Baron de Ros

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Barony de Ros

Arms of Maxwell, Barons de Ros: Quarterly, 1st and 4th: Argent, a saltire gules (Fitzgerald) 2nd and 3rd: Gules, three water bougets argent (de Ros)[1]
Creation date6 February 1288/89, with a precedence to 24 December 1264[2]
Created byKing Henry III
PeeragePeerage of England
First holderWilliam de Ros
Present holderPeter Trevor Maxwell, 27th Baron
Heir apparentThe Hon. Finbar James Maxwell
Remainder toHeirs of the body
MottoCrom a boo ("Crom forever")[1]

Baron de Ros (/rs/ ROOSS) of Helmsley is the premier baron in the Peerage of England, created in 1288/89 for William de Ros, with precedence to 24 December 1264.[1] (The spelling of the title and of the surname of the original holders has been rendered differently in various texts. The word "Ros" is sometimes spelt "Roos", and the word "de" is sometimes dropped.) Premier baron is a designation and status awarded to the holder of the most ancient extant barony of the Peerage of England. Before the Dissolution of the Monasteries the Prior of the Order of St John in England was deemed the premier baron.[3]

Ancientness and precedence[edit]

On 24 December 1264 Robert de Ros (died 1285) was summoned to Simon de Montfort's Parliament in London,[4][5] and for some time it was considered that the barony was created by writ in that year, giving it precedence over all other English titles unless certain doubtful contentions concerning the title of the Earl of Arundel were accepted. The only older peerage titles in the British Isles are: Baron Kerry and Lixnaw (1181, held by the Marquess of Lansdowne), Baron Offaly (1199, later creation held by the Duke of Leinster), and Baron Kingsale (c. 1223) in the Peerage of Ireland, and Earl of Mar (predates 1115) and Earl of Sutherland (1230) in the Peerage of Scotland.

According to The Complete Peerage:

In 1616 the barony of De Ros was allowed precedence from this writ [of 24 December 1264], a decision adopted by the Lords in 1806 (Round, Peerage and Pedigree, vol. i, pp. 249-50); but these writs, issued by Simon in the King's name, are no longer regarded as valid for the creation of peerages.[6][7]


Whenever a man holds the title, he is considered the premier baron of England. However, whenever a woman holds the title, the holder of the next-highest barony held by a man is known as the premier baron. For instance, when Georgiana Maxwell, the most recent female to hold the title, was baroness, the Baron Mowbray, Segrave, and Stourton was considered the premier baron.


The Barony may pass to heirs-general rather than just heirs-male, unlike most British titles. The barony may pass to daughters only if there are no sons. Under inheritance law, sisters have an equal right to inherit; there is no special inheritance right due for the eldest sister, as there is for the eldest son. Thus, it is possible that two or more sisters (and their heirs after their deaths) have an equally valid claim to the title; in such a case, the title goes into abeyance. The abeyance ends either when there is only one remaining claimant due to the deaths of the other claimants, or when the Sovereign "terminates" the abeyance in favour of one of the heirs. The peerage has been held by a woman six times, more than any other peerage except that of Baron Willoughby de Eresby.


The title was originally held by the de Ros family until the death of the tenth Baron in 1508, when it was inherited by his nephew, the 11th Baron. His son, Thomas, inherited the barony and was later created Earl of Rutland. The barony and earldom remained united until the death of the third Earl, Edward Manners. The barony was then inherited by his only daughter, Elizabeth Cecil, while the earldom passed to a male heir, his younger brother. Upon the death of Elizabeth's only son, William Cecil, the title returned to the Manners family, being inherited by the sixth Earl of Rutland.

Again, upon the sixth Earl's death, the barony and earldom were separated (the earldom being inherited by a distant cousin, the great-nephew of the 2nd earl), as the barony was inherited by the Earl's daughter Katherine, who had married George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham. Katherine's son George inherited both the barony and the dukedom, but upon his death the dukedom became extinct and the barony went into abeyance.

The barony had been in abeyance for over a century when Charlotte Boyle-Walsingham who was later to marry Lord Henry FitzGerald, a son of the 4th Duke of Leinster) petitioned King George III to terminate the abeyance in her favour in 1790. (She was the daughter of Robert Boyle-Walsingham by his wife Charlotte, daughter of Sir Charles Hanbury Williams by his wife Frances, daughter of Thomas Coningsby, 1st Earl Coningsby by his wife Frances, daughter of Richard Jones, 1st Earl of Ranelagh by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Francis Willoughby, 5th Baron Willoughby of Parham, son of William Willoughby, 3rd Baron Willoughby of Parham by his wife Frances, daughter of John Manners, 4th Earl of Rutland who was a younger brother of the 14th Baron de Ros.[8]) The King referred the matter to the House of Lords, which recommended that the barony remain in abeyance. However, in 1806, George III terminated the abeyance in her favour on the recommendation of his Prime Minister.[9] Charlotte and her heirs then took the additional surname of "de Ros" after "FitzGerald".

The title eventually went into abeyance again upon the death of the 25th Baroness, in 1939. The abeyance was terminated in favour of her eldest daughter, Lady Una Mary Ross (née Dawson) in 1943, and again went into abeyance upon her death in 1956. Two years later, the barony was called out of abeyance again for Una Ross's granddaughter, Georgiana Maxwell (née Ross). As of 2017 the title is held by her son the 27th Baron, the first man to hold the title in over three-quarters of a century, who succeeded his mother in 1983.

The family seat is Old Court, near Strangford, County Down.

Barons Ros of Helmsley (1264)[edit]

The heir apparent is the present holder's son, the Hon. Finbar James Maxwell (b. 1988).


Coat of arms of Peter Maxwell, Baron de Ros of Helmsley
A Coronet of a Baron
Crom A Boo (I will burn)
First: On a chapeau gules, turned up, ermine, a Peacock in its pride, proper (de Ros).
Second: A Monkey, statant, proper, environed round the loins and chained, or (For FitzGerald).
Quarterly: 1st and 4th, Argent a Saltire Gules (Fitzgerald); 2nd and 3rd, Gules three Water Bougets Argent (de Ros)
On either side a Falcon wings expanded and inverted proper


  1. ^ a b c Mosley, Charles, ed. (2003). Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knighthood (107 ed.). Burke's Peerage & Gentry. pp. 1107–1109. ISBN 0-9711966-2-1.
  2. ^ Robson, Thomas (1830). The British Herald; Or, Cabinet of Armorial Bearings of the Nobility & Gentry of Great Britain & Ireland. p. 185. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
  3. ^ Reynolds, E. E., St. John Fisher, p. 61.
  4. ^ Cokayne 1949, p. 95
  5. ^ Richardson III 2011, p. 448.
  6. ^ Cokayne 1949, p. 95
  7. ^ Complete Peerage, Volume 6, p. 400.
  8. ^ "De Ros, Baron (E, 1299)". Archived from the original on 16 November 2010. Retrieved 31 December 2010.
  9. ^ Manuscripts of J.B. Fortescue, (Hist. Ms. Com., Series 30), vol.viii, p.185. cited in Boyle Farm - Thames Ditton - Its History and Associations - Rowland G. M. Baker - 1987 - Lady De Ros - text accompanying note 209
  10. ^ Cokayne, G. E. & White, G. H., eds. (1949). The Complete Peerage. Vol. 11 (2nd ed.). London: St. Catherine Press. p. 114.


  • Hesilrige, Arthur G. M. (1921). Debrett's Peerage and Titles of courtesy. London: Dean & Son. p. 284.
  • Cokayne, George Edward (1949). The Complete Peerage, edited by Geoffrey H. White. Vol. XI. London: St. Catherine Press.
  • Richardson, Douglas (2011). Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, ed. Kimball G. Everingham. Vol. III (2nd ed.). Salt Lake City.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link) ISBN 144996639X