An Online Newsletter from The Baronage Press
featuring Heraldry and related subjects

Vol. 1, No. 5 - May 1999

The Baronage Press Website
may be reached directly at


Copyright (c) 1999 by Pegasus Associates Ltd and The Baronage Press

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* A Welcome and a note on Scotland's new government
* Classical Heraldry
* Titles for Sale ~ Caveat emptor
* Heraldic Badges
* To be uploaded in late-June
* Letters to the Editor (1) Burke's Peerage
* Letters to the Editor (2) The Misuse of Titles
* Culinaria ~ Sponsor for the Culinary Arts column
* Looking Around: The Burlington Arcade
* Heirloom & Howard
* Pegasus Armorie
* Our Sponsors and Advertisers



The primary purpose of this newsletter is to link regular Baronage readers to those articles in the magazine that might interest them, so in it you may find mention of the art, symbolism and meaning of heraldry, and, from time to time, of the history, politics, warfare, books, cinema and other entertainment to which heraldry has thematic links.

Heraldry has become to modern eyes more associated with pomp and pageantry than with the mediaeval warfare that fostered and shaped its initial development. The State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster is its most famous manifestation, and to this heraldry adds the splendour and dignity necessary to camouflage the petty nature of the politics on which the Gracious Speech written for the Queen is usually based.

It is both sad and instructive to note that the opening ceremonies for the new Scottish parliament will dispense with most heraldic display. Officials whose presence could be defended as essential to the purported continuity of the institution have not been invited to perform their historic duties. Instead we shall be entertained with the posturing of such as Mr Salmond (who, after swearing allegiance to the Queen, attempted to renounce his oath by muttering a claim that it was the sovereignty of the Scottish people only that he recognised ~ seemingly ignorant of the reality that it is the Queen who symbolises and represents the sovereignty of the Scottish people, not he).

Much has been made of the pretence that "the Scottish Parliament has been reconvened and is sitting once again" ~ but, of course, it has not and it isn't. The new assembly may be described as a "parliament", but it is not that ancient Scottish Parliament whose sittings, tragically, were suspended in 1707 sine die. The new assembly is a quite different animal, and it should not in honour attempt to claim respectability on the basis of fictional historic links. It will have to earn its own honourable reputation ~ which it may yet do if it can keep Mr Salmond quiet.


The second part of this series continues the discussion on shield shapes and presents examples from the early centuries.


Newspapers have reported rumours of police investigations into the dealings of one of the most prominent of the agencies selling titles to seekers of nobility. We continue our "Caveat emptor" campaign with details of a couple of cases that might be of general interest.


The second article in this series illustrates some early badges and demonstrates their use on heraldic standards.


We are continuing the system of uploading each calendar quarter's magazine contents in monthly instalments, so the July-September Contents Page will feature new articles only (of which one-third will be accessible immediately). The last of the current quarter's contributions ~ the second of the articles on the Origins of the Bruces, A View from Maastricht on the Kosovo Crisis, and the first in a new series on the Culinary Arts in History ~ are to be held over until the July issue.


Dear Editor,

According to Burke's Peerage and Baronetage (106th Edition), almost half of Britain's 60,000 aristocrats were born out of wedlock, fathered by men not married to their mothers, or descended from a bastard. What are you planning to do about this?

Concerned in California


Dear Concerned in California,

One of the more charitable members of the Baronage editorial staff has hypothesised a confusion between being "born out of wedlock" and having at least one ancestor whose paternity may have been either doubtful or was known to have been offside.

Some members of the editorial staff of The Baronage Press descend from many bastards, one of whom was a cardinal. This (apart from the Cardinal's contribution) is not unusual, and perhaps 30,000 aristocrats do know that they have at least one bastard ancestor, but the phrasing of this report suggests widespread bastardy in this present generation, which is not so, most certainly not to the extent implied.

Yours sincerely,
Jane Forbes
pp The Baronage Press


We assumed that the cause of our correspondent's alarm might have been a report in The Times (of London), for this was an appalling mishmash of sloppy journalism. It began by noting that "10,000 of the 60,000-strong 'old aristocracy'" were "born 'on the wrong side of the sheets'" (which a brief thought will reveal is statistically absurd), recorded (correctly) the appearance of the 106th edition of Burke's Peerage & Baronetage and then introduced the name of Harold Brooks-Baker as "the American publishing director of Burke's Peerage".

The "Burke's Peerage" of which Harold Brooks-Baker is proclaimed to be the "publishing director" has no connection at all with the new edition of Burke's Peerage & Baronetage. Brooks-Baker's "Burke's Peerage" is a partnership that bought the rights to the Burke's Peerage name from the Receiver after the company failed, but the rights to the flagship book are owned elsewhere. Brooks-Baker's "Burke's Peerage" leases the right to use the name to companies such as Halbert's (where it is used to separate gullible family historians from their money.).

This report in The Times then proceeded to claim that Burke's Peerage (the book) "is scoured by genealogists (misspelt) and those seeking to purchase a vacant title at a cut-price rate." (Those of our readers who understandably refuse to believe this will find the report on page 8 of the issue of 24 May 1999.) The peerage titles and baronetage titles listed by Burke's Peerage & Baronetage cannot be bought, whether "vacant" or not, and it is astonishing that such a suggestion was able to slip past the sub-editor.

The final shock (remembering that once ~ it does now seem a long time ago ~ The Times was considered authoritative) is to be found in the penultimate paragraph. This states that the qualification for inclusion (in Burke's Peerage & Baronetage, remember) was "substantial ownership of land" and that "this had to change at the turn of the century when many families became landless." "Why," the author must surely have asked himself, "isn't this book titled 'Burke's Substantial Landowners'?"

Such sloppy journalism is a problem for the Editor of The Times, not for us, but the name of Brooks-Baker (and his photograph) given prominence in an article about a distinguished book with which he has no association at all is a disservice to the public. Some of the publicity posted with the Halbert's scam used to claim (and may still do so) that Brooks-Baker's "Burke's Peerage" (the one of which he is the "publishing director") has been "the guardian of the British aristocracy since 1826" (although that "guardian" was liquidated some years ago and is as dead as John Cleese's parrot). This new and undeserved publicity will give the Halbert's scam renewed vitality and separate even more innocents from their money.

Gentle readers, please warn those of your friends researching their family histories.

Oh, yes, there was one more shock. Alongside the photograph of Harold Brooks-Baker was another captioned as "the Burke's coat of arms". But it did not show the armorial achievement of Sir Bernard Burke used by his company's publications. It showed instead a copy of the Queen's arms encircled by the Garter and ensigned with her crown (which ought to have been recognised by the Editor of The Times, for they appear on his front page every day).

The Royal Arms as they appeared, captioned as those of Burke's Peerage (or perhaps those of Sir Bernard Burke, its most famous editor) in the online version of The Times on
24 May 1999.



Dear Sir,

Your introduction to the JAG to Heraldry & Titles uses the example of the misuse of Christian names with the titles of Lord and Lady. What do you think of Baroness Kennedy's views as described in her letter to The Spectator of March 27th?

Yours faithfully,
Robert Kennedy


Dear Mr Kennedy,

Lady Kennedy's coronet

We find it impossible to reconcile Lady Kennedy's insistence on imprecision with her professional reputation as a Queen's Counsel.

Yours sincerely,
Jane Forbes
pp The Baronage Press


There is an interesting story behind this one. The Spectator, the oldest and most acclaimed weekly in the British Isles, publishes regularly a small column by Dot Wordsworth. Recently she commented on another journalist's reference to Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws as Baroness Helena Kennedy and described it as ill-informed.

Lady Kennedy then wrote, and the journal published, a letter that attacked Dot Wordsworth in an injudicious manner and advanced views which, if she were to follow them in her court appearances, would make her appear inept. In short, she advocated the virtues of sloppy, imprecise language.

>>>>> Let me assure Ms? Miss? Mrs? Wordsworth that neither the journalist nor I are ill-informed. We just think the information as to what is proper is rather silly and a form of political correctness that has no place in the late 20th century. Social "rules" may be a matter of serious moment to the small-minded, but most people in the modern world feel that conventions should only exist as a way of extending consideration to others, and they should make sense. <<<<<

Lady Kennedy then continued with an ancient debating trick one would hope a distinguished lawyer could resist, that of suggesting her opponent might believe something else wholly irrelevant ~ so that the scorn poured on the irrelevant and unjustified suggestion might be spread across to the original controversy. (Ironically, Lady Kennedy's manoeuvre, which referred to the use of the prefix "Miss" before an unmarried lady's surname, clearly exposed her ignorance of its correct use ~ for she implied that this was restricted to the eldest daughter in a family, confusing it with the now largely discarded tradition that the eldest daughter is "Miss Surname" and her younger sisters "Miss Forename Surname".)

>>>>> A certain loss of dignity takes place when the Christian name is dropped, and I like mine and want to use it. Conventions should change with time. It seems ridiculous to me that we have a plethora of lords called Mackay who feel unable to distinguish themselves one from the other with a forename. Lords should be able to use their whole name if that is how they like it. <<<<<

"Conventions should change with time." ??????? Conventions most certainly do tend to change with time, but where is the imperative? Why should any one specific convention change without reason (other than, as Lady Kennedy insists, that time has passed since it was first introduced ~ a popular belief among the policy-formulators of the British Labour Party)? Is this really a lawyer's view?

And the "unhealthy repletion" (yes, she wrote "plethora") "of lords called Mackay who feel unable to distinguish themselves one from the other ....... " But they are adequately distinguished by their territorial designations ~ Mackay of Ardbrecknish, Mackay of Clashfern, and Mackay of Drumadoon ~ in a manner proved to be adequate and viable over several centuries. Their unhealthiness (Concise Oxford Dictionary) in the eyes of Lady Kennedy may be owed to their political complexion, all three, unlike the noble Lady, being of the "Conservative" persuasion, but even so it seems unkind of her to make their illnesses a point of discussion.

But to return to the fundamental issue. In her opening paragraph Lady Kennedy wrote that information as to what is proper is "rather silly and a form of political correctness that has no place in the late 20th century". If that had been the view of our ancestors during their centuries, we would today have no law. She continued, "Social 'rules' may be a matter of serious moment to the small-minded, but most people in the modern world feel that conventions should only exist as a way of extending consideration to others, and they should make sense". The "small-minded" is an interesting charge, and the "political correctness" is something more readily associated with Lady Kennedy's philosophies.

Now to the most significant of Lady Kennedy's views, on conventions having the purpose "of extending consideration to others". Does this include, we wonder, ensuring that one's own carelessness or contempt does not confuse others? Does it cover the situation in which a noble and learned Lady, who really does know better, adopts a style that misleads others to believe her to be the daughter of a duke, marquess or earl ~ to be, with the Kennedy name, the child of a Marquess of Ailsa? "Lady Helena Kennedy" can be no one else (other than the daughter of a duke, marquess or earl who has married a Kennedy), and "Baroness Helena Kennedy" would be the daughter of a duke, marquess or earl who has received a Writ of Summons as Baroness Kennedy.

If there are other baronesses who wish their Christian name to be used as part of their address, we would support the style of, for example, "Helena Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws" ~ on the basis that it would be an innovation that would not confuse. "Helena, Lady Kennedy" would suggest she was the divorced wife of a Lord Kennedy or of a baronet, or the dowager of a deceased Lord Kennedy or of a deceased baronet. It was once considered incorrect to refer to a baroness as "Baroness Xxx" rather than as "Lady Xxx", but modern usage among the life peers appears to have changed this. Accordingly, "Helena Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws" ~ note the absence of a comma after "Helena" ~ may be a formula sufficiently distinctive to eliminate confusion about the lady's exact rank and status.

CULINARIA ~ Sponsor for the Culinary Arts column

As mentioned earlier, in July we begin a new column dedicated to interesting and sometimes famous dinners in history. This is to be sponsored by Culinaria, specialist in premium quality olive oils, marinades and dressings (currently available only in the British Isles, but soon also in North America).

LOOKING AROUND: The Burlington Arcade

The magazine features occasional articles on shopping areas of genuine historical interest to ancestor-hunting tourists in the British Isles. One such is the famous Burlington Arcade, of which we have featured a description for several months.


A few of those who respond to our invitation to read the Heirloom & Howard catalogues forget to add their postal address, thinking perhaps that these are online catalogues. They are, of course, printed catalogues with illustrations of armorial porcelain and heraldic antiques printed in full colour in the traditional way.

In addition to their stock of porcelain and antiques, identified and connected to the families that once owned these rare items, Heirloom & Howard have a fine collection of prints featuring old houses and castles and the ancestors (your ancestors ?) who once lived in them. Enquiries are welcomed.


We continue to receive a large number of letters beginning - "Please send me a picture of my coat of arms." These show the widespread influence of the bucketshop heralds who have seemingly persuaded thousands of punters that coats of arms belong to family names.

Pegasus will supply pictures of arms that we are willing to certify as having been borne by named individuals (and those individuals are named on the picture), but Pegasus Armorie is not in the fraudulent business of supplying "arms for names" with the implication that the arms supplied may be lawfully used by the buyer as his or her own.

However, there is undoubtedly a market demand for armorial display. The colours and shapes of heraldry have been so long in our history that they are sunk deeply into our subconscious minds. We respond accordingly to their beauty.

And so Pegasus has begun to produce a series of illustrations that will be suitable for framing and hanging on the walls of bedrooms, halls, studies, libraries, etc. Initially these will be appropriate for Scottish names, and in each case they will feature the badge of the clansmen of that name surrounded by the arms of the families whose daughters have been the ancestors of the present chief of the name.

Additionally, Pegasus Armorie is to work with the Baronage Press to establish an online Register of Scottish Clans. Members of Clans who request that their name be recorded and pay the artists' fees will receive a high-resolution printed certificate embossed with the seal of The British Baronage. An example of one of these has been uploaded (but it is a large picture and may need a minute to download). It illustrates the crest-badge of Clan Stewart set against the scenery near the old Stewart Castle of Gloume. The cloth inside the strap-and-buckle and behind the crest is an old Stewart tartan. (The picture downloaded will be, of course, at low resolution, and unsuitable for printing.)


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