A confusion of titles

Lord Norton

Sometimes a peer has to add a territorial title to their name if there is already a peer using the same surname.   When I received my peerage, there was already a Lord Norton, a hereditary peer.  As I wanted to retain my surname, I had to add a territorial title.  There is thus a difference between Lord Norton and Lord Norton of Louth.   Lord Norton sat in the House until 1999, when he became one of the excluded hereditaries.  We thus overlapped by a year, and variously received one another’s correspondence.

At times, the difference between peers with the same family name can be a notable problem.  How often, for example, do the media refer to the Conservative Party co-chair as Lord Feldman, mentioning that he was a contemporary of David Cameron at Oxford and one of his tennis partners?  Lord Feldman (Basil Feldman) is 86 and was not at Oxford with David Cameron.  Lord Feldman of Elstree (Andrew Feldman) on the other hand…

And how often do the media refer to Lord Patten as Chair of the BBC Trust?  Lord Patten (Johh Patten, a Cabinet minister under John Major) does not hold that post.  Lord Patten of Barnes (Chris Patten, a Cabinet minister under Margaret Thatcher and John Major) does.

There are similar difficulties with a range of other titles where two or more peers share the same family name, though possibly not as high profile at the moment as in these two cases.  Unless there is someone I have overlooked….

32 comments for “A confusion of titles

  1. Dave H
    22/06/2013 at 7:04 pm

    Probably not yet an issue, but are we about to acquire another Lord King? That may be a high profile example in the coming months.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      23/06/2013 at 12:59 pm

      Dave H: Indeed. We have already had a number of Kings in the House (at the moment, Lord King of Bridgwater and Lord King of West Bromwich), so he would need to add a territorial title (assuming, that is, that he wishes to retain his family name).

  2. 22/06/2013 at 8:20 pm

    The late Baroness Young was so annoyed by this that she asked Baroness Young of Old Scone to use her full title during a debate:
    “However, it would help the whole debate if the noble Baroness did not keep saying that there are two “Baroness Youngs”: if I may say so, I am the Baroness Young, while she is the Baroness Young of Old Scone. We would not run into such difficulties if the noble Baroness were to refer to herself in that correct form of address on all occasions.”

    Lord Hutton lead the inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly. But did he then go on to report on pensions in 2011?

    And of course there was the Lord Browne mix up the other week…

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      23/06/2013 at 1:00 pm

      Jonathan: Indeed, I was in the House when Baroness Young took umbrage. It rather threw Baroness Young of Old Scone off her stride.

  3. Hwd6
    22/06/2013 at 9:38 pm

    I guess the “Conservative frontbench hereditary peer Lord Astor” would have been confusing in the late 1990s, with Viscount (Lord) Astor and Lord Astor of Hever both fulfilling those criteria then. The noble Viscount is no longer a frontbencher, to the delight of ‘Today/Yesterday in Parliament’ writers no doubt!!

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      23/06/2013 at 1:01 pm

      Hwd6: Another good example.

  4. Daniel Olive
    22/06/2013 at 10:06 pm

    If you were introduced today, or in 2000, would you still be ‘of Louth’ or does the rule only apply to peers entitled to a writ of summons?

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      23/06/2013 at 1:03 pm

      Daniel Olive: One cannot take a title that already exists or has existed.

      • thedukeofwaltham
        26/06/2013 at 10:18 am

        So there couldn’t exist another Lord Norton of Louth even a hundred years from now (provided that someone hasn’t decoupled the peerage from the House of Lords by that time)? That is an interesting detail, and one that I wasn’t fully expecting, considering how many times certain hereditary titles have been re-created.

        • Bumble Bee
          20/07/2013 at 7:13 am

          has that title despite their being an abeyant title of the same name created in 1295 I am not sure but I suspect that
          such an old title would be considered extinct, ie that it depends on a member of the family coming forward with legitimate claims to it, for it to become an active title again, ‘n after 800 years that is unlikely to happen!

          The “Creation” of titles may be an enjoyable subject for the historian. The new creation of a title does not depend on the family name of the possessor, but on historic use of the name of the creation.

          It looks as though, just post Norman times they were a carve up of the country in to Count-esates, ie an Earl per county.
          A Vice-count(earl) would have been, a deputy Earl.

          The confusion may be deliberate and the French clarity is as always to be admired.
          They have Counts and Countesses. not Earls and Countesses! Trivial, but substituting the word “Count” for “Earl” and applying it to the function of Counties in these islands
          makes it perfectly clear what the Creation of an Earldom was originally for.

          In the now abandoned re-organisation of local government into Regions rather than Counties, the question of such ancient organisation came in to question.

          • Frank W. Summers III
            23/07/2013 at 3:31 am

            One must of course realize that what Parliament and Monarch will acknowledge is a very real and limiting feature which is part of the strength and weakness of your system. However, half-lives in title are a history of their own. Really important Roman Catholic Bishops often have an additional title from the Byzantine churches occupied by Islam. Mount Athos is protected by Greece but is still loyal to the Byzantine Empire and holds to Byzantine Imperial law and custom. There is a web of Byzantine Imperial titles known to those in the web and even in the thousand years of the Empire there were webs of sheltered tagmatic closeted and thematic protected titles from the thousands of years of Hellenic history. In China right now there are nobles who quietly guard many a prerogative and nicety even from dynasties before the Qing which preceded the Republic. All this is only to say that you make the point of use and in the wrong place insulting the Emperor of Brazil or King of Hawaii can be dangerous to one’s health.

            I think Britain is a bit different but perhaps if a title was mostly royal or had too much royal in it such a half-life might endure even in Great Britain.

    • Croft
      23/06/2013 at 2:09 pm

      Daniel: Since all the peers created could still potentially sit (including the hereditaries via a by-election) the problem hasn’t changed in that they could still gain a writ of summons.

      I’m bound to add that the supposed rule that “One cannot take a title that already exists or has existed.” has frequently been ignored historically. LotBs very own Lord Hylton has that title despite their being an abeyant title of the same name created in 1295 which (LN may be able to ask Lord Hylton) I think his ancestors tried to claim in the 19th C. I also has a memory that Lord Olivier was created in 1924/51 for the famous actor and his uncle.

  5. MilesJSD
    22/06/2013 at 11:38 pm

    That sort of ‘ring-fenced and secure’ confusion may be a trifle, in contrast with worse confusions worldwide over ordinary names;

    mine for instance is John Sydney Denton Miles
    (I was told that after the Depression, potentially-upwards-mobile English children could be given not just three but four names, thus echo-ing the American (USA) family-celebratory trend of having many names plus I II III after their names.

    Whilst permanently-resident in Australia (1972 – 2001) my ANZ bank one day came up with three other JS Mileses, and months later during a brief enquiry I made, I was told that was a common ID fraud trend, to use someone else’s name to for instance claim a Welfare support, or just to open a bank account under some credible name.

    To this day I am reduced in both Australia and Great Britain to J S Miles, of which initials and surname there are many in the world, especially in USA.

    So if I need or wish to have my whole name registered, one way of achieving that in some places is to fill in the details:
    First name: John-Sydney
    Family name: Denton-Miles

    (that Denton was my mother’s maiden surname I think does not justify my using the – (hyphenation) which is I believe strictly reserved for Upper Class British families and individuals (?) ).
    But from what you say within your Topic, it appears that where we see plain straight Baroness Somebodee or Lord Somebody, that is quite probably a hereditary title;
    whereas where an appended territory is visible we are looking at a commoner made-up to the House of Lords, usually of course after service in the House of Commons (?)

    • Frank W. Summers III
      30/06/2013 at 1:28 am


      When Louisiana entered the Union we kept our legal system and many other things but largely had to succumb to naming practices which forbid aristocratic titles, clan distinctions and a variety of other social name designations used here earlier. Part of the solution was the use of numeral to allow for continuity of recognition but another was the sort of hyphenation and blurring together you have just mentioned.
      You had quite a number of people whose fist names were Baron and then a numbered of combined names followed by numerals. But in the last two centuries those families have changed custom.

  6. Johnns
    24/06/2013 at 10:49 am

    There are two Lord Kerrs, one of whom is far better known, in my opinion, than the other.

    • 24/06/2013 at 4:39 pm

      There are actually three Lord Kerrs. One is barred from sitting in the Lords as a Supreme Court Justice. The best known of the three isn’t usually known as Lord Kerr, being as he is the Marquess of Lothian.

      • Johnns
        24/06/2013 at 10:35 pm

        Last time I checked the Lords Web site, I saw two Kerrs listed, now I see only one! Huh

        But I didn’t know that. I was most familiar with the Ambassador Kerr, who is famous for allegedly hiding under a table to pass John Major notes during a meeting..

  7. maude elwes
    24/06/2013 at 11:02 am

    What a ‘con’ this entire title lark really is. Lord Olivier and his Uncle? How did the uncle get in there? God, how those two must have laughed to the point of bursting their guts. As Liz Taylor would put it.

    Bust a gut folks!

    • 24/06/2013 at 4:34 pm

      Since you ask, the first Lord Olivier served as Governor of Jamaica and Secretary of State for India. He died a long time before the second Lord Olivier received his peerage.

      • maude elwes
        25/06/2013 at 11:01 am


        Thank you for that info: I wasn’t aware of just how much they manage to keep their titles all in the family.

        Incestuous. And, as we have known for centuries, not good for the blood stock. You end up with Deliverance.

        As a quick reminder.


  8. 24/06/2013 at 12:20 pm

    Perhaps a better rule would be that a new member with the same family name as an existing member should be required to choose something altogether different. The much-missed Christopher Prout QC became Lord Kingsland (though according to Wikipedia for reasons other than the one under discussion here).

  9. Rich
    24/06/2013 at 4:00 pm

    “Lord Black” is, or at least has been, mentioned in regard to press regulation. Though no one would be likely to confuse this figure with the actual Lord Black, who died in the 1980s, there is still potential for confusing Telegraph Executive Lord Black of Brentwood with former publisher and convicted felon Lord Black of Crossharbour.

  10. Bumble Bee
    26/06/2013 at 5:52 pm

    Sometimes a peer has to add a territorial title to their name if there is already a peer using the same surname

    The name “Piddle” as a territorial name was not considered some years ago as a territorial name for a peer of the county of Dorset, although that was the vicinity and river. The due decorum of the House is essential and ribald laughter not part of it, decorum not least for the peer himself.
    Another territorial name was given and accepted.

    • Bumble Bee
      02/07/2013 at 8:14 am

      the noble lord Neale might have called himself
      “of Trent” which is an alternative name for the river for those who are squeamish, but eventually chose the name Bladen, a valley only about 400m long but with a number of model village houses in it. The association with Bladen of Churchill fame was also enjoyed.

      Local people offended by this desertion to the wilds of Oxfordshire, changed the name on the sign posts to the valley, to “Bladden”
      (bladder?) in keeping with the long established “Piddle” traditions.

      The HofL official may have thought that
      “of Trent” was used sufficiently often in other parts of the country not to be a useful one, although somebody of Stoke-on-Trent would probably take the full hyphenated name.

      Hereditary peers change their names willy nilly to suit their adverse possession land acquisition ambitions, and/or genealogical claims.

      What’s in a name, if you are a Viscount or “better”?

      The hierarchy of peerage, and the basis for it, is an interesting thing.

  11. Johnns
    27/06/2013 at 9:12 am

    Lord Norton, how are territorial titles assigned and determined? Does the Lord designate have any say?

    • JH
      27/06/2013 at 4:21 pm

      The Lord or Baroness certainly has a say in both the territorial designation which all life peers (and hereditary barons / viscounts) have and the territory in the title which some have. Thus picking up on the Olivier theme Sir Sydney Olivier became Baron Olivier, of Bamsden, in the county of Oxford and Sir Laurence became Baron Olivier, of Brighton in the County of Sussex. Where there is a territory in the title it may be the same as with Lord Norton of Louth, of Louth… or Baroness Eccles of Moulton, of Moulton… but need not be as with Lord Archer of Western-super-mare, of Mark, in the County of Somerset (http://www.debretts.com/people/essential-guide-to-the-peerage/territorial-designations.aspx).

      However, I don’t know whether there is a convention or rules or just a quiet word from whoever which may limit the choice (as Bumble Bee demonstrates)? I recall some criticism of Steve Bassam taking Brighton in his title as there was an idea that a smaller location would be more appropriate for a working peer.

      • 28/06/2013 at 2:37 pm

        The official who decides on titles is the Garter Principal King of Arms. Lord Harris of Haringey wrote an amusing account of his encounter with Garter when choosing this title:

        As for large locations, the most surprising is Digby, Lord Jones of Birmingham. But the rule seems to be whatever the current Garter finds appropriate.

        • JH
          29/06/2013 at 12:22 am

          Thanks for the link to the account of the Rules by ‘Lord Toby’. For some reason, I’d totally forgotten about Digby Jones.

  12. Bumble Bee
    19/07/2013 at 9:06 am

    The concatenation of “How….” names produces
    “of somewhere” for about 6 people, which looking down the list of peers on the p.uk website is high.

    Lord David Howell immediately jumped up and asked what his teritorial title would be of another one whose surname is the same as his and also of the Baroness of human rights campaigning.

    Howe does another two,although Earl Howe is distinctive and Howarth (a Yorkshire name) two more.

    Trent Valley is a pretty one!

  13. Bumble Bee
    26/07/2013 at 6:31 pm

    So although “Trent Valley” is a pretty one, the parliamentary officals might say there are so many Trent rivers that it would confuse. Baroness Simon of Varnham Dean seems to have a village name for her territorial name, so another alternative would be “Wylmington” for example, a village in Devon with rather more powerful territorial connections.

  14. Bumble Bee
    27/07/2013 at 1:04 pm


    Even thought the name Wilmington has been the preserve of retired prime ministers in the past
    it might be ok! Otherwise
    “H+++++ of Trent Valley” seems the only option without being thoroughly vulgar and offending the due decorousness of the noble house with
    ” L ++++++ of Piddle”
    which just ain’t good!

  15. Bumble Bee
    30/07/2013 at 9:24 pm

    Lord Alfred Hayes was a wrestler in the 1920s, who enjoyed it as a stage name but it has since put the kybosh on the name ‘Hayes’.
    Perhaps it could be used again for somebody who
    has such a territorial name?

    That may be the answer.

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