Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Sirs, Lords, Ladies, and all that British Stuff

As I noted in a previous post, Sir Mark Prescott was not knighted. He came about his title, as a Georgian Anglophile who knows him put it, "the old fashioned way, he inherited it". Now this is something that I didn't know, and based on comments on one of the dog lists I'm on, others didn't know about either. As luck would have it, Slate.com has an article today that explains how it works:

"Human nature being what it is, people have always wanted baubles and prefixes, and human nature being what it is, these things have often been for sale. After all, the baronetcy, a quaint hereditary knighthood, was devised by King James I in the early 17th century specifically to raise cash. With the advent of electoral politics, it was parties that turned to selling honors—and prime ministers who were beset by importunate wannabes. After Lord Salisbury became prime minister for the first time in 1885, he said that dealing with those aspiring lords or sirs had "been a revelation to me of the baser side of human nature."

That was then. This is now... the article, entitled So You Want to be a Lord: How to buy your way into the British aristocracy, by Geoffrey Wheatcroft (Sir?), covers the latest British scandals involving buying and selling of titles. So now you know the whole story!

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