Arguably, it wasn’t a small amount of money that let me style myself as Merryn Jane Henderson, Lady of the Manor of Newton by Castle Acre in the County of Norfolkby Merryn Henderson / July 13, 2017 / Leave a comment
“When I want a peerage,” said Alfred Charles William Harmsworth, “I shall buy one like an honest man.” The press baron was eventually ennobled without reaching for his cheque-book, becoming Lord Northcliffe in 1904. Today, any aspirations of easily-purchased grandeur are thwarted by the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925.
It was William the Conqueror who insisted that our British feudal system should give way to a more organised, European hierarchy. There exists an impressive ecosystem of Dukes, Marches, Earls, Viscounts and Barons—generically known as “Lords.” To hold one of these titles is a privilege commanding respect all around the world. Some of our overseas cousins are so impressed that they even try to buy one online. They mistakenly believe they’re purchasing a great British peerage. Sadly, they don’t realise there’s a big difference between an official ennoblement and novelty dispensations.
In the House of Lords today, 798 individuals use their titles on a daily basis. They comprise hereditary peers, a small number of senior Bishops from the Church of England, and life peers who’ll be in residence until they retire or are expelled for misdemeanours—which is unlikely but is not impossible. (Historic reasons include trying to corrupt the Speaker of the House of Commons or procuring a girl under the age of 21 for an immoral purpose. As I said, unlikely but not impossible.)
What you may buy online is a title—Lord of the Manor—enshrined in English law as a “property without body” or an “incorporeal hereditament.” But it is almost always only a name. The 1922 Law of Property Act put an end to feudal tenure. Very few titles that come onto the market offer the rights to useful benefits and when they do, it’s likely to be fallen timber; fish from a river; or some involvement in choosing a vicar. Chris Eubank became entitled to 4,000 herring, three cows and a single slave when he paid £45,000 to become Lord of the Manor of Brighton, a purchase he saw as a metaphor for his own emancipation.
However, if you’re dead set on a little more status, it’s not onerous to acquire it. It is true, some websites blatantly misrepresent the potential benefits of…