Tuesday, 24 August 2010

More money than sense?

I'm a great fan of the Muppets TV series. Clearly muppets do not exist, but I do become awfully excited when real life episodes of one of telly's greatest shows appear to unfurl before my very eyes.

Swiss millionaire Willi Ernst Sturzenegger has appealed to the Court of Session to be formally recognised with the "territorial dignity" of the Earl of Arran (and indeed currently styles himself as the "Feudal Earl of Arran") having had the request turned down by the Lord Lyon King of Arms. He paid a quarter of a million pounds for it in 1995, so clearly you can see where he is coming from. Amongst those apparently intrigued by the request is the err... Earl of Arran, who is also the Duke of Hamilton, though he has a "peerage earldom" which is different to a feudal or "territorial earldom" - bear with me!

Willi owns a few thousand acres on Arran, including Lochranza Castle, which in feudal terms is what was known as the 'caput'. Territorial dignities were tied to caputs, so if you owned the land, you owned the title. However the current Lord Lyon, David Sellars, in making his judgment is firmly of the opinion that the land in question was nothing more than a glorified barony really, a bit lower down the pecking order, and is not minded to grant the request - "I... do not accept that it follows from the recognition of a feudal baron, or one possessed of the dignity of a former feudal barony, as “Baron of X”, that the person in possession of a “territorial earldom” stemming from the erection by the Crown of lands into a free earldom, should be recognised as an “Earl” or “Countess”, 'feudal' or otherwise." Indeed. However, he has allowed leave for the decision to be challenged as it "raises a question or questions of law". The Court of session appeal will apparently be held later this year, according to a news story on the case in today's Herald (sorry, not a pun, that's a newspaper, and not an arm of the Court of the Lord Lyon!).

The decision is a fascinating read, providing a real insight into the work of the Court of the Lord Lyon, and is available online at www.lyon-court.com/lordlyon/files/WES%20Note.pdf.

Incidentally, there is no truth to the rumour that a new Toblerone bar in the shape of Arran's Goat Fell mountain is soon to be issued in honour of the feudal dual... and I believe there will be no requirement to call Willi "m'lud", if successful or otherwise.


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