Baron Saye and Sele

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Arms of Fiennes, Baron Saye and Sele:Azure, three lions rampant or

Baron Saye and Sele is a title in the Peerage of England. The title dates from the 15th Century and is still extant.


The title is thought to have been created by letters patent in 1447 for James Fiennes (pronounced: "Fines") for his services in the Hundred Years' War. The patent creating the original barony was lost, so it was assumed that the barony was created by writ, meaning that it could descend to heirs-general, and not only heirs-male. However, several authorities, including Burke's Peerage, agree that the assumption was erroneous, and that the original creation was by patent. His son, the second baron, was summoned to Parliament but killed at the Battle of Barnet in 1471. His son, the de jure third Baron, was known as Lord Saye and Sele but was never summoned to Parliament. The peerage is therefore considered to have become dormant (unclaimed) on the death of the second Baron. His great-great-great-grandson, Richard Fiennes, the de jure seventh baron, claimed the title in 1573. For years, he remained unsuccessful, but in 1603 James I granted him letters patent confirming his right to the title. The patent confirmed that the barony created in 1447 belonged to Richard Fiennes, but on the condition that, for the purposes of precedence or seniority, it would be considered as having been created in 1603, and also provided that no future Baron Saye and Sele would assert the precedence of 1447. The patent, furthermore, allowed the title to pass to heirs-general, based on the erroneous assumption that the barony was created by writ.

William Fiennes, the eighth Baron, was created Viscount Saye and Sele, also in the Peerage of England, in 1624. On the death of his son, the second Viscount, the two titles separated. The barony fell into abeyance between the late Baron's daughters Hon. Elizabeth, wife of John Twisleton, and Hon. Frances, wife of Andrew Ellis. The Viscountcy could only be passed on to male heirs and was inherited by the Baron's nephew, the third Viscount. He was the son of Nathaniel Fiennes, second son of the first Viscount. When his son, the fourth Viscount, died, this line of the family also failed. He was succeeded by his cousin, the fifth Viscount. He was the son of John Fiennes, third son of the first Viscount. He was in his turn succeeded by another cousin, the sixth Viscount. On his death in 1781 there were no more male heirs left of the first Viscount, and the title became extinct.

By 1715, all of the coheirs to the Barony of Saye and Sele had died save one; Cecil Twisleton, de jure tenth Baroness Saye and Sele. She was the daughter of the aforementioned Hon. Elizabeth, daughter of the second Viscount Saye and Sele. However, the barony was only formally called out of abeyance in favour of her great-grandson, Thomas Twisleton, who became the thirteenth Baron Saye and Sele. He was a General in the Army. His son, the fourteenth Baron, assumed the additional surnames of Fiennes and Eardley in 1825. He was succeeded by his son, the fifteenth Baron, who in his turn was succeeded by his cousin, the sixteenth Baron. In 1849 he assumed the additional surnames of Wykeham-Fiennes (the first Viscount Saye and Sele was a descendant of the sister and heiress of William of Wykeham).[1] His grandson, the eighteenth Baron, served as Comptroller of the Household from 1912 to 1915 in the Liberal government of H.H. Asquith. As of 2007 the title is held by his grandson, the twenty-first Baron. In 1965 he relinquished the additional surnames of Twisleton and Wykeham.

Another member of the Fiennes family was Eustace Edward Fiennes, second son of the seventeenth Baron, who represented Banbury in Parliament and also served as Governor of the Leeward Islands. In 1916 he was created a baronet, of Banbury in the County of Oxford. As of 2010 this title is held by his grandson, Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, 3rd Baronet, of Banbury. Actors Ralph Fiennes and Joseph Fiennes are from a cadet branch of the family, being descended from Frederick the sixteenth Baron.

Through the marriage of the second Viscount to a daughter of Edward Cecil, 1st Viscount Wimbledon, the family descends from William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, as well as the Plantagenet Kings of England.

List of titleholders[edit]

Baron Saye and Sele (1447)[edit]

Viscount Saye and Sele (1624)[edit]

Barons Saye and Sele (1603; continued)[edit]

The heir apparent is the present holder's second (and eldest surviving) son, the Hon. Martin Guy Fiennes (born 27 February 1961).

See also[edit]

The Fiennes as Barons Dacre[edit]


  1. ^ William of Wykeham (c1320 – 1404) who left his fortune to his great-nephew Thomas Wykeham. Thomas Wykeham's granddaughter married William Fiennes, 2nd Baron Saye and Sele.

Further reading[edit]

  • Kidd, Charles, Williamson, David (editors). Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage (1990 edition). New York: St Martin's Press, 1990.

Outside links[edit]