Where is Ballencrieff?
Ballencrieff is located in the West Lothian region of Scotland, about 25km west of Edinburgh Airport. It sits within the Civil Parish of Bathgate.
What is a Baron?
Baron is a title of nobility extensively granted by rulers in European countries over the last thousand years. However, each nation granted different rights and privileges to their Barons. William the Conqueror introduced the title of Baron to the British Isles.
In Scotland, Baron is a hereditary noble title belonging to the holder of a Barony. A Barony was normally created by Crown Charter (i.e. by the Monarch) who granted “The Lands and feudal Barony of X” to a loyal subject (i.e. the new Baron), which gave them the right to exact taxes and act as a Judge in legal matters within the boundary of that territory. The Baron was, therefore, entitled to issue and enforce penalties, including the death penalty, on the local population. In return the Baron was expected to keep order, provide soldiers to the King’s army and was obliged to attend The King’s Council and, later, Parliament.
Does this still happen?
No. Although the title of Baron still exists, the rights of Barons have gradually been removed over the centuries. Modern Barons do not have the special legal rights and privileges enjoyed by their forebears.
Do Scottish Barons sit in Parliament?
Not any more. At one time Scottish Barons did sit in Parliament. However, being much further away from London, many found the obligation to attend Parliament inconvenient and impractical, and petitioned the King to be allowed to instead send a small number of Barons to sit in Parliament to represent the interests of the entire Baronage. This concept later evolved into what were known as “Representative Peers”.
All Scottish “Lords of Parliament” (who are of higher nobility) were entitled to sit in The House of Lords from 1963 until 1999, when the House of Lords Act removed the automatic right of hereditary Peers to sit in Parliament. There are no Scottish feudal Barons, or Scottish Lords of Parliament, sitting in The House of Lords today.
What’s the history of the Barony of Ballencrieff?
There is a long and very complicated history behind the Barony, which has passed through several families over the last 400 years. Further details will be added shortly.
Are there any famous Scottish Barons?
Perhaps the most famous is the current heir to the British throne Charles, Prince of Wales, who also holds the title Baron of Renfrew in Scotland.
Are new Scottish Barons being created today?
No. Almost all Scottish Baronies were created prior to 1707, when the Acts of Union officially joined England and Scotland into one Kingdom, known as Great Britain. (There may have been one or two rare exceptions to this, however.)
What other noble titles exist?
Baron is the lowest title of nobility in the British Isles. There are several higher noble titles than Baron. In order of increasing rank, they are Viscount, Earl, Marquess and Duke. The female equivalents are Baroness, Viscountess, Countess, Marchioness and Duchess.
Are there any British non-noble titles?
Yes, many. So many that we’ll skip some of the finer nuances and complications in this answer.
The most famous non-noble title is a Knighthood, which in British tradition entitles the holder to use “Sir” in front of their name. There is also a hereditary Knighthood, known as a Baronetcy (not to be confused with “Barony”!) which, similarly, entitles the holder to use “Sir” before their name but can be distinguished from other Knights by the phrase “Bart.” or “Bt.” after their name.
Dame / Lady is a title held by the wives of Knights and Baronets, and by women who have been granted the female equivalent of a Knighthood in their own right. Or, very rarely, women who have inherited a Baronetcy in their own right. Finally, members of the Privy Council are titled “The Right Honourable” and usually hold that title for life.
The children of Life Peers will be addressed in formal writing with the courtesy title of “The Honourable” for life (unless they are granted a higher title), but technically they are still a Mr. / Mrs. / Miss. The eldest sons of higher nobility (Duke, Marquess, Earl) may, by courtesy, use a subsidiary title held by their parent but, again, they don’t technically hold the title themselves.
There are also numerous titles and courtesy titles associated with religious, political and academic positions and achievements, which we won’t go into here.
So, can I buy a Scottish Barony and become a British noble?
IMPORTANT: In the United Kingdom, it is illegal to sell titles. Anyone who offers to sell you an “official British title” is, quite frankly, trying to con you out of your cash. And the “title” they are selling is undoubtedly a fake and completely worthless.
Prior to 2004, it was possible to buy Scottish land that had been granted a Crown Charter in the past, from an existing noble, and then petition The Monarch for recognition as the new Baron. However, ownership of the land itself didn’t automatically make you a recognised Baron, Earl, Marquess etc. Should the King/Queen (or, more likely, their representatives) be satisfied your claim was legitimate then you would normally receive recognition.
However, The Abolition of Feudal Tenure Act (2000) legally separated Scottish Baronies from their original territories, and came into effect on the 28th of November 2004. As a result, Scottish Baronies are now a “personal dignity”, and it is questionable whether they can legally be transferred to anyone except heirs.
If I buy a Lordship of the Manor, would that make me a noble?
No. Genuine Lordships of the Manor do exist under English law, and they do sometimes come with specific special rights (e.g. hunting, fishing, mineral rights) within a certain area. However, being Lord of a Manor merely signifies ownership or rights over a specific piece of land. Being Lord of a Manor isn’t a title, and gives you no more noble status than being landlord of the local pub.
How about if I buy the Scottish title of “Laird”?
Similarly, while there are many established, historic Lairds in Scotland, they are not considered part of the nobility by virtue of being Lairds. Indeed, “Laird” is a description, not a title.
Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous companies on the internet claiming that buying a tiny piece of Scottish land from them entitles you to call yourself a “Laird”, and will then falsely conflate this with being a “Lord”. Firstly, if that were true, surely every homeowner in Scotland could reasonably claim to be a “Lord”. Secondly, they fail to mention that you won’t be the legal owner of the land once you hand over your cash, as they don’t even go to the trouble of registering the purchase with the Scottish government. Buyer beware.
So, how can I become part of the British nobility?
There are three main ways: inherit an existing title, marry a man who has a title, or be granted a Life Peerage by the British government – although technically such a title is granted by The Monarch, and it cannot be inherited, so will not pass to your heirs after your death.
Do you have your own Tartan? Can I use it?
No, there is no official Ballencrieff Tartan. However, there is a historic Rajput Tartan from Rajasthan that (possibly) dates from the The British Raj era. More recently, a Bhatti Tartan was recorded in the official Scottish Register. You are welcome to use either of these if you wish. There is a misconception that each Scottish Tartan is restricted to a particular clan or family. In truth, anyone can wear any Tartan they like. The only restriction you might face would be if a Tartan is registered as a Trademark, then you’re not allowed to make it and sell it without relevant permissions.
Is The Baron of Ballencrieff the Clan Chief of all Bhattis and Rajputs in Scotland?
No. It doesn’t work like that. We’re from Rajasthan, not Renfrew! And Rajput is a caste, not a clan.
Members of a caste are all descended from common ancestors. However, contrary to popular myth, members of the same clan are descended from people who served the same feudal Chief (landlord) but were not necessary related to that Chief by blood. After the 1500s, when surnames came into common use, many took on the surname of the Clan Chief who ruled over them.
I am a Bhatti Rajput. Can I use your Coat of Arms?
No. A Coat of Arms belongs to an individual, and should not be used by anyone else. In Scotland only The Lord Lyon, on behalf of the British Monarch, can grant you a matriculation of Arms. In fact, it’s illegal to use someone else’s Coat of Arms and you could be taken to court for doing so.
OK. But as a Bhatti Rajput, can I at least use the Badge?
The official Badge of The Baron of Ballencrieff is part of the grant of Arms issued by The Lord Lyon, and by law is only for use by his family and official supporters. However, as long as you aren’t fraudulently claiming a link to The Baron or the Barony, there’s absolutely nothing to stop you using a crescent and star, as it’s a symbol long linked to Islamic heraldry generally.
Why does your Coat of Arms feature a camel?
The Bhatti (aka Bhati) people originate from Jaisalmer in Rajasthan (formerly known as Rajputana), India. Their history includes a nomadic tradition which involved keeping and domesticating camels.
How can I get my own Coat of Arms?
The College of Arms in London is a good starting point if you are in England or Wales and have been granted a title by The Monarch. If, however, you are a Scottish noble, or descended from Scottish nobility, then The Lord Lyon court is the place to make further enquiries. The process is very complicated. Ideally, you should get the support of a lawyer who specialises in the subject and a heraldry expert who can guide you through the process.
Can you guide me?
No. We are neither lawyers nor heraldic experts and don’t offer any advice. However, if you make contact, we may be able to introduce you to people who may be able to introduce you to people who know what they’re talking about. Nevertheless, you are urged to conduct your own research and due diligence, and to only take decisions based on credible advice from legal professionals. We offer no advice, nor do we provide recommendations, and we can accept no liability for any losses you might incur.