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Baron. A title of Nobility.

In this section on the History of the titles of the Prince of Wale I will focus on the title of Baron.

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HRH The Baron of Renfrew

In the Peerage of England, the Peerage of Great Britain, the Peerage of Ireland and the Peerage of the United Kingdom (but not in the Peerage of Scotland), barons form the lowest rank, placed immediately below viscounts. A female of baronial rank has the title baroness. The Scottish equivalent of an English baron is a Lord of Parliament.

The word baron comes from the Old French baron, which, in turn comes from a late Latin word barō which mean “man; servant, soldier, mercenary” (so used in Salic law; Alemannic law has barus in the same sense). The 7th century scholar Isidore of Seville thought the word Baron was from Greek βᾰρῠ́ς “heavy” (because of the “heavy work” done by mercenaries). However, the majority of scholars believe the word is of Old Frankish origin, cognate with Old English beorn meaning “warrior, nobleman”.

History

The rank of Baron was introduced into the English feudal system by William I (1066-1087). The introduction of the title of baron in England was to distinguish those men who had pledged their loyalty to the king. As stated in the my previous entry, during the Anglo-Saxon period in the kingdom of England, the king’s companions held the title of earl. In Scotland the equivalent title for Earl was that of thane. All who held their feudal barony by right of the king, meaning the king as his immediate overlord, were known as barones regis (“barons of the king”), bound to perform a stipulated annual military service, and obliged to attend his council.

There are different types of barons and it can get confusing. Originally, those who held land directly from the king, via their military service, from earls downwards, all held the title of baron. Under King Henry II, the Dialogus de Scaccario already distinguished between greater barons, those who held per baroniam by knight’s service, and lesser barons, those who held manors. Technically, Lords of Manors are barons, or freemen, however they are not entitled to be styled as such.

Within a century of the Norman Conquest of 1066, an example is the case of Thomas Becket in 1164, there arose the practice of sending to each greater baron a personal summons demanding his attendance at the King’s Council. The practice of sending a baron to the king’s council later evolved into the Parliament and then even later into the House of Lords. This practice was incorporated in Magna Carta of 1215 though not ever baron was chosen.

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HRH The Baron Carrickfergus

The lesser barons of each county would receive a single summons from the sheriff and would meet as a group. A single representatives would be elected to attend the king’s council on behalf of the group. These representatives developed into the Knights of the Shire, and were elected by the County Court that was presided over by the sheriff.

The sheriffs of each county themselves formed the precursor of the House of Commons. This created a definite distinction between Sheriff (Commons) and Barons (Peers) which eventually had the effect of restricting the barons alone the privileges and duties of peerage.

Later, the king started to create new baronies in one of two ways: by a writ of summons directing a chosen man to attend Parliament, and in an even later development by letters patent. Writs of summons became the normal method in medieval times, displacing the method of feudal barony, but creation of baronies by letters patent is the sole method adopted in modern times.

The feudal aspect of the role of the Barons ended with the practice of summons by writ to the king’s council, thus Barons were no longer relate directly to land-holdings. With no more feudal baronies needed thenceforth this type of baron were no longer created. However, it would take the Modus Tenendi Parliamenta of 1419, the Tenures Abolition Act 1660, the Feudal Tenure Act (1662), and the Fines and Recoveries Act of 1834, until titles of feudal baronies became obsolete and without legal force.

Prince Harry Lords
HRH Baron Kilkeel

In the twentieth-century Britain introduced the concept of non-hereditary life peers who have a seat in the House of Lords with all appointees to this distinction have (thus far) been at the rank of baron. In accordance with the tradition applied to hereditary peers they too are formally addressed in parliament by their peers as “The Noble Lord.”

As nobles grew in both stature and power it became the tradition that baronies were, and are, often used by their holders as subsidiary titles. An example is that a baronies is frequently used as courtesy titles for the son and heir of an Earl or higher-ranked peer. The Scottish baronial title tends to be used when a landed family is not in possession of any United Kingdom peerage title of higher rank, subsequently granted, or has been created a knight of the realm.

Several members of the royal family with the style of Royal Highness are also titled Barons. For example, HRH The Prince of Wales is also The Baron of Renfrew. I will get into the history of that specific title in a later post. Similarly, his eldest son HRH The Duke of Cambridge is also The Baron Carrickfergus. HRH The Duke of Sussex was recently granted the title Baron Kilkeel in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. HRH The Duke of York is The Baron Killyleagh. Some non-royal Barons are somehow related to the royal family, for example Maurice Roche, 6th Baron Fermoy is William’s first cousin once removed, through William’s late mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, who was the 4th Baron Fermoy’s granddaughter.

Coronet

A person holding a peerage in the rank of baron is entitled to a coronet bearing six silver balls (called pearls) around the rim, equally spaced and all of equal size and height. The rim itself is neither jeweled, nor “chased” (which is the case for the coronets of peers of higher degree). The actual coronet is mostly worn on certain ceremonial occasions, such as the coronation of a new monarch, but a baron can bear his coronet of rank on his coat of arms above the shield. In heraldry, the baron’s coronet is shown with four of the balls visible.

Style of address

Normally one refers to or addresses Baron [X] as Lord [X] and his wife as Lady [X]. Women who hold baronies in their own right may be styled as Baroness [X],[10] or Lady [X]. In direct address, they can also be referred to as My Lord, Your Lordship, or Your Ladyship, but never as My Lady (except in the case of a female judge). The husband of a Baroness in her own right gains no title or style from his wife. Children of Barons and Baronesses in their own right, whether hereditary or for life, have the style The Honourable [Forename] [Surname]. After the death of the father or mother, the child may continue to use the style The Honourable.