A “Baron” By Any Other Name, May Not Be As Correct As One Assumes…

First, permit me to say, I am again taking our sweet Gianna Thomas’s place. Though Gianna is now out of the hospital, vertigo is still her enemy, and she is spending much of her time lying down and resting and hoping the walls of the room would quit swaying. If you are a praying person, please keep her in your prayers.

Being a “baron” means a man holds a title of the nobility. In the British system, he is below a viscount (baron, viscount, earl, marquess, duke). In those countries without “viscounts,” a baron is below a “count,” which is the same as an earl in Britain. In feudal times, a baron swore loyalty to a “superior” in return for goods and, hopefully, land to pass on to his heirs. It might sound a big confusing, but this “superior” was likely the sovereign in the baron’s principality. He held lands which he could present to the baron as his tenant-in-chief. In what is called “subinfeudation,” this baron may have his own barons assisting him as his subordinates. This practice was discontinued when King Edward I (Edward Longshanks) was on the throne of England. Edward I did much to strengthen the Crown in the feudal hierarchy through a series of statutes.

“Edward reluctantly accepted the Provisions of Oxford (1258), which gave effective government to the barons at the expense of the king. On the other hand, he intervened dramatically to support the radical Provisions of Westminster (October 1259), which ordered the barons to accept reforms demanded by their tenants. Shrewdly realistic, Edward understood the value of the ‘parliaments,’ which since 1254 had distinguished English government and which Montfort had deliberately employed to publicize government policy and to enlist widespread, active support by summoning representatives of shires and boroughs to the council to decide important matters. Edward developed this practice swiftly, not to share royal power with his subjects but to strengthen royal authority with the support of rising national consciousness. From 1275 to 1307 he summoned knights and burgesses to his parliaments in varying manners. The Parliament of 1295, which included representatives of shires, boroughs, and the lesser clergy, is usually styled the Model Parliament, but the pattern varied from assembly to assembly, as Edward decided. By 1307, Parliament, thus broadly constituted, had become the distinctive feature of English politics, though its powers were still undefined and its organization embryonic.” (Edward I)

Anyway, back to being a “baron.” 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 are usually referred to as “Lord.” I know some of you who read JAFF (Jane Austen Fan Fiction) with some degree of regularity in which either Mr. Bennet or the elder Mr. Darcy or some other prominent character in one of Austen’s novels becomes a baron in the “What If…” story being told. I have read a few of those also. What sends me out of the story is when the author has not done his/her research even enough to know how to address the character properly. Therefore, if Mr. Bennet is made a baron, he is no longer “Mr. Bennet.” He is Lord Bennet, or, if there is more than one Lord Bennet, he is Lord Bennet of Longbourn or, possibly, Lord Bennet of Hertfordshire. He is NEVER Baron Bennet.

In direct address, a baron is referred to as my lord or your lordship. Husband(s) of a Baroness in her own right are not conferred any elevated style in their right. If the woman is Baroness Whatshername, her husband is NOT Baron Whatshername. He is simply Mister [Forename] [Surname]. Children of Barons and Baronesses in their own right, whether hereditary or for one lifetime, have the style The Honourable [Forename] [Surname], as in The Honourable Mr. John Smith. 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 bariobaronis 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 I researched, 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 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. The wife of a baron is address Lady [Title Name].

 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 Regency romance A Touch of Honor, John Swenton is Lord Swenton. He is a baron. However, it is possible I could have styled him as John Swenton, Lord Monroe. Obviously, 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 (or some such made up place). 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.

George Gordon Byron, Lord Byron

Though one can say “Lord Byron is a baron,” one would never call him Baron Byron.  He would always be “Lord Byron.” One did not say “Baron and Baroness Byron” arrived, entertained, etc. The fact 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. Otherwise he is always Lord Byron. His wife is Lady Byron. He would have been styled as The Right Honourable Lord 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, when he was still Prince of Wales was also The Baron of Renfew. His eldest son Prince William, then Duke of Cambridge, was also The Baron Carrickfergus.” (Baron) In April 2011, William was created Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Strathearn, and Baron Carrickfergus were announced in anticipation of his wedding.

If a woman is introduced or known as Baroness XXXX, for instance, such means 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, because, in England, he would be “Lord YYYY”.

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.

This guide from British Titles and Orders of Precedence may assist you. It is from  http://www.chinet.com/-laura/html/titles12.html

A baron is the lowest rank to the British peerage. A baron is “Right Honorable” and is styled “My Lord”.  All children of a baron are: “Honorable.”


Announced formally or in formal correspondence:  The Right Honorable Lord Featherstone

Salutation on formal correspondence: My Lord

Announced informally or addressed on social correspondence: The Lord Featherstone

Salutation on social correspondence: “Dear Lord Featherstoneor more familiarity: “Dear Featherstone

Addressed in speech as: “Lord Featherstone” (the first time in conversation, followed by “my lord” (or more familiarity, “Featherstone

Signature: Featherstone

Baron’s wife:  The Right Honorable, Lady Featherstone

Salutation and formal correspondence:  “Madam

Announced informally or addressed on social correspondence as  The Lady Featherstone

Salutation on social correspondence; “Dear Lady Featherstone

Addressed in speech as ”Lady Featherstone” the first time in conversation, followed by “my lady

Referred to in speech as (The) Lady Featherstone (or more familiarly “Sophia Featherstone”  

Signature: Sophia Featherstone

7 responses to “A “Baron” By Any Other Name, May Not Be As Correct As One Assumes…”

  1. Ginna Avatar

    Regina, is Lord Featherstone EVER called “Billy”? By his parents, wife? Are his friends ever introduced to him as Billy or allowed to ever call him Billy? Or does he never hear this name again?

  2. Regina Jeffers Avatar

    His parents might, within their home and no one around, call him “William” or “Billy.” His wife might also do the same, or even his school chums, upon occasion, but remember in “Pride and Prejudice,” though Mr. Darcy is a “Fitzwilliam,” both the colonel and Bingley call him “Darcy,” even in informal settings such as at Netherfield Hall. We authors like to write that scene where Elizabeth first calls him “Fitzwilliam” or “William.” It is a bit more intimate than many might understand.

    “Your conduct would be quite as dependent on chance as that of any man I know; and if, as you were mounting your horse, a friend were to say, ‘BINGLEY, you had better stay till next week,’ you would probably do it, you would probably not go–and at another word, might stay a month.”

    “You have only proved by this,” cried Elizabeth, “that Mr. Bingley did not do justice to his own disposition. You have shown him off now much more than he did himself.”

    “I am exceedingly gratified,” said Bingley, “by your converting what my friend says into a compliment on the sweetness of my temper. But I am afraid you are giving it a turn which that gentleman did by no means intend; for he would certainly think better of me, if under such a circumstance I were to give a flat denial, and ride off as fast as I could.”

    “Would Mr. Darcy then consider the rashness of your original intentions as atoned for by your obstinacy in adhering to it?”

    “Upon my word, I cannot exactly explain the matter; DARCY must speak for himself.”
    Lady Catherine called the colonel by his last name before company. She calls them both by their last names.
    “What is that you are saying, Fitzwilliam? What is it you are talking of? What are you telling Miss Bennet? Let me hear what it is.”
    In fact, if you do a search of Pride and Prejudice for the name “Fitzwilliam” it always refers to the colonel.
    Pride and Prejudice
    pemberley.com › etext › PandP › chapter31
    Pride and Prejudice. Chapter 31. Colonel Fitzwilliam’s manners were very much admired at the Parsonage, and the …
    Pride and Prejudice
    pemberley.com › etext › PandP › chapter33
    Darcy, she saw, on looking up, that Colonel Fitzwilliam was meeting her. Putting away the letter immediately, and forcing a smile, she said — “I did not …
    Pride and Prejudice
    pemberley.com › etext › PandP › chapter34
    She could not think of Darcy’s leaving Kent without remembering that his cousin was to go with him; but Colonel Fitzwilliam had made it clear that he had no …
    Pride and Prejudice
    pemberley.com › etext › PandP › chapter30
    Colonel Fitzwilliam, who led the way, was about thirty, not handsome, but in person and address most truly the gentleman. Mr. Darcy looked just as he had …
    Pride and Prejudice
    pemberley.com › etext › PandP › chapter36
    … Fitzwilliam and herself only the morning before; and at last she was referred for the truth of every particular to Colonel Fitzwilliam himself — from whom …
    Pride and Prejudice
    pemberley.com › etext › PandP › chapter32
    … Fitzwilliam’s manners, she believed he might have the best informed mind. But why Mr. Darcy came so often to the Parsonage it was more difficult to …
    Pride and Prejudice
    pemberley.com › etext › PandP › chapter35
    My sister, who is more than ten years my junior, was left to the guardianship of my mother’s nephew, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and myself. About a year ago she …
    Pride and Prejudice
    pemberley.com › etext › PandP › chapter25
    Fitzwilliam Darcy formerly spoken of as a very proud, ill-natured boy. Previous chapter · Next chapter · Index. – Republic of Pemberley -. Quick Index · Home …
    Pride and Prejudice
    pemberley.com › etext › PandP › chapter41
    … Fitzwilliam’s and Mr. Darcy’s having both spent three weeks at Rosings, and asked him if he were acquainted with the former. He looked surprised, displeased …
    Pride and Prejudice
    pemberley.com › etext › PandP › chapter47
    Darcy and his relation, Colonel Fitzwilliam, I was ignorant of the truth myself. And when I returned home, the — — shire was to leave Meryton in a week or …

    1. Ginna Avatar

      It’s too bad that parents go to the effort to come up with first names for their children, for them rarely to be used!
      As for you mentioning how men at least are called by their last names, I have read books where Elizabeth and occasionally Georgiana call him Darcy, and I find that highly improbable, and I dislike reading it.

  3. cindie snyder Avatar
    cindie snyder

    Interesting post! It’s nice to learn the order of titles and things like that. I hope Gianna’s vertigo gets better that is miserable! I have had it and until you get rid of it it is hard. Hopefully the rest will help.

    1. Regina Jeffers Avatar

      Thanks for joining us, Cindie.

  4. Gianna Thomas Avatar
    Gianna Thomas

    Thank you, Regina. for your instructive post. It was a great help when I’m trying to get my head together yet my body is about to fall on its face. You are a wonderful friend, and I appreciate being able to add more history to my files. ♥

    1. Regina Jeffers Avatar

      No problem. I know if the situation was reversed, you would have my back.

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