen's and other courts of law, but not to social precedence." This letter was followed by one from "Q.C.," who, after referring to "the elaborate erroneousness" of "A.B.C.," proceeds to show a little "elaborate erroneousness" of his own, for he assumes throughout his own letter that "A.B.C." had supported, instead of destroying, the theory of social precedence. "Q.C." elaborately explains that the precedence is only in the courts.
But it is odd, if "Q.C." is really a Q.C., that it did not occur to him to use this obvious argument against what he seems to think is the view of "A.B.C." Suppose the highest existing Q.C. to be entitled to the precedence of a baron's son, and then a duke's junior son to be appointed. If his appointment had anything to do with social precedence it would degrade him - a result as terrible surely to contemplate as anything conjured up by the heated imagination of "A.B.C."