Investment news (note to financial regulators: no it isn’t)

by Daniel on March 23, 2006

While responding to comments on a rather facetious Comment is Free article[1] on the UK “loans for lordships” scandal, I came across this fantastic investment opportunity. Burke’s Peerage are apparently the leading (which is to say, probably the only) brokerage firm in buying and selling genuine (by which I mean, fairly genuine) titles of nobility. They come in three categories:

Scottish Feudal Baronies. This looks like the budget end of the market, but is at least one step up from the utterly worthless “Lord of the Manor” titles you occasionally see on eBay, the most famous owner of which is probably the Lord of Harpole aka Abdul Latif, proprietor of the Rupali restaurant in Newcastle and inventor of “Curry Hell”. Unless you are intending to use it to create an air of lovable eccentricity and promote your Indian restaurant these Lord of the Manor titles are worthless; they can be created for tuppence ha’penny and basically nobody recognises them. The Scottish Feudal Baronies, however, are genuine in the sense that there is a register of them and a proper historical timeline linking them back to olden days (they do not allow you to sit in the House of Lords though). They also have the advantage that, since the title is attached to a piece of land (presumably farmland), you might be able to put them in a UK personal pension plan, and they can be inherited (although I think that your successor Baron or Baroness would probably be liable for inheritance tax). If, as seems rather likely, the supply of proper peerages on the open market is about to dry up for a while, then these next-best alternatives might be set for some material appreciation in value.

There are similar “piece of land with a title attached” wheezes that can be worked in France and Italy. The Italian titles are worth a bit more than the French ones because the French system is a bit chaotic; there is no central heraldic register of French nobles (not since 1789 anyway). Also, I suspect that Burke’s are being a bit realistic here; while there is at least some chance that if you rock up in Auchtermuchty with a camera round your neck and a Hawaiian shirt, demanding that the locals address you as Baron Bundy o’ the Isles, they will go along with it, I doubt anyone should be getting their hopes up as regards playing the same game in France.

In any case, I would say that if you are in the nobility market, you might as well go for the brass ring and take the Deluxe option. For an undisclosed sum, Burke’s Peerage can get you adopted by a noble German family. What the hell? I know, but they can. You would be able to wear the coat of arms, and your heirs would style themselves “Baron”. So I think that if you took this option, you would indisputably be a Baron, and presumably you could sort out the same sweetheart “adoption” deal with Burke’s in a generation’s time. Or Debrett’s if they are offering a better price by then.

So anyway, investment in noble titles, it’s bound to be a winner.

Certainly better than, which Chris sent me the link to a while ago. This is as far as I can see purely and simply a con game, aimed at enticing the gullible to buy Iraqi Dinar notes at a premium to face value, on the basis of a sales pitch pointing out the difference between their pre-war exchange rate and what they trade at now and suggesting that if reconstruction is successful, the Iraqi dinar will achieve its former exchange rate for a huge percentage gain. Forget it, this is horseshit. No matter how optimistic you are about the Iraqi economy, does it make even a little bit of sense to assume they are going to massively deflate the currency? Just in order to enrich a bunch of foreigners? These people should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves, and if you run a blog with ads, I really think you ought to consider not running these.

[1] Suggestions for referring to my Commentisfree articles without coming over as quite such a wanker would be gratefully accepted.



Chris Bertram 03.23.06 at 6:14 pm

Isn’t Djibril Cisse “Lord of the Manor” somewhere?


harry b 03.23.06 at 6:25 pm

Have we lost you Daniel? That one’s great.


Daniel 03.23.06 at 6:41 pm

No I’m still here you cheeky kids! I was thinking of putting in a reference to this thread but felt it might be taken the wrong way

I also desperately want to write something about this slow motion train wreck, but am sort of conflicted out as so many of my enemies are involved (not the organisers who seem like decent types, if hopelessly naive about the length of a news cycle)


PP 03.23.06 at 7:15 pm

Can you still purchase a military rank as well? A lieutenant in the Napoleonic Wars was 1000 quid I think. This whole merit based system is rubbish. How quick would the whole Iraq mess be cleared up if the country club bought a commission for their first born.


Tracy W 03.23.06 at 9:22 pm

I approve of governments giving titles and other honours to political supporters. Can anyone think of a less harmful way for a government to reward their political supporters?

Honours and titles are environmentally cheap.

The American system of giving political supporters plum government jobs runs into problems when, say, NZ decides to ban nukes and your ambassador on the ground was looking at the place as a nice retirement option.

Steering government money their way as a reward? Ugh. I’m sure the marginal cost of granting a peerage is far cheaper than the marginal cost of spending $30,000 on a university scholarship for their kids versus spending it on primary schools.

Governments are always going to have an incentive to reward their political supporters. They should have a way to do it that is transparent and doesn’t harm the economy.

And to maintain the value of the honours the government has to appoint people who’ve made some clear achievements in other areas. Thus recognising great scientists, artists, charity workers, etc.

What’s not to like? :)


harry b 03.23.06 at 9:54 pm

I should be careful what I say.

There is an interesting issue about turning honours down; there are professions in which an honour is an inevitability if you don’t mess up, and so those who have not messed up and are nonetheless honour-less can only have turned them down.

Can we sell the title “Queen” or “King”.

Really, Daniel, you’re doing very well over there, in what suddenly seems like cut-throat competition (and you are being notably polite!); you should direct people from here to each post there if you can find a graceful way of doing so. Take that as a request.


radek 03.23.06 at 10:15 pm

I thought that in Germany any “von” was automatically a baron, so I don’t know why you think these are more deluxe then the Scottish ones. Now, graf, or margraf I might pay some money for (thought personally I’m not so sure we should consider Counts and their equivalents ‘nobles’ strictly speaking, since it was an administrative post. Originally they were just glorified clerks.)


Daniel 03.24.06 at 1:02 am

What’s not to like? :)

I would be right up for Tracey’s idea if it wasn’t for the pesky fact that peers are members of our Upper Chamber of Parliament!

Radek: I think at one time you might have been right, but the German “von” has gone the way of the pre-war mark and is these days an inflated currency.


Mrs Tilton 03.24.06 at 4:16 am

Daniel, all German titles of nobility were inflated currency, as every member of the family (not just the head) got the title. ‘Hi, I’m the earl. That’s my kid brother, the earl, and his son — also the earl — and over there is our dog, Earl.’ They didn’t even bother to draw the Italian distinction.

It’s doubtful a plain old von would have been considered nobility at all by British standards. More landed gentry, I’d say; Baggins von Bag End, etc. The British nobility would correspond to what the Germans called Hochadel, the ‘upper nobility’.

What you want is to be able to stick a Freiherr (or better) before the von. And adoption is indeed a way to achieve this, a beautiful and doubtless unintended effect of the halfhearted way in which Germany abolished its noble class. Unlike the Austrians (who actually stripped away all titles, vons, zus etc.), Germany said, ‘There is no longer a nobility, and what was once your title is now merely your surname’. So His Most Serene Imperial Palatinate Margrave von Misthaufen is now Mr Margrave von Misthaufen, as it were. And if he adopts you, even when you are an adult, you get to take on his surname. It’s not really a matter of getting a title at all (strictly speaking, there is no longer such a thing as a German title of nobility). Rather, you are getting a new surname. In principle it is exactly as though one were adopted by Müller or Kowalski. And, if you are prepared to settle for one of those gentlemen’s names, I can get you much better rates than Burke’s can offer.

(Why doesn’t the cost-conscious aspiring toff simply change his name by deed poll to, say, Prinz von und zu Lickibumbum? Easy. Under German law, it is virtually impossible to change one’s name. The default rule is that you just can’t change it. There are several exceptions to the rule, and a change upon adoption is one of them. Change upon marriage is, of course, the exception most often used.)


des von bladet 03.24.06 at 5:59 am

Anyone disputing my nobility is going to have to deal with my elite ninja robot monkey pirate attack force. That is all.

No, wait, it isn’t _quite_ all: one of the more excellent things about _tehgrauniad_’s new CommentisFree thingy is the granularity of the RSS feeds: you can (and should) get a Dsquared feed even if you prefer, as we do, to inhabit a universe that exhibits as little evidence as possible of the existence of Polly Toynbee.

Someone still needs to bootleg up an RSS feed for _If…_ though, unless you know different.


soru 03.24.06 at 6:49 am

How quick would the whole Iraq mess be cleared up if the country club bought a commission for their first born.

If it’s good enough for the Commander in Chief…


Mrs Tilton 03.24.06 at 8:04 am


surely your nobility arises through your annointment with the Imperial chrism, not from something as paltry as a particule?


des von bladet 03.24.06 at 8:16 am

Only some of it.

Given that we are variously Emperor of Austria, Apostolic King of Hungary, King of Bohemia, of Dalmatia, of Croatia, of Slavonia, of Galicia, of Lodomeria, and of Illyria, King of Jerusalem, and so forth, Archduke of Austria, Grand Duke of Tuscany and of Krakau, Duke of Lorraine, of Salzburg, of Styria, of Carinthia, of Carniola and of the Bukovina, Grand Duke of Transylvania, Margrave of Moravia, Duke of Upper Silesia, of Lower Silesia, of Modena, Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla, of Auschwitz and Zator, of Teschen, Friuli, Ragusa and Zara, Princely Count of Habsburg and Tyrol, of Kyburg, Goritz and Grandisca, Prince of Trient and Brixen, Margrave of Upper and Lower Lusatia and in Istria, Count of Hohenems, Feldkirch, Bregenz, Sonnenberg, and so forth, Lord of Triest, of Cattaro and of the Wendish Mark, Grand Voyvode of the Voyvodie of Serbia, and so forth, Sovereign of the Order of the Golden Fleece, as well as Holy Roman Emperor as such, there’s really quite a lot of reasons why.

On balance we can’t can’t recommend being the experience of being inaugurated as Sovereign of the Order of the Golden Fleece, not that it’s actually available.


Michael Mouse 03.24.06 at 9:41 am

Surely Screaming Lord Sutch, 3rd Earl of Harrow (God rest his manic-depressive soul) shows us the way here? If you ask people in the street to name Lords, I guarantee they’ll come up with Lord Sutch’s name long before the vast majority of the inherited aristocracy.

(Assuming the people in the street in question don’t shuffle away awkwardly first, which is probably the most likely response.)


Simstim 03.24.06 at 10:59 am

Des, you always forget the most important bit, it’s “elite ninja robot monkey pirate attack force… with lasers!” Best have some dinosaurs for backup as well.


des von bladet 03.24.06 at 11:24 am

The dinosaurs in our cavalry battalions have laser eyes and they breathe fire! They are indeed very mighty!


paul 03.24.06 at 2:13 pm

The country club set would be thrilled to buy commissions for their sprogs as long as it didn’t, y’know, actually mean having to go over to those hot sandy places and get shot at. Perhaps instead we should bring back a universal draft where for a nominal sum (say five or ten grand) you can buy an immediate discharge. (And maybe for additional sums you can be discharged at the rank of your choice…)


Ben 03.25.06 at 5:28 pm

Chris, I believe Djibril Cisse is Lord of Frodsham. (He was first to come to my mind too).

Comments on this entry are closed.