Baronet - History of The Term

History of The Term

The term baronet has medieval origins. Sir Thomas de la More, describing the Battle of Battenberg (1321), mentioned that baronets took part, along with barons and knights.

According to The Official Roll of the Baronetage:

The Baronetage is of far more ancient origin than many people may think. The term baronet is believed to have been first applied to nobility who for one reason or another had lost the right of summons to Parliament. The earliest mention of baronets was in the Battle of Battenberg in 1321. There is a further mention of them in 1328 when Edward III is known to have created eight baronets. Further creations were made in 1340, 1446 and 1551. At least one of these, Sir William de la Pole in 1340, was created for payment of money, presumably expended by the King to help maintain his army. It is not known if these early creations were hereditary but all seem to have died out.
The present hereditary Order of Baronets in England dates from 22 May 1611 when it was erected by James I who granted the first Letters Patent to 200 gentlemen of good birth with an income of at least £1000 a year. His intention was two fold. Firstly he wanted to fill the gap between peers of the realm and knights so he decided that the baronets were to form the sixth division of the aristocracy following the five degrees of the peerage. Secondly, and probably more importantly, he needed money to pay for soldiers to carry out the pacification of Ireland. Therefore those of the first creation, in return for the honour, were each required to pay for the upkeep of thirty soldiers for three years amounting to £1095, in those days a very large sum.
In 1619 James I erected the Baronetage of Ireland and laid plans for a further new Baronetage with the object of assisting the colonisation of Nova Scotia. However in 1624 he died before this could be implemented. In 1625 Charles I took up the previous plans and erected the Baronetage of Scotland and Nova Scotia. The new baronets were each required to pay 2000 marks or to support six settlers for two years. Over a hundred of these baronetcies, now known as Scottish baronetcies, have survived to this day. The Duke of Roxburghe is the Premier Baronet of Scotland by his Baronetcy of Innes-Ker of Innes created in 1625.
As a result of the union of England and Scotland in 1707 all future creations were styled baronets of Great Britain. With the union of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801 new creations were styled as baronets of the United Kingdom. The position at 31 December 1999, including baronetcies where succession was dormant or unproven, was that there were a total of 1314 baronetcies divided into five classes of creation included on the Official Roll. Of these there were 146 of England, 63 of Ireland, 119 of Scotland, 133 of Great Britain and 853 of the United Kingdom. The Premier Baronet is Sir Nicholas Bacon, 14th Baronet of Redgrave created in 1611.
Under the two Royal Warrants of 1612 and 1613 issued by James I certain privileges were accorded to baronets of England. Firstly, no person or persons should have place between baronets and the younger sons of peers. Secondly, the right of knighthood was established for the eldest sons of baronets, this was to be revoked by George IV in 1827, and thirdly baronets were allowed to add the Arms of Ulster as an inescutcheon to their armorial bearings. This last consisted of "in a field Argent, a hand Geules, or a bloudy hand". These privileges were extended to baronets of Ireland and, less the Arms of Ulster, to baronets of Scotland. They continue to this day for all baronets of Great Britain and the United Kingdom created subsequently.

The term baronet was applied to the noblemen who lost the right of individual summons to Parliament, and was used in this sense in a statute of Richard II. A similar rank of lower stature is the banneret.

The revival of baronetcies can be dated to Sir Robert Cotton's discovery in the late 16th or early 17th century of William de la Pole's patent (issued in the 13th year of Edward III's reign), conferring upon him the dignity of a baronet in return for a sum of money.

Subsequent baronetcies fall into the following five creations:

  1. King James I erected the hereditary Order of Baronets in England on 22 May 1611 for the settlement of Ireland. He offered the dignity to 200 gentlemen of good birth, with a clear estate of £1,000 a year, on condition that each one paid a sum equivalent to three years' pay for 30 soldiers at 8d per day per man into the King's Exchequer. The idea came from the Earl of Salisbury, who averred: "The Honour will do the Gentry very little Harm," while doing the Exchequer a lot of good.
  2. The Baronetage of Ireland was erected on 30 September 1611.
  3. King Charles I erected the hereditary Baronetage of Scotland or Nova Scotia on 28 May 1625, for the establishment of the plantation of Nova Scotia.
  4. After the union of England and Scotland in 1707, no further baronets of England or Scotland were created, the style being changed to baronet of Great Britain.
  5. After the union of Great Britain and Ireland on 1 January 1801 to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, all baronetcies created were under the style of the United Kingdom.

Since 1965 only one new baronetcy has been created, that (on 7 Dec 1990), for the husband of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (now Baroness Thatcher), Sir Denis Thatcher. Their eldest son, Sir Mark Thatcher, became the 2nd Baronet upon his father's death in 2003.

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