Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Canadian Perspecive on the Titles Scam

Something made me very curious a few months back... an ad for becoming a Scottish laird/lord/lady/whatever for a small amount.

I raised an eyebrow - that wasn't right, there is no way it would ever be possible. And I dove into a world that intersects law and history and I was hooked.

The first important question is - can Canadians hold noble titles? As surprising as it sounds, the answer is yes! Granting honours is the prerogative of the Crown (which typically does so on the advice of the Prime Minister). It turns out that Canadian governments have not been too keen on that lately, though. Curious readers can have a look at McCreecy's Master's Thesis on the topic.

It is important that titles are a matter that pertain to the Crown (i.e. the King or Queen of Canada - currently HM Elizabeth II), have no legislative framework (in Canada) and are essentially bound by tradition at this point.

[Update 29/06/2015]
The possible titles emanating from the Crown are:
  • Prince/Royal Highness (Royal family only)
  • Duke (Peerage)
  • Marquess (Peerage)
  • Earl (Peerage)
  • Viscount (Peerage)
  • Baron (Peerage)
  • Baronet (Baronetage)
  • Sir (from the orders of knighthoods)
Titles from the Peerage may be hereditary or personal. A knighthood is a personal honour, whereas a Baronetcy is an hereditary honour.


The British Parliament passed some laws (e.g. Life Peerages) that do not apply in Canada, as Canada became a country of its own in 1931 and achieved full independence in 1982.

It is important to note that that titles cannot be purchased since the adoption of the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925. I'm inclined to believe that this law would be applicable in Canada, but we'd need a constitutional scholar to be 100% sure.

That being said, constraints put in place by Royal Warrants apply as they are worded, and that is typically to all the Crown's realms. So even though Canada is not mentioned explicitly, they should apply here as well. I am not a lawyer, let alone a constitutional scholar, so I could be wrong. But I'm going to assume that even if I were, the Queen would gladly fill any loopholes as needed to keep things in sync.

I'm not going to include a link to the scammers themselves, both as a protection against defamation lawsuits and avoiding to give them publicity.

I will point to some of the resources that tell the truth though. I suggest having a look at the Fake Titles site from the Earl of Bradford, Heraldica and Cracroft's Peerage.

The only doubt I have comes from one article. The article sounds like all kinds of titles are traded, but I sense exaggeration from an under-informed journalist. I would conclude from is that they sell French and Italian titles as well as Scottish and Irish feudal baronies.
I wrote to Burke's Peerage for clarification on 2015/06/12, and I was informed that, after Mr. Brooks-Baker passing, this business is no longer ongoing and that they don't really know much about it. 

The Cheap Titles Scam
The cheap titles scam I mentioned above works by essentially getting your name legally changed from John Doe to Lord John Doe. The 'Lord' or 'Lady' is a part of the first name, not an actual title.

The scammers will also send you a coat of arms that is supposedly yours.

In Canada, the Canadian Heraldic Authority (CHA) is in charge of granting coats of arms as well as registering foreign coats of arms. However, it is not illegal to use a coat of arms that isn't registered with them - yet, which means that 'Lord John Doe' could innocently put that coat of arms on his letterhead and not face consequence as long unless he keeps it away from Scotland.

Lord of the Manor Scam
This one has some basis in reality. Anyone can purchase a 'Lord of the Manor' title, which gives some small possibility of revenue stream from natural resources and abandoned land. It does NOT confer a title of any kind, but you might get a coat of arms, which you can get registered at the CHA.

Some people have created the tradition of calling themselves Lord or Lady after purchasing one. However, that's 100% wrong and I hope there's going to be a crackdown at some point.

The Foreign Title Pointlessness
Some sites advertise legal services to buy an actual French or Italian title. French titles (both named and feudal) still exist today. Feudal means that it is tied to a piece of land. So that means that you get to buy some land that comes with a title.

That one is totally legal, but useless. That is because the Crown doesn't give Royal Licenses to foreign title holders since 1930, which means that you couldn't use the title in Canada. The text of the Warrant of April 27, 1932 on Foreign Titles is here.

Note that this applies only to the Queen's subjects. If you are a non-Canadian holding a foreign title living in Canada, then that's totally fine.

Hereditary Peerages cannot be transmitted to adopted children in the UK (Royal Warrant of 30 April 2004). The wording of the Royal Warrant make it sound like it applies in Canada, but refers to a British law. That is an apparent loophole which is probably not worth trying.

Scottish Feudal Barony?
It is possible to purchase a Scottish Feudal Barony. The title is now independent from the land ownership. The title is foreign to Canada, but is subject to the same Queen.
The owner should be able to call themselves Baron of XYZ, but not Baron Firstname Lastname.
I'm going to guess that they would some kind of official recognition in their Canadian Passport, though there is no official documentation available about that. This is hardly a surprise, considering that there are very few Canadians ever receiving titular honours, let alone a Barony!

It looks like it IS possible to get a 100% valid title for Canadians. That is, however, a very expensive option. And since those feudal baronies are limited in number and don't come for sale super often, you might have to wait a little bit before you can call yourself Baron XYZ.

[Edit 29/06/2015]
Additional links:
Royal Warrant for the Roll of the Peerage 
Succession for a Baronetcy
Royal Warrant for the Roll of the Baronetage