Is it really possible to purchase a lord, laird, or lady title online? It seems that there are websites that let you buy a square foot of land in Scotland for a relatively small amount. As the purchaser now technically owns land in Scotland, they now can use “Lord,” “Laird,” or “Lady” in front of their name, even if they have never set foot in the UK. How official and/or legal is this? Does this mean any Scottish homeowner is in fact a lord? Do you really own an actual square foot of land in Scotland?
This is so easy to do. The pitch is so straightforward that anyone can order up their very own title. These people offer to sell you a square foot of land in Scotland. The logic then proceeds as follows:
- Traditionally, the term for a landowner in Scotland — any landowner in Scotland — is laird.
- Etymologically, laird is equivalent to lord.
- Historically, the spouse of a lord is a lady.
That’s it. Honestly. Now to answer my questions.
If I pay the $50, can I use the title “Lord,” “Laird,” or “Lady”? Of course. It’s not like the Scottish nobility police are going to come over and bust you. By the way, just so you understand what motivates the people offering this fabulous deal: Farmland in Scotland currently sells for about $6,500 per acre. £30 per square foot works out to $2.1 million per acre. If that sounds like they make too much money, remember that they wrap the whole personalized stack of documents up in a glossy folder and ship all the way to Iowa ore where-ever for under $50. Sweet! They also use the profits for planting trees in Scotland, just in case you have a social conscience.
How official is this? It isn’t. It’s utterly and indefeasibly lacking in officialness. There is nobody in Scotland, the USA or anywhere else that awards Laird titles. It is simply a tradition that Scottish landowners are styled as lairds. Stick with the old-fashioned tried and tested. Buy a bit of land. Adopt the title.
Will I actually own a square foot of land in Scotland? A contract’s a contract, so of course you will. However, according to the Court of the Lord Lyon, which is responsible for administering heraldic arms in Scotland, these minuscule land sales aren’t legally recorded. So while you may be a Scottish landowner, the only ones who’ll know will be you, the party that sold you your mini-estate, and whoever you tell. If that’s worth $50 to you, be my guest. But remember that unlike naming a star, where you just get the name of your choice recorded on someone’s computer, owning your square foot of land is recorded on your contract. The land is now yours for ever and can be passed on to your children when the time comes!
For the sake of argument, though, let’s assume you are not satisfied with a $50 descriptive title, and you want a noble title in the UK. You’ve got two choices.
First, a feudal Scottish title, a handful of which come on the market each year. In 2003 the Barony of MacDonald, which included the ruins of a castle and four acres of land on the Isle of Skye, was sold for a reported £750,000.
Thanks to a change in the law in 2004, you can now buy a Scottish title without having to own Scottish land, making nobility more affordable. As I write, two titles are on offer at baronytitles.com, one of the few legitimate dealers: the baronies of Seabegs and Denny. Either will set you back about $106,000, not including legal fees and other costs. What does that get you? (1) A coat of arms, (2) a title, and (3) whatever warm glow derives from having (1) and (2). The seller cautions: “We will do nothing to persuade you that a barony title is a ‘good investment.‘ … Barony titles are to be enjoyed.”
The second option is more involved. The UK grants nonhereditary titles known as life peerages. Mostly these go to bent politicians, judges, and in very recent history, anyone who leaned £1 million pounds to the Labour Party. It may still possible to get one purely by reason of civic virtue, but we cannot think of a genuine example and you do have to be a UK citizen. On the plus side, you get to sit in the House of Lords.
So in my opinion, if you yearn for a title, simply sending off a check for 50 bucks is a much better method than corruptly buying or for that matter even inheriting a noble title. You want recognition and respect? No problem, amigo. Just make the world a better place and give $50 to a good cause.
Barony Titles http://baronytitles.com/
British Embassy, Washington http://ukinusa.fco.gov.uk/en/about-us/faqs/knighthood-honours/buy-british-title
Cramb, Auslan “How to lord it over your friends for only £29.99” The Telegraph 11 December, 2004.
Kelbie, Paul “Sale of Scots titles offers rich pickings for conservation” The Independent 24 November, 2004.
Cash for honours: What am I bid? £10,000? £1m? A loan, no questions asked? http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/cash-for-honours-what-am-i-bid-16310000-1631m-a-loan-no-questions-asked-469601.html
Cash for honours scandal reaches No.10 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1523758/Cash-for-honours-scandal-reaches-No.10.html
Robertson, Alastair “Baron of MacDonald title is yours for £1m” The Scotsman 29 December, 2002.