I fear last Monday’s post stirred up more confusion than clarity. Such is the problem for many American writers of Regency era stories. Without a peerage system of our own in the U.S., we become easily confused. Most assuredly, I screwed up on more than one occasion. In one of my early books I had a duke addressed as “my lord” instead of “your grace.” Boy, did I hear from that one! I apologize again for all those who I offended. Ignorance is certainly not bliss!
So today, we have part two of some questions on courtesy titles and titles, in general.
Question #1: I believe I read somewhere that Prinny [George, Prince of Wales, (often referred to as Prinny) was the eldest son of George III and was named Prince Regent when his father became too mentally unstable to rule. His “regency,” 1811-1820, gives name to the period. He reigned as George IV from 1820 to 1830] could bestow courtesy titles, is that correct? If so, could a Duke approach Prinny and “purchase” a courtesy title for a man based on his brave deeds?
How would this work? And how long would this process take? And I see the Prince regent held frequent levees during the Regency where he conferred honors on men, welcomed ambassadors, celebrated his birthday, etc. Would these levees be a time for conferring such honors?
Response: The Prince Regent acted in place of the sovereign, and it is true the sovereign could award real titles, but, I fear, not courtesy titles.
Any one could recommend a man to be knighted, made a baronet, made a baron.
As to titles, a man could be made a knight, a baronet, baron, viscount, or earl, depending on the rank he already held and the service he had preformed. It was very rare for anyone to be made a peer of higher rank than earl on the first go around. Even the Duke of Wellington was only conferred as Viscount Wellington in the beginning.
To the best of my knowledge, James I openly sold baronetcies. Most other peerage titles were advancements in the peerage for those already peers or new creations like the one for Wellington. Most new creations in the peerage were made barons. The most issued honor was a common knighthood. Next comes a baronetcy. Both the knighthood and the baronetcy were addressed as “Sir,” but only the baronetcy was hereditary.
Follow-Up Question: So, I could have a Duke approach King George IV (as my story is set in 1820) and request a man be made a baron. What would likely sway the King? Some deed of bravery, such as saving a marquess’s daughter, a duke’s sister-in-law, and rescuing over 100 children? What would prove his loyalty to the king and also show him as worthy?
Also, how long before the title could be bestowed and how would it be announced?
Response: If the Duke could assure the King, the man would be a good Tory, the Prime Minister would not put up a fuss.
In the “olden” days, the king would take a sword and tap the man on the shoulder and then fasten a belt around his waist with which to hold the sword, such is why men had been called “belted earls.” By 1820, the man had to be asked what title he preferred. Wellington’s brother is said to have chosen Wellington for his brother’s peerage when the man was first made a viscount.
Then the College of Arms checks to see if anyone else has that title. Had been attainted? Was it in abeyance?
Then a patent is drawn up bestowing the peerage on the man. If the patent has an error it cannot be corrected.
There is a ceremony at which time the king bestows the title on the man and gives him the patent.
The man must pay the College of arms a fee.
Then he must apply to the House of Lords for admittance as a peer. (A writ of summons). He sends in a statement he has a patent and provides the information about it which has already been published in the London Gazette.
He asks two peers of his own rank– one the most senior he can find and the other the youngest before him (meaning the date their peerages were bestowed, not the person’s actual age) to accompany him. He receives a writ of summons and when the House is in session he dresses in his parliamentary robe with his two sponsors also in their robes (They must be of the same rank as he and cannot be the duke).
He approaches the woolsack and presents his credentials. His patent is read aloud. Then he and the two sponsors step out to remove their robes and return quietly to take seats in ordinary clothes.
See Nancy Mayer’s Introduction of a New Peer for more information on the actual procedure: http://www.regencyresearcher.com/pages/intropeerlords.html
As an after note, I used the introduction procedure as a plot point in my story “Courting Lord Whitmire.” In a pivotal chapter, Lord Andrew Whitmire is called to House of Lords to claim his title and, afterwards, encounters the Duke of Wellington. Irony, thy name is plot devices!
Courting Lord Whitmire: A May-December Regency Romance
By Regina Jeffers
(Released March 22, 2020)
At the bend of the path, an unexpected meeting.
She is all May. He is December.
But loves knows not time.
Colonel Lord Andrew Whitmire has returned to England after spending fifteen years in service to his country. In truth, he would prefer to be anywhere but home. Before he departed England, his late wife, from an arranged marriage, had cuckolded him in a scandal that had set Society’s tongues wagging. His daughter, Matilda, who was reared by his father, enjoys calling him “Father” in the most annoying ways. Unfortunately, his future is the viscountcy, and Andrew knows his duty to both the title and his child. He imagines himself the last of his line until he encounters Miss Verity Coopersmith, the niece of his dearest friend, the man who had saved Andrew’s life at Waterloo. Miss Coopersmith sets Whitmire’s world spinning out of control. She is truly everything he did not know he required in his life. However, she is twenty-two years his junior, young enough to be his daughter, but all he can think is she is absolute perfection.