Talk:Peerages in the United Kingdom

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Peerage and Nobility[edit]

Can someone please explain to me the overlap between the term the nobility and the term the peerage?

The term 'Peerage' is a British term referring to 'peers', i.e. Dukes, Marquesses, Earls, Viscounts, Barons and Lords of Parliament. These are the only people the 'Peerage' refers to. For example, no other member of their families is in the 'Peerage', though thay are noble. Likewise, baronets, although part of the nobility (because they are titled and inherit those titles) are not 'Peers' either.

  • What about "aristocracy" - I know what peer and noble mean, but I have read books lately that make reference to "the aristocracy" - how do they relate to the nobility? - Matthew238 05:26, 2 April 2007 (UTC)
  • Peerage to mean all the lords and ladies is a mis-use. Peerage is a countable noun. The correct expression for the whole system is nobility. A peerage is a place in the nobility and peerages are more than one such place.

All this dicussion of titles compared to a ruler, but; in the case of a landhold, how much was each noble permitted to have, based on rank? In other words, Barons got X km of land, Jarls/Counts got X km. of land...? would it be possilbe for a tabled list to show roughly the amounts of land? Thank you. 07:54, 11 September 2007 (UTC) ISO 1806 2007-09-11 T00:54 Z-7

It wouldn't be possible to make such a list, as there was never such a system. Higher ranks, even in the early days of the Peerage, generally correspond to higher honour or importance rather than higher landholdings. It was of course common for ownership of large areas of land to make someone more important, and thus possibly cause them to be raised in rank (such as in the 19th century, when the Marquesses of Stafford and Westminster were raised to Dukedoms mainly because they were extremely rich), but there is certainly no exact correlation, and there have always existed low-ranking peers with enormous wealth (and large amounts of land) as well as high-ranking peers with hardly anything. The closest it ever got to such a system was in feudal times, with a distinction between Barons/Lords (who were essentially just holders of seats in the House of Lords) and Earls (who were associated with a particular county and received a portion of the taxes in that county). Dukes and Marquesses in this system were essentially just higher-ranking versions of Earls with the same rights (so whether someone was Duke of Norfolk or Earl of Norfolk would make no difference to how much land/money he got from Norfolk). Of course, Dukes and Marquesses often held more than one county, which would mean greater wealth, but this was by no means certain. Proteus (Talk) 09:49, 11 September 2007 (UTC)
Peerage is a countable noun and ought just to be used to refer to individual titles. The collective (non-countable) noun is nobility.

worldwide view[edit]

Why is this for the United Kingdom only? Elle vécut heureuse à jamais (Be eudaimonic!) 05:02, 9 July 2006 (UTC)

Only the United Kingdom has a 'Peerage', as I explained above.

Erm, not really. Historically there were a few others. See Empire of China (1915-1916). Elle vécut heureuse à jamais (Be eudaimonic!) 01:34, 14 July 2006 (UTC)

The content of this page should be moved to a more specific title. Britain is not the only country to have had a peerage. For example, Article 14 of the Japanese Constitution needs to be covered here. --Jiang 07:20, 5 August 2006 (UTC)

It's here as a primary topic. Proteus (Talk) 10:39, 5 August 2006 (UTC)

others may have a nobility, but NOT a peerage. that is a word coined in england, and if applied to china or japan, it is a bad translation only. the world view template here is grotesque. --Snottily 12:38, 19 October 2006 (UTC)

That's complete nonsense. In the first place, the term was coined in French (as pairie), and the French peerage has, I think, pride of first usage. I believe there may have been similar concepts to the House of Lords in some other countries, although I'm not sure if "Peerage" was the term used. In terms of rules in Asian countries created in the 19th or 20th centuries, there is absolutely no reason to say it's a bad translation. These peerages were modeled directly on the British model. I really do think this page should be moved to British Peerage, with Peerage covering a more international perspective. john k 13:11, 19 October 2006 (UTC)
It's tricky while I understand why you think this should be moved to British Peerage I'm also more than willing to accept that the main English language usage of the term peerage is a reference to the British Peerage. Just as wiki would leave Tony Blair or Bill Clinton as the main aricle for those names even if some fictitious micro-nation elected someone of the same name as their leader. So you could, as wiki does elsewhere, accept that this is the right place as the 'main' meaning. ( As an aside the French Peerage was an odd entity in that you could hold a title but not be a peer. Few nobles were peers - dukes being the exception and even here not always.) Alci12 14:16, 19 December 2006 (UTC)
Indeed. The vast, vast majority of references to "the Peerage" or "peerage", both on Wikipedia and in normal usage, are to the subject of this article. Similarly House of Lords is not at "British House of Lords" just because there was a less important, much less well known and obsolete Irish House of Lords. Proteus (Talk) 12:55, 23 December 2006 (UTC)

The problem is that peerage in the sense used on the main page is a nonsense. It's being used as a synonym for nobility yet it's not. Many countries have nobilities, whether or not they take part ex officio in the legislature or government. England will probably become one of those countries where peers have no place in lawmaking or governing unless they are elected.

Peers as Equals in American Usage - Requires Disambiguation[edit]

Will someone please Disambiguate the term from the American usage, whereby one is tried by one's peers-meaning equals. Thanks. Yours truly, -- The preceding unsigned comment was added by User:Ludvikus

We also say the same thing in the UK. I think you got it from us. Anyway, the US doesn't refer to this as "peerage", does it? So no disambiguation is needed. Marnanel 12:58, 5 September 2006 (UTC)

Perhaps one should write a general article on peerage, and change the title of this one to "peerage in the UK"?

It doesn't need to be disambig'd. One is not tried by the Peerage - one is tried by one's peers. The word peer has, like many words in the English language, multiple meanings. It can mean, variously, to look intently or search for; to appear; or someone or something of equal worth, quality or standing etc. It is within the context of the last meaning that the meaning for peers, as in the peerage, is taken: those in a system of a stratus of social ranks equal to each other. There is no difference in usage between English and Americans' usage of the language. --Mal 04:23, 12 January 2007 (UTC)


I've reverted the link to the Peerage of the Commonwealth of Australia because there was no such thing; for instance, the letters patent creating the Birdwood Barony, as visible in the London Gazette, declare it to be a "Barony of the United Kingdom". Further discussion at that talk page on Australian titles. Choess 03:18, 3 November 2007 (UTC)


This article states that succession in hereditary peerages created by latters patent is usually agnatic, ie passing from elder to younger brother, even when children exist. It was my understanding that as with the monarchy, the title descended from the holder to his/her children. Can anyone confirm, or better yet, give a cite? Rojomoke (talk) 23:54, 17 December 2007 (UTC)

British focus[edit]

A peerage (as a collective term) refers to a group of nobles who have a legislative right as a result of that nobility. At the moment the article deals entirely with the British peerage. As noted above back in 2006, many other nations had similar systems, including

and so on. To limit the article to the British peerage is totally unjustified, especially as it wasn't even the first one (the French peerage was the original). I think the majority of this article should be moved to British peerage and an overview of peerages in different countries should be at this article. Many later Houses of Peers (e.g. the Prussian and Japanese) were directly based on the British model, so there is plenty of scope for a general article on how the concept spread through history. Opera hat (talk) 13:29, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

Process of creating peerages[edit]

I'm interested in the process whereby a peerage is formally created. This stems from my interest in John Forrest. He's often described, even in very reputable references, as "Lord Forrest" (1st Baron Forrest of Bunbury), but as far as I can ascertain that's not correct. The decision to create the barony was made; this was communicated to the Australian Governor-General, who communicated it to Forrest. Forrest took this to mean that he was now a peer, and immediately started signing "Forrest". However, the Letters Patent had not been drawn up; and he died a short time later, still technically a commoner. I suppose we could say that the decision to elevate him was made in principle, and under normal circumstances that would have led automatically to all the technical processes involved in the creation of the barony. So we shouldn't be too critical of Forrest for jumping the gun. Plus, it was announced in the Australian press, which in my understanding normally means the person is entitled to assume the title immediately. That's certainly true for knighthoods; they're publicly announced in an Honours List months (in some cases years) before the formal investiture, but from the day of the publication they can use "Sir". But apparently in Forrest's case he should have waited for all the red tape to be formalised. So, what is that red tape - is there anything other than the writing and signing of the Letters Patent, for example - and where can I find precise details of it? -- JackofOz (talk) 11:32, 15 August 2008 (UTC)

A peerage is created when the Letters Patent pass the Great Seal and not before. Mere publication of the intent to create a peerage does not itself create a peerage, and Forrest was being premature. Another example is George Cave, 1st Viscount Cave: his resignation as Lord Chancellor and elevation to an earldom was announced on 29 March 1928, but as he died the same day he never received the higher title. (His widow was created a Countess suo jure, though.) I think there are other examples of intended recipients dying after the Letters Patent were drawn up but before the Great Seal could be affixed. (talk) 00:30, 8 September 2008 (UTC)
Sorry, that was me: forgot to log in :| Opera hat (talk) 00:31, 8 September 2008 (UTC)

Explaining Numbering System[edit]

Being from continental Europe, where members of the nobility are merely numbered by name (i.e. Lothar II., as there had already been a Lothar before him), I am not quite sure I've grasped the way in which peerages are numbered. While all of these processes must be quite evident for people acquainted with the British system of peerage, they might be rather confusing for readers only familiar with continental customs. As far as I've understood, the successor to the 1st Earl X will be the 2nd Earl X and so forth, etc. If the title of peerage in question becomes extinct due to the lack of a legitimate heir, and is subsequently awarded to a new holder, would this be counted as a "2nd creation"? And would the numbering then again start at one? As numbers are fairly closely associated with the titles in British peerage, I think it would be helpful if somebody conversant in nobility issues could perhaps add a short paragraph on the matter. Trigaranus (talk) 22:35, 25 August 2009 (UTC)

You seem to have it down, basically. Each creation gets its own set of numbering. There's frequently confusion with respect to numbering medieval comital titles, where it's often uncertain exactly when there's been a new creation. I don't think that's entirely a British thing - I've seen French and Spanish nobles with numbered titles like that. john k (talk) 23:38, 25 August 2009 (UTC)


What is the difference between dormant and abeyant titles ?

Siyac 21:10, 26 May 2010 (UTC)

The difference, so far as I am aware, is that a dormant title is one for which no claimant currently exists (but one may in the future), or for which one probably exists but the identity of the claimant is unknown. An abeyant title is one for which multiple people have equally valid claims. In both cases, it depends upon the title's "remainder," essentially the rules by which the title can be inherited. Right now, I can't think of a situation where a title can go dormant without completely reverting to the Crown, but I'm sure there are some. The classic case of an abeyant title is one which can be passed on to individual sons, but ALL the daughters--that is, if there is no eldest son to inherit the title, it legally goes to all of the peer's daughters. A title cannot be shared among multiple people though, so the title is held in abeyance until (a) all daughters but one disclaim their right to it, (b) all daughters but one die, or (c) the Sovereign (or Parliament) ends the abeyance by favoring one daughter. (talk) 03:56, 1 July 2010 (UTC)

No more hereditary UK peerages[edit]

In the UK, I notice that there's an average of ten hereditary peerages created per year up until about 1964, and after that almost none - and usually then mainly for members of the royal family. Is there any reason why this is so, as the article doesn't address this? What i'm getting at is this: is there some sort of policy (official or unofficial) to let hereditary titles eventually dwindle or die out through attrition? For instance, why aren't former PMs made hereditary earls any more? (talk) 09:54, 15 June 2010 (UTC)

It's probably too strong to say that there's a policy to let the titles die out, but public opinion being what it is (see Lords reform), creating new hereditary peers just doesn't look good for the government, that's all. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:58, 1 July 2010 (UTC)

Cannot hold a peerage from herself[edit]

I don't dispute the principle that HM cannot herself be a peer of right. But since she's married to a peer, is she not also the Dcuhess of Edinburgh, Countess of Merioneth, and Baroness Greenwich in her husband's right? I've never seen those included in her list of titles, but it seems like maybe they ought to be. (talk) 15:40, 29 June 2010 (UTC)

Clarification request[edit]

We say "There is currently no recognised way for a life peer to leave the upper House permanently and voluntarily."

But This article discusses some recent resignations from the Lords related to maintaining a "non-dom" tax status, i.e. "non-domiciled for tax purposes". I am not enough of an expert to consider fixing what we have there myself, so I merely note it here for the experts to ponder.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 01:52, 23 October 2010 (UTC)

"A hereditary" versus "An hereditary"[edit]

I just now reverted this edit by Old Moonraker. OM cited "Words that may have had a route into English via French (where all hs are unpronounced) may have an to avoid an unusual pronunciation." as justification but that seems wrong to me on a couple of counts.

First, the word "hereditary" does not come to English via French. According to my dictionary is originates in late Middle Englsh, from Latin.

Second, the basic rule is that "The form "an" is always prescribed before words beginning with a silent h" - but 'hereditary' does not have a silent h in either standard American or standard British English. I do grant that in Cockney dialect, it might work with 'an': "Some British dialects (for example, Cockney) silence all initial h's (h-dropping) and so employ "an" all the time: e.g., "an 'elmet"." But I think we all agree that Wikipedia is, unfortunately perhaps, not written in Cockney dialect. :)

Finally, and to make clear that despite my overwhelmingly persuasive (haha) arguments so far, Old Moonraker is not being outrageously wrong, I note that a search in google on the site finds a hereditary 699 times, but finds an hereditary 367 times. So I win on sheer counting, but clearly there is a legitimate minority position here. (A general search of the Internet and counting google hits also goes my way, in roughly the same ratio, but I thought following the conventions of would make more sense as this is a UK-specific topic.)--Jimbo Wales (talk) 11:42, 6 April 2011 (UTC)

Addendum: A rather amusing discussion about this in the House of Lords.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 11:45, 6 April 2011 (UTC)
The last person that I can remember saying "an" before a word beginning with an h that is pronounced was my grandmother, who said "an hotel" (she actually said "an 'otel", though she wasn't a Cockney). She died fifty years ago. The only people who aren't Cockneys who might still say "an 'ereditary" these days are either hereditary peers themselves or very upper-class people who live in a social bubble dating back to the '50s or earlier - Brian Sewell, "the only man I have ever met who makes the Queen sound common", according to John Humphrys, immediately springs to mind. --GuillaumeTell 16:16, 6 April 2011 (UTC)
Will: please note my username—Old Moonraker! My more serious argument stands on three points: one is The Cambridge Guide to English Usage, which acknowledges that the usage happily persists as a "stylistic nicety", specifically citing heir as an example. The second is WP:RETAIN: if a conscientious contributor (and it wasn't I) has chosen to use a perfectly correct form, it shouldn't be changed without good reason—they should be allowed their "stylistic niceties". The Lancaster-Oslo-Bergen Corpus notes that the use of an before words beginning with h is much more prevalent in Britain than elsewhere so, without stretching this further than it will bear, WP:ENGVAR may apply.
I must acknowledge Jimbo's point, though: the OED entry makes reference to the French héréditaire, but not as the direct "route into English". --Old Moonraker (talk) 18:41, 6 April 2011 (UTC)

This is one of those points where ENGVAR applies, but in my opinion should not. If speakers of one variant of English cannot agree which form is correct because the language is moving, and for speakers of another variant of English already use the modern form consistently, then it seems sensible to prescribe the modern form. Hans Adler 13:58, 15 May 2011 (UTC)

It depends on the stress of the first syllable. "An" is possible if it is unstressed, although there must be other constraints as well, as one would tend to say "a hotel". I believe the use of "an hotel" would be pronounced "an 'otel" and that this was a feature which used to be common in RP which deleted h's in non-stressed syllables, leading to expressions like "God bless 'er". Count Truthstein (talk) 19:01, 15 June 2011 (UTC)

This confusion has been caused by changing pronunciation. In Britain and the North-eastern US during the second half of the 19th century, it was fashionable to pronounce many words of French origin with a silent 'h' (and even with a quasi-French accent), so historic became 'ee-sto-reek', hotel was 'er-tel' etc. Naturally these words went into print in the same manner - qv Dickens, Darwin or any other texts from the period.
In the late 19th/early 20th century the pronunciation of these words changed to the current pronunciation (excluding 'hour' and 'honour' for some reason). However the fact that it was written "an historic' or "an hypothetical" in assorted texts led people to the mistaken belief that some alternative grammar rule was in play. There is no variant rule - just a variance in pronunciation. The same situation still applies with the word "herb", which you will see written as "an herb" and "a herb" depending on whether the author is American or British. Manning (talk) 04:33, 29 July 2011 (UTC)

Lord vs House of Lords[edit]

I came to this article hoping to learn the difference between a Lord and a member of the House of Lords - to the untrained eye they would appear to be synonymous, but I now know this is incorrect - eg. Lord Monckton. Could someone clarify the distinction in a way that a non-Brit could understand? Manning (talk) 04:41, 29 July 2011 (UTC)

It is complicated. :-)
First, let's start with substantive peers, people who are actually "peers of the realms" - there are basically 2 kinds - life peers (who are almost all members of the House of Lords, with a very few exceptions) and hereditary peers (of whom 92 are members of the House of Lords, 2 by virtue of holding important ceremonial posts, and 90 who are elected by the hundreds of hereditary peers). All of these people are "Lords" if male and "Ladies" if female. (Although note that most female life peers use the title "Baroness" these days, presumably to distinguish themselves from the many women who have the courtesy title "Lady").
Second, there are courtesy peers - these are generally children of higher ranking peers (Dukes, Marquesses, and Earls) who use "by courtesy" one of the subsidiary titles of the actual peer. These too are addressed as Lords/Ladies. These are not actual peers, and not members of the House of Lords (unless, by chance, they happen to have some other route into the house such as a life peerage) but they are Lords.
Third, younger sons of Marquesses and Dukes are styled Lord, even though they aren't using any particular subsidiary title (those go to the eldest son), and daughters of Earls, Marquesses, and Dukes are styled Lady, again with no particular subsidiary title.
Fourth, some judicial offices carry the courtesy title of Lord. For example, in the Supreme Court of the UK, most of the members are also life peers (temporarily disqualified from membership in the House while serving on the court), but a couple of them are not. Nevertheless, they are addressed as "Lord".
Fifth, I can't believe I know all of this to this degree of accuracy, which is likely not perfect, but pretty good for an American. :)--Jimbo Wales (talk) 05:06, 29 July 2011 (UTC)
The lede seems a bit misleading, in that "the peerage" refers largely to inherited titles which don't form part of the British honours system. There is overlap: Earl Mountbatten's title was a special honour, and modern life peers, quite numerous, are part of the honours system. Margaret Thatcher recommended Denis Thatcher be created a Baronet, an hereditary (sorry, old habits) title which in due course would pass to their son. Is some slight rewording needed?
An unworthy aside: Jimbo, that's a neat summing up you've offered there, but the best you could ever hope for is a Geldof-style honorary knighthood!
--Old Moonraker (talk) 06:44, 29 July 2011 (UTC)
@Moonraker - Steven Spielberg got one as well.
@Jimbo - a very lovely summary, particularly for an evil, war-mongering imperialist American. However perhaps I was unclear in my intention, I was actually someone could improve the article so that the distinction was clear there. Perhaps you are new to the project - we are trying to write an encyclopedia here... Manning (talk) 23:20, 31 July 2011 (UTC) ...sits back and waits for someone to dive in and try to tell me who Jimbo is

are Lords/Lady's peers?[edit]

Wondering if Lord and Lady's count as peers - article seems to imply it, but they aren't listed in the table Snellios (talk) 10:53, 31 December 2011 (UTC)

It's a bit complicated, but it's dealt with in the Styles and Titles section of the article and in the "main article" links. The main distinction is that the wife of a peer (say, Lord Bloggs) is known as Lady Bloggs, but that doesn't make her a peer. The husband of a female peer (say, Lady Mudd) is not, however, known as Lord Mudd - doesn't make sense, does it? --GuillaumeTell 18:52, 31 December 2011 (UTC)


Wil spouse of a peer be considered a peer during her marriage since UK peerage system only enobled individuals rather than family ?

Siyac (talk) 08:21, 5 June 2012 (UTC)
See Courtesy_titles_in_the_United_Kingdom#The_wives_of_peers perhaps we need to add this (in whole or part) to the main peerage article. Garlicplanting (talk) 11:03, 17 September 2013 (UTC)

Hereditary Peers[edit]

Now that most of the hereditary peers have been swept from the House of Lords it cannot be said that the creation of a hereditary peerage is in any way manipulating the composiiton of Parliament. What's the chance that now, governments can start to create hereditary peerages? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:56, 14 October 2012 (UTC) Avalon (talk) 09:23, 15 October 2012 (UTC)