E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Shire and County.
When the Saxon kings created an earl, they gave him a shire or division of land to govern. At the Norman conquest the word count superseded the title of earl, and the earldom was called a county. Even to the present hour we call the wife of an earl a countess. (Anglo-Saxon, scire, from sciran, to divide.)
He comes from the shires; has a seat in the shires, etc.in those English counties which terminate in shire: a belt running from Devonshire and Hampshire in a north-east direction. In a general way it means the midland counties.
Anglesey in Wales, and twelve counties of England, do not terminate in shire.