On 22 June 1631 the government of Charles I issued Letters Patent proclaiming Captain Sir Charles Vavasor of Skellingthorpe, Lines., a baronet. The grant of honors to Sir Charles Vavasor was among the most distinctive made in England during the seventeenth century. By its special terms, Sir Charles became the first baronet (of approximately 285) to receive rights of precedence—in spite of parliamentary statutes opposing such rights. A clause of precedency declared the title retroactive to 29 June 1611, and that, in turn, made Sir Charles's father, Sir Thomas Vavasor, who had died in 1620, a baronet post mortem. The baronetcy of Sir Charles Vavasor is also unusual as one of the few which did not depend upon the patronage of the Duke of Buckingham, as the only one created during the whole of 1631, and as the last one created before the eve of Civil War.
The competition for honors among the gentry is an important element in the social history of early seventeenth century England, and a factor in the complex origins of the Civil War. The full dimensions of that competition can be illuminated by studying the motives of individual families, and the processes by which they achieved their titles. The Skellingthorpe Vavasor make an especially interesting study because of the unusual distinctions which attend their title.
Heretofore, however, paucity of evidence made it nearly impossible to reconstruct the quest for honors of the Skellingthorpe Vavasor. The evidence did show that before he died in 1620, Sir Thomas Vavasor sought the title of baronet without success, and that eleven years later, Sir Thomas's son, Charles, finally received a baronetcy with precedency. The intervening years, 1620-1631, had to be filled with conjectures about Charles Vavasor's motives, timing, and patronage, and also with some conjectures about why the government granted him honors of dubious legality.