A new marquess in the House

In 1999, the House of Lords Act barred most hereditary peers from sitting in the upper house of Parliament, meaning a departure of members with such colourful titles: dukes, marquesses, earls and viscounts. Most members of the House of Lords are now appointed for life with the rank of baron, meaning they are referred to simply as either “Lord” or “Baroness”.

Yet on Monday, the House saw the arrival of a new marquess. How could this be, given that the chamber is no longer a private club for those with aristocratic titles? The new member, the Marquess of Lothian, is of course better known as Conservative politician Michael Ancram. He has been granted a life peerage, presumably in recognition of his service in various senior roles in the Conservative party, but in common with a dozen or so other hereditary peers who have life peerages, he will be known by his grandest title when he sits in the House.

Michael Ancram’s actual surname is Kerr (pronounced in Scottish English more like “car”) but from birth he was known as Earl of Ancram, a courtesy title he used as the son and heir of his father, the Marquess of Lothian. Before becoming an MP, he practised law as an advocate in Scotland, and it’s said he decided to go by the name of Mr Michael Ancram as it was confusing people in court if he and the judge both referred to the other as “My Lord”. After he succeeded to the marquessate on his father’s death in 2004, he continued to use his established name of Ancram rather than Lothian – as he has only daughters, his current heir, his brother, isn’t entitled to be called Earl of Ancram anyway.

However, now he has entered the House of Lords, Lord Lothian is using his title in public life for the first time. It is not uncommon for people to choose a title other than their name when entering the House of Lords in any case. Earlier this year, John Gummer became Lord Deben (perhaps to further disassociate himself from beef burgers?) and Ian Paisley took the title Lord Bannside (with uncharacteristic sweetness, he said it was to be clear that his wife, Baroness Paisley of St Georges, was sitting in her own right, not as his wife; alternatively, it could be a dig at the Ulster Unionists).

The Kerr family have held the title Marquess of Lothian since 1701. Lord Lothian also holds all the following titles: Earl of Lothian (1606), Earl of Lothian (again, this time from 1631) Earl of Ancram (1633), Earl of Ancram (again from 1701), Viscount of Briene (1701), Lord Newbattle (1591), Lord Jedburgh (1622), Lord Kerr of Newbattle (1631), Lord Kerr of Nisbet, Langnewtoun, and Dolphinstoun (1633), Lord Kerr of Newbattle, Oxnam, Jedburgh, Dolphinstoun and Nisbet (1701), Baron Ker (1821), and finally Baron Kerr of Monteviot (2010). All of the titles from before 1707 are, of course, Scottish titles rather than British ones.

A new Lord Kitchener?

A long list of yet more new members of the House of Lords was announced a couple of weeks ago, which will controversially take membership to well over 800. Hidden among the names on this list is Julian Fellowes, an actor and screen writer for productions such as Gosford Park (for which he won an Oscar) and Downton Abbey, who is being rewarded for supporting the Conservative Party, in particular for writing speeches for Iain Duncan Smith when he was leader.

The original Lord KitchenerFellowes is married to one of the few surviving relatives of Earl Kitchener, who is himself the great nephew of the first Earl Kitchener, the famous military commander. The present Lord Kitchener has no male heirs, and for a number of years Fellowes has been campaigning for a change in the law that would allow his wife – and one day his son – to inherit the title, which can otherwise only pass to males and so will become extinct when the present earl dies. He has, unsurprisingly, had no success with this. In 1998 Fellowes even changed his surname to Kitchener-Fellowes.

The title Lord Fellowes has already been used, so it will be interesting to see what title Julian Fellowes will choose. Instead of Lord Fellowes of Somewhere it might be Lord Kitchener-Fellowes. Maybe we will see the Kitchener name live on for a little longer after all.

One response to “A new marquess in the House”

  1. Jonathan

    Interestingly, I had a hit yesterday from someone from Waterloo Region District School Board, Kitchener, Ontario. I thought they were perhaps looking up Lord Kitchener, whom the city was named after in 1916. However, the server logs show the visitor actually searched for pictures of Queen’s Park, although I suspect they wanted the park in Toronto, not Chester!

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