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Gentry is a term used to denote any non-titled person of gentle birth. These people are not peers, as they hold no hereditary title of nobility, but they are descended, in most cases, from the younger sons of peers. They are entitled to the use of the distinction gentleman and gentlewoman.
In its broadest sense, the word gentry can be used to describe untitled landholders; however, care must be taken. Only untitled landholders descended from the younger children of peers are always considered "gentle". A wealthy merchant who has purchased himself a country estate would not be considered a member of the gentry - he would be considered an interloper. However, his grandchildren and further future generations thus removed from the stain of mercantilism would eventually be accepted as members of the society.
While money is to be preferred, a person's level of wealth does not have bearing upon his or her status as a gentleman or a gentlewoman. This status is conferred by ancestry alone.
Members of the Gentry
Members of the gentry include all baronets, knights, and untitled landholders who can trace their ancestry back to a noble at some point in their family history. The descendants of merchants, removed by two or three generations can grudgingly be considered members of the gentry as well.
While still considered commoners (they are not peers), members of the gentry have access to court. They are considered respectable and it would not be a shameful step for the child of a peer to consider marriage with such a person. While they do not get an automatic seat in Parliament (like peers do in the House of Lords), they are eligible to run for election to the House of Commons, and, historically, most MPs prior to the reforms of the 1830s were younger sons of peers and members of the gentry.