Can You Really Become A Scottish Lord For £30?

If you’ve ever searched the Web for information about titles of nobility, you may have come across sites offering to sell you a Scottish title. Usually, it works like this: for £30 or so, they’ll sell you a square foot of land somewhere in Scotland. This supposedly makes you a laird, and it’s often implied that this is a title of nobility. But aspiring aristocrats should keep their wallets closed: the whole thing is a scam.

‘Laird’ is not a title of nobility. According to the Court of the Lord Lyon:[1]

The term ‘laird’ has generally been applied to the owner of an estate, sometimes by the owner himself or, more commonly, by those living and working on the estate. It is a description rather than a title…It goes without saying that the term ‘laird’ is not synonymous with that of ‘lord’ or ‘lady’.

Souvenir plots of land aren’t considered ‘estates.’ As far as Scots law is concerned, you probably won’t even own the square foot of land that you purchased since such sales aren’t registered with the Land Registry.[2]

If you really want to call yourself a laird, you can do so without wasting money on dodgy plots of land. As long as you’re not trying to deceive anyone, you can call yourself whatever you like.[3] Of course, your ‘title’ won’t be recognized by the Lord Lyon or anyone else in authority. For example, if you try to get a passport as ‘Laird John Doe,’ it will likely be issued to ‘Mr. Laird John Doe’ instead.[4]

There are titles that can be legitimately purchased (and no, I’m not talking about peerages given in return for political donations!). If you absolutely must have a title to satisfy your vanity, you can buy a Scottish feudal barony. In the past, these were estates that were held of the Crown, and whoever owned the land automatically became the baron or baroness.[5] Although the Abolition of Feudal Tenure etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 extinguished feudal tenure, the titles themselves were preserved, and they can be freely bought and sold. They’re not cheap: the Barony of Hallyards is currently listed at £75,000! With the loss of the attendant property rights, all you get is the title. But if your goal is to become ‘Lord Doe,’ you should save your money–a Scottish feudal barony is not a peerage, and the title goes after your name (e.g., ‘Jane Doe, Baroness of Anyplace’).

NOTES

[1] The Lord Lyon is the principal heraldic authority in Scotland, and he’s responsible for matters of protocol and ceremonial.

[2] Title merchants claim that it’s not necessary to register miniscule purchases. That’s true, but they neglect to mention the fact that the reason these purchases need not be registered is because they aren’t recognized!

[3] Note Issued with the Warrant for Letters Patent from Lord Lyon King of Arms in the Application of George David Meking of date 21 August 2014 at para. 21.

[4] On a side note, the proper style for a laird is ‘John Doe, Laird of Anyplace’ or ‘John Doe of Anyplace.’

[5] At one time, feudal barons sat in the Scottish Parliament, but they were never admitted to the House of Lords at Westminster. However, Graham Senior-Milne argues that Scottish feudal barons are, in fact, entitled to sit in the House of Lords. Among other things, he claims that, since feudal baronies are salable, they are not subject to the provisions of the House of Lords Act 1999. It’s an interesting argument, though one that the British Government doesn’t recognize.

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