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Not about P's or R's

So, to start a totally new, uncontroversial subject...

What makes someone (e.g., Dafydd) an Earl?  

I've looked through all the SCA info and FAQ's I have, but can't find 
this.  I can account for: King/Queen, Duke/Duchess, Baron/ess, Prince/ss,
Viscount/ess, Count/ess, those are easy to figure out.

Lord/Lady, if I understand it, is borne by anyone who has an AOA.
Master/Mistress is a Laurel holder (or a Pelican?)
Sir is a Knight--but what's a Lady Knight?

Also, why is Dafydd referred to as His Excellency?  (Other than the fact 
that he is excellent, I assume...)

And finally:  How do you pronounce Dafydd?  

Just some questions from a newbie,

Carole / Margrete