What was a gentleman-usher?

Jul 2017
2
Costa Rica
Hi

I found this definition in the play The Country Wife by William Wycherley:

Horner:
China-House, that’s my Cue, I must take it [Aside.] A Pox, can’t you keep your impertinent Wives at home? some men are troubled with the Husbands, but I with the Wives; but I’d have you to know, since I cannot be your Journey-man by night, I will not be your drudge by day, to squire your wife about, and be your man of straw, or scare-crow only to Pyes and Jays; that would be nibling at your forbidden fruit; I shall be shortly the Hackney Gentleman-Usher of the Town.

Sir Jaspar:
Heh, heh, he, poor fellow he’s in the right on’t faith, to squire women about for other folks, is as ungrateful an employment, as to tell money for other folks; Aside. heh, he, he, ben’t angry Horner—


I found that an gentleman usher is also an attendant of a lady.

Was it his duty to escort women around places? And what other duties did he have?

Thank you in advance.
 
Jul 2017
15
Aberdeenshire
Gentleman Usher is a title for some officers of the Royal Household of the United Kingdom.
There are currently ten in office. The most easily recognized is 'Black Rod', the guy who bangs on the door at the state opening of parliament.
 
Apr 2010
1,075
evergreen state, USA
Gentleman is or was a social class category, according to history books. It is or was the lowest level of the aristocrats. A requirement was that they be independently wealthy, or not have to work for a living. Well, I'm only a backward colonial, so I'm no expert.
 
Jul 2017
15
Aberdeenshire
Gentleman is or was a social class category, according to history books. It is or was the lowest level of the aristocrats. A requirement was that they be independently wealthy, or not have to work for a living. Well, I'm only a backward colonial, so I'm no expert.
Different character from the subject of the OP.
 

Ancientgeezer

Ad Honorem
Nov 2011
8,904
The Dustbin, formerly, Garden of England
While "Gentlemen Ushers" now exist only in the Royal household, the function was once common in medieval Grand Households that often ran like mini-courts. The function was basically that of Major-Domo, a job that controlled access to the Master of the House and oversaw the supervision of the servants. Somewhere along the line--the once lowly job of Butler (actually the man just in charge of the wine cellar), was elevated to the role.
From the 12thC onward, towns which had a Charter (freeing them the control of a Lord or the King) were governed by a "Corporation"--an early incarnation of Town Council which also ran their administration as a mini-me replica of a Royal Court with an official employed to keep the rabble away from the Mayor and Alderman in session, control access to them and maintain order during meetings. The Mayor, Aldermen and Corporations also dispensed justice in most cases and the official also operated as the official who summoned people to "court" and oversaw the sheriffs and baliffs who were what passed as law enforcement. Depending on the size and importance of the Town the official may have had the title "Chamberlain", "Usher" or "Beadle".
Before and especially after the Reformation, many Towns became responsible for schools, most of which were financed from the Town coffers and the function of school inspector devolved upon the town usher---in time the term "Usher" became used for an administrative role in schools and universities.

Apart from the Royal Household and key State institutions, the term "Gentleman" Usher is a bit of a conceit, especially by the 18thC. Most Town Corporations were run by the middle-classes, the guildsmen and merchants who may have been social climbers and on their way up, but far from toffs. As was normal in those days, the post of Usher, Beadle, Chamberlain (as opposed to the Clerk who needed some skills) was often a post of patronage that was doled out to one's best friend's idiot son or a relative for favours or money.