History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

02 August 2007

Titles for Heroes on Aisle Nine!

How to Purchase a Title PLUS My First Mea Culpa!

As I said in the previous post, I started writing To Tempt a Scotsman years ago when I was enthusiastic about my writing, but not precisely educated. Most of what I knew about nineteenth century society I'd learned from romance novels. You know, those wallpaper romances I blogged about last week? Delicious, but not the best education one could receive.

But I jumped into Scotsman without a care in the world and started writing! Inaccurately, as it turned out. It wasn't until I was about halfway through that I discovered a problem with my hero...

Collin Blackburn is a strong, dependable Scotsman. A simple man who breeds horses for a living and wants nothing to do with English society. But he's also the illegitimate son of an English earl, and I thought his father would have given him a minor title at some point. This was the way I was writing the book. La-la-la!

Well, of course, as I'd imagine all of you know, you cannot simply hand out English titles like sweetmeats, despite what might've gone on in novels past. By the time I realized this, I was halfway through my book. Now, there's no important plotline tied to Collin's title, and I could have removed it altogether. But it does set up some lovely conflict for him. He doesn't want anything to do with that world, but it keeps being thrust upon him. First with his father's late attention, then with the title, and finally with this English girl who won't leave him be!

Well, it turns out what I'm lacking in knowledge, I more than make up for in luck, because... drumroll please... There's only one title that may be honestly purchased, and that is... the Scottish Barony!!! Specifically the Scottish Prescriptive Barony by Tenure.

What luck! I have a sexy Scotsman on hand in need of a title! The Scottish barony (and I'm speaking in present tense though the rules changed in 2004) can only be assumed by the purchase of the land associated with the barony.

From Wikipedia: "In the seventeenth century two important statutes were passed. The first set up a General Register of Sasines, and said that all landowning should be registered in it, and that an entry in the Sasine Register would give prescriptive right, after so many years, to the "caput", or the essence of the barony. Accordingly, the individual - irrespective of sex, who owned the said piece of land containing the caput was the Baron or Baroness."

Perfect! Not only did this give Collin's father a way to buy him a title, it also set up the internal conflict for Collin. He wants to tell his father to shove the title up his arse, but he can't walk away from the valuable piece of land. Ha!

So I changed a few details in the story and happily finished it. Years went by before it won the Golden Heart and was eventually contracted by Kensington. I planned on doing a lot of research checking during revisions, but Oops! My editor didn't ask for any, and I was a little freaked out doing my first copy edits and... A few things slipped through the cracks, I'm afraid. Here's one of them!

Again, from Wikipedia: "The owner of the Scottish barony "Inverglen", may decide to continue to use his existing name, "John Smith", and add the title, to become "John Smith, Baron of Inverglen" and be addressed as "Inverglen"." Straightforward enough, and exactly what I'd done. But something started to niggle at my brain, though my spider senses came a bit too late for the sake of the reader.

After the book had already gone into production, it occurred to me that I'd only ever seen Scottish barons referred to as Baron So-and-So, never "Lord" So-and-So. Hmm. But I hadn't read about them often, so I set the worry aside until just a few weeks ago. Bad idea. Turns out I got the form of address wrong, and there's nothing to be done now, but admit my guilt.

Collin Blackburn, Baron of Westmore, should be addressed as Baron Westmore. Though his wife is called Lady Westmore, he is not (from what I can glean) addressed as Lord Westmore. Except in my book. *sigh*

[ADDED for clarification: I believe the reason the title "Lord" isn't used is that the Scottish barony is not equal in importance to the English barony (perhaps because it can be purchased?). As Collin tells Lady Alexandra in Scotsman, "I'm not the least bit respectable." Which only makes him more appealing to her, of course.]

So mea culpa. I hope you still think kindly of me, especially if you ever find yourself in need of a purchased title and refer back to this post!

All my best! And I hope you enjoy To Tempt a Scotsman despite any flaws!


Blogger Maggie Robinson said...

No tea and Scottish shortbread for you! Your slip is hardly as egregious as books I've been reading lately when they refer to Sir John Smith as Sir Smith. How can this not be noticed by editors, who presumably know what they're doing?

2:55 PM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

Ah, title hell. Something went haywire in my manuscript and I ended up with a character who is both Mrs. and Lady, randomly throughout the book. *sigh*

I just checked my 1779 Peerage and the Scottish barons are listed as “the right honorable John Smith, lord Smith” and the creation says “Lord Smith in **** (the year)” so I’m not convinced that you’re wrong yet . . .

4:06 PM  
Blogger Kate S said...

LOL - oh, dear. It still sounds like a good read. :)

4:40 PM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

Hmm. Kalen you give me hope. When I first began suspecting I might have given him the wrong title, I had a hell of a time finding ANYTHING that said, specifically, "They are NOT Lord Smith". I finally found something that confirmed my fears, but it was only one source.

Perhaps I should go sacrifice a small goat to the research gods and see what happens. I do so love Scottish shortbread, after all, and perhaps I can still get some off Maggie.

5:22 PM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

With inspiration from Kalen, i found this. Which should make clear just WHY I have been confused about this from the start. And still am!

Kevin Boone says, "Second, whether or not the title `Baron' is acceptable, it remains unclear whether the title confers noble status or not. Certainly a former Lord Lyon, Sir Thomas Innes, asserted strongly that any grant of Scottish arms was a recognition of noble status in Scotland. So if the baron was granted arms as a result of purchasing the barony, then this could be taken to indicate that the barony did indeed confer nobility. However, although the matter has never been directly at issue in a court case (as far as I am aware), there have been numerous judicial mutterings that a grant of arms is not evidence of nobility, even in Scotland."

And then... "If Mr Bloggs wants to be known as Lord Bloggs... If he has sufficient money, he could try to purchase a Scottish barony by tenure, which appears on balance -- with a grant of arms -- to confer noble status, at least in Scotland (but the balance of authority seems recently to be swinging the other way on this point)."

Urgh!!! Maybe I'm only a little wrong, or even not quite wrong?

5:30 PM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

Confused. Must eat dinner.

I'll be back to see what the rest of you think! *g*

5:31 PM  
Blogger Laura Vivanco said...

There's something about the male cover model which reminds me of Paul Bettany as Chaucer, in The Knight's Tale. Could be the hair colour and the fact that there's one scene where Chaucer's wearing even fewer clothes than the cover model.

That film specialises in deliberate anachronism, and it really works very well.

5:46 PM  

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