In Britain, traditionally aristocratic titles have always been granted by the reigning sovereign, although, in the last century or two, this has very much been at the hand or instigation of the current government of the day. A title (except in the case of Baronets or Knights) conferred the right on the recipient to sit in the House of Lords, and pass on the title to his nearest male heir.

The question of a  newly-bestowed title versus the power of very old aristocracy is often a complicated issue that even those in high places may not wish to adjudicate on willingly. Listed below is a brief summary of British aristocratic titles.


The Peerage
These titles can only be inherited, normally by the eldest son, or be bestowed upon an individual by the state. It is not possible to buy any of these titles. There are five grades of the Peerage; Duke, Marquess, Earl, Viscount and Baron.

Life Peerage
These have been issued since 1958 and cannot be passed down the family line as the title dies out with the recipient.

This title entitles the individual to use the prefix Sir; these are hereditary titles and certainly cannot be bought.

Awarded by the state only, a knighthood is not hereditary. It is not possible to buy a knighthood.

Scottish Feudal Baron
A Scottish Feudal Barony can be bought through an agent and therefore owner is entitled to use the title ‘(name) Baron of (place name)’.

English and Irish Feudal Baronies
English Feudal Baronies were abolished in England in 1660 by Act of Parliament and a similar Act was passed in Ireland two years later.

Lord of the Manor
A Lord of the Manor title can be bought through the Manorial Society of Great Britain (a commercial organisation, not an official body) and entitles the owner to the title ‘(name), Lord of the Manor of (place name)’. The owner of the title is not allowed to use the title of ‘Lord (name or placename)’. Although some manorial titles do have a historical context, it must be stated that they are not included in Burke’s Peerage.

For more information it is worth referring to Burkes Peerage. Often referred to as ‘the aristocracy bible’ Burkes Peerage is the definitive guide to the genealogical history of the major royal, aristocratic and historical families of the United Kingdom, Ireland and the United States of America. There are over one million names in their records which include the peerage and gentry of the United Kingdom, historical families of Ireland, distinguished and presidential families of the United States, and the royal families of Europe, as well as many other prominent individuals.