Saturday 18 August 2007

Scottish Feudal Baron vs Life Peer (Baron)

I am often asked to explain the difference between feudal baronies and peerage titles. The distinction is important as modern Peerage titles are granted by the Sovereign to an individual (and in years past to his descendants as specified in the Letters Patent) and may not be purchased, whereas Scottish Feudal Baronies, which were originally granted to an individual and his descendants, may be alienated legally and bought or sold at will. Scottish Feudal Baronies are the only true titles of nobility that one may purchase (English "Lordships of the Manor" are not titles of nobility and do not confer any status upon the purchaser/holder whatsoever).

The holder of a Scottish Feudal Barony is not a Peer and must not be styled "Baron X", or worse still "Lord X"; rather, he is to be styled "Baron of X" or, alternatively, "John Blogs of X, Baron of X". Scottish Feudal Barons are accorded precedence below Queen's Counsel and above Esquires and Gentlemen; they may also receive an armorial augmentation from The Lord Lyon in the form of a baronial chapeau. Feudal Barons are represented by the Convention of the Baronage of Scotland.

As an aside, it is interesting to note that Feudal Barons were traditionally permitted to appoint hereditary or lifetime officers of their household (including "Baron Serjeants"), many of whom were entitled to petition Lord Lyon for certain heraldic additaments. Feudal Barons also traditionally held certain judicial powers.

The few ancient privileges possessed by Scottish Feudal Barons were finally extinguished with the passage of the Abolition of Feudal Tenure (Scotland) Act 2000 (passed in order to ensure Scottish compliance with EU law). The Act forever separated the title from the land but, fortunately, had no impact upon the diginity of Baron and related privileges.

Subsection 63 of the act reads as follows;

63 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.


  1. it means we can still buy the title of scottish feudal baron?

  2. Additionally, the Convention of the Baronage of Scotland is a private group and is not even open to all Feudal Barons. It is not in any means an official body with regard to Scottish Feudal Baronage.