What are Peerage Titles & How to Get Them

by | Jul 20, 2023 | Aristocracy, Noble Titles, Royal Titles, USA

The Peerage of Great Britain has become renowned throughout the world as one of the most esteemed and established systems of the aristocracy to have emerged from the nobility of the Middle Ages. 

What Is A Peerage? 

In its simplest terms, a peerage is just the status of being a peer, i.e. being part of a group of similar people of equal rank, age, ability etc. 

What’s become known as The Peerage in modern Britain is an esteemed extension of this definition which represents a range of noble ranks that are the core of the British aristocracy. 

The Peerage system represents the legal, official, and historical status and ranks of royals, life peers and hereditary noble titles within the United Kingdom. 

The Peerage of England, Scotland, and Ireland was defined by John Debrett in his iconic periodical in 1802. (Debrett’s is considered to be one of the most historic and eminent sources of social etiquette and protocol in the world.) 

Debrett's logo

This was regarded as the definitive collection of official details (e.g. rank, status etc) of the royal and noble ranks, along with information on such roles as Privy Counsellors, Scottish Lords of Session, chiefs and clans.

It became the go-to guide for the heritage of the nobility, as well as a Who’s Who in modern aristocracy.   

What Are Peerage Titles? 

In today’s terminology, the Peerage Titles that are widely regarded to form the modern Peerage in Britain are: 

  • Duke
  • Marquess
  • Earl
  • Viscount
  • Baron

These Peerage Titles relate to the various other systems of nobility in Europe. For example, the rank of a Duke as the highest position within the hierarchy is a common feature of the majority of European systems of aristocracy. 

Similarly, the roles of Viscounts and Barons as mid-ranking nobles is a pattern repeated throughout the other countries of Europe. 

A distinctive feature of the British Peerage, however, is the rank and title of an Earl. This has become a uniquely British feature (though its origins may reflect a Scandinavian connection). The equivalent noble rank in the other countries of Europe is that of a Count. 

Whereas many other hierarchies of aristocracy include a wider range of titles, such as Grand Dukes, Archdukes, Baronets, Knights and Lords etc, the British Peerage system is, at a glance, a more simplified and memorable structure. 

The British Peerage system also includes certain rights and privileges, the most notable being that those with Peerage Titles are allocated a seat in the House of Lords, which is an integral part of the UK government. 

This aspect is a significant feature of Peerage Titles, as it grants a degree of power and influence not just in social circles, but in the heart of the national government. 

How To Get Peerage Titles

Given that the Peerage Title of Great Britain are some of the most esteemed and historic noble ranks in the country, it’s not surprising that many people wonder how it’s possible to attain such lofty ranks of nobility. 

There are customarily two ways to acquire Peerage Titles. 

Hereditary Peerages 

As with many noble titles, the most traditional way to acquire Peerage Titles is to inherit them. This has been the way that the great majority of Britain’s Peers have received their titles. 

The ancient noble ranks such as Dukes, Barons and Viscounts, have long been passed down the generations, from father to son, establishing some of the most eminent noble lineages in the country. 

Historically, Peerage Titles were usually hereditary titles, meaning they could be held within one family and passed onto future generations. These hereditary titles are the basis of the history of the nobility, not just in Britain, but around the world. 

Life Peerages

The nature of Peerage Titles as hereditary titles has been the norm for centuries within Britain. There were a few occasions when Life Peerages were created during the centuries of the Middle Ages and beyond, yet the tradition was largely based on a vast body of hereditary titles. 

All of this changed in the 20th century, however, with the creation of the Life Peerages Act in 1958, which paved the way for ordinary people who didn’t belong to established noble families to attain the ranks and privileges of Peerage Titles. 

With this new order, the Prime Minister was able to nominate people without aristocratic backgrounds to be made a Peer of the Realm. These titles followed the tradition of the great systems of aristocracy in that they were still granted by a reigning monarch, yet they enabled those without the right heritage to join the ranks of this esteemed order of nobility.  

This was regarded as both a modernisation and democratisation of an ancient system of exclusivity. As more ordinary people became a part of the Peerage, enjoying the subsequent rights within the House of Lords and the corridors of power, there was likely to be a more fair and balanced representation of the British people. 

Peerage Titles are typically granted in a similar way to the modern Knighthoods and Damehoods, i.e. in recognition of outstanding service or in honour of a lifetime’s contribution to society. 

Can You Buy A Peerage Title? 

While the establishment of Life Peerages moved the British orders of society towards a more democratic representation, it didn’t fling open the doors for ordinary people to join the ranks of the traditional Peerage Titles. 

In theory, it’s now possible for any member of society to rise the ranks and acquire an influential seat in the powerful House of Lords. Yet, in reality, only a small percentage of the public will be granted this honour. Even then, it’s subject to a range of criteria and a selection process that’s controlled by the governing bodies.  

So, it’s not possible to purchase a Peerage Title, as these are either inherited (Hereditary Peers) or created by the sovereign (Life Peers). 

Yet, it is possible to purchase the kinds of noble titles that make up the suite of Peerage Titles – those such as Duke, Viscount, Baron and Marquis. 

These may not come with an esteemed place at the seat of the British government, yet they undoubtedly carry the esteem, honour and cachet of this historic and world famous institution.

If learning about these peerage titles has made you curious about acquiring a prestigious Noble Title of your own get in touch using the enquiry form in the sidebar or you can contact our Geneva office directly between 10.00-19.00, Monday to Friday on +41 225 181 360.

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