The Three Types of Barons

There are many levels of Peerage, Baron being one of them. This is where a Baron fits in the overall structure of nobility in the United Kingdom.

By origin, peers were the military companions and tenants-in-chief of the Monarch. Greater definition of their position and privileges became necessary in the 13th century with the development of the parliamentary institutions, and summons to the House of Lords was accepted as evidence of a peerage. While a peerage has always been regarded as one of the pillars on which the crown rested, during the 17th and the 18th centuries it was credited with a balancing role, preventing the British constitution from sliding either into despotism or into anarchy. Also, the history of knighthood helps explain this role.

In 1707, at the Act of Union with Scotland, a new British peerage was instituted, and changed in 1801, after the union with Ireland, into a peerage of the United Kingdom.

Peerage in the United Kingdom in order of importance is as follows:

King, Sovereign Monarch: some countries are ruled by a Prince who is the sovereign monarch

Prince, the oldest son of the King and heir to the throne. Just over 100 years ago, almost 90 % of all countries were ruled by a sovereign monarch. Only 7 heirs to the throne remain as of 1997 in countries with constitutional monarchies, all of which are unmarried.

Duke, first reserved for members of the royal family, and though efforts to restrict it have failed, it has been sparingly granted. The first non-royal creations were by Richard II during his reign between 1377 and 1399.

Marquees, taken from the custodianship of marches or borders, it was instituted after French example by Richard II in 1385 when Robert de Vere was created Marquees of Dublin.

Earl, derived from the Saxon and Danish office of responsibility for a shire [county], it is therefore with Baron the oldest title. The wife of an Earl is called Countess.

Viscount, is a title derived from the Latin term vice-comes, responsible for a county. The first Viscount in Ireland based on French example was Robert Preston, the Viscount Gormanston created by Edward IV 1478. Viscount Gormanston's family is the oldest Viscountcy in Ireland. They are also the Barons of Drumahaire.

Baron, is of Norman (French) origin. Formal recognition was first by summons to what became the House of Lords, but in 1387 Richard II granted a Barony by Letters Patient to John Beauchamp de Holt as Baron Kidderminister. He did not live long to enjoy his new honour, being executed on Tower Hill the following year.

Baronet, is a hereditary order of Knighthood, founded in 1611 by James I to provide funds for the settlement of Ireland. The original intention not to exceed 200 was soon broken, and there were lavish creations, mainly to raise money, in the Stuart period. An order of Irish and of Scottish Baronets was subsequently established, merged in 1707 into Baronets of Great Britain, and in 1801 into Baronets of the United Kingdom.

Lord of the Manor is the title that applies to the ruler of the smallest unit of government or one that rules a townland or manor.

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (1917) is awarded mainly to civilians and service personnel for public service or other distinctions and has a military and a civil division. Ranks in the Order are Knight or Dame Grand Cross (GBE), Knight or Dame Commander (KBE or DBE), Commander (CBE), Officer (OBE) and Member (MBE). Knighthood explained.

What follows is a well written explanation of Feudal Baronies by Robert Smith, Chairman, The Manorial Society of Great Britain.

From the reign of William the Conqueror to the middle of the 13th century at least, the dignity of Baron in England was annexed to territorial possessions derived from the Crown, for which the grantee was bound to render homage, fealty, and military and other honorable services. to such possessions was annexed the privilege of holding courts, or the civil and criminal jurisdiction as it has been called, which right sometimes passed with the Seignory as an incident without being expressly named: but more generally was specially granted by the whole justitian, curian, or socha and sacha, infangenthef and outfangenthef.

The Sheriff could not for the most part enter the Barony, and the Baron's officers received the King's writs. In such courts, justice was dispensed by the Baron to his tenants and vassals, or those under him. Besides attending the King in his wars with the number of Knights reserved by his tenure to the Crown, the Baron, as its vassal, was bound to attend the King's Court, the Curia Regis. The Court, at first held at stated periods in each year, was afterwards extended to the Magnum Consilium (Great Council), to which the King summoned his Barons for the advice and consul, at such times and on such occasions as his exigencies required.

When extra-feudal services were agreed by the Barons at this court, the consent of the tenants and vassals was also sought by the holders of such Seignories in their Courts Baron. In possession of one of these Feodum Nobile, with its incident services of attending the Curia Regis or Magnum Consilium, originated the dignity of the Feudal Peerage. A Feudal Baron is perhaps a literal territorial Peerage, as opposed to a nominal one today. After the Baron's war of 1264-1265, a change took place in England which affected the rights of the English Baronage, by which it was established that no person should attend Parliament without an express writ from the King, with a sitting in consequence, and has since been held to have vested in the person so summoned and his heirs lineally an hereditary Barony. Such rules have never applied to Barony by Tenure, though there are still some Baronies by Writ, whose holders sit in the House of Lords, whose ancestors sold their their Baronies in the distant past.

Ireland has 331 Baronies in 32 Counties. The Barony of Drumahaire, County Leitrim, Connaught, the Barony of Tullyhunco, Co Cavan, Ulster and the Barony of Orhera, County Armagh, Ulster are two very good examples of the typical Irish Barony. The Barony of Orhera in olden times was called Orier Bar and in current times is called Orior Lower. Drumahaire was called Drumagheire in the olden days.

In the historical context, based on a manuscript at the College of Arms, London, there are Baronies of three kinds, namely:

    Baron by Tenure

    Baron by Writ

    Baron by Letters Patent.

Baron by Tenure, who in regard thereof, ought to be summoned to Parliament. Barons of Tenure were of old the King's principal tenants, who holding as Honor, castle, or Manor of the King, in capite by Barony (per integram Baroniam) were called his Baroness majores, having their titles usually from their principal seats, or heads (caputs) of their Baronies, and continued to be the only Barons summoned to Parliament until 1265, when Henry III, having overcome Simon de Montfort and the rebellious Barons at the Battle of Evesham, called a Parliament to have such of them as were slain, taken prisoner, or escaped, attainted and disinherited: but the number of his faithful Barons being small, he supplied their number with other persons of known worth, wisdom, and repute who, by means thereof were henceforth Barons by Writ, although they had no possession that was Feodum Nobile, for they were only tenants in capite, which were not really Barons at all (tough some were, some were restored, and some married ladies--the daughters or widows of Barons-who conferred Baronies, or at least respectability, upon them).

[ sic. The 1265 War in the reign of Henry III in England was hereafter known as the Baron's War or the Baron's Revolt. ]

In the reign of King John, 1199-1216, an alteration of great importance took place in the rights of the Barons and tenants in capite; for only the principal Barons, or Barons Majores, were summoned to attend Parliament, by particular writs from the King; and the rest, who acquired the name Barones Minores, were called by one general summons from the sheriffs of their respective counties. This practice was recognized and legally established by the Magna Carta of King John.

Many, however, were not, though they were often called to Great Councils as Barons and Peers. This continued to be the practice until the reign of Richard II, who in 1388, introduced the creation of Baron by Letters Patent, which is now the only method by which a person is summoned as a Peer to Parliament. The Feudal Baronage in England predates by as much as two centuries the Parliamentary Peerage.

Barons by Tenure like Scottish Barons and later Irish Barons, are one of the minores sort, but only because they no longer sit in Parliament.

In the reign of King Henry III a still greater alteration took place in the rights of Barons; for whereas, every tenent in capite was, before that period ipso facto, a Parliamentary Baron, and entitled to be summoned either by the King's writ, or by the sheriff of the county, to every Parliament that was called; yet, about that time, some new law is said to have been made, by which it was established that no person, though possessed of a Barony, should come to Parliament without being expressly and particularly summoned by the King's writ.

Therefore, notwithstanding that Barons by Tenure are not entitled to sit in Parliament, and are shorn - like their counterparts in Parliament - of most of their original jurisdictions and fiduciary privileges, yet nevertheless, the inherent nobility in the property of the Barony by Tenure, like the parliamentary Barony by Writ, subsists in the legal title by conveyance which is only a different fashion of succession as if it had passed by blood which method only one may succeed to parliamentary Baronies. Baronies by Tenure, therefore, properly conveyed are historically titles of nobility which ought, in the words of the document at the College of Arms, to be summoned to Parliament.

So regarding the Barons of Tenure, while they ought to be called by the reigning Monarch to sit as a Peer in Parliament, they apparently are not.

Examples of the line of descent of the Irish Barony of Orhera, Co Armagh, Ulster, the line for the Barony of Drumahaire, Co Leitrim, Connaught and for the rulers of Tullyhunco, Co Cavan, Ulster.

A short history of the rulers of the Barony of Drumahaire, Co Leitrim, Connaught and the history of the rulers of the Barony of Orhera, Co Armagh, Ulster.

The family line for the Barons of Drumahaire.

The family line for the Barons of Orhera.

The Viscounts Gormanston, Barons of Drumahaire (the Preston family) Blazon of Arms and Crest explained and translated. The Earls of Kilmorey, Barons of Orhera (the Needham family) Blazon of Arms and Crest explained and translated.

Last updated June 25, 1999

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