A baronet (// or //; abbreviated Bart or Bt) or the rare female equivalent, a baronetess (//, //, or //; abbreviation Btss), is the holder of a baronetcy, a hereditary title awarded by the British Crown. The practice of awarding baronetcies was originally introduced in England in the 14th century and was used by James I of England in 1611 as a means of raising funds.
A baronetcy is the only British hereditary honour that is not a peerage, with the exception of the Anglo-Irish Black Knights, White Knights and Green Knights (of whom only the Green Knights are extant). A baronet is addressed as "Sir" (just as is a knight) or "Dame" in the case of a baronetess, but ranks above all knighthoods and damehoods in the order of precedence, except for the Order of the Garter, the Order of the Thistle, and the dormant Order of St Patrick. Baronets are conventionally seen to belong to the lesser nobility, even though William Thoms claims that "The precise quality of this dignity is not yet fully determined, some holding it to be the head of the nobiles minores, while others, again, rank Baronets as the lowest of the nobiles majores, because their honour, like that of the higher nobility, is both hereditary and created by patent."
Comparisons with continental titles and ranks are tenuous due to the British system of primogeniture and because claims to baronetcies must be proven; currently the Official Roll of the Baronetage is overseen by the Ministry of Justice. In practice this means that the UK Peerage and Baronetage consist of about 2,000 families (some peers are also baronets), which is roughly 0.01% of UK families.
History of the term
The term baronet has medieval origins. Sir Thomas de La More (1322), describing the Battle of Boroughbridge, mentioned that baronets took part, along with barons and knights. Edward III is known to have created eight baronets in 1328.
Present-day baronets date from 1611 when James I granted letters patent to 200 gentlemen of good birth with an income of at least £1,000 a year; in return for the honour, each was required to pay for the upkeep of thirty soldiers for three years amounting to £1,095, in those days a very large sum. In 1619 James I established the Baronetage of Ireland; Charles I in 1625 created the Baronetages of Scotland and Nova Scotia. The new baronets were each required to pay 2,000 marks or to support six colonial settlers for two years. Over a hundred of these baronetcies, now familiarly known as Scottish baronetcies, survive to this day.
As a result of the Union of England and Scotland in 1707, all future creations were styled baronets of Great Britain. Following the Union of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801, new creations were styled as baronets of the United Kingdom.
Under royal warrants of 1612 and 1613, certain privileges were accorded to baronets. Firstly, no person or persons should have place between baronets and the younger sons of peers. Secondly, the right of knighthood was established for the eldest sons of baronets (this was later revoked by George IV in 1827), and thirdly, baronets were allowed to augment their armorial bearings with the Arms of Ulster on an inescutcheon: "in a field Argent, a Hand Geules (or a bloudy hand)". These privileges were extended to baronets of Ireland, and for baronets of Scotland the privilege of depicting the Arms of Nova Scotia as an augmentation of honour. The former applies to this day for all baronets of Great Britain and of the United Kingdom created subsequently.
The title of baronet was initially conferred upon noblemen who lost the right of individual summons to Parliament, and was used in this sense in a statute of Richard II. A similar title of lower rank was banneret.
Since 1965 only one new baronetcy has been created, for Sir Denis Thatcher on 7 December 1990, husband of a former British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher (later Baroness Thatcher); their eldest son, Sir Mark Thatcher, succeeded as 2nd Baronet upon his father's death in 2003.
Like knights, baronets are accorded the style "Sir" before their first name. Baronetesses in their own right use "Dame", also before their first name, while wives of baronets use "Lady" followed by the husband's (marital) surname only, this by longstanding courtesy. Wives of baronets are not baronetesses; only women holding baronetcies in their own right are so styled.
Unlike knighthoods – which apply to the recipient only – a baronetcy is hereditarily entailed. The eldest son of a baronet who is born in wedlock succeeds to a baronetcy upon his father's death, but will not be officially recognised until his name is recognised by being placed on the Official Roll. With some exceptions granted with special remainder by letters patent, baronetcies descend through the male line.
A full list of extant baronets appears in Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, which also published a record of extinct baronetcies.
A baronetcy is not a peerage; so baronets, like knights and junior members of peerage families, are commoners and not peers of the realm (In the UK, all people save the sovereign and peers are considered commoners). According to the Home Office there is a tangible benefit to the honour of baronet: according to law, a baronet is entitled to have "a pall supported by two men, a principal mourner and four others" assisting at his funeral. Originally baronets also had other rights, including the right to have the eldest son knighted on his 21st birthday. However, at the beginning of George IV's reign, these rights were eroded by orders-in-council on the grounds that sovereigns should not necessarily be bound by acts of their predecessors. Although never having been automatically entitled to heraldic supporters, baronets were allowed them in heredity in the first half of the 19th century if the title holder was also a Knight Grand Cross of a Crown order.
Baronets of Scotland or Nova Scotia were allowed to augment their armorial bearings with the Arms of Nova Scotia and the privilege of wearing a neck badge signifying "of Nova Scotia", suspended by an orange-tawny ribbon. This consists of an escutcheon argent with a saltire azure, an inescutcheon of the Royal Arms of Scotland, with an Imperial Crown above the escutcheon, and encircled with the motto Fax Mentis Honestae Gloria. This badge may be shown suspended by the ribbon below the escutcheon.
Baronets of England and Ireland applied to King Charles I for permission to wear a badge. Although a badge was worn in the 17th century, it was not until 1929 that King George V granted permission for all baronets (other than those of Scotland) to wear badges.
Addressing a baronet and the wife of a baronet
A baronet is referred to and addressed as, for example, "Sir <Joseph>" (using his forename). The correct style on an envelope for a baronet who has no other titles is "Sir <Joseph Bloggs>, Bt." or "Sir <Joseph Bloggs>, Bart." The letter would commence: "Dear Sir <Joseph>".
The wife of a baronet is addressed and referred to as "Lady <Bloggs>"; at the head of a letter as "Dear Lady <Bloggs>". Her given name is used only when necessary to distinguish between two holders of the same title. For example, if a baronet has died and the title has passed to his son, the widow (the new baronet's mother) will remain "Lady <Bloggs>" if he (the son) is unmarried or never marries, but if he is married or becomes married then his wife becomes "Lady <Bloggs>" while his mother will be known by the style "<Alice>, Lady <Bloggs>". Alternatively, the mother may prefer to be known as "The Dowager Lady <Bloggs>". A previous wife will also become "<Alice>, Lady Bloggs" to distinguish her from the current wife of the incumbent baronet. She would not be "Lady <Alice> <Bloggs>", a style reserved for the daughters of dukes, marquesses and earls.
The children of a baronet are not entitled to the use of any courtesy titles.
Baronetess: History and forms of address
For a baronetess one should write "Dame <Daisy Smith>, Btss" on the envelope. At the head of the letter, one would write "Dear Dame <Daisy>," and to refer to her, one would say "Dame <Daisy>" or "Dame <Daisy Smith>" (never "Dame <Smith>").
In history there have been only four baronetesses:
- Dame Daisy Dunbar, 8th Btss of Hempriggs (1906–97), cr. 1706;
- Dame Mary Bolles, 1st Btss (née Witham) (1579–1662); the only woman apparently to be created a baronetess (of Nova Scotia);
- Dame Eleanor Dalyell, 10th Btss (1895–1972) (cr. 1685), whose title and estate of The Binns passed to her son, the former Labour politician Tam Dalyell MP (who chose not to use the title);
- Dame Anne Maxwell Macdonald, 11th Btss (1906–2011) was recognised by the Lyon Court in 2005 as 11th holder of the baronetcy (formerly Stirling-Maxwell) under the 1707 remainder and succeeded her father in 1956.
In 1976 Lord Lyon King of Arms stated that, without examining the patent of every Scottish baronetcy, he was not in a position to confirm that only these four title creations could pass through female lines.
As of 2016, there are no living baronetesses.
All baronetcies are created with a territorial sub-designation, however only more recent creations duplicating the original creation require territorial designations. So, for example, there are baronetcies Moore of Colchester, Moore of Hancox, Moore of Kyleburn, and Moore of Moore Lodge.
Red Hand of Ulster
Baronets of England, Ireland, Great Britain or the United Kingdom (i.e. all except baronets of Nova Scotia) can display the Red Hand of Ulster (sinister (left) hand version) as a heraldic badge, being the arms of the ancient kings of Ulster. This badge (or augmentation of honour) is blazoned as follows: Argent a Hand sinister couped at the wrist extended in pale Gules. King James I of England established the hereditary Order of Baronets in England on 22 May 1611, in the words of Collins' Peerage (1741): "for the plantation and protection of the whole Kingdom of Ireland, but more especially for the defence and security of the Province of Ulster, and therefore for their distinction those of this order and their descendants may bear the badge (Red Hand of Ulster) in their coats of arms either in canton or an escutcheon at their election". Since 1929 such baronets may also display the Red Hand of Ulster on its own as a badge, suspended by a ribbon below the shield of arms.
Arms of Nova Scotia
Baronets of Nova Scotia, unlike other baronets, do not use the Baronet's Badge (of Ulster), but have their own badge showing the escutcheon of the arms of Nova Scotia: Argent, a Saltire Azure with an inescutcheon of the Royal Arms of Scotland. From before 1929 to the present it has been customary practice for such baronets to display this badge on its own suspended by the order's ribbon below the shield of arms.
Number of baronetcies
|Baronets of England||133||82||51|
|Baronets of Ireland||57||34||23|
|Baronets of Nova Scotia||103||73||30|
|Baronets of Great Britain||122||91||31|
|Baronets of the United Kingdom||789||682||107|
The first publication listing all baronetcies ever created was C. J. Parry's Index of Baronetcy Creations (1967). This listed them in alphabetical order, other than the last five creations (Dodds of West Chillington, Redmayne of Rushcliffe, Pearson of Gressingham, Finlay of Epping and Thatcher of Scotney). It showed the total number created from 1611 to 1964 to have been 3,482. They include five of Oliver Cromwell, several of which were recreated by Charles II. Twenty-five were created between 1688 and 1784 by James II in exile after his dethronement, by his son James Stuart ("The Old Pretender") and his grandson Charles Edward Stuart ("Bonny Prince Charlie"). These "Jacobite baronetcies" were never accepted by the English Crown, have all disappeared and should properly be excluded from the 3,482, making the effective number of creations 3,457. A close examination of Parry's publication shows he missed one or two, so there may well have been some more.
As of 2000, including baronetcies where succession was dormant or unproven, there was a total of 1,314 baronetcies divided into five classes of creation included on The Official Roll of the Baronetage – 146 of England, 63 of Ireland, 119 of Scotland, 133 of Great Britain and 853 of the United Kingdom.
The total number of baronetcies today is approximately 1,204, although only some 1,020 are on The Official Roll of the Baronetage. It is unknown whether some baronetcies remain extant and it may be that nobody can prove himself to be the actual heir. Over 200 baronetcies are now held by peers; and others, such as the Knox line, have been made tenuous by internal family disputes.
Baronetage decline since 1965
There were 1,490 baronetcies extant on 1 January 1965. Since then the number has reduced by 286 through extinction or dormancy: a gross decline of 19.2% (up to 2017). Extant baronetcies numbered about 1,236 in 2015, and 1,204 as of 2017.
Only one baronetcy has been granted since 1964 (Thatcher baronetcy, of Scotney (1990)). Five baronetcies dormant in 1965 have since been revived: Innes baronetcy, of Coxton (1686), Nicolson baronetcy of that Ilk and of Lasswade (1629), Hope baronetcy, of Kirkliston (1698), St John (later St John-Mildmay) baronetcy, of Farley (1772) and Maxwell-Macdonald baronetcy of Pollok (1682)
Baronetcies with special remainders
- with remainder to heirs male forever (Broun baronetcy, of Colstoun (1686), Hay baronetcy of Alderston (1703), etc.)
- with remainder to the sons of the grantee's daughters, and the heirs male of their bodies (Hicking (later North) baronetcy, of Southwell (1920), etc.)
- with remainder to the grantee's daughter's son (Amcotts baronetcy, of Kettlethorp (1796), etc.)
- with remainder to the grantee's son-in-law (Middleton (later Noel) baronetcy, of The Navy (1781), Rich baronetcy, of London (1676), etc.)
- with remainder to the grantee's brother(s) (Chapman baronetcy, of Killua Castle (1782), Pigot baronetcy, of Patshull (1764), White baronetcy of Tuxford and Wallingwells (1802) etc.)
- with remainder, in default of male issue of the grantee, to the grantee's brothers and to the grantee's father's second cousin, and the heirs male of their bodies (Robinson baronetcy, of Rokeby Park (1730))
- with remainder to tailzie succeeding the grantee in the estate (Dalyell baronetcy of The Binns (1685))
- with remainder specifically excluded the grantee's eldest son (Stonhouse baronetcy, of Radley (1628))
The Premier Baronet (of England) is the unofficial title afforded to the current holder of the oldest extant baronetcy in the realm. The Premier Baronet is regarded as the senior member of the Baronetage, and ranks above other baronets (unless they hold a peerage title) in the United Kingdom Order of Precedence. Sir Nicholas Bacon, 14th Baronet, is the current Premier Baronet; his family's senior title was created by King James I in 1611.
The Premier Baronets of Nova Scotia (Scotland) were the Gordon baronets of Gordonstoun and Letterfourie until the title's extinction in 1908. Subsequently, the Premier Scottish Baronets are the Innes baronets of that Ilk (cr. 28 May 1625), the present Premier Baronet being Charles Innes-Ker, 11th Duke of Roxburghe.
The Premier Baronetcy of Ireland was created for Sir Dominic Sarsfield in 1619, and was held by his successors until the attainder of the 4th Viscount Sarsfield in 1691. Since then the descendants of Sir Francis Annesley Bt., the Annesley baronets, have been the Premier Baronets of Ireland; presently Francis William Dighton Annesley, 16th Viscount Valentia.
Baronetcies conferred upon British expatriates and non-British nationals
- Sir Samuel Way, 1st Baronet, of Montefiore, in South Australia (1899), extinct 1916
- Sir William Clarke, 1st Baronet, of Rupertswood, in the Colony of Victoria (1882), extant
New South Wales
- Sir Harry Oakes, 1st Baronet, of Nassau, in the Bahama Islands (1939), extant
- Sir John Alleyne, 1st Baronet, of Four Hills, in Barbados (1769), extant
For a complete list see also list of Canadian baronetcies
- Sir Thomas Temple, 1st Baronet, of Nova Scotia, in the Colony of Nova Scotia (1662), extinct 1674
- Sir George Arthur, 1st Baronet, of Upper Canada, in the United Province of Canada (1841), extant
- Sir John Beverley Robinson, 1st Baronet, of Toronto, in the United Province of Canada (1854), dormant
- Sir Allan Napier MacNab, 1st Baronet, of Dundurn Castle, in the United Province of Canada (1858), extinct 1862
- Sir Samuel Cunard, 1st Baronet, of Bush Hill, Nova Scotia, in the United Province of Canada (1859), extinct 1989
- Sir John Rose, 1st Baronet, of Montreal, in the Dominion of Canada (1872), extant
- Sir Charles Tupper, 1st Baronet, of Armdale, Nova Scotia, in the Dominion of Canada (1888), extant
- Sir Edward Seaborne Clouston, 1st Baronet, of Montreal, in the Dominion of Canada (1908), extinct 1912
- Sir Joseph Wesley Flavelle, 1st Baronet, of Toronto, in the Dominion of Canada (1917), extinct 1985
- Sir James Hamet Dunn, 1st Baronet, of Bathurst, New Brunswick, in the Dominion of Canada (1921), extinct 1976
- Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy, 1st Baronet, of Bombay (1857), extant
- Sir Dinshaw Maneckji Petit, 1st Baronet, of Petit Hall, on the Island of Bombay (1890), extant
- Sir Jehangir Cowasji Jehangir Readymoney, 1st Baronet, of Bombay (1908), extant
- Sir Currimbhoy Ebrahim, 1st Baronet, of Pabaney Villa, of Bombay (1910), extant
- Sir Chinubhai Madhowlal Ranchhodlal, 1st Baronet, of Shahpur, in Ahmedabad (1913), extant
- Sir Albert Abdullah David Sassoon, 1st Baronet, of Kensington Gore (1890), extinct 1939
- Sir Jacob Sassoon, 1st Baronet, of Bombay (1909), extant
- Sir Willem Boreel, 1st Baronet, of Amsterdam (1645) - the 8th baronet also became Jonkheer in the Dutch nobility, extant
- Sir Joseph van Colster, 1st Baronet, of Amsterdam (1645), extinct 1665
- Sir Walter de Raedt, 1st Baronet, of The Hague (1660), extinct
- Sir Cornelis Tromp, 1st Baronet, Lieutenant-Admiral of Holland (1675) - also created Ridder in the Dutch nobility, extinct 1691
- Sir Richard Tulp, 1st Baronet, of Amsterdam (1675), extinct 1690
- Sir Gelebrand Sas van Bosch, 1st Baronet, of Rotterdam (1680), extinct 1720
- Sir Cornelis Speelman, 1st Baronet, of Brabant (1686) - Sir Cornelis Jacob Speelman, 3rd Baronet also became Jonkheer in the Dutch nobility, extinct 2005
- Sir John Peter van den Brande, 1st Baronet, of Cleverskerke (1699), extinct 1750
- Sir Andries Stockenström, 1st Baronet, of Cape of Good Hope (1840), extinct 1957
- Sir Julius Wernher, 1st Baronet, of Luton Hoo Park, in the Parish of Luton and County of Bedford (1905), extinct 1973
- Sir Joseph Robinson, 1st Baronet, of Hawthornden, in the Cape Province, and Dudley House, in Westminster (1908), extant
- Sir David Graaff, 1st Baronet, of Cape Town, in the Cape of Good Hope Province, of the Union of South Africa (1911), extant
- Sir George Farrar, 1st Baronet, of Chicheley Hall, in Buckinghamshire (1911), extinct 1915
- Sir Leander Starr Jameson, 1st Baronet, of Down Street, in London (1911), extinct 1917
- Sir George Albu, 1st Baronet, of Johannesburg (1912), extant
- Sir Lionel Phillips, 1st Baronet, of Tylney Hall (1912), extant
- Sir Sothern Holland, 1st Baronet, of Westwell Manor, in the County of Oxford (1917), extinct 1997
- Sir Abe Bailey, 1st Baronet, of South Africa (1919), extant
- Sir Bernard Oppenheimer, 1st Baronet, of Stoke Poges, in the County of Buckingham (1921), extant
- Sir Otto Beit, 1st Baronet, of Tewin Water (1924), extinct 1994
- Sir Lewis Richardson, 1st Baronet, of Yellow Woods, in the Cape of Good Hope Province, in South Africa (1924), extant
- Sir Stephen Hinchliff, 1st Baronet, of Hinchliff Mill, in Yorkshire, (1911)
References and sources
- "Baronet". Collins Dictionary. n.d. Retrieved 23 September 2014.
- "Baronetess". Dictionary.com Unabridged. n.d. Retrieved 15 August 2016.
- "baronetess". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- "Baronetess". Collins Dictionary. n.d. Retrieved 23 September 2014.
- William J. Thoms (1844). The Book of the Court (2nd edition). London: Henry G. Bohn, York Street, Covent Garden, p. 132
- Stubbs, Vol. II, Part IV, p 303
- Debrett's Correct Form. Addressing the family of a Baronet. Archived 15 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine
- Leigh Rayment's baronetage: Draper to Dymoke
- Cokayne's Complete Baronetage
- (See page B 599 of the Baronetage section of the latest edition of Debrett.)
- Collins, 1741, p.287
- Collins, Arthur, The English Baronetage: Containing a Genealogical and Historical Account of all the English Baronets now Existing, Volume 4, London, 1741, p.287
- Collins, 1741, vol.4, p.287
- Debrett's Peerage, 1968, p.1235
- Kershaw, Stephen. "BARONETS OF ENGLAND, SCOTLAND, IRELAND, GREAT BRITAIN AND THE UNITED KINGDOM" (PDF). The Standing Council of the Baronetage. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
- Sir Martin Lindsay of Dowhill, Bt (1979). The Baronetage, 2nd edition.
- "Baronetage decline since 1965". Retrieved 21 September 2015.
- "The Baronetage". Debretts. Archived from the original on 25 February 2013. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
The creation of baronetcies lapsed in 1964; in 1990 the Conservative Government announced that this honour would be given to Denis Thatcher, but there have been no further creations
- Cokayne, vol ii, pp277-280
- Cokayne, vol ii, p 280
- Cokayne, vol i, pp223-224
- Cokayne, vol ii, p 224
- Burke's Extinct and Dormant Baronetcies (1844)
- "Baronial family von Friesendorff" (in Swedish). The House of Knights. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Baronet.|
- Official Roll of the Baronets
- The Baronetage of England, Ireland, Nova Scotia, Great Britain and the United Kingdom
- Baronet's badge
- Letters patent
- Addressing a baronet
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