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Not to be confused with Barony or Baronage.
For the buttferly, see Euthalia nais.

A baronet (/bærənɪt/ or /bærənɛt/;[1] abbreviated Bart or Bt[1]) or the rare female equivalent, a baronetess (/bærəˈnɛtɛs/;[2] abbreviation Btss), is the holder of a baronetcy, an 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 in order to raise funds.

The baronetcy is the only British hereditary honour which is not a peerage, with the exception of the Anglo-Irish Black Knight, White Knight, and Green Knight (of which only the Green Knight is still extant). A baronet is addressed as "Sir" like a knight (or "Dame" for a baronetess), but ranks above all knighthoods and damehoods except for the Order of the Garter and the Order of the Thistle. However[clarification needed], the baronetage, as a class, are considered to rank above the knightage. A baronetcy does not confer nobility, and is not a knighthood, and the recipient does not receive an accolade.

History of the term[edit]

The term baronet has medieval origins. Sir Thomas de la Moore, describing the Battle of Boroughbridge, mentioned that baronets took part, along with barons and knights.[3]

According to The Official Roll of the Baronetage:

The Baronetage is of far more ancient origin than many people may think. The term baronet is believed to have been first applied to nobility who for one reason or another had lost the right of summons to Parliament. The earliest mention of baronets was in the Battle of Barrenberg [sic], in 1321. There is a further mention of them in 1328 when Edward III is known to have created eight baronets. Further creations were made in 1340, 1446 and 1551. At least one of these, Sir William de la Pole in 1340, was created for payment of money, presumably expended by the King to help maintain his army. It is not known if these early creations were hereditary but all seem to have died out.

The present hereditary Order of Baronets in England dates from 22 May 1611 when it was erected by James I who granted the first Letters Patent to 200 gentlemen of good birth with an income of at least £1000 a year. His intention was two fold. Firstly he wanted to fill the gap between peers of the realm and knights so he decided that the baronets were to form the sixth division of the aristocracy following the five degrees of the peerage. Secondly, and probably more importantly, he needed money to pay for soldiers to carry out the pacification of Ireland. Therefore those of the first creation, in return for the honour, were each required to pay for the upkeep of thirty soldiers for three years amounting to £1095, in those days a very large sum.

In 1619 James I erected the Baronetage of Ireland and laid plans for a further new Baronetage with the object of assisting the colonisation of Nova Scotia. However in 1624 he died before this could be implemented. In 1625 Charles I took up the previous plans and erected the Baronetage of Scotland and Nova Scotia. The new baronets were each required to pay 2000 marks or to support six settlers for two years. Over a hundred of these baronetcies, now known as Scottish baronetcies, have survived to this day. The Duke of Roxburghe is the Premier Baronet of Scotland by his Baronetcy of Innes-Ker of Innes created in 1625.

As a result of the union of England and Scotland in 1707 all future creations were styled baronets of Great Britain. With the union of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801 new creations were styled as baronets of the United Kingdom. The position at 31 December 1999, including baronetcies where succession was dormant or unproven, was that there were a total of 1314 baronetcies divided into five classes of creation included on the Official Roll. Of these there were 146 of England, 63 of Ireland, 119 of Scotland, 133 of Great Britain and 853 of the United Kingdom. The Premier Baronet is Sir Nicholas Bacon, 14th Baronet of Redgrave created in 1611.

Under the two Royal Warrants of 1612 and 1613 issued by James I certain privileges were accorded to baronets of England. 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 to be revoked by George IV in 1827), and thirdly, baronets were allowed to add the Arms of Ulster as an inescutcheon to their armorial bearings. This last consisted of "in a field Argent, a hand Geules, or a bloudy hand". These privileges were extended to baronets of Ireland and, less the Arms of Ulster, to baronets of Scotland. They continue to this day for all baronets of Great Britain and the United Kingdom created subsequently.

The term baronet was applied to the noblemen who lost the right of individual summons to Parliament, and was used in this sense in a statute of Richard II. A similar rank of lower stature is the banneret.

The revival of baronetcies can be dated to Sir Robert Cotton's discovery in the late 16th or early 17th century of William de la Pole's patent (issued in the 13th year of Edward III's reign), conferring upon him the dignity of a baronet in return for a sum of money.

Subsequent baronetcies fall into the following five creations:

  1. King James I erected the hereditary Order of Baronets in England on 22 May 1611 for the settlement of Ireland. He offered the dignity to 200 gentlemen of good birth, with a clear estate of £1,000 a year, on condition that each one paid a sum equivalent to three years' pay for 30 soldiers at 8d per day per man into the King's Exchequer. The idea came from the Earl of Salisbury, who averred: "The Honour will do the Gentry very little Harm," while doing the Exchequer a lot of good.
  2. The Baronetage of Ireland was erected on 30 September 1611.
  3. King Charles I erected the hereditary Baronetage of Scotland or Nova Scotia on 28 May 1625, for the establishment of the plantation of Nova Scotia.
  4. After the union of England and Scotland in 1707, no further baronets of England or Scotland were created, the style being changed to baronet of Great Britain.
  5. After the union of Great Britain and Ireland on 1 January 1801 to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, all baronetcies created were under the style of the United Kingdom.

Since 1965 only one new baronetcy has been created, for the husband of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (later titled Baroness Thatcher), Sir Denis Thatcher on 7 December 1990. Their eldest son, Sir Mark Thatcher, became the 2nd Baronet upon his father's death in 2003.


Like knights, baronets use the style "Sir" before their Christian name. Baronetesses in their own right use "Dame", also before their Christian name, while wives of baronets use "Lady" followed by the husband's surname, this by longstanding courtesy. Wives of baronets are not baronetesses; only women holding baronetcies in their own right are named as such.

Unlike knighthoods—which apply to an individual only—a baronetcy is hereditary. The eldest son of a baronet who is born in wedlock succeeds to the baronetcy upon his father's death, but he will not be officially recognised until his name is on the Roll. With a few exceptions granted at creation by special remainder in the Letters Patent, baronetcies can be inherited only by or through males.

A full list of extant baronets appears in Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, which also covers some extinct baronetcies.

A baronetcy is not a peerage, so baronets, like knights, are commoners as opposed to noblemen. According to the Home Office there is a tangible benefit to the honour. 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, in the beginning of George IV's reign, these rights have gradually been revoked by Order in Privy Council on the grounds that sovereigns should not be bound by acts made by their predecessors. Baronets are not automatically entitled to supporters on their coat of arms, but some are given that additional honour.

Baronets of Scotland or Nova Scotia were granted the Arms of Nova Scotia in their armorial bearings and the right to wear about the neck the badge of Nova Scotia, suspended by an orange-tawny ribbon. This consists of an escutcheon argent with a saltire azure, an inescutcheon of the 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 shield of arms.

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, the wife of a baronet, or a baronetess[edit]

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 is unmarried, but if he is married 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 peers.[4]

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:

In 1976 Lord Lyon said that, without examining the Patent of every Scottish Baronetcy, he was not in a position to confirm that only these four can pass through the female line.

As of 2015, there are no living baronetesses.

Territorial designations[edit]

All Baronetcies are distinguished by having a territorial designation[citation needed]. So, for example, there are Baronetcies Moore of Colchester, Moore of Hancox, Moore of Kyleburn, and Moore of Moore Lodge.

Heraldic badges[edit]

Red Hand of Ulster[edit]

The Red Hand of Ulster (sinister (left) hand version), as used by baronets (other than of Nova Scotia) as a heraldic badge

Baronets of England, Ireland, Great Britain or the United Kingdom (i.e. all but baronets of Nova Scotia) use the Red Hand of Ulster (sinister (left) hand version) as a heraldic badge, being the armorial of the ancient kings of Ulster.[7] It is blazoned as follows: A hand sinister couped at the wrist extended in pale gules.[8] King James I of England established the hereditary Order of Baronets in England on 22 May 1611, in the words of Collins (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 Red Hand of Ulster) in their coats of arms either in a canton or an escutcheon at their election".[9] 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.[10]

Arms of Nova Scotia[edit]

Arms of Nova Scotia: Argent, a saltire azure with inescutcheon of the Royal Arms of Scotland, as used by baronets of Nova Scotia as a heraldic badge

Baronets of Nova Scotia, unlike other baronets, do not use the Red Hand of Ulster, but have their own badge showing the Coat of arms of Nova Scotia: Argent, a saltire azure with inescutcheon of the Royal Arms of Scotland. From before 1929 to the present it has been the practice of such baronets to display this badge on its own suspended by a ribbon below the shield of arms.[11]

Number of baronetcies[edit]

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,[12] so there have evidently been some more.

The total number of baronetcies today is approximately 1,270, although only some 1,020 are on the Official Roll.[12] It is unknown whether some baronetcies remain extant and it may be that nobody can prove himself to be the heir incumbent. Over 200 baronetcies are now held by peers and others, such as the Knox line, have been made tenuous due to internal family dispute.

Coat of arms of the Agnew baronets (1895) with the badge of a Baronet of the United Kingdom (Red Hand of Ulster), here shown in a canton 
Badge displayed on its own by Baronets of the United Kingdom (Red Hand of Ulster
Ribbon for Baronet's Badge 

Baronetage decline since 1965[edit]

Baronetcies have not been granted since 31 December 1964 when a baronetcy was conferred on the Conservative politician Graeme Finlay apart from the baronetcy conferred on Denis Thatcher in 1990. Thus there have been fewer baronetcies conferred since 1965 than hereditary peerages.

There were 1490 baronetcies extant on 1 January 1965 since when there has been a loss of about 260 baronetcies through extinction or dormancy giving a gross decline of 17.5% or almost one sixth over 50 years.

There have however been a handful of gains - a new creation (Thatcher Baronetcy, of Scotney (1990)) and five baronetcies dormant in 1965 and since 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)

Thus the net loss is 254 or 17.1%. The extant baronetcies are about 1236 (as of 2015).[13]

Baronetcies with special remainders[edit]

Baronetcies usually descend to heirs male of the body of the grantee, and thus cannot be inherited by females or collateral kins. However, some baronetcies were created with special remainders, for example:

Premier Baronet[edit]


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 comes above other baronets (unless they hold a title of peerage) in the United Kingdom Order of Precedence. The current holder of the title is Sir Nicholas Bacon, 14th Baronet, whose 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 extinction of that title in 1908.[14] Following then, the Premier Scottish Baronets were the Innes baronets of that Ilk (cr. 28 May 1625).[15] The current holder of the title is Guy Innes-Ker, 10th 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.[16] Since then the descendants of Sir Francis Annesley Bt., the Annesley baronets have been the Premier Baronets of Ireland.[17] The current holder of the title is Francis William Dighton Annesley, 16th Viscount Valentia.

Baronetcies conferred upon non-Britons[edit]


The Bahamas[edit]



For a complete list see also list of Canadian baronetcies



The Netherlands[edit]

New Zealand[edit]

South Africa[edit]


In fiction[edit]

See also[edit]

References and sources[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Baronet". Collins Dictionary. n.d. Retrieved 23 September 2014. 
  2. ^ "Baronetess". Collins Dictionary. n.d. Retrieved 23 September 2014. 
  3. ^ Stubbs, Vol. II, Part IV, p 303
  4. ^ Debrett's Correct Form. Addressing the family of a Baronet.
  5. ^ Leigh Rayment's baronetage: Draper to Dymoke
  6. ^ (See page B 599 of the Baronetage section of the latest edition of Debrett.)
  7. ^ Collins, 1741, p.287
  8. ^ Collins, Arthur, The English Baronetage: Containing a Genealogical and Historical Account of all the English Baronets now Existing, Volume 4, London, 1741, p.287[1]
  9. ^ Collins, 1741, vol.4, p.287
  10. ^ Debrett's Peerage, 1968, p.1235
  11. ^ Debrett's Peerage, 1968, p.1235
  12. ^ a b Sir Martin Lindsay of Dowhill, Bt (1979). The Baronetage, 2nd edition. 
  13. ^ "Baronetage decline since 1965". Retrieved 21 September 2015. 
  14. ^ Cokayne, vol ii, pp277-280
  15. ^ Cokayne, vol ii, p 280
  16. ^ Cokayne, vol i, pp223-224
  17. ^ Cokayne, vol ii, p 224
  18. ^ "Baronial family von Friesendorff" (in Swedish). The House of Knights. Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  • Sir Martin Lindsay of Dowhill, Bt (1979). The Baronetage, 2nd edition. (published by the author). 
  • William Stubbs (1883). Chronicles of the Reigns of Edward I and Edward II, Vol. 2, Part IV - Vita Et Mors Edwardi II Conscripta A Thoma de la Moore. Longman & Co., et al. 
  • Debrett's website

External links[edit]