The third degree of British peerage. Under the Danish and Saxon kings this was the highest title known in England conferred upon a subject. It was formerly the custom upon creating an earl to assign him, for the support of his state, the third penny from the fines and profits of the sheriff’s court, issuing out of the pleas of the shire whence the earl took his title; as, formerly, there was no count or earl but had a county or shire for his earldom. When the number of earls was increased, they took their titles from towns and villages. An earl is now created by patent.