Pippa Middleton’s New “Title:” What Does It Actually Mean?

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Last week, after the dust settled and Pippa Middleton’s engagement to financier James Matthews became old news, the Daily Express revealed that Middleton will one day become “Lady Glen Affric.”

The press had a field day with the news, billing it as a new way for Middleton to try and one-up her older sister, the Duchess of cambridge.  “Two Titles For The Middleton Girls!” was all any media outlet could talk about.

I had absolutely no idea what to make of Middleton’s future title, so I asked royal expert and author Marlene Koenig to clear up the confusion surrounding the future Lady Glen Affric.

What exactly is a lairdship?

Before the Act of Union, when Scotland was an independent kingdom, lairds (15th & 16th century) were property owners holding land separate from the Scottish crown. This allowed them to attend the Scottish Parliament.

By the 17th century, the laird was the chief of a Highland clan. 

These lairds were feudal barons. After the Act of Union, lairds were ranked the same as the English esquire.  In the peerage, there are five grades: duke, Marquess, earl, viscount and baron. This applies to the Peerages of England, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom.

The exception is the Scottish peerage where the fifth grade is known as Lord of Parliament.

This is largely due to the feudal barons, the lairds who were not included in the peerage. It is also a part of the clan system that exists in Scotland.  It is similar to of the English Lord of the Manor.

Why is laird not a “title?”

A laird does have a title, but not a peerage title. A good example is Stirling of Keir.

The current laird is Archie Stirling of Keir (near Stirling, Scotland), which has been inherited in the male line for several centuries. He can sign his name as Archie Stirling of Keir. But he cannot be called Lord. Or even laird Stirling. Nor can he sign as Stirling of Keir. Only peers can sign as a title. Marlborough, Spencer, etc.

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Debrett’s Correct form has several pages on how to address a laird, as well as a Chief or Chieftain.

These are ancient feudal baronies, but not titles given by the sovereign.

From the Lord Lyon of Scotland:

“Ownership of a souvenir plot of land does not bring with it the right to any description such as ‘laird’, ‘lord’ or ‘lady’. ‘Laird’ is not a title but a description applied by those living on and around the estate, many of whom will derive their living from it, to the principal landowner of a long-named area of land. It will, therefore, be seen that it is not a description which is appropriate for the owner of a normal residential property.”

A lairdship has been traditionally inherited – there are many Scottish lairdships that have great histories. Stirling of Keir. Another is Cameron of Lochiel.

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Until the 18th century, the wife of a laird was styled as Lady such as Lady Lochiel or Lady Keir, but not in the same manner as the wife of a Marquess, earl, viscount, Baron, baronet or knight. Because of this, the use of Lady disappeared, and the wives of lairds adopted their husbands’ full names, and not just what is known as the territorial part (Keir, Lochliel).

Most are now known as Mrs, others known as Madam (Irish style) which has been approved by the Lord Lyon. Some, like the wife of the present Cameron of Lochiel is Lady Cecil Cameron of Lochiel because she is the daughter of a Marquess.

Many lairds are also chiefs of Clans. Cameron of Lochiel is chief of Clan Cameron.  These are families in the highlands of Scotland.

Titles are inherited, not purchased, which many might not understand. So it’s very likely that this lairdship could go away with the sale of the Scottish property, right?

David Matthews bought the Glen Affric estate in 2007.  He is not a traditional laird as he has developed the estate as a very high class hotel.

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Glen Affric was once a part of the Clan Chisholm property –by the mid 1850s, the estate was owned by Lord Tweedsmouth. The second baron sold the lairdship after 1904 (he died in 1909) to Lord Portsmouth. During the next few decades, the estate was sold several times over. The Scotland Forestry commission bought a lot of the land in the early 50s.

To Sum It All Up….

David Matthews is English, not Scottish. He can be called David Mattews of Glen Affric. His son, James, can be styled as James Matthews, Younger of Glen Affric or James Matthews, yr. His wife would be Mrs. Matthews, yr. But as the family plays no real role in the area, as the estate itself has largely disappeared.

The family has no historic ties to the area, and Matthews bought it to develop and make money. He could sell it to another business, for example.

I think it is disingenuous of the British press to try and portray Pippa as getting a title. She is not marrying into a historic Scots Highland family.   She is marrying a very rich man who is the son of a very, very rich man, who owns several hotels, who bought a once proud historic (now much smaller) estate, and as this is a legitimate lairdship.

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I think David Matthews would need to have gone through the Lord Lyon in Scotland to be recognized as the laird. That would be a question for the Lord Lyon, who is the final arbiter on Scots titles, etc.

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