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Unentitled (continued)

GLENDOWER: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.

HOTSPUR: Why so can I, or so can any man;
But will they come when you do call for them?

The significance of the quotation with which we started is becoming clearer.

Timothy Alexander has made several claims ~

1. To be the Earl of Stirling
2. To be Sir Timothy Alexander of Menstrie, Bt

3. To be Sir Timothy Alexander of Menstrie and of that Ilk, Bt

4. To be the Baron of Greenan and owner of Greenan Castle.

Arms of Alexander of that Ilk
1. The earldom of Stirling has been dormant since 1739, although William Alexander, commander-in-chief of the army in North America, bore the title, without having established his right to it, until his death in 1795. In principle, anyone can make a claim to a peerage title by assuming it, but the test to the validity of the claim comes with the task of establishing the right to the title. Timothy Alexander in his assumption of the title of "Earl of Stirling" may hold that he does no wrong ~ but if he claims that thereby he has established his right to the title he does do wrong, and must act circumspectly if he is to avoid charges.

The usual way to establish the right to inherit a title is to apply for a Writ of Summons to attend Parliament (a procedure that will have to be reviewed in the light of new legislation abolishing the hereditary parliamentary rights of peers), and then the Committee for Privileges examines the validity of the documentation supporting the line of descent of the claimant and his relationship to the previous holder of the peerage title. Timothy Alexander appears to have no such documentation and in its absence rests his claim on his having assumed the title with no one objecting to his having done so. He states that this is valid "under Scots law and tradition".

He thus seems to believe that the feudal process of prescription that can be applied to property (including feudal titles) can be applied also to titles of dignity in the peerage. He is wrong. Succession to peerage titles is much more closely regulated than that.

2. The baronetcy became dormant at the same time as the earldom and the other junior peerage titles associated with it. The procedure for its revival is overseen by the Home Secretary and not by the House of Lords, but the same rules of evidence apply for the proof of descent. Timothy Alexander appears to have no such proof of descent and implies that he relies on prescription, a procedure that has never been applied to the succession to baronetcies and cannot ever be applied.

3. Timothy Alexander adds to the territorial designation "of Menstrie" the claim to be "Alexander of that Ilk" ("Alexander of Alexander"), which means he pretends to be the chief of the Name and of the Clan. Again, anyone can assume the title, but without the recognition of the Lord Lyon (through the matriculation of the undifferenced arms) or of the Council of the Scottish Chiefs, or of the Alexander Clan, it is meaningless.

4. The claim to the barony of Greenan, although the most junior title, was eventually revealed to be the most interesting. The castle is a heap of stones in a picturesque location on the Ayrshire coast and was sold, together with a miniscule amount of land and the baronial title, ten years ago for about $12,000. The buyer was a syndicate of which Timothy Alexander was a member. The syndicate's intention, we have been told, was to sell the title for a larger sum of money, and while a buyer was sought Timothy Alexander suggested he should hold the property in his name because he had, he confessed, "always wanted to be a baron."

The court proceedings that followed were based on Timothy Alexander's refusal to return the property to the syndicate. He was apparently determined to remain a baron, and as he was in the United States while all the other syndicate members were in the United Kingdom, the prosecution was weak. However, while the issue of ownership was in contention, and the subject of legal process, the Lord Lyon would be unable to grant arms with the baronial additaments to the unarmigerous Timothy Alexander. Hence the reason Timothy Alexander has no lawful arms.

We can summarise by noting ~

Timothy Alexander can call himself what he wishes ~ so long as he does not impersonate someone else, and so long as he gains no pecuniary advantage thereby.

However, if he should state or imply that he has established his right to the titles he has assumed, then he leaves himself open to charges of deceit and it is open to anyone to claim that they have suffered loss by such deceit (even when that is untrue).

Moreover, if he has a title to which he is not entitled on his credit cards or passport or driving licence or cheque books, and if there should be a claim that someone acted in a certain way and sustained a loss because that title was believed to be genuine, then an action for false pretences might be successful.

The dishonest use of personal titles of dignity is highly dangerous.

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The October-December 1999 Baronage contents page
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