A “baron” is defined as the lowest rank of nobility in the British peerage system. It is a title of honor and customarily a hereditary one. That being said, the sticking point of this post is the fact the term “Baron” is not used as a form of address in Britain, barons usually referred to as “Lord.” In direct address, they can also be referred to as My Lord, Your Lordship, or Your Ladyship, but never as My Lady (except in the case of a female judge). Husband(s) of a Baroness in her own right are not conferred any elevated style in their right. Children of Barons and Baronesses in their own right, whether hereditary or for life, have the style The Honourable [Forename] [Surname]. After the death of the father or mother, the child may continue to use the style The Honourable. I know this is surprising for many of you. It was for me when I realized how often I had misused this in my novels.
“In the England, the medieval Latin word bario, baronis was used originally to denote a tenant-in- chief of the early Norman kings who held his lands by the feudal tenure of “barony” (in Latin per baroniam), and who was entitled to attend the Great Council, which by the 13th century had developed into the Parliament of England. Feudal baronies (or “baronies by tenure”) are now obsolete in England and without any legal force but any such historical titles are held in gross, that is to say are deemed to be enveloped within a more modern extant peerage title also held by the holder, sometimes along with vestigial manorial rights and tenures by grand serjeanty.” (Baron)
According to all of the reference books on titles, the word Baron is used only in peerage books, patents of peerages, and in Parliament where certain seats are designated for barons. A man might be a baron, but he is never addressed or referred to as such. The aristocracy believed that if a person was one of them, then he or she would practice this styling. Using Baron incorrectly proved the person was no one of the elite aristocratic group.
When a woman is named a Baroness that means that she holds her title in her own right. A Baroness in her own right can be addressed either as Baroness or lady title.
A bit of confusion arises for many of us because the judges of the court of the Exchequer are called Barons. This is even more confusing because the men are Sirs.
Most barons use their family name as their title so the two are the same. But in some cases they are different. In my A Touch of Honor, John Swenton is Lord Swenton. He is a baron. However, it is possible that I could have styled him as John Swenton, Lord Monroe. Needless to say in an 8-book series, one more name would have been confusing to my readers, but it was an option. More confusion could arise because sometimes there are two barons with the same title name, so if there were two Lord Swentons, one would be Lord Swenton of Swenton Hall, while the other would be Lord Swenton of Nash Manor. In other words, they become known as Lord XXXX of (some place name at or near their seat) to differentiate them, though the ‘of’ is merely a way to keep them straight than an actual part of their title.
Though one can say “Lord Byron is a baron,” one would never call him Baron Byron. One did not say “Baron and Baroness Byron” arrived, entertained, etc. The fact that Byron was a baron was noted in the book of peerage, in his seat in the House of Lords, and when one had to rank men by precedence. Other wise he is always Lord Byron. His wife is Lady Byron.
“In the twentieth-century Britain introduced the concept of non-hereditary life peers. All appointees to this distinction have (thus far) been at the rank of baron. In accordance with the tradition applied to hereditary peers they too are formally addressed in parliament by their peers as ‘The Noble Lord.’
“In addition, baronies are often used by their holders as subsidiary titles, for example as courtesy titles for the son and heir of an Earl or higher-ranked peer. The Scottish baronial title tends to be used when a landed family is not in possession of any United Kingdom peerage title of higher rank, subsequently granted, or has been created a knight of the realm.
“Several members of the royal family with the style of Royal Highness are also titled Barons. For example, Charles, Prince of Wales also is The Baron of Renfew. His eldest son Prince William, Duke of Cambridge is also The Baron Carrickfergus. Similarly, Prince Andrew, Duke of York is The Baron Killyleagh. (Baron)
If a woman is introduced or known as Baroness XXXX, for instance, that meant she held the title in her own right. That is why it is correct to call female life peers “baroness,” but not to do call the wife of a baron “baroness.”
“Scottish barons style their surnames similarly to Clan Chiefs, with the name of their barony following their name, as in John Smith of Edinburgh orJohn Smith, Baron of Edinburgh. Most formally, and in writing, they are styled as The Much Honoured Baron of Edinburgh. Their wives are styled Lady Edinburgh, or The Baroness of Edinburgh. The phrase Lady of Edinburgh is wrong if the lady in question does not hold a Scottish barony in her own right. Orally, Scottish barons may be addressed with the name of their barony, as in Edinburgh or else as Baron without anything else following, which if present would suggest a peerage barony. Informally, when referring to a Scots feudal baron in the third person, the name Baron of [X] is used or simply [X].
“The United Kingdom policy of using titles on passports requires that the applicant provides evidence that the Lord XXXX has been recognised with a feudal barony, or the title is included in Burke’s Peerage. If accepted (and if the applicant wishes to include the title), the correct form is for the applicant to include the territorial designation as part of their surname ([surname] of [territorial designation]; e.g. Smith of Inverglen). The Observation would then show the holder’s full name, followed by their feudal title e.g. The holder is Brian Smith, Baron of Inverglen.” (Baron)
Foreign barons can be called Baron. Customarily when one was introduced to a man called Baron YYYY it meant he was of foreign extraction.
The only other baron called baron was a judge of the Exchequer who was called a baron of the Exchequer — meaning a judge of that court.