The Feudal Herald header

 

The FEUDAL HERALD

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

Vol. 2, No. 4, April 2000

The Baronage Press Website
may be reached directly at
http://www.baronage.co.uk


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Copyright (c) 2000 by Pegasus Associates Ltd and The Baronage Press

Information on subscription is given at the foot of this newsletter.
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CONTENTS

* A Welcome to this Special Edition
* Suppression of Free Speech
* The Scam We Condemned
* Fair Comment Stifled
* Support Welcomed - 1
* Support Welcomed - 2
* Support Welcomed - 3
* Subscription

 

AMENDED
COPY

see Contents Page
for explanation

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WELCOME TO THIS SPECIAL EDITION

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

But as we began to write this newsletter, on the last day of April, certain pages of the March-April issue of the BARONAGE magazine had been rendered inaccessible by our ISP. And as we write now on this third day of May, the whole of the Baronage magazine is offline.
This April edition of THE FEUDAL HERALD is thus a special edition to explain why you cannot, as we write, read the BARONAGE magazine online.

SUPPRESSION OF FREE SPEECH

Our ISP moved to protect itself when threatened with a writ by one of the companies selling bogus titles of dignity. Regular readers will know that we advise those who wish to buy titles to be very wary of "titles" offered for sale on the Internet. A minority may be genuine, but do not necessarily fulfil the aspirations of their buyers. The majority are not titles of the kind their advertisers hope to persuade their buyers to believe they are, which is to say in this case that the "titles" are not titles of dignity, that they do not qualify their holders to prefix their names with the words Lord or Lady (for example).

As we cannot expect ISPs to have in-house expertise on feudal and peerage law, we were initially forced to sympathise with our own ISP. The laws governing the responsibility of ISPs for content supplied by their customers are still uncertain in their interpretation, and accordingly our ISP played for safety and suppressed free speech. We were at first sympathetic. We had to be. There seemed nothing else we could immediately do.

The letter to the ISP, written by the lawyer of the complainant, was quite absurd. The words of which complaint was made were not specified. Three charges were levelled. Two of these concerned the truth of two statements which were in fact not made and appear nowhere on the BARONAGE pages. They were doubtless prompted by imagination or by guilt. The third alleged breach of copyright in that the complainant's logo had been reproduced on the pages (but as this was done only to identify clearly the operation we judge to be dishonest, and as a logo is designed and used only for the purpose of identification, our use of it for this purpose was no more a breach of copyright that the mention of the complainant's name is a breach of copyright).
THE SCAM WE CONDEMNED

The complainants are ***** ****** LIMITED and three associated entities. This is how the operation works ~

1. A manor listed in the Domesday Book of 1086 AD is checked to ensure that it is extinct, that no one alive today exercises its manorial rights. (Our example here we shall call "Sinnerston".)

2. Its known history, which may be no more than twenty or thirty words, is committed to paper and copyright claimed on the way in which it has been set down.
3. The phrase "Lord of the Manor of Sinnerston" or "Lordship of the Manor of Sinnerston" is then registered at the Patent Office as a trademark and is henceforward described as a "styled titled name and legend".
4. Documentation is then prepared for the lawful conveyancing of this trademark (sorry ~ "styled titled name and legend") to the first punter who takes a liking to the name of Sinnerston and who rather fancies the idea of being the lord of its manor.
5. The operation's website then advertises its offerings with ~

"Become a Lord or Lady of the Manor, and join the Landed Gentry Society.
Have you ever wished you had been born a Lord or Lady?
Would you like to be titled?
Would you like to call yourselves Lord and Lady Yourname?"

~ and follows up with ~

"Enjoy improved social standing, and even credit rating ~ have your credit card and passport issued in the name of Lord or Lady Yourname. People will call you M'Lord or M'Lady, and your spouse can benefit too at no extra cost. Business people find the title helps attract, impress and retain business. Lord or Lady Yourname typed at the foot of a personally signed letter can do wonders for your response rate on mailings! Landed Gentry Titles are heritage researchers who specialise in ancient feudal titles, and make them available by auction."

6. Potential punters are briefed ~

"The name 'noble' comes from the belief that they [noblemen] were to act in a noble manner."

(And yet these people claim to be historians and scholars!)

"Legend has it that King Richard I (the Lionheart, 1157-1199) said, 'a true nobleman is measured by his deeds, character, and honour'. Acquiring a Manor title of nobility, with such historical value, is to preserve the heritage and ideals of a more honourable era in history. The restoring, and holding of such titles, together with the preservation of their historical importance is indeed an honour and a privilege."

(And these historical "titles" of nobility, remember, are 20th-century trademarks!)

"There are other titles, which incur no cost, but these are granted by government or bestowed by Royal decree."

Note the none-too-subtle suggestion of equivalence ~ there are just different sorts of titles, that's all, but they are all titles!

7. Now the new "Lord of the Manor of Sinnerston" is hooked. What does he get for his money?

'Deed of Title' on hand-made papyrus (decorated with wax seals)

'Title Deed of Assignment' on hand-made papyrus (decorated with wax seals)

Deed of Ownership on hand-made papyrus (decorated with wax seals)

Deed of Certificate on hand-made papyrus decorated with Family Seal of Honour and Latin Motto (if found) (decorated with wax seals)

Domesday Map 1086 A.D showing the Manor (decorated with wax seals)

[These last three items are all "FRAMED", and, no, we do not know what a "Family Seal of Honour and Latin Motto (if found)" is.]

Solicitor's Legal 'Deed of Title' & 'Deed of Assignment'.

And then the clincher ~

"All papyrus documents are treated to give them an aged antique effect."

8. So what now is this new Lord of the Manor? Guidance is given ~

Correct form of Address: "Arthur John Smith, Lord of the Manor of Sinnerston".

BUT ~

Custom & practice form of address: "Lord Sinnerston or Lord of Sinnerston".

9. And what does all this cost? Well, whatever the market will bear seems to be the answer. Prices appear to vary with the degree to which the name may be pretty or famous, but are usually between US$ 8,000 and US$25,000. (Of course, there are other sweeteners. These include the free first-year membership of the Landed Gentry Society, so that the new manorial lords may flatter themselves that they are members of the British Landed Gentry, the great untitled aristocracy of the British Isles. They are most unlikely to be embarrassed by meeting real landed gentry at the meetings of the Society, but they will be comforted to find there others who also bought their "titles".
FAIR COMMENT STIFLED

Everything written in the previous section above either could be read on the operation's website or could be easily deduced. Accordingly, where the BARONAGE commentator had merely reproduced the original text there could be little to form the substance of a complaint. However, the problem for ***** ****** LIMITED and its associates is the follow-up ~ what BARONAGE publishes which is not and never will appear on the ***** ****** pages.

First, and perhaps most important (for it is directly relevant to the operations of all those selling "titles" on the Internet), is that the British Queen is the fons honorum, the fount of honour, in her realm. No one else in the United Kingdom may create lawful titles of dignity or of honour. That is the law.

Second, directly relevant to ***** ****** LIMITED, is that once a manor's rights have been extinguished the manor is extinct. It is not possible to resuscitate it as a manor by registering its name as a trademark.

Third, perhaps rather more difficult for these merchants to grasp, is that the feudal laws relevant to manors, although long defunct in England, continued in Scotland, and in examining the parallels there today (for in early mediaeval times the terms "barony" and "manor" were interchangeable) it can be seen immediately that the criteria for progress to be perfect (effectively having the paperwork of baronies all available and correct to the satisfaction, in Scotland, of the Lord Lyon) are not only not being met, they are not even understood.
Fourth, the killer, is that even if ***** ****** LIMITED were to sell genuine manorial titles instead of registered trademarks in the masquerade of lordships, the new owners would still not have the qualification to call themselves lords and ladies

That is why the BARONAGE comments had to be stifled.

That is why BARONAGE is currently offline.

What the BARONAGE article had said about the customers being able to describe themselves as "Lords and Ladies" was ~

In reality, this 'custom and practice' is too modern to appear in any reputable "Guide to Titles and Forms of Address" or in any published book on etiquette. It is far too modern to appear in any literary work ........ It is a very recent and very dishonest invention, neither custom nor practice.

After that was written, the Editor noticed that we have one book which does mention lords of the manor. We had researched back as far as Thomas Robson's "Different Degrees of Nobility and Gentry" published in 1830 (and he covered everyone from duke down to the rank of yeoman with no mention of manorial lords) without success, and then in the guide published by the "Who's Who" team he found:

Lord of the Manor ~ such lordship confers no rank or title.

So what, you might wonder, does the Government say about this?

The Central Office of Information wrote, and in 1992 Her Majesty's Stationery Office published, under Crown copyright, the official guidebook HONOURS AND TITLES (ISBN 011 710 691 8). This covers everything from the Royal Family down to the rank of Gentleman. In common with all the other reference books we examined (apart from the "Who's Who" one), it makes no mention anywhere of Lords of the Manor. As a title the phrase is today meaningless.

(Actually, this total absence of any mention in all the relevant reference books is more damning than the brief and blunt verdict of the "Who's Who" team.)

And the College of Arms, England's foremost authority on this?

Well, three years ago, John Brooke-Little, CVO, MA, FSA, then Clarenceux King of Arms, wrote ~

There has been considerable and sustained comment in the Press, particularly over the last few months, about Lords of the Manor. Many Lords are selling their manors, very occasionally with vestigial rights and privileges, but usually all that changes hands in such sales is a conveyance consisting of a typed sheet of paper.

Legal opinion generally supports the contention that such is a genuine conveyance of the Lordship of a Manor and entitles the purchaser to style himself 'Lord of the Manor of Blank', and that is about it. The purchaser may not style himself Lord of Blank, as many new Lords of Manors tend to do, nor does it entitle them to be granted arms as is often suggested in the Press. Granting of arms is a question of personal suitability and integrity and is in the nature of an honour, whereas the purchase of a Lordship of a Manor confers no honour, nor social recognition now that the coinage is so debased; indeed the new 'Lords' as often as not are domiciled in the Middle East.

There was a time when the designation "Lord of the Manor" was included in the description of a grantee of arms, but this is no longer done, as it might suggest that the grantee's possession of a lordship was a qualification for being granted arms, which has never been the case.

It is sad to reflect that a description concerned with the ownership of land and the administration of justice ....... should have deteriorated into a folie de grandeur, acquired by the purchase of a piece of paper for an absurdly large sum of money. It is even more sad that the purchasers should have at the same time brought upon themselves the ridicule, scorn and derision rather than envy of those who really are the backbone of England.

And with that verdict an English King of Arms condemned all that this trade in manorial titles uses as its principal selling points. The "title" does not confer nobility (of which in the United Kingdom arms are the ensigns), and its buyer cannot take the style of a Lord (and thereby influence headwaiters, airline stewardesses and business acquaintances).

And, of course, Clarenceux was discussing genuine manorial titles, not registered trademarks.


SUPPORT WELCOMED - 1

Now, as we complete this newsletter, BARONAGE is still offline and may remain so for a little while yet. The ISP is caught between the devil and the deep blue sea - the threat from the complainant on the one hand and the consequences of the breach of our contract on the other.

Accordingly, we ask the FEUDAL HERALD readers to forward this newsletter to as many of their friends and colleagues as they believe might be interested in this subject, or even in just free speech and the preservation of fair comment, with the request that they in turn should forward it to their friends and colleagues. If one punter has his money saved by this, it will be worth the effort, but it will also be useful to spread the message as far around the Internet as possible, the message that buying "titles" from these Internet merchants can create a lot of embarrassment.

Yes, we could "spam" the message, but we condemn spamming. Moreover, it is far more effective for the message to be passed between friends.

SUPPORT WELCOMED - 2

Readers who believe that serious and authoritative publications, such as BARONAGE, should be sheltered from arbitrary closure at the whim of the scam merchants they criticise, might express their views and their support for us, gently, direct to the ISP. (Be kind, be very gentle, for, as noted earlier, the ISP finds itself in a difficult position.) Your views on the freedom to publish fair comment may influence our ISP's lawyers and then perhaps the progress of the court case, and then perhaps the development of Internet law in respect of the ISPs' responsibilities for content.

SUPPORT WELCOMED - 3

The shutdown has emphasised the value of having readers subscribe to this newsletter. We have learned that many find the presence of THE FEUDAL HERALD on the website in HTML renders the plaintext e-mail version unnecessary, but over a thousand of you still prefer to receive it (from the 4,000 per week who visit the website). As we intend to continue the campaign against the merchants exploiting so scandalously the wide interest in genealogy, heraldry, peerage and chivalry, BARONAGE may be closed down again. We hope that next time we shall be able to reach more of you directly to explain the nature of the problem. So, if you are not already a subscriber, do please join our regular readers.

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