Discrimination against Men

Baroness Deech

From the moment I was elevated to the peerage, I was struck by the exclusion of my husband from the title that I would have and from some other privileges accorded to the wives of male peers sitting in the House. Titles and suchlike are trivial, and yet highly symbolic.  For in this case the extension of the title to the spouse of the peer indicates national recognition of the equality and partnership of husband and wife, and the fact that it is to be assumed that each of the two has supported the other through life and in the achievements recognised by the appointment to the House. 

The wife of a male life peer automatically has conferred on her the title of “Lady” for her life, and she retains it even if divorced from the life peer.  If he were to marry again, his next wife would also share his title.  The husband of a Baroness gains no title: I find the listing of e.g “Baroness Deech and Mr Deech” on envelopes and invitations rather clumsy looking compared to say “Lord and Lady X”.  The daughters of peers are entitled to have the prefix “the Honourable” for their lifetimes.  The sons of peers are also so entitled and the prefix is extended to their wives – but not to the husbands of the daughters.  Seating arrangements at the State Opening of Parliament are also different, the inferior seating going to the husbands, while the wives of the male peers are the ones you see in tiaras and evening dress sitting in the Chamber.

In this session the Equality Bill will complete its passage through the House and reinforce the need to treat all sections of society and both sexes equally.  Equality must start at home, namely, right here in the House of Lords. I am certain that the husbands of women peers have done as much, possibly more, to support their wives as have the wives of the male peers.  Maybe we are all about to be abolished, and the titles will go with us.  In the meantime however, the women of the upper House would like to see their husbands recognised in the same way as the wives of the men (how about “the Honourable” for them? or Companions of Honour?  The alternative is to remove the title Lady from the wives; I think that would be very unpopular, but there is a case for confining titles to the recipient of the honour and not extending it to the spouse.

So I asked a question about this discrimination today and was sorry that it was not treated with the seriousness with which it was intended.  Most of the men did not “get it” and it seems that it had not occurred to some of them that titles are unequally shared.  The government was unsympathetic.  So in medieval fashion we will continue, with men bestowing title on their wives and not the other way round; women recognised as “helpmeets” but not the men.

30 comments for “Discrimination against Men

  1. Bedd Gelert
    15/12/2009 at 12:01 am

    Stop bloody whingeing !!!

    “So in medieval fashion we will continue, with men bestowing title on their wives and not the other way round; women recognised as “helpmeets” but not the men.”

    The whole point is that the Lords is a mediaeval institution with all the benefits and drawbacks which that confers. I find it absolutely ridiculous that the children of peers are called ‘The Hon..’ but there ain’t a lot I can do about it.

    And I guess that is the price we pay for having a House Of Lords which puts the kibosh on the worst excesses of this Govt. illiberal legislation.

    Do you not begin to understand how ridiculous this makes you look ? Defending an institution which still has elements of the ‘hereditary principle’, one which allows Christian bishops but not Moslems to the ‘Lords Spiritual’ and then complaining about titles and other related ephemeral rubbish !

    If you don’t like being a Lord or Baroness you are now allowed to renounce your title and go and do something else with your time.

    It might allow space for Christopher Monckton to put the cat amongst the pigeons in the House of Lords, albeit for only a short while.

    In short you are campaigning for equality and human rights, but only if they are the right sort of equality and human rights.

    Hypocritical claptrap !!!

  2. Troika21
    15/12/2009 at 2:41 am

    I don’t see why the title should also go to the spouse, it was confered on the one who will sit in the Lords and not the other.

    Removing the automatic titles on female spouses is how this should be delt with, it would be unpopular, but unpopular is usually the way to go.

  3. Carl Holbrough
    15/12/2009 at 11:17 am

    It is refreshing to hear such sense especially when it`s from one of the legal profession and I didn`t have to pay to get the opinion.

    My Lady is quite correct imho but the equality lobby won`t be listening, it doesn`t suit them. They`ll be too busy making forms asking your title,sex and ethnicity.

    I have stated before I do NOT believe in equality, it cannot happen and never will. In terms of pay and conditions it should but there it stops. We are all different not equal and thank goodness for those differences.

    Let`s look at it in the context Baroness Deech brings to light, sexual equality. When I start a sentence “My Lord”, it`s macho…it sounds like it should be followed by “The troops are assembled and await your instructions”. Started as “My Lady” it becomes a sexual thing, “You look beautiful today”, a verbal caressing. It is the natural order of things and it`s not going to change.

    In order to change the things the Baroness would like we`d have toget rid of all current titles and make them asexual. So that`s centuries of custom out of the window. Next is to get rid of the difference in appearance, there is a very good reason for this and it`s all down to instinctive behaviour. Women are complex, men not so complex they work on three base instincts. Can I kill it ? Can I eat it ? Can I have sex with it ? When a man see`s a woman the latter of those is the first thing he thinks of and HE WILL alter his behaviour. I cannot speak for women but they state they do not think like that, I don`t know nor will ever.

    The reason why gay men and ordinary women get on so well is because there is more equality there, the sexual element has gone. So now as well as titles, we get rid of difference in appearance…We`re getting bland and if we go on they`ll be nothing but little grey asexual people. This will never happen and I`m glad.

    I`m old fashioned, I`m romantic, I buy flowers and chocolates, I open doors for women and people in wheelchairs (that isn`t alway`s taken as good)), I give up my seat to the elderly etc. I appreciate the difference and that is what we should teach. Don`t ask me to be alone with you on a desert island and not notice you`re a woman, that we fit together like interlocking pieces of a jigsaw. Yes I`ll risk my life with sharks to catch the fish, it`s MY job…Just get on and cook the things. If it works the other way fine but we ARE different. 😉

    My Lady even notes the difference in her blog “Most of the men did not “get it” “. If you differentiate, you discriminate.

    If we are going to have equality it should be,as Baroness Deech states, throughout the system. We won`t get that though, we`ll get the Harriet Harman version, where roles are simply reversed.

    Vive la difference !

    • 24/12/2009 at 3:57 am

      Can I kill it ? Can I eat it ? Can I have sex with it ?

      Good God, man, I hope never to attend a dinner party with you! What a terrible view of men you have – I must say I find it personally insulting that, whatever your own social shortcomings, you seek to project them onto people like me.

      Seek help!

      (Although your obsessions with sex and violence certainly explain your vicious mistreatment of innocent apostrophes.)

      • Carl Holbrough
        24/12/2009 at 2:41 pm

        “What a terrible view of men you have”.

        The truth is often not what one would like to believe.

        My use of apostrophes, I`ll agree, is appalling. I tried to learn to correct it but perhaps am too old to get the principles correct, I think it made the problem worse. Personally I blame my teachers, who will blame the schools, who will blame the education department, who will blame Government.

        I see we have the same old internet forum snipes creeping in now though.

  4. 15/12/2009 at 11:28 am

    I’m normally all for equality, but I don’t really agree with this. Titles are an old tradition, that’s why it’s worth keeping them. But if you start to mess them around in the name of modernisation, what’s the point in retaining titles such as Lord? Surely those who would like to see you become senators are then a step closer to winning?

    Women traditionally take on the rank of their husbands, not the other way round. If you think that’s outdated, then isn’t the same true of taking your husband’s surname? And what about hereditary peerages, which in most cases can only be inherited by men? And of course, if you think men should acquire titles through their wives, does that mean Prince Philip should become the King?

    • Troika21
      15/12/2009 at 7:32 pm

      “If you think that’s outdated, then isn’t the same true of taking your husband’s surname [and] hereditary peerages”

      I suspect, Jonathan, that you’ve hit the nail on the head without realising it.

      Except for the last sentance – Prince Philip is Greek, and therefore, not eligible to be King.

      • Croft
        16/12/2009 at 11:49 am

        Not so. The Duke of Edinburgh naturalised >60 years ago and in fact never needed so to do as a court decision on the meaning of the Sophia Naturalization Act of 1705 meant he was in fact a British subject from birth.

        At least on a very quick look he is presently 493rd in line to throne.

  5. tory boy
    15/12/2009 at 11:49 am

    I thought Baroness Trumpington was very funny as ever with what she had to say on this. Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, is the Minister aware that when my husband was alive, he loved being called “m’lord”; he loved putting his drinks on my bill; and it added a certain frisson to staying in an hotel together?”

  6. Croft
    15/12/2009 at 12:22 pm

    Well if you truly want to open a can of worms remember that the wives of knights are called Lady (technically higher than their husbands) and indeed all peers daughters rank above all peers younger sons (which is why the daughters of Earls are ‘Lady’ but younger brothers only ‘the Hon.’)

    In support of your point in Scotland prior to the union it was not uncommon for the husbands’ of peeresses to be raised for life to the same rank and title as their wives. In England husbands were summoned to parliament jure uroxis (anyone remember offhand the last husband so summoned?) and accorded the rights and title of a peer.

    However, your options seem to have plenty of problems. It doesn’t address the complaint that people are confused. Most people will not see a difference between Mr Smith and Baroness Blunderbuss -v- The Hon. Mr Smith and Baroness Blunderbuss. It doesn’t achieve equality as it is clearly an inferior title to the wife’s unlike Lady to Lord. Indeed it would seemingly add to the confusion as the husbands of peeresses would then be addressed in a similar (if they are called The Hon. Mr ‘forename’ Smith) as the sons of peers. So you won’t, seeing the name alone (unless they omit the forename), be able to distinguish between the husband and the children of a peeress! I’m not sure losing Companions of Honour as a reward and recognition for ~65 scientists is entirely desirable either.

    Removing titles from life peers wives might be a solution though it seems a slightly unnecessary loss of tradition for little obvious benefit. How many peeresses husbands are really that bothered? The historical reasons for the attachment of titles was that the wife took her husbands name and so shared that name and it’s associated title. I can think of a tiny number of husbands who have changed their names for title purposes (usually Scottish inheritance related) but I don’t see it becoming that common in the Lords. I’m afraid we are where we are and that probably means a solution is problematic and the best thing may be to leave well alone.

    • Chris K
      15/12/2009 at 6:44 pm

      This chap looks familiar!


      One of the first results I get for “jure uroxis” – not a term I’ve heard before. Interesting stuff.

    • Chris K
      15/12/2009 at 8:35 pm

      In searching the answer to your question, one of the first results to appear was you asking the same question!

      I can’t say I’ve ever heard the term “jure uroxis” before. Sounds like a rather unpleasant disease.

      • baronessdeech
        15/12/2009 at 11:04 pm

        It is “jure uxoris” – by right of his wife. It seems there was a custom a very long time ago for certain titles inherited by wives to be shared with their husbands. That would do nicely.

      • Croft
        16/12/2009 at 11:43 am

        Lady Deech: Oh dear, you can tell I didn’t re-read my post for typos.

        Chris: The custom certainly existed into the C16…

  7. Bedd Gelert
    15/12/2009 at 9:05 pm

    Typically balanced Telegraph piece…


    But this is what you are up against at the moment – so maybe wait until the new Parliament before shaking the tree too much.

  8. Gar Hywel
    16/12/2009 at 10:27 am

    Noble baroness Deech!

    I’ve done a little research on my own (Howell)
    family history recently all the way back to Hywel Dda (945ad)and Princess Nest, a Cambro-Norman descendant of the said King of Wales, who had five husbands, led the conquest of Ireland at the time, has always been known as “verch”(daughter of) in honour of her independence, was abducted and raped by one of her husbands, but as far as I know, none of her husbands or abductors, ever achieved any higher status because of it. She had about seven children with them and they were probably satisfied with that!

    On a more serious, and actually very sad, note the title (which gives no precedence at all)of the parents of the abducted child in Portugal a couple of years ago was a case in point of the inadequate thought given to women who have achieved a little intellectual distinction with their own effort.

    The husband was a surgeon and the wife a non practising GP. The confusion that reigned in the press and media over their status was sore.

    I eventually worked out what it should have been. Mr.+ Dr.The Mrs Soandso. Nobody else had done.

    I really can’t comment on the noble Baroness’
    husband’s precedence, except to say that one cabinet minister has a sleeping partner, who is also a very ACTIVE partner in a corrupt Italian business. They became estranged as soon as the Italian problems became public.

    It is highly unlikely that the female sleeping partner of a male cabinet minster would be in the same relationship of active and separate business with a bent Italian business man. It IS possible.

    I fear Noble and very learnéd Baroness, that you are stuck with the Mister you have got, for the time being, and may I wish you a very happy festive season together with your family.

    All this and heaven too!

  9. Gar Hywel
    16/12/2009 at 11:25 am

    So being unable to comment on precedence, I shall!

    What is the position at the Table of State at a State dinner,at Buckingham Palace,for example,of a non-elected Hereditary peer.

    Would her majesty’s advisers on protocol say, “well he, the hereditary peer, must be related, ie to HM, so he will have to sit quite close to HM,” disregarding the fact that a non-elected hereditary peer is not so much as a member of the HofL!

    What IS the value of the Title Lord or Baroness if it can not be used in the second chamber of the Law due to its only being inherited?

    On the question of the new creation of Hereditary peerages in the future, including the possibility of a Baroness in her own right wanting her Daughter to inherit the rank of Baroness, there are surely legal procedures in place, in practice, which allow these to be instantiated.

    In the case of a sleeping partner wanting to take the rank and title of his ennobled wife, it would then be rather complicated to entail descent on a daughter rather than on a son.

    Every case is different, but once the will trusts have been set up, they may be difficult to change, especially if one is not in parliament to Issue the Bill.

    Perhaps it would be done in the supreme court at great cost.

    I am quite sure that at a state dinner Baroness Dwight and The ~Hon. Mr. Dwight would be seated together!

    How Lord Speaker arranges seating at state opening of Parliament, I don’t know.

    I may say, that the democrats of the other place, who will have nothing whatsoever to do with the absolute nonsenses of ceremony and precedent and retire from public life in to complete obscurity may be very wise indeed to do so. There are a good many of them.

    Noble Baroness Deech’s concern for such precedence is trivial, if not downright foolish and beneath her otherwise excellent judgement!

  10. Bedd Gelert
    16/12/2009 at 2:38 pm


    You have made the Guardian Diary ! Although it is cunningly placed after a story highlighting how the regime to save public money from being trousered by politicians is actually going to cost us more money than the, er, ‘trousering politicians’.

    An old adage about ‘letting sleeping dogs lie’ comes to mind but its significance to this issue escapes me for the moment…

    • 17/12/2009 at 10:52 pm

      The Grauniad mocks the issue, yet it can’t even get the Baronesses’ titles right. “Baroness Deech of Cumnor in the county of Oxfordshire – ably supported by Baroness Trumpington in the county of Kent.” What rubbish! And Trumpington’s in Cambridgeshire anyway.

      • Croft
        18/12/2009 at 11:43 am

        Lady Trumpington’s territorial designation is ‘of Sandwich in the County of Kent’ I’m afraid I don’t know why she choose that designation – is there a Trumpington in Kent? – but it is certainly what was granted. However there is plenty of history of people choosing titles not obviously linked to the territorial designation.

  11. Carl Holbrough
    16/12/2009 at 2:39 pm


    Jure uxoris is a Latin term that means “by right of his wife” or “in right of a wife”.[1] It is commonly used to refer to a title held by a man whose wife holds it in her own right. In other words, he acquired the title simply by being her husband.

    The husband of an heiress became the possessor of her lands and titles jure uxoris, “by right of [his] wife”. In the Middle Ages, this was invariably true even for queens regnant and princesses regnant. Accordingly, the husband of the reigning female monarch became monarch. In some cases, the king thus ascended, remained king even after the death of the wife, and in some cases left the kingdom to their own heirs who were not issue of the wife in question (cf. Władysław II Jagiełło of Poland, who ascended as husband of Queen Jadwiga). In the event of a divorce between a reigning female monarch and her husband, the husband would remain the monarch and the wife would lose her status. One example of this is when Marie of Boulogne and Matthew I of Boulogne were divorced in 1170. Marie ceased to be Countess, while Matthew I continued to reign until 1173.

    In later times, the woman remained the monarch, but the husband had some power. For example, Maria Theresa of Austria was queen regnant of Hungary and Bohemia, but her husband Francis was Holy Roman Emperor.

    In Portugal, there was a specific condition for a male consort to become a king jure uxoris: fathering a royal heir. Queen Maria I already had children by her husband when she became Queen, so he became King Peter III of Portugal at the moment of his wife’s accession.

    In 1836, Queen Maria II married her second husband, Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Ferdinand became monarch jure uxoris the next year (in 1837), as soon as their first child was born, and he reigned as Ferdinand II, together with his wife. Queen Maria’s first husband, Auguste of Beauharnais, was not monarch jure uxoris, because he died before he could father an heir.

    Jure uxoris monarchs are not to be confused with kings consort, who were merely consorts of their wives, not co-rulers.

  12. Troika21
    16/12/2009 at 4:21 pm

    Thank you for the correction Croft, I was just basing my analyis on ‘what-I’ve-been-told’ reasoning.

    While I’m not quite up on the Sophia Naturalization Act, I can see how it works.

    Although, just looking through the articles on Wikipedia, it seems he got in just in time.

  13. Gar Hywel
    17/12/2009 at 9:38 am

    “that the wives of knights are called Lady (technically higher than their husbands) and indeed all peers daughters rank above all peers younger sons”

    Ladies of the realm, ie of the blood royal, do not consider the ladies of knights to have any status other than being their husband’s wives.

    That is not surprising.

    • Gareth Howell
      17/12/2009 at 3:50 pm

      Finally if the husband of a peeress,had been a house husband all his life, and not with a higher profession of his own, perhaps he would be able to sit with the other Ladies, in the interest of true equality. He might even be called Lady so.

      Now that would be interesting.

  14. baronessmurphy
    19/12/2009 at 11:06 am

    How about we just get rid of all silly titles for both men and women?

    • Croft
      19/12/2009 at 11:34 am

      MrsMurphy: Should I call the Palace now and tell them the royals are being rebranded or is this strictly a suggestion for life peers


    • 24/12/2009 at 4:00 am

      Hear hear!

      Frankly, I am sure the world would be a much better place if we didn’t have to figure out the difference between an Earl, a Baron and a Marquis.

  15. jon david
    06/12/2010 at 9:37 pm

    Well there really be something substantial here for a few ,very few, women to support us men ,the pendulam swings ,and it has swung too far towards feminism,good on Ann Widdecombe she,s another who sees the unfairness directed at men,but she really should stop dancing now

  16. Stephen Waring
    04/08/2011 at 1:29 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly with Baroness Deech. What is the situation for men or women in civil partnerships? I assume that for men, the male civil partner receives no title. For female civil partners there is an interesting situation; is their status similar to the wives of male peers (i.e. they receive the title ‘Lady’) or is this as yet untested?

  17. Alessandro
    10/08/2013 at 11:29 am

    Its a bit rich complaining about how titles are bestowed being discriminatory.

    What Baroness Deech is annoyed about is not having the posh title for hubby.

    If she does not like discrimination stop using the title and demand an elected second chamber with no titles.

    The existence of a system of unelected peerage with titles being bestowed is itself discriminatory. Why can’t we all have a “noble” title – it discriminates against a great many worthy people who act in far more worthy ways for the good of society and the country without being recognised or acknowledged for what they do.

    We are supposed to look up to people who got into Parliament unelected on the say-so of their mates in the ruling caste and are given grand titles based on an outdated historic system of Royal patronage in a supposed democracy and when some of whom have fairly questionable backgrounds and history – like the odd ex-jailbird or two.

    Too many people who like the sound of their own voices speaking up to get more gravy this sounds like.

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