Definitions

baronet

baronet

[bar-uh-nit, bar-uh-net]

British hereditary rank of honor, first created by James I in 1611 to raise money, ostensibly for support of troops in Ulster. The baronetage is not part of the peerage, nor is it an order of knighthood. A baronet ranks below a baron but above all knights except a Knight of the Garter (see Order of the Garter). The baronetcy is inherited by the male heirs of a baronet.

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A baronet (traditional abbreviation Bart, modern abbreviation Bt) or the rare female equivalent, a baronetess (abbreviation Btss), is the holder of a hereditary title awarded by the British Crown known as a baronetcy. The current practice of awarding baronetcies was originally introduced in England and Ireland by James I of England in 1611 in order to raise funds.

Baronetcies have three European equivalents from a ranking perspective: the Italian title of nobility Nobile, the Austrian and South German title of Edler von and the extinct old-Polish panek ("lordling"), although hereditary knights, such as the German and Austrian Ritter and the Dutch Erfridder, may be held to be similar. There were originally three hereditary knighthoods in Ireland, of which two remain today.

The name baronet is a diminutive of the peerage title baron. The rank of a baronet is between that of a baron and a knight.

A baronetcy is unique in two ways:

History of the term

The term baronet is of ancient origin. Sir Thomas de la More, describing the Battle of Barrenberg (1321), mentioned that baronets took part, along with barons and knights. Edward III is known to have created eight baronets in 1328: St Leger, Baronet of Sledmarge; Den, Baronet of Pormanston; Fitzgerald, Baronet of Burnchurch; Welleslye, Baronet of Narraghe; Husee, Baronet of Gattrim; St Michell, Baronet of Reban; Marwarde, Baronet of Scryne; and Nangle, Baronet of the Navan. Further creations were made in 1340, 1446 and 1551. At least one of these, Sir William de la Pole in 1340, was created for payment of money, presumably needed by the king to help maintain his army. It is not known if these early creations were hereditary, but all seem to have died out.

The term baronet was applied to the noblemen who lost the right of individual summons to Parliament, and was used in this sense in a statute of Richard II. A similar rank of lower stature is the banneret.

The revival of baronetcies can be dated to Sir Robert Cotton's discovery in the late 16th or early 17th century of William de la Pole's patent (issued in the 13th year of Edward III's reign), conferring upon him the dignity of a baronet in return for a sum of money.

Subsequent baronetcies fall into the following five creations:

  1. King James I erected the hereditary Order of Baronets in England on 22 May 1611 for the settlement of Ireland. He offered the dignity to 200 gentlemen of good birth, with a clear estate of £1,000 a year, on condition that each one paid a sum equivalent to three years' pay for 30 soldiers at 8d per day per man into the King's Exchequer. The idea came from the Earl of Salisbury, who averred: "The Honour will do the Gentry very little Harm," while doing the Exchequer a lot of good.
  2. The Baronetage of Ireland was erected on 30 September 1611.
  3. King Charles I erected the hereditary Baronetage of Scotland or Nova Scotia on 28 May 1625, for the establishment of the plantation of Nova Scotia.
  4. After the union of England and Scotland in 1707, no further Baronets of England or Scotland were created, the style being changed to Baronet of Great Britain.
  5. After the union of Great Britain and Ireland on 1 January 1801 to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, all baronetcies created were under the style of the United Kingdom.

Since 1965 only one new baronetcy has been created, for Sir Denis Thatcher, the husband of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (now Baroness Thatcher). Upon his death in 2003, their eldest son became the 2nd Baronet, Sir Mark Thatcher.

Conventions

Like knights, baronets use the title "Sir" before their name. Baronetesses in their own right use "Dame", while wives of baronets (though legally a Dame) use "Lady" by longstanding courtesy. Unlike knighthoods however, which apply to an individual only, a baronetcy is hereditary. The eldest son of a baronet who is born in wedlock is entitled to accede to the baronetcy upon the death of his father, but he will not be officially recognised until his name is on the Roll. With a few exceptions, baronetcies can be inherited only by or through males. Wives of baronets are not baronetesses; only females holding baronetcies in their own right are baronetesses.

A full list of extant baronets can be found in Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, which includes a few extinct baronetcies.

Because baronet is not a peerage title, it does not disqualify the holder from standing for election to the British House of Commons. Since 1999 hereditary peerages do not either, so the distinction has become largely historical. A number of baronets were returned to the House of Commons in the 2001 General Election.

Originally baronets also had other rights, including the right to have the eldest son knighted on his 21st birthday. However, beginning in the reign of George IV, these rights have been gradually revoked (by Order in Privy Council, which was not competent to make such an Order revoking a right granted by a Sovereign), on the grounds that sovereigns should not be bound by acts made by their predecessors.

According to the Home Office there is a tangible benefit to the honour. According to law, a baronet is entitled to have "a pall supported by two men, a principal mourner and four others" assisting at his funeral.

Baronets of Scotland or Nova Scotia were granted the Arms of Nova Scotia in their armorial bearings and the right to wear about the neck the badge of Nova Scotia, suspended by an orange-tawny ribbon. This consists of an escutcheon argent with a saltire azure thereon, an inescutcheon of the arms of Scotland, with an Imperial Crown above the escutcheon, and encircled with the motto Fax mentis Honestae Gloria. This Badge may be shown suspended by the ribbon below the shield of arms.

Baronets of England and Ireland applied to King Charles I for permission to wear a badge. Although a badge was worn in the 17th century, it was not until 1929 that permission was granted (by King George V) for all baronets other than those of Scotland to wear a badge.

The left hand

Baronets were granted the Arms of Ulster as a canton or inescutcheon in armorial bearings, argent a sinister hand couped at the wrist and erect gules, known as the Badge of Ulster (although the Ulster hand is dexter).
Somewhere along the line a mistake has been made, as the Red Hand of Ulster is definitely a dexter or right one.

The Baronets' Badge was created by Royal Warrant of George V, dated 13 April 1929. The relevant part of the text is as follows:

"A shield of the Arms of Ulster on a silver field, viz. on a silver field a left hand Gules surmounted by an Imperial Crown enamelled in its proper colours the whole enclosed by an oval border embossed with gilt scrollwork having a design of roses, of shamrocks and of roses and thistles combined for those Baronets who were created Baronets of England, of Ireland and of Great Britain respectively and for all other Baronets other than Baronets of Scotland a design of roses, thistles and shamrocks combined such Badge to be suspended from an orange riband with a narrow edge of dark blue on both sides the total breadth of the riband to be one inch and three quarters and the breadth of each edge to be one quarter of an inch.

The Badge may be shown suspended by its riband below the shield of arms.

Addressing a baronet

The correct style on an envelope for a baronet who has no other titles is "Sir , Bt" or "Sir , Bart". The letter would commence: "Dear Sir ".

Wives of baronets are addressed and referred to as "Lady "; at the head of a letter as "Dear Lady ". Their given name is used only when necessary to distinguish , Lady from , .

Addressing a baronetess

As for the very rare baronetess, one should write "Dame , Btss" on the envelope. At the head of the letter, one would write "Dear Dame ," and to refer to her, you would say "Dame " or "Dame " (never "Dame Dunbar").

Baronetcy conferred upon a woman

There have been only three baronetesses:



Additionally:

  • Maxwell, now Stirling-Maxwell of Pollock (cr.1682), can pass through the female line

In 1976 Lord Lyon said that, without examining the Patent of every Scottish Baronetcy, he was not in a position to confirm that only these four can pass through the female line.

Territorial designations

All Baronetcies are distinguished by having a territorial designation. So, for example, there are Baronetcies Moore of Colchester, Moore of Hancox, Moore of Kyleburn and Moore of Moore Lodge.

The number of baronetcies

The first publication listing all baronetcies ever created was C.J. Parry's Index of Baronetcy Creations (1967). This listed them in alphabetical order, other than the last five creations (Dodd of West Chillington, Redmayne of Rushcliffe, Pearson of Gressingham, Finlay of Epping and Thatcher of Scotney). It showed the total number created from 1611 to 1964 to have been 3482. They include five of Oliver Cromwell, several of which were recreated by Charles II. Twenty-five were created between 1688 and 1784 by James II in exile after his dethronement, by his son James Stuart ("The Old Pretender") and his grandson Charles Edward Stuart ("Bonny Prince Charlie"). These are known as Jacobite baronetcies. These were never accepted by the English establishment and have all disappeared. They should properly be excluded from the 3,482, making the effective number of baronetcy creations 3,457. A close examination of Perry's publication shows he missed one or two, so there have evidently been a few more.

The total number of baronetcies today is approximately 1,380, although only some 1,280 are on the Official Roll. It is unknown whether some baronetcies, such as the Earl of Breadalbane, remain extant and it may be that nobody can prove himself to be the heir incumbent. Over 200 baronetcies are now held by peers and others, such as the Knox line have been made tenuous due to internal family dispute.

All Baronetcies Number
1611-1964 per C J Perry 3,482
Plus five more 5
Less Jacobite baronetcies 25
Plus a few ?
Total extant Approx 1,380

Notable baronets

Baronetcies the subject of attainders

Baronetcies with special remainders

  • James II made Cornelis Speelman a baronet in 1686. He was a Dutch general. By a special clause his mother was given the rank of widow of a Baronet of England. His descendant, Sir Cornelis, is now the 8th Baronet.
  • When Sir George Stonhouse, 1st Baronet was made a Baronet, the remainder specifically excluded his eldest son.
  • When Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy was made a baronet, it was realised that the Parsi custom was for a change of names for each generation. An Act was passed providing that all the male heirs should take these names and no other. Similar provision was made for subsequent Parsi baronets.

Baronets who do not use their baronetcy

Baronetcies conferred upon non-Britons

Baronetcies conferred on the recommendation of Canadian governments

See also Canadian Baronets
This practice ended as a result of the Nickle Resolution.

Australia

The Netherlands

India

Iraq

New Zealand

South Africa

Sweden

In Fiction

See also

References

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