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The conflict between British and Continental concepts of nobility and the Order of Malta

The conflict between British and Continental concepts of nobility and the Order of Malta



© Guy Stair Sainty

The nobility of most of Western Europe had a common origin in the feudal system of early medieval society; the noble class being a relatively small group whose land tenure depended on providing services to their superior lord. The Scottish and Irish Nobilities developed within a tribal structure, descendants of the chiefs being considered noble. In feudal Europe the great magnates held their fiefs directly from the Crown, with lesser knights holding their land from an intermediate lord or minor sovereign. By the fourteenth century proof of descent in the male line from any knight or the possessor of a “knight’s fee” came to be considered evidence of nobility, entitling such a person to enjoy the class privileges which had been conferred or confirmed by the Crown (and which varied considerably in different states). While nobles adopted Arms as the outward sign of nobility, distinguishing such Arms with Coronets according to their rank in the nobility, Arms were not a universal indication of nobility and were legally assumed by a much broader class including farmers, traders and shopkeepers. Only in England and Scotland was an effective heraldic jurisdiction established by Crown authority, and not until the beginning of the sixteenth century was this enforced by the appointment of Heraldic Visitations (the first in 1530).
European Sovereigns and Princes soon began to confer or confirm the status of “nobility” as a separate hereditary privilege, while the number of nobles providing personal military service as knights declined with the increasing importance of infantry as an effective weapon against mounted cavalry (the havoc wrought by English long-bowmen at the battle of Agincourt in 1415 being an example of this). Thus a division was established quite early on between those who were noble “by extraction” (i.e. from “time immemorial”) and those created by grant. The rank of knighthood eventually became separated from the provision of mounted military service and was seen as a special personal distinction conferred in recognition of long or distinguished service or valiant conduct in battle. It became unnecessary to have served in the military to receive the honor of knighthood and nobility was conferred on Crown servants exercising both administrative and judicial functions. In most of fifteenth century Europe, the nobility could be loosely divided into two groups – those whose personal service or great wealth brought them to the court of the Sovereign, and those whose services had earned them a landed property, often of modest size and, in some states, privileges such as exemption from certain types of taxation. Nonetheless, the nobility was clearly identifiable, less from the fact of having received any particular distinction than by its lifestyle and role in society.
By the later fifteenth century the right to hereditary arms was apparently considered to be the principle evidence of nobility for British postulants for membership of the Order of Saint John. Today it is considered to be the sole evidence thereof by the SMHOM, despite the fact that a right to arms is not necessarily proof of nobility and it is certainly not evidence that a particular family has enjoyed a leading role in society for the past century or more. Not all British nobles are necessarily armigerous. Of the extant titled British nobility there are fifteen hereditary barons (in the UK peerage) [1] and twenty-seven baronets who are not technically armigers. [2] The theoretical method of dating the conferral of nobility for the purposes of the British Association of the SMHOM, for those of British descent, is the date on which arms were conferred upon the family of the postulant, so it would appear that none of these Peers or Baronets would have qualified for the SMHOM as “nobles”, a clearly nonsensical result. Since those who received knighthoods from the Crown were entitled to petition for a grant and their primogeniture descendants were Esquires, the descendants of those eighteenth and nineteenth century knights who did not so petition surely cannot be considered disqualified from claiming gentility merely because their ancestor did not choose to spend the few pounds necessary to obtain a grant. One cannot deny the nobility of a person who has been actually “ennobled” by the British Crown but has not received a grant, thus proof of the right to hereditary arms cannot be considered an absolute standard for determining whether a postulant is noble.
When the British Association was founded in the mid-nineteenth century the proof of a right to arms was instituted once again. If membership in the noble grades had been limited to the descendants in the male line of the recipients of hereditary titles or knighthoods bestowed by the Crown, the association could only have been very small. Requiring the same broad standard used by the heralds to determine whether a person was entitled to petition for arms could have lacked the objectivity that is bestowed by demanding proof of actually enjoying such a right. The decision to adopt the qualification of being an Armiger may be attributed at least in part to the need to establish some kind of objective standard but, perhaps inevitably, it has proved to be unsatisfactory. In the British Association (as of 31 December 1994), excluding the eighteen descendants in the male line of the recipients of non-British titles or conferrals of nobility, sixty-three members (of whom twenty are hereditary peers and peeresses and two are baronets) out of the one hundred and eighty-three members of the noble grades, are descended in the male line from the grantees of hereditary peerages or baronetcies (i.e. who had been ennobled directly by the Crown). Thus one hundred and seven members of the Association in the grades of Justice, Obedience, Honor or Grace and Devotion may be presumed under the regulations to have proved their right to bear legitimate British arms granted more than three hundred years prior to their application or that their four grandparents enjoyed a right to hereditary arms (for Honor and Devotion) or one hundred years (for Grace and Devotion) as the sole evidence of their nobility. An examination of the roll of members demonstrates, however, that this is not actually the case.
For several members in the noble grades, including peers, proof of descent from the recipient of arms living more than three hundred or one hundred years ago (depending on the rank) has not in practice been treated as the absolute test of nobility. The families of several knights of Honor or Grace and Devotion are the first recipients of grants of arms, sometimes conferred retroactively on an ancestor on the basis that that ancestor would have been eligible for a grant if he had applied and to extend the grant to a wider range of members of that family. For some members a recent male ancestor, who was judged to have enjoyed the status of gentleman, may have been the first recipient of a new grant within much less than the one hundred year limit that is the technical requirement for entry into Grace and Devotion or the three hundred year limit for Honor and Devotion. [3]
In those countries in which the nobility enjoyed substantial privileges, the right to confer membership of this class was guarded jealously by the sovereign but, in England, the prerogative of recognizing nobility by according or confirming arms came to be delegated to the discretion of the Earl Marshal and Kings of Arms and, in Scotland, to the Lord Lyon King of Arms and his Court. Thus, while the conferral of a peerage, baronetcy or knighthood was the exclusive privilege of the English or Scottish Crown, it was never necessary to have received such an honor in order to apply to the Earl Marshal or Lord Lyon for a grant. Since 1964 it has actually become less common for those who have been ennobled by the conferral of life peerages, or who have received a knighthood or other such royal favor, to apply for grants, while many of those who have received grants over the past two centuries may never have received any notable mark of distinction or honorific directly from the Sovereign. Although the Earl Marshal holds his authority from the Crown and members of the College of Arms are officers of the Sovereign’s household, the recognition of gentility by a grant of arms is not initiated by the Crown but is a privilege conferred upon the request of a petitioner, subject to the personal sanction of the Earl Marshal. The British Crown has never attempted to restrict entry to the gentry or lesser noble class, leaving it up to the Kings of Arms to define its extent, despite the considerable reluctance of every Monarch until George III to increase the size of the peerage.
Until the early sixteenth century, the spiritual peers were generally in the majority but Henry VIII, in order to ensure passage of his measures against the Queen and against the Church, considerably increased the size of the lay peerage. In 1523 twenty-eight lay peers were summoned to Parliament, in 1529 the number had increased to forty-four and, in 1536, to fifty-three, putting the lay peers in the majority. [4] From the mid-sixteenth century until 1700, the size of the English peerage expanded to one hundred and sixty, thanks in part to the creations made to reward changes of political allegiance. This number remained more or less constant until 1783 but was much smaller in the size of the continental privileged nobility. The considerable changes in the size of the English and British peerage (excluding Scottish and Irish titles) after that date can best be demonstrated by detailing the expansion of the different degrees of the peerage over the following twenty-five years – as of the end of 1808 all eighteen Ducal titles had been created before 1783, but eleven of the twelve Marquesses, twenty-nine (or 31.5%) of the ninety-two Earls, ten (or 45.5%) of the twenty-two Viscounts and an astonishing eighty-nine (or 63%) of the one hundred and forty-one barons, making one hundred and thirty-nine (or 48.9%) of the two hundred and eighty-five peers, were created during this quarter century.
During the period from 1815 to 1964, the British peerage expanded nearly four times, although the number of British peers was proportionately always much less than the titled continental nobility, since a peerage accorded the right to a seat in the nation’s parliament. The French Peerage founded in 1814/15 and which continued through the Orléanist Monarchy was of a comparable size and indeed established in imitation of the British. The lesser British nobility or gentry likewise increased enormously during the same period with the establishment of an entrenched upper class whose wealth derived from business or the professions rather than land and whose interest in petitioning for arms was stimulated by Victorian historical revivalism. No longer were hereditary titles conferred in recognition of a family’s wealth, standing and power, however, but rather as tokens of regard for meritorious service. Thus the heirs of such titles no longer necessarily represented the leading elite.
Sixteenth and Seventeenth century English writers, as Sayer has demonstrated, [5] established a distinctive hierarchy in the English nobility. The privileges of a peer were always restricted to the peer himself while his sons (irrespective of the courtesy title and precedence they enjoyed as a result of their father’s dignity) were by birth all “Esquires,” a title which would descend by male primogeniture to the descendants of the peer’s younger sons. The same title likewise descends by male primogeniture to the eldest son of a knight or those who had received the title of Esquire from the Crown by investiture, and is born by right by the eldest son of a baronet until his succession. It later came to be attributed to other classes by virtue of office, but only for the duration of the office or lifetime of the holder. [6] All the other male descendants in the male line of peers, baronets, knights and esquires were simply “gentlemen,” a very precise term as interpreted by sixteenth and seventeenth century heralds in their visitations, recognizing the fact that such a person was entitled to use or, alternatively, qualified to petition for a grant of arms.
It may be observed that from the late seventeenth century it became increasingly rare for new knights to petition for a grant. Thus, while the descendant of such a knight would be entitled theoretically to the formal style of esquire or gentleman, he would be unable to prove nobility for the Order of Malta. Today the precise meaning of the titles of esquire and gentleman have been lost and they are commonly used without any relation to the armorial status of the person so qualified. [7]
In England and most of Europe from the fifteenth century the possibility of transmission of the right to arms through a female heiress was reduced to the right to quarter the arms, and thus was limited to persons already possessing the right to coat armor. In Scotland and Portugal the transmission unquartered was permitted through the female line (although in the case of Portugal the female arms had to be suitably differenced), but the Order of Malta has resisted recognizing that nobility, as opposed to arms, could be transmitted in this fashion. A case was made by officers of the Scottish Lord Lyon Court for the Order to recognize that “nobility” could be inherited from an “heraldic heiress” and three members of the British Association whose paternal lines were deficient, were treated leniently in the application of the rules because of their inheritance of ancient arms through the female line. Nonetheless, the SMHOM has more recently refused to recognize that proof of a right to Arms inherited from a female could entitle a postulant to claim nobility from the date of the original grant or recognition of those arms. Thus the Order does not automatically accept local nobiliary law when such law conflicts with the general standard (i.e. nobility only passing in the male line). [8] The British rules permit entry into the noble ranks of the descendants of families which have received grants relatively recently. Families which have received grants of arms within the last one hundred and twenty years (when the French Third Republic was instituted), have provided many high officers of the Association in the class of Obedience who would have been ineligible for this class had they been born French. It may be argued that this reflects a more balanced view of society and that there are many continental families which over four or more generations have maintained a status comparable to that of the English gentry.
The jurisdiction of the Lord Lyon King of Arms is more extensive than that of the College of Arms, in both the effect of the Lord Lyon’s grant and the penalties that he can impose for improper use of arms. While the grant of arms in England is merely recognition of the gentility of the recipient, the grant or matriculation in Scotland “constitutes” the grantee as a member of the “noblesse”(although this may not be considered the equivalent of “conferring” nobility). As in England, a Scottish grant is made only following the petition of the would-be grantee, thus the Scottish nobility cannot be compared with that of continental Europe whose members owed their status to royal grant or confirmation, after 1815 always initiated by the sovereign. “Constituting” an individual as a member of the noblesse of Scotland, however, is not the exclusive privilege of the Lord Lyon King of Arms, since there can be no doubt that a non-armiger who inherits a Scottish peerage through the female line, or the recipient of membership in the Order of the Thistle, must be considered to be a Scottish noble whether or not that person receives a grant of arms. Under the present regulations of the British Association of the SMHOM it would appear that not only would the non-armigerous heirs of ancient noble titles who had not petitioned for arms be ineligible for the noble grades, but also their lineal descendants. This is a further example of the deficiency of a proof of a right to Arms being considered the sole qualification for the noble grades.
The authority given to the heralds to confirm and grant arms sometimes led, particularly during the Tudor period, to the confirmation of doubtful arms with fanciful descriptions of the confirmee’s ancestors as noble and to increasingly frequent grants to deceased persons and their descendants. [9] To halt any possible abuses, a prerequisite to each grant came to be the warrant of the Earl Marshal, a consistent practice since 1673 which today does permit grants to deceased persons in exceptional cases with the assent of the Earl Marshal. [10] Even the Earl Marshal has to rely upon the honesty and impartiality of the officers of the College and this has not always been possible. Since a grant of arms is not of itself creation of nobility but rather recognition of gentility (i.e. of being a “gentleman”), it is logical that the descendant of a person whose immediate ancestor’s status was that of a “gentleman”, should be able to successfully petition for a grant of arms to that ancestor. This practice has been questioned by continental critics, however, who have misunderstood the fundamental difference between an English grant of arms and a European conferral of nobility. Merely because a person who fell into the definition of “gentleman” had not troubled to petition for arms, should not disqualify a descendant who had maintained the status of “gentleman” from claiming gentility. Such a subjective standard of determining “nobility” (gentility) in England requires careful judgment and creates direct conflict with the standard presently applied in the rest of Europe. But to insist on applying the Continental standard is to misrepresent the nature of the class which is defined as “gentry” in England. The pretense that it is possible today to define this class only by proof of a right to hereditary arms is simply not sustainable.
The English heralds were better organized and armed with greater authority than any of the comparable royal officers in continental Europe. Thus it was possible, through the Heraldic Visitations, to regulate the use of arms and identify the extent of the provincial nobility or gentry. The heralds not only had the right to remove or deface arms used improperly but denounce those who falsely used any title or dignity (other than the arms of peers, which were regulated by Garter King of Arms), including those of Esquire and Gentleman. All who described themselves as Baronet, Knight, Esquire or Gentlemen were summoned by the heralds to prove their right and those who could not prove their right to the style they claimed would be required to sign a disclaimer of arms and gentility (or, if otherwise eligible, petition for a grant) and their names would be published in the local shire town. This duty was taken seriously and the number of disclaimers could be very high – at the 1665-68 Yorkshire Visitation there were two hundred and fifty-seven disclaimers as against four hundred and seventy-two claims entered. [11]
By the mid-seventeenth century the status of “gentleman” was no longer confined to members of county families (the “landed gentry”) but also included leading figures in the city of London and other prominent representatives of the merchant and professional classes, without any official differentiation of their status. Indeed, some London merchants were scions of county families who, after amassing a fortune, acquired a country seat and re-established themselves in the landed gentry.
The abandonment of Heraldic Visitations soon after the 1688 revolution was paralleled by a dramatic decline in the number of families petitioning for grants of arms, which it became customary to assume without authority, even though after 1783 new baronets were theoretically required to apply for arms. Thus between 1730 and 1760 there were only one hundred and sixty new English grants, increased tenfold over the next forty years. With eight thousand three hundred and twenty new grants during the nineteenth century and an even greater numbers in the twentieth (there are now approximately one hundred and fifty grants to individuals per annum in England alone), the size of the armigerous gentry has been expanding, while in the rest of Europe the nobility has been steadily decreasing. [12] After 1688, however, one could no longer define the elite of society, the landed gentry, by a universal right to coat armor. Since there was no compulsion for those styling themselves gentleman or esquire to apply for a grant, many of those who evidently enjoyed that status did not bother to do so just as many assumed Arms who could not properly be styled Gentleman. In the twentieth century a substantial proportion of applications for grants were made for historical or romantic reasons and neither the petitioner nor society saw the conferment of such grants as recognition of any particular social status.
This is particularly relevant since loss of social status did not deprive the descendant of an Armiger of a right to arms and. therefore theoretical membership of the lesser noble class, even if his standing in the community was no longer that of “gentleman”. The social changes from the end of seventeenth until the mid-nineteenth centuries, with the growth of larger estates and the conversion of many smaller manors to tenant farmhouses, led to the size of the landed county families being halved. Although many families disappeared through the lack of a male heir, the number of armigers who became absorbed into the masses was considerable. The descendants of such families, with diligent genealogical research, can today prove “nobility” and, if their candidature is otherwise acceptable to the SMHOM, may demand admission into the rank of Honor and Devotion ahead of families which may have played a prominent role in British society for several recent generations. [13]
Sixteenth and seventeenth century heralds required proof of a right to arms to qualify a person as an “esquire” or “gentleman” in order to ensure that persons entitled to this qualification would petition for a grant. But membership of the English class of “gentry” was defined in practice primarily by social and economic standing rather than the right to hereditary arms. An attempt to equate the British gentry with the continental nobility was made by the Stuart kings in exile, who issued many declarations or confirmations of nobility for their adherents to assist them in obtaining preferment for offices for which nobility was a qualification. While most of the recipients of such declarations were armigers, not all were and proof of a right to arms was not seen as a prerequisite for such a declaration.
During the seventeenth century the privilege of nobility came to be conferred almost as broadly in much of continental Europe as grants of arms were conceded in England, although the right to create nobles or confirm nobility in Europe was very rarely delegated to a third party. In the Italian and German city states and in certain Spanish cities, the right to recognize noble status was assumed by the local powers which, in Italy, were often Republican. But by the Reformation these jurisdictions had generally been overturned and replaced by a Monarchical structure, as when the Florentine Republic was succeeded by the Medici Duchy of Florence and Grand Duchy of Tuscany.
Among the several ways in which the later nobility of continental Europe may be distinguished from the English gentry, defined by public achievements, occupation and social and economic standing, is the fact that they owed their status to royal favor. In France nobility was normally conferred or confirmed in a patent signed by the Sovereign himself. Tenure of certain offices, such as Secretaire du Roi, which could be acquired by purchase with the consent of the Sovereign, could also confer personal nobility or with some offices hereditary nobility when the office was enjoyed by three successive generations. This class of nobility, while treated before 1798 as a lower degree by the Order of Malta, was in law nonetheless a specific noble status, recognized by the addition of the particule to the name. Until Colbert’s reformations, the responsibility of examining claims to nobility was consigned to the Juge d’Armes, but afterwards the responsibility was delegated to the Intendants of each province who, by confirming such claims, could occasionally authenticate the spurious; generally, however, the French nobility was carefully regulated and its privileges closely guarded.
Within the French privileged nobility there was a small hereditary elite, the Peers, who enjoyed the right to a seat in the Parlement of Paris (not a political assembly but a superior law court), and during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries numbered between forty and fifty. Their numbers were considerably extended under the Restoration and July Monarchies (in the latter case being nominated for life), when they were given a similar function to the British House of Lords. In Spain, the “grandees of the first class” were likewise a specially privileged elite with precedence before all other titled nobles from the date of the grandeeship, but without political privileges. A politically privileged Sicilian peerage was established during the British protectorate but was abolished in 1815 and only revived briefly during the 1848 revolution. Both Austria and Prussia established different forms of peerages during the nineteenth centuries, but more akin to a nominated Senate.
Elsewhere in Europe, when a sovereign wished to buy support, nobility might be granted more widely. The quarrels between the Bourbons and Habsburgs over possession of the Two Sicilies insured that each side paid-off their partisans with the wholesale conferment of titles and nobility. Meanwhile in the more politically stable states, uninterested in territorial expansion, the noble class remained more exclusive. In Russia a hierarchy was established by which the military and the bureaucracy were automatically ennobled according to the rank they held, vastly increasing the size of the nobility as a proportion of the population in the years between 1700 and 1900. In Poland the nobility was approximately ten per cent of the population, having expanded substantially in the seventeenth century (any Jew who converted to Catholicism would be automatically ennobled, for example), although there was a tremendous gulf between the great nobles (such as the Czartoryski and Zamoyski families) and the lesser nobles, some of whom were just one step away from the peasantry and would often not qualify as “gentlemen” by the British definition.
The Order’s nobiliary authorities were generally keen to protect what was considered to be the “purity” of noble blood, and each Langue had different concerns. In France and Italy there was a continuing controversy over the acceptance of descent from noblesse de robe families in any of the required noble quarters, many knights considering that each quarter should be a noblesse de l’epée family. [14] The three French Langues, until the mid-seventeenth century, required proof of nobility in four quarters for two hundred years but, on 24 November 1673, an alternative requirement of proof of eight quarters for more than one hundred years was introduced. [15] With the exception of the Nobilities of the Republics of Lucca and Genoa and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, the Italian Langue excluded those urban noble families which had amassed fortunes in trade or banking, making such participation a total bar to membership of the Order of Saint John. The Italian proofs still require proof of nobility in four quarters for more than two hundred years, this latter restriction having been introduced by the Chapter-General of 1598. [16] Vertot complained that in the states of the Church, which purported to exclude banking and business families, this rule was not enforced with sufficient strictness. [17] He complimented the Germans, however, for continuing to exclude nobles whose wealth derived from business although he ignored the fact the Germans actually did accept such families if their nobility had been granted by the Emperor prior to 1582 (the Thurn und Taxis and Fugger families for example). Whatever the ideals of a purist such as Vertot, in practice there was much greater flexibility and, despite sometimes bitter resistance, the need to find qualified recruits meant that compromises were not infrequently made.
In Spain proof of nobility in four quarters for four generations [18] was required. Considering the size of the Spanish nobility, this was a much more modest standard than that prevailing in France and Germany, but an additional requirement was that none of the four families could have been of non-Christian descent. [19] The examination of proofs was confined mainly to the testimony of witnesses and less weight was given to documentary proofs. In Portugal, which as part of Langue of Castille subscribed to the Spanish rules, the Crown had long established a public register of noble families and provided the four families were included therein, no further inquiry was necessary. The German Langue was the most rigorous of all, with illegitimate sons, even of royal houses, being excluded (unlike the other Langues) and each postulant having to prove that the families of all sixteen great-great-grandparents were born into the military nobility. The majority of German Swiss knights, part of the German Langue, had received their grant from the Emperor or some other German Sovereign. Postulants who were unable to prove nobility could instead provide evidence that their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents were born legitimate and of “honorable estate” and that none of them had practiced any of the “vile offices or sordid or mechanical arts.” [20] Today the rules of the Swiss Association require candidates to prove nobility according to the rules of the German, French or Italian Associations, depending on the canton from which their family originates.
The French Revolution marked the beginning of an end of a privileged noble class in most of Europe, but the conferment of noble titles actually increased dramatically, since nobility no longer carried any significant prerogative (such as exemption from taxation) but was an inexpensive means for sovereigns to reward their prominent subjects. The new nobility was no longer an identifiable class, however. With the exception of the hereditary lay peerage in Great Britain and its short-lived equivalents in France and Sicily, and the still-extant Spanish grandeeships, each of which elites were only a minority of the whole noble class, it enjoyed neither prerogatives nor responsibility; the assumption of the particule became a mark of social achievement rather than a sign of privilege. Only in Russia did the noble class enjoy any substantive privileges but these were gradually diminished during the course of the century. In France, Napoleon I, Louis XVIII and Charles X together more than doubled the size of the titled nobility in a period of only twenty-two years, while during the later nineteenth century the Hohenzollern, Habsburg and Savoy Monarchies likewise recognized the new social realities by the widespread conferment of nobility on bankers, industrialists, bureaucrats and local and national politicians.
The differing numbers of the nobility as a proportion of the population and the disparity in relative status in the formerly sovereign states that compose united Spain, Italy and Germany, has led to some strange anomalies where similar regulations for noble proofs apply to all. There are far fewer noble families in northern Italy than in the south, making the proofs more arduous for some than others. A typical anomaly resulting from the varied histories of different parts of the same country is that one of Italy’s most prominent and distinguished citizens, Avvocato Giovanni Agnelli, whose mother was born a Bourbon del Monte of the Princes of San Faustino and whose paternal family’s position in early 19th century Piedmont would certainly have been recognized by ennoblement in southern Italy (two later nineteenth century ancestors declined offers of noble titles from the Savoy kings). Nonetheless he was only entitled to be admitted to the Order in the rank of Magistral Grace, in which he holds the grade of knight.
The disparity in the rules between different national associations has meant that two members of the Stagno dei principi di Alcontres family, noble in the direct male line since the 14th century, the hereditary Prince of Oettingen-Oettingen und Oettingen-Wallerstein, whose mother is a Countess Schenck von Stauffenberg and who is noble in the male line since the tenth century, and Princess Huberta von Croy, born a Baroness of Wolff-Metternich and noble in the male line for more than five hundred years, are all enrolled in Grace and Devotion, although under the British rules they would have been eligible for Honor and Devotion. In North America, almost all the members of the second class are the first grantees of arms (often retroactive) or recipients of confirmations from the Chief Herald of Ireland, having undertaken this expense in order to fulfill the requirement of proving nobility according to the European standard, as they wished to make a deeper spiritual commitment to the Order by seeking promotion to the rank of Obedience. There are now proposals to reform the class of Obedience with both Knights and Dames of all three lay ranks of the third class being able to make this special promise.
In Spain a higher proportion of northern than southern families and all Navarre families established before a certain date are technically noble (although this class of nobility is unrecognized by the four military Orders), while in some German states nobility was more common than in others. In the Netherlands it is necessary only to prove nobility in the paternal line for one hundred and fifty years to be eligible for Honor and Devotion, while in Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland that would be insufficient for Grace and Devotion. Being a noble in Sicily generally meant something very different to being a noble in much of northern Europe, just as most Sicilian princes rarely enjoy the same prestige, status and wealth, even in Sicily, as the heads of German mediatized princely houses or French or English dukes do in their countries.

[1] Amwell (1947), Archibald (1949), Burden (1950), Hemingford (1943), Kershaw (1947), Lindsay of Birker (1945), Macandrew (1959), Marley (1930), Moran (1943), Morris of Kenwood (1950), Morrison (1945), Shepherd (1946), Silkin (1950), Simon of Wythenshawe (1947) and Strang (1954)
[2] Including several eighteenth and nineteenth-century creations namely Houston-Boswell (1836), Duntze (1774), Elton (1777), Ogilvy-Wedderburn (1803) and Young of North Dean (1769).
[3] The nobility of one high ranking member of the Association, presently in the category of Obedience but admitted to membership as a knight of Grace and Devotion in 1971, then subsequently transferred to Honor and Devotion, is an interesting case in point. Of his four grandparents, the paternal line did not receive a grant of arms until 1929 (from Lord Lyon), the same year as this gentleman’s birth and that grant was to a collateral, not a direct ancestor. This individual is, through his father’s mother, the representative of a collateral line of an ancient Scottish family. In no European Association would such proofs be sufficient even for Grace and Devotion without a special allowance for the antiquity of this second quarter, as it is the antiquity of the nobility in the paternal line which is considered of primary importance. Two other members of the Association, one in Honor and the other in Grace and Devotion, also claimed these ranks by virtue of proving the antiquity of their maternal rather than the paternal lines, which would not have qualified them for the nobiliary grades. Theoretically, as the British Association rules required four quarters, it was possible for a non-armigerous postulant with four living grandparents to have each of them apply for new grants and thereby make him (or her) eligible for Honor and Devotion. To prevent such obvious misapplications of the rules, the regulations now require postulants for Honor and Devotion who are unable to prove male line nobility for more than three hundred years to submit four quarterings, proving that each grandparent was born armigerous and that none were the first recipient of a grant.
[4] J. Horace Round, MA, Studies in Peerage and History, pp. 330-346.
[5] M. J. Sayer, MA, English Nobility, the Gentry, Heralds and the Continental Conflict, Norfolk Heraldry Society, 1970, p.4.
[6] Sayer, Op.cit., p.9, lists such offices as those of High Sheriff, Justices of the Peace, Heralds, Serjeant-at-Arms, Serjeants-at-Law, Doctors of Divinity and Dignified Prebends, while Barristers-at-Law were qualified as gentleman (and, until recent reforms, could not therefore sue for their fees). In the United States the style of esquire has come to be the exclusive perquisite of a qualified lawyer whether male or female and is almost never used to describe any other class of citizen.
[7] The right to bear hereditary arms, differenced by a label for each cadet branch of the family, was proven (in the sixteenth and seventeenth century) either by descent in the male line from a grantee, from someone whose right to arms had already been recorded, or, if the person concerned showed evidence of a public position which would have entitled him to a grant, by prescriptive use for more than eighty years.
[8] For a fuller discussion of the descent of nobility through females, see Sayer Op.cit., p.6.
[9] For a broad discussion of various invented pedigrees and the activities of sixteenth and seventeenth century heralds in this regard, see Round, Op.cit.
[10] See Sayer, Op.cit., p.7.
[11] Sayer, Op.cit., p.9.
[12] See Sayer, Op.cit., pp.13-16. These figures ignore the large number of grants made by the Scottish Lord Lyon Kings of Arms during the same period. The Republic of Ireland has also established its own genealogical office with a civil servant appointed as Chief Herald . The Chief Herald has the authority to issue confirmations of arms to any person who can establish descent from an Irish Armiger, or make a new grant of arms to any person of Irish descent, whatever their social standing. Since the constitution of the Irish Republic has forbidden the grant of titles of nobility, the English College has taken the view that grants by the Chief Herald (and the only grants recognized by the College are to those born after the Republic finally severed all its links with the British Crown on 29 December 1937, since before that date the Ulster King’s authority still prevailed), are of burgher, not noble, arms. Thus the descendants of such grantees may not necessarily be able to claim nobility in the SMHOM in the British Association, even though it is unlikely that the Irish Association will take this view of the entitlement of the descendants of Irish grantees.
[13] A significant limitation to this is the strict standard now demanded by the College of Arms in proving descent from a recorded Armiger. With many parish records missing and no alternative source (wills, etc) for families at the bottom of the social scale, those families which did lose their status as gentry do, in practice, find it harder to prove such descent.
[14] Vertot, Op.cit., Vol IV, Dissertation, pp.9-20. The differences between the military nobility and the noblesse de robe was not always as clear as Vertot maintained and, despite his criticisms, noblesse de robe quarters continued to be accepted by the French Langue.
[15] See Bertini Frassoni, Il Sovrano Militare Ordine di S. Giovanni di Gerusalemme, detto di Malta, Rome 1629, p.64. These alternative standards are still retained by the French Association, but with some flexibility regarding quartering substitution.
[16] For a fuller discussion of the noble proofs of each Langue, see Bertini Frassoni, Op.cit., pp.63-78.
[17] In this context it is worth noting that of the sixty-one Popes who reigned between 1362 and 1963, only seventeen came from the old military nobility, while twenty-five came from the banking or commercial nobility, twelve from the bourgeoisie and seven from peasant families. By a special convention the descendants in the male line of the brothers of a Pope are eligible for Honor and Devotion without further proof – and the majority of Papal families could not make the required proofs for Honor and Devotion under the Italian, German or French rules.
[18] There were some slight variations within the Spanish Langue in different provinces. See Bertini Frassoni Op.cit., p.64.
[19] This rule, and the measures taken against the Jews in 1492, have been interpreted as evidence of Christian intolerance but should be better understood as the inevitable result of militant nationalism. Spanish Christians had for centuries lived in fear of the Moors, who in the eleventh and twelfth centuries had been ruled by a fanatical Moslem fundamentalist dynasty bent on the destruction of Christian civilization in Spain. This had encouraged a form of ardent nationalism whose triumph was finally marked by the surrender of the Moorish king of Granada at the end of the fifteenth century. The Spanish quickly persuaded themselves that their security depended on total homogeneity under a centralized Crown and accordingly instituted harsh laws designed to bring about the conversion of all to Christianity. The rules of the military Orders, which had provided the bravest and most determined crusaders, had been designed to ensure that there was no possibility of a family relationship with anyone who could possibly be numbered among the enemies of a united Christian Spain and hence excluded the descendants of non-Christians from membership.
[20] See Bertini Frassoni, Op.cit., p.64.

British nobility

British nobility

The following links are provided in order to offer some information about certain points of view, and does not necessarily constitute the views and opinions of the author of this website. The viewer should note that the documents, theses and links are beyond the scientific control of this website.

15th Baron of Cartsburn: Coat of Arms, Burke’s Peereage & Tartan

15th Baron of Cartsburn: Coat of Arms, Burke's Peereage & Tartan

Tartan Details – degli Uberti, Baron of Cartsburn (Personal)
The information held within The Scottish Register of Tartans for the “degli Uberti, Baron of Cartsburn (Personal)” tartan is shown below.

Reference:  10635

Designer:  Wilton, Brian
Tartan date:  03/04/2012
Registration date:  14 June 2012
Category:  Name

Restrictions:  Yes. Only to be used by the Baron and Baroness of Cartsburn, their family, heirs and successors.
Only those weavers authorised by the Baron of Cartsburn.

Registration notes:  Designed for Pier Felice degli Uberti, Baron of Cartsburn, incorporating the major colours in his Scottish coat of arms granted by Lord Lyon, King of Arms, those arms being an evolution of his ancient Italian family coat of arms. Only to be used by the Baron and Baroness of Cartsburn, their family, heirs and successors.

Registrant details:  Mr Brian Wilton, Fraser House Muthill Road, Crieff, Perthshire, Scotland, PH7 4HQ

From 1669 to present

From 1669 to present

Barons of Cartsburn (1669–Present)

Thomas Crawfurd of Cartsburn, 1st Baron of Cartsburn (1669–1695)

Thomas Crawfurd of Cartsburn, 2nd Baron of Cartsburn (1695–1743)

Archibald Crawfurd of Cartsburn, 3rd Baron of Cartsburn (1743–1783)

Thomas Crawfurd of Cartsburn, 4th Baron of Cartsburn (1783–1791), invited Robert Burns to stay at his country estate at Cartsburn.[1][2] Burns himself writes of Thomas Crawfurd of Cartsburn’s “ingenious, friendly, and elegant epistle”.[3] In his Preface to the Memoirs of Sir Ewen Cameron of Lochiel, Chief of the Clan Cameron, James Macknight describes Thomas as “a person of superior literary attainments”, who “collected a considerable library”.[4]

Christian Crawfurd of Crawfurdsburn, 5th Baroness of Cartsburn (1791–1796) (married Robert Arthur)

Christian Crawfurd of Crawfurdsburn, 6th Baroness of Cartsburn (1796–1818) (married Thomas Macknight of Ratho)

William Macknight Crawfurd of Ratho, 7th Baron of Cartsburn (1818–1855)

Thomas Macknight Crawfurd of Cartsburn and Lauriston Castle, 8th Baron of Cartsburn (1856–1909), was credited with a number of ameliorations to the grounds of Lauriston Castle, a property which he acquired in 1871.[5] He made general improvements to Lauriston, including the bringing of a number of architectural features from his estate at Cartsburn.[6]

Marion Woddrop Dennistoun Mitchell Crawfurd of Cartsburn, 9th Baroness of Cartsburn (1909–1912) (married James Dennistoun Mitchell of Carwood)

Lilian Parkinson or Macknight Crawfurd of Cartsburn, 10th Baroness of Cartsburn (1912–1912) (liferent)

Robert Arthur Christie Crawfurd of Cartsburn, 11th Baron of Cartsburn (1912–1935) (with liferent to Lilian Parkinson or Macknight Crawfurd)

Amy Christie Crawfurd of Cartsburn, 12th Baroness of Cartsburn (1935–1958) (held in trust for her sons by her husband, 1958–1974)

Alan Howard Crawfurd Colls, 13th Baron of Cartsburn (1958–2008) (as senior heir and joint holder with his brother Richard Andrew Colls, for both of whom the Barony was held in trust 1958–1974)

Mark Paul Lindley-Highfield of Ballumbie Castle, 14th Baron of Cartsburn (2008–2010)[7]

Dr. Pier Felice degli Uberti, 15th Baron of Cartsburn, belongs to an historical Italian family of the ancient Duchy of Monferrat, according to the tradition supported by some historians[8] considered a branch of de Ubertis of Florence, with sure genealogical documentation from the beginning of XV Century. Heraldic heir of Cicugnone, a line of Counts of Cavaglià[9] . Scholar in documentary sciences, President of International Commission for Orders of Chivalry – ICOC (1999 – present), President of Istituto Araldico Genealogico Italiano – IAGI (2002 – present), President of Federazione delle Associazioni Italiane di Genealogia, Storia di Famiglia, Araldica e Scienze Documentarie – FAIG (2003 – Present), 2nd Vice President of l’Academie Internationale de Généalogie – AIG (2010 – present), General Secretary of Confédération Internationale de Généalogie et d’Héraldique – CIGH (2009 – present) and President of Commission for Prizes and Medals (2008 – present), Academician of l’Academie Internationale d’Heraldique – AIH (2007 – present).

Coat of arms of Crawfurd of Cartsburn

Coat of arms of  Macknight Crawfurd of Cartsburn

Coat of arms of  Thomas Macknight Crawfurd of Cartsburn (1866)


Coat of arms of Mark Paul Lindley-Highfield of Ballumbie Castle, 14th baron of Cartsburn


Coat of arms of Pier Felice degli Uberti, baron of Cartsburn

Captain Arthur C. Crawford of Cartsburn (1859-1948)


[1] “Thomas Crawford of Cartsburn”. Robert Burns Country: The Burns Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2009-08-29.
[2]  Burns, R. (1811). Walker, J.. ed. Poems by Robert Burns: with an account of his life. 2. Edinburgh.
[3]  Motherwell, W. & Hogg, J. (1835). The works of Robert Burns. iv. Glasgow: Archibald Fullerton & Co..
[4]  Macknight, J. and Drummond, J. (1842). Macknight, J.. ed. Memoirs of Sir Ewen Cameron of Locheill, chief of the Clan Cameron: with an introductory account of the history and antiquities of that family and of the neighbouring clans. Edinburgh: Maitland Club.
[5] Motherwell, W. & Hogg, J. (1835). The works of Robert Burns. iv. Glasgow: Archibald Fullerton & Co..
[6] Weir, D. (1829). History of the town of Greenock. London: Whittaker & Co.
[7] The following Note was attached to a Warrant issued by the Lord Lyon King of Arms of date 1 December 2009 granting Armorial Bearings to Mark Paul Lindley-Highfield of Ballumbie Castle, Baron of Cartsburn:-NOTE: In his Note dated 15th May 2006 refusing the Petition of Margaret Hamilton of Rockhall, Baroness of Lag, as regards the appropriate form of baronial additaments, Lord Lyon Blair also considered what evidential value might attach to an entry in the private and unofficial “Scottish Barony Register” which had been established as a means of recording the transfer of quondam feudal baronies following the coming into force on 28th November 2004 (“the appointed day”) of the Abolition of Feudal Tenure etc (Scotland) Act 2000.  Section 63 of that Act dissociates such baronies from both jurisdiction and land.  The Act, however, preserves the dignity of baron, but enacts that after the appointed day any such dignity shall be transferable only as incorporeal heritable property.  Lyon Blair indicated that he was not disposed to accept an entry in this private register as proof that a Petitioner was entitled to the dignity of baron.  He noted the difficulty in regard to verifying both the existence and the ownership of a barony since the appointed day given the lack of an official public register.  The Scottish Barony Register was a private register with no statutory basis which offered no guarantee of the validity of any claim and was not covered by any government indemnity providing protection from error or fraud.  It had been established as a company limited by guarantee, one of the directors being Mr Brian Hamilton who was well-known as being active in the purchase and sale of baronies.  Lyon Blair was also critical of some of the terms and conditions attached to registration.  He concluded, “I do not consider that a private Register, managed by a person appointed by a private company with no public scrutiny, and operated under terms which allow complete discretion as to what evidence is to be provided, is an acceptable source of evidence in an application before the Court of the Lord Lyon.”       
Lyon Blair’s ruling in that Petition was subsequently subject to judicial review.  When the review reached court, the parties were able to agree a statement as regards the appropriate form of baronial additaments, to which the Court interponed authority.  That agreement, however, did not include consideration of the evidential value of the Scottish Baronial Register.  Accordingly Lyon Blair’s comments on this still stand.  I am persuaded that there is considerable force in Lyon Blair’s reasoning and am not prepared to accept an entry in the Scottish Baronial Register as being, in itself, sufficient proof of ownership of the barony in question.  I appreciate, however, the unsatisfactory nature of the present position in relation to baronies and the need to explore further options.  In the meantime I am persuaded that I can regard the present Custodian of the private register, Mr. Alistair Rennie, as a man of skill, and am prepared to take his approval as Custodian of the registration of the ownership of a particular barony, as evidenced by the company registration stamp, coupled with a confirmatory statement to Lyon Office from Mr. Rennie himself, as being, in principle and for aught yet seen, sufficient proof of the existence and ownership of the barony in question.  It is on this basis that I have determined that the Petitioner is entitled to the dignity of baron of Cartsburn for aught yet seen.     
(signed) David Sellar  Lyon.

[8] Alexandria – Rivista Mensile della Provincia, anno IV – n. 8 agosto 1936.
Can. Don Carlo Albano, In morte di Alessandro Ubertis, Tip. P. Bertero, Casale Monferrato, 1876.
Vincenzo De Conti, Notizie storiche della Città di Casale e del Monferrato, Vol. 3, Casale, 1839.
Giuseppe Amedeo Farinati degli Uberti, Ricerche Storico Genealogiche sulla Famiglia degli Uberti, Giornale Araldico-Genealogico-Diplomatico Italiano, R. Accademia Araldica Italiana, 1898.
Rodolfo Renier, Liriche edite ed inedite di Fazio degli Uberti, testo critico preceduto da una introduzione sulla famiglia e sulla vita dell’autore, Firenze, 1883.
Roberto Girino – Duilio Pozzi, Frassineto Po – Dagli albori della civiltà umana alle soglie del duemila – Volume II “Chronicon Frassinetese” – parte integrante del volume I. Editrice Fondazione Sant’Evasio. Diffusioni Grafiche. Villanova Monferrato 1996.
Libro d’Oro della Nobiltà Italiana, edizione XXIII, vol. XXVIII, 2005-2009, Colegio Araldico, Roma, pp. 896-897.
[9] Ferdinando Rondolino, Cronistoria di Cavaglià e dei suoi antichi conti, Torino, 1882.
Libro d’Oro della Nobiltà Italiana, edizione XXIII, vol. XXVIII, 2005-2009, Colegio Araldico, Roma, pp. 896-897.

Feudal System

Margaret Hamilton of Rockhall v Lord Lyon King of Arms [2019] CSOH 85

Margaret Hamilton of Rockhall v Lord Lyon King of Arms [2019] CSOH 85

11 May 2019

Margaret Hamilton of Rockhall v Lord Lyon King of Arms [2019] CSOH 85

In this Commercial Action, the pursuer sought declarator that under an agreement concluded in 2008 between the pursuer and a former Lord Lyon King of Arms in settlement of previous litigation between them, the current holder of that office was bound to use particular wording in Letters Patent granting arms to persons holding barony titles.  Under section 63 of the Abolition of Feudal Tenure etc. (Scotland) Act 2000, estates held in barony ceased to exist as feudal estates, but the “dignity” of baron was unaffected.  Since that Act came into force, successive holders of the office of Lord Lyon King of Arms have developed different practices in relation to the wording of formal Letters Patent by which the Lord Lyon grants arms to those persons presently entitled to the dignity of baron.  The 2008 Heads of Agreement by which the pursuer settled judicial review proceedings against the then Lord Lyon included paragraphs dealing with the exercise of the Lord Lyon’s discretion in future petitions by other persons seeking a grant of arms appropriate to the dignity of baron.  The Commercial Judge, Lady Wolffe, heard argument on various interesting points of law, including the nature of the office of Lord Lyon, the pursuer’s title and interest, and whether an agreement of the type pled by the pursuer would be contra bonos mores.  The Court held that the relevant parts of the Heads of Agreement did not have contractual effect but merely articulated a practice that the then Lord Lyon proposed to follow in future.  Accordingly, those parts of the agreement could not give rise to rights capable of being vindicated by the pursuer against the current holder of the office of Lord Lyon. 

Mark Lindsay Q.C. appeared for the pursuer and James Mure Q.C. appeared for the defender.

5 November 2019

Lord Lyon’s Note in the Petition of George David Menking concerning Feudal Dignities

Lord Lyon's Note in the Petition of George David Menking concerning Feudal Dignities

The Lyon Court has published on its website the attached Note prepared by Dr Joseph Morrow, Lord Lyon, in respect of  the Petition  of  George  David Menking, Feudal Lord of the Garioch.  In addition to the specific comments relating  to  Mr  Menking’s  Petition  Lyon  Morrow  also  makes  a  number  of generai comments which are relevant to any future Petitions and to current Petitions in respect of which the Warrant for Letters Patent has not been issued.

The pertinent points in Lyon Morrow’s  Note are as follows:-

• Lyon has confirmed that he is content to follow the existing practice of accepting  registration  in  the  Scottish  Barony  Register   as  proof  of ownership as long as the Custodian is “a person of skill”. Lyon will therefore continue to play no role in establishing the legai validity of a feudal dignity, and the issuing of Letters Patent  by him will, as now, have no relevance in relation to the validity of a Petitioner’s  legai title. (paragraph 5)

• Ownership and registration of a feudal dignity brings the holder within the jurisdiction of the Lyon Comi and allows the holder to petition for Arms.  Lyon states unequivocally that “this is the primary function ofthe Lord Lyon in such matters.”  (paragraph 8)

• In relation  to the recognition of  future Petitioners  who fall within his jurisdiction by reason of ownership of a feudal dignity Lyon will adopt the same “common sense and pragmatic way forward” as he is proposing to adopt in relation to Mr Menking.  (paragraph 21)

• Lyon  Morrow  has now  addressed  the previously  contentious  issue  of “other feudal titles”.  Section 63 of the Abolition of Feudal Tenure etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 refers “any other dignity or office (whether or not of feudal origin)” however the Act gives no guidance as to what is being refened  to. To  answer  the  question  of whether  these  can  be held  to include the dignities of Feudal Lord, Feudal Earl and Feudal Marquis Lyon has looked to the institutional writers and to more modem case law for guidance and on the basis of these concludes that “In essence the higher dignities are ofthe genus ofBarony”. (paragraphs 24 and 28).

• On the basis that (a) Barony  is a generic term which includes Feudal Baronies, Lordships, Earldoms and Marquisates, (b) Lyon’s  function is purely jurisdictional and (c) such matters fall within his discretion Lyon has decided that in future Petitions for Arms proceeding on the basis of ownership of any form of Barony should include wording of recognition along the following lines:-

“By Deed of Assignation recorded in the Scottish Barony Register, the Petitioner holds the Barony/Lordship/Earldom or Marquisate of X being of the genus Barony, which ownership brings the Petitioner within the jurisdiction ofthe Lord Lyon, Kingof  Arms”.  (paragraph 30)

• The  effect  of  Lyon’s  Note  is  that  by  endorsing  the  decision  of  the Custodian of the Scottish Barony Register Lyon will acknowledge a Petitioner  as  the  ‘Baron/Feudal  Lord  /Feudal  Earl  or/Feudal  Marquis of…… ‘ in conformity with the wording in the Crown Chatter which the

Petitioner  presented  to the  Custodian  of  the Scottish Barony  Register when applying for registration of his/her Assignation.

• Lyon has confirmed that he intends to continue the practice of granting the additament of the Great Helm to Feudal Barons but does not intend to re-introduce the other additaments granted prior to 2004.

• In  conclusion  Lyon’s  Note  appears  to end the uncertainties  of  recent years and will give potential purchasers of Scottish feudal dignities the comfort of knowing exactly what the Lyon Court’s policy is in relation to such dignities.


Note issued with Warrant for Letters Patent from Lord Lyon King of Arms in the application of


of date 21 August 2014


  1. The Petition was lodged on 21st  August 2014.   The Petitioner seeks to be officially recognised in the name George David Menking, Lord of the Garioch with a grant of Arms suitable and according to the Law of Arms, to himself and his descendants, together with all the additaments appropriate to the dignity of Lord in the Baronage of Scotland.

    2.    In considering this petition, I had before me the following evidence:-

    (i) Registration in the Scottish Barony Register dated 11 December 2012, registered 12 December 2012.

    (ii)  Assignation by Mark  David  Menking  in  favour  of  George  David  Menking, registered in the Scottish Barony Register 12 December 2012 Volume 2, folio 112.

    (iii) Correspondence from the Petitioner’ s agent (Lindsays Edinburgh) dated 21 August 2014, 28 October 2014, email of 9 December 2014.

    3.    After outlining the questions outstanding for me, I asked for submissions from the agent and a letter of the 28 October 2014, noted above, provided those submissions.

    4.    The issues in this Petition related to the status of the ‘ Lordship and Regality of the Garioch’ as well as the question of feudal and other dignities in general.  The central legal point being whether such ownership of the Lordship and Regality of the Garioch is sufficient to bring the Petitioner within the jurisdiction of the Lord Lyon for the granting to him of Arms.

    5.    My starting point for considering these matters is the present practice and law. The Scottish Barony Register is the only register for the Lord Lyon to have reference to in these matters, albeit a non-statutory register.   The present practice was established by previous Lord Lyons. The practice is that ‘ a person of skill’ who is at present the Custodian of the Register (Mr Alistair Rennie) provides a report based on an examination of a prescriptive progress of title that the owner is entitled to the dignity.  This system has in practice operated efficiently and effectively in relation to baronies.  I am content to follow this practice as long as the present Custodian is ‘ a person of skill’ .  I noted that the Register is a ‘ Barony Register’ and, as such, is protecting the dignity and legal entity of barony in Scots Law.  The Abolition of Feudal Tenure etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 (‘ the 2000 Act’ ) at Section 63 led to the Register being set up.

    6.    The part of the question before me relates to the extension of the practice to other dignities which may be covered by the words in Section 63 ‘ or any other dignity or office (whether or not of feudal origin)’ . Section 63 states:-

    Baronies and other dignities and offices
    (1) Any jurisdiction of, and any conveyancing privilege incidental to, barony shall on the appointed day cease to exist; but nothing in this Act affects the dignity of baron or any other dignity or office (whether or not of feudal origin).

    (2) When, by this Act, an estate held in barony ceases to exist as a feudal estate, the dignity of baron, though retained, shall not attach to the land;  and on and after the appointed day any such dignity shall be, and shall be transferable only as, incorporeal heritable property (and shall not be an interest in land for the purposes of the Land Registration (Scotland) Act 1979 (c.33) or a right as respects which a deed can be recorded in the Register of Sasines).

    (3) Where there is registered, before the appointed day, a heritable security over an estate to which is attached the dignity of baron, the security shall on and after that day (until discharge) affect—

    (a) in the case of an estate of dominium utile, both the dignity of baron and the land; and

    (b) in any other case, the dignity of baron. (4) In this section—
    “ conveyancing privilege” includes any privilege in relation to prescription;

    “ dignity” includes any quality or precedence associated with, and any heraldic privilege incidental to, a dignity;  and

    “ registered” has the same meaning as in Part 4 of this Act.

    7.    A review of the available correspondence between the Lyon Office and the Scottish Barony Register does not include discussions of Lordships, Territorial Earldoms or other dignities.  I have noted that previous Lord Lyons have made grants of Arms on this basis.  I am not bound by these previous decisions and, as far as I can see, these were decided on a case by case basis. They are also relatively few in number and spread over a number of years. For the sake of clarity I do not regard these decisions as setting any precedent.

    8.    I also observe that the 2000 Act is silent on dignities and captures them only using the words towards the end of Section 63 (ii). In the established recent practice the dignity of barony establishes for its owner jurisdiction to petition the Lord Lyon for a grant of Arms. This is the primary function of the Lord Lyon in such matters.

    9. I turn now to address the question of the nature of the Lordship and Regality in Scots Law.  It is my opinion from the Institutional Writers and textbook writers that Baronies and Regalities are to be considered together.  The dignity of a Regality was the highest feudal dignity and included higher jurisdictional rights and privileges as well as all the privileges of barony.

    10.  The principle source from the Institutional Writers is Bankton (see II. III, 83, 95, 96, 97 and 106). He writes:

    “ 83 – Baronies and Regalities come next to be considered … This leads me to the distinction of fees Noble and Ignoble … Noble fees, are those which conferred nobility to persons vested in them;  these were baronies and regalities;  and anciently all nobility, in the modern states proceeded from such fees;  thus the title of baron included Duke, Marquis and Earl, as well as that of Lord.  All barons were equally entitled, as lords of parliament, to sit and vote on it; … Some persons of greater merit or interest with the Sovereign, were vested with higher privileges than barons by erection of their lands into regalities…

    95 – Regality was  the  highest  feudal  dignity … The erection of  lands to a Dukedom, Marquisate or Earldom, did not extend the jurisdiction and privileges beyond those of a barony, which is called Feudal Lordship, unless there were likewise erected into a regality …

    96 – Besides the rights and privileges included in a barony, divers other Regalia, and valuable
    Franchises, were implied in a regality …

    97 – ‘ Lords of Regality…’ [NB: The style used to describe the person]

    106 – … for Regality, as the greater, implied all the privileges that were included in Barony, which is the lesser dignity …”

    11.  This position is further strengthened by the view of Erskine, (see Institutes I. IV. 7 & 10)
    where he states:

    “7 – Regalities were feudal rights of land granted by the king in liberam regalitatem; so that regality jurisdictions, while they subsisted, were properly territorial, and attendant on the lands.  The grantees, though commoners, were called Lords of Regality, on account of the high and regal  j urisdiction implied in these grants …  No lands  could  fall  under  this jurisdiction but such as belonged either in property or superiority to the grantee …

    10 – … for the erection of lands into an earldom or lordship imports no higher jurisdiction than barony, D Montrose, 9 July 1713, M. 10, 919 …”

    12.  It is my opinion that these passages, especially the Bankton references at paragraphs 96 and 106, help me conclude that a Regality was a higher form of Barony and that it included “ the rights and privileges included in a barony” .

    13.  Green’ s Encyclopaedia of  the Law  of  Scotland  (Dunedin  Edition,  Vol  12  p  359 paragraph 398) refers to “ the Lordship of Regality” and states “ 753 – Regality was the highest feudal dignity, and, in addition to all the privileges of barony, included …” .

    14.  These sources apply only to a grant of a Regality prior to the Abolition of Heritable Jurisdictions Act, 1747, (‘ the 1747 Act’ ). In summary, prior to 1747 a grant of a Regality was the grant of a heritable right, which included all the rights and privileges of a barony. A Lord of Regality is therefore a feudal baron with higher jurisdictional rights and other privileges.

    15.  With regard to the effect of the 1747 Act on the Lordship and Regality I am of the opinion on a proper construction of the 1747 Act, that “jurisdiction, powers, authorities and privileges” relating to the Regality were abolished.  I am, however, also of the opinion that this did not affect the baronial rights and privileges which were inherent in the Regality.  In essence, after the 1747 Act Regality became a barony and, at a more specific level, Lords of Regality became Barons.
    16.  I should also note that, whilst agreeing that it is arguable that they retained the right to be called ‘ Lords of Regality’ but only with the jurisdiction of a baron, I am not persuaded by that position.  I am of the opinion that, while Lords of Regality were abrogated by the 1747
    Act, they continue to retain the dignity of baron. They are a genus of barony.

    17.  I have reached my opinion on this matter, taking into account that the enactments which take away rights are to be strictly limited, and if there is any ambiguity the construction which is in favour of the freedom of the individual should be adopted.   This provision of Section 1 of the 1747 Act states:

    “ That all heritable jurisdictions, and all regalities … belonging unto, or possessed or claimed by any subject or subjects, and all jurisdictions, powers and privileges thereunto appurtunent or annexed or dependent thereupon, shall be, and they are from and after the twenty-fifth of March in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and forty-eight, abrogated, taken away, and totally dissolved and extinguished.”

    18.  I am of the opinion that the 1747 Act at Section 24 did not intend to deprive a Lord of
    Regality of his baronial jurisdiction. I refer to Section 24 which states:

    “ Provided always … that all and every person and persons who shall appear to have been lawfully possessed … of any such justiciary, regality, or other jurisdiction hereby abrogated, shall … retain such jurisdiction of barony, or other lower jurisdiction, as such person or persons would have been entitled to, in case of such jurisdiction, regality or other jurisdiction had never been erected, granted or existed…” .”

    19.  In summary on this issue I am of the opinion as a proper construction of the 1747 Act that while jurisdiction, authorities and privileges pertaining to the Regality were abolished, the Act did not affect the baronial rights and privileges.  A Lord of Regality in the context of Scots Law today is a baron.

    20.  On the basis of the established practice in the Lyon Court, I accept jurisdiction on the basis that a Lord of Regality is of the genus of baron and would grant Arms accordingly. The grant would be based on the established present practice with regard to additaments.  It is worth noting that the Scottish Barony Register have offered to make such entries in the Register Minute Book and Style of Assignation to include the words ‘ being of the genus Barony’ .   This is a pragmatic way forward and if all the proofs are in order allows me to accept jurisdiction and grant Arms to owners of such dignities.

    21.  With regard to the aspect of the Petition which deals with the ‘ official recognition of the Petitioner in  the  name George David Menking, Lord of  the Garioch’ ,  I have sought a common sense and pragmatic way forward, bearing in mind that in Scotland anyone is at liberty to call themselves what they wish subject to it not being the intention to deceive another person, for example to avoid bankruptcy by becoming someone else.  Further, in the context of this petition the recognition of feudal titles such as a ‘feudal Lordship’ is a matter for the discretion of the Lord Lyon.

    22.  Let me now turn, for the purpose of completeness, to the subject of ‘ other feudal titles’ in terms of Section 63 of the 2000 Act.  These titles include the dignities of feudal lord, feudal earl and feudal marquis where such titles are established on the basis of a Crown Charter.

    23.  There  are  a  number  of  decisions  where  previous  Lord  Lyons  have  recognised the existence of such titles. There are only a few such petitions and I have carefully examined those petitions in which these issues were addressed. Bearing in mind that I am not bound by the decisions of previous Lord Lyons and the petitions on these matters have turned on the facts and circumstances of the petition, I have decided to review the approach of the Lyon Court on these matters.

    24.  As might be expected, the legal basis for such petitions can be found in the writings of various institutional writers and in the case law.

    25.  In ‘ Jus Feudale’ Craig states at 1.12.15:

    “ Dukes, marquesses, and earls are all comprehended among the barons, and originally they were all known under the latter description;  but as the number of barons increased and the distinction attached to the title was correspondingly diminished the newer style of dignity into request.”

    Craig states clearly that dukedoms, marquisates, earldoms and baronies are all of the genus of barony.

    26.  The case of Spencer Thomas of Buquhollie v Newell 1992 SLT 973 provides us with a summary of the institutional writers in the opinion of Lord Clyde. His lordship also gives use a core analysis of the nature of a barony and other dignities.

    27.  The opinions of Craig, Stair and other leading institutional writers are summarised by Lord Clyde in his seminal decision in Spencer Thomas of Buquhollie v Newell, in which he provided a concise analysis of the nature of a Barony and the more noble dignities of Lordship and Earldom:

    “ Before going further I should say something about the nature of a barony in Scots law.  A barony is an estate of land created by a direct grant from the Crown. the original grant is said to have ‘ erected’ the lands into a liberia baronia, a free-hold Barony (Bell’ s Principles, s.750). The right can be conferred only by the Crown and cannot be transmitted by the baron to be held base of himself (Bells’ s Dictionary (7th ed.), p.99; Bankton’ s Institute, II.iii.86).   In feudal classification a barony falls into the class of noble as opposed to ignoble feus.  That classification is discussed by Craig (Jus Feudale, I.x.16) and Bankton (II.iii.83).  In Scotland the distinction was recognised between the greater barons and the lesser barons, the former acquiring such titles as Duke or Earl.  It was at the earliest a territorial dignity as distinct from the later personal peerage.  Thus when one was divested of an estate the title of honour ceases (Bankton, II.iii.84).  In the feudal system, however, whether the dignity was that of a baron or of the greater dignity of an earldom, the feudal effects were the same (Erskine’ s Institute, II.iii.46).  As Stair put it (Institutions, II.iii.45): “ Erection is, when lands are not only united in one tenement, but are erected into the dignity of a barony; which comprehendeth lordship, earldom, & c. all of which are but more noble titles of a barony; having the like feudal effects” .  The grant of barony carried with it the right to sit in Parliament, but as the number of lesser barons increased, steps were taken from 1427 onwards to restrict attendance to a selected number of them (Erskine’ s Institute, I.iii.3).   The grant in liberam baroniam also carried a civil and criminal jurisdiction (Erskine’ s Institute, I.iv.25).  But Erskine also states that while such an erection or confirmation is necessary to constitute a baron ‘ in the strict law sense of the word’ , all who hold lands immediately of the Crown to a certain yearly extent are barons in respect of the title to elect or be elected into Parliament (Institute, I.iv.25).” 1

    28.  Lord Clyde therefore states the legal position in 1992, namely that a barony in a generic sense was a noble feu and that there were distinctions within the barony which are sometimes referred to as higher dignities.  In essence the higher dignities are of the genus of barony.  If so proved, taking into account section 63 of the 2000 Act, any petitioner with such dignity would come under the jurisdiction of the Lord Lyon and could be considered for a grant of Arms.  It should be noted that the additaments would be as a baron and the wording on the Letters Patent with regard to jurisdiction would be in similar wording to those later in this note. The law establishes that such higher feudal dignities are of the genus of barony.

    29.  I also note that in the past baronies have been recognised in the Letters Patent under the signature of the Lord Lyon as–


“ baron of X for aught yet seen”


  1.  I have reached the opinion that for this Petition the wording of recognition should be:
    ‘ By Deed of Assignation recorded in the Scottish Barony Register, the Petitioner holds the Lordship and Regality of the Garioch being of the genus of barony, which ownership brings the Petitioner within the jurisdiction of the Lord Lyon, King of Arms.’

    31.  As this recognition gives an appropriate recognition to the dignity and clearly identifies the jurisdictional basis, I can proceed to consider the granting of Arms to the Petitioner.  I would propose to adopt this jurisdictional approach with all future petitioners involving feudal and other dignities, as these matters fall to be dealt with under the discretion given to the Lord Lyon. I have also concluded that the approach I am adopting is appropriate to the practice of this area of law in the 21st Century.  I note for the sake of completeness that my
    decision in this Petition will apply to this Petition and to any further petitions involving feudal dignities or any other dignities.  I also considered if this change in practice has any implications in terms of the European Convention on Human Rights (1953) and have concluded it does not.

    32.  The findings in fact in this Petition are as follows:-

    (i) The Petitioner is the owner of the Lordship and Regality of the Garioch being of the genus Barony;
    (ii) The Petitioner has established jurisdiction to be granted Arms by the Lord Lyon;
    (iii)  The Petitioner’s grant of Arms will follow the established practice of the Lyon Court after the 2000 Act;
    (iv)  The Petitioner’s Arms will reflect the additaments at present in practice for the dignity of a baron;
    (v) The Petitioner’ s Letters Patent will recognise the Petitioner as the holder of the
    Lordship and Regality of the Garioch being of the genus Barony.

    33.  I have reached the findings in fact for the following reasons:

    (i)  The documentary evidence lodged supports the findings;
    (ii) The Law on Lordship and Regality dignities establishes the dignity today as of the genus of barony.

    34.  I have reached my understanding in this Petition after considering the totality of the evidence before me including that of the Institutional writings and the relevant case law.  I also considered the submissions made by the Petitioner’ s agent in the correspondence.  The burden of proof rests with the Petitioner and he has discharged that burden to the extent that the Petition should be allowed, but only to the extent that–

    (i)  the Petitioner be granted Arms to himself and his descendants with the additaments appropriate to a baron; and

    (ii) the Petitioner’s Recognition be in the following terms:
    ‘ by Deed of Assignation recorded in the Scottish Barony Register , the Petitioner holds the Lordship and Regality of the Garioch being of the genus of barony, which ownership brings the Petitioner within the jurisdiction of the Lord Lyon, King of Arms.’

    35.  The Petition is therefore allowed in terms of paragraph 32 (i) and (ii).


Joseph John Morrow
Lord Lyon

Dated: 30 April 2015
1 1992 SLT 973 at 976B


here labelled ‘Kar Burn’, depicted on an early map, Blaeu’s first Atlas of Scotland of 1654

General guidance regarding Baronial Additaments and Territorial Designations

General guidance regarding Baronial Additaments and Territorial Designations

The Lord Lyon has issued the following general guidance regarding Baronial Additaments and Territorial Designations:
Guidance regarding Baronial Additaments
Guidance has already been posted on this website as regards those who acquire baronies after “the appointed day” (28th November 2004), that is, the day when the Abolition of Feudal Tenure etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 came into force: namely, that such barons will be granted a helm appropriate to their degree, that is, to the dignity of baron, and will be recognised in the style of “baron of X”.

Barons who were granted a chapeau Gules or, it may be, a mantle before the appointed day may, of course, continue to display these additaments.  Looking to history and heritage, it is proposed that those who succeed to such baronies after the appointed day as heirs should continue to enjoy a red chapeau as an appropriate additament, and also a mantle if that has been granted before.
Armigers formerly entitled to a chapeau Azure, or to supporters as representatives of baronial houses who had a seat in Parliament until 1587, continue to be so entitled.

Guidance regarding Baronial Officers
In view of the separation of quondam feudal baronies from both land and jurisdiction after the appointed day, it no longer seems appropriate to grant additaments to baronial officers, for example, baron bailies or baron sergeants, or to regard such appointments as being sufficient to bring the person so appointed within Lyon ’s jurisdiction.

Guidance regarding Territorial Designations
A territorial designation proclaims a relationship with a particular area of land.  The classic case where a territorial designation is appropriate, where recognition is sought from the Lord Lyon in connection with a Petition for Arms or for change of name, is where there is ownership of a substantial area of land to which a well-attested name attaches, that is to say, ownership of an “estate”, or farm or, at the very least, a house with policies extending to five acres or thereby, outwith a burgh.  In such a case recognition of a territorial designation should not present a problem.  Nor should there be a difficulty when a new owner obtains possession of the named property.  Difficulty may arise, however, when a new owner has bought property to which no generally recognised name attaches.  In such a case some years of ownership under a suitable name would seem appropriate before a territorial designation can be recognised.  In this last case there will usually be a residence on the property, or the possibility of obtaining planning permission for such a residence.

David Sellar
Lord Lyon King of Arms
5 January 2010

Note relating to petitions for Grants of Arms by persons owning a dignity of baron

Note relating to petitions for Grants of Arms by persons owning a dignity of baron



The Lord Lyon King of Arms wishes to advise as follows regarding Petitions for the Grant of Arms:

‘In respect of future Petitions for Grants of Arms by persons owning a dignity of baron which has been acquired post the appointed day (that is, 28 November 2004), provided that the Lord Lyon determines that the dignity of baron exists, that the petitioner is a virtuous and well deserving person and determines to exercise his discretion in their favour to grant arms the Lord Lyon will, (1) if so required, officially recognise the petitioner as “Baron of [the barony]” and (2) grant them ensigns armorial with a helmet befitting their degree, namely the helmet assigned to the barons.
When a petitioner has no connection with Scotland that otherwise brings the petitioner within the jurisdiction of the Lord Lyon, Lyon accepts that subject to other relevant considerations he will accept the ownership of a dignity of a barony as sufficient to bring the petitioner within his discretionary jurisdiction to grant arms to that person as a person who will require to bear arms in Scotland by reason of his ownership of the dignity.

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