From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search
The Much Hon. Richard Lauder, Laird of Haltoun

Laird (/ˈlɛərd/) is a generic name for the owner of a Scottish estate, roughly equivalent to an esquire in England, yet ranking above the same in Scotland.[1] In the Scottish order of precedence, a laird ranks below a baron and above a gentleman. This rank is only held by those lairds holding official recognition in a territorial designation by the Lord Lyon King of Arms. They are usually styled [forename] [surname] of [lairdship], and are traditionally entitled to place The Much Honoured before their name.

The Lord Lyon, Scotland's authority on titles, has produced the following guidance regarding the current use of the term Laird as a courtesy title:

Historically, the term bonnet laird was applied to rural, petty landowners, as they wore a bonnet like the non-landowning classes. Bonnet lairds filled a position in society below lairds and above husbandmen (farmers), similar to the yeomen of England.[4]


The word "laird" is known to have been used from the 15th century, and is a shortened form of laverd, derived from the Old English word hlafweard meaning "warden of loaves".[5] The word "lord" is of the same origin, and would have formerly been interchangeable with "laird"; however, in modern usage the term "lord" is associated with a peerage title, and thus the terms have come to have separate meanings.

History and definition

Carving believed to depict a 16th-century Scottish laird.

In the 15th-16th centuries the designation was used for land owners holding directly of the Crown, and therefore were entitled to attend Parliament. Lairds reigned over their estates like princes, their castles forming a small court. Originally in the 16th and 17th centuries the designation was applied to the head chief of a highland clan and therefore was not personal property and had obligations towards the community.[6] The laird may possess certain local or feudal rights. A lairdship carried voting rights in the ancient pre-Union Parliament of Scotland, although such voting rights were expressed via two representatives from each county who were known as Commissioners of the Shires, who came from the laird class and were chosen by their peers to represent them. A certain level of landownership was a necessary qualification (40 shillings of old extent). A laird is said to hold a lairdship. A woman who holds a lairdship in her own right has been styled with the honorific "Lady".[7]

Although "laird" is sometimes translated as lord and historically signifies the same, like the English term lord of the manor "laird" is not a title of nobility. The designation is a 'corporeal hereditament' (an inheritable property that has an explicit tie to the physical land), i.e. the designation can not be held in gross, and cannot be bought and sold without selling the physical land. The designation does not entitle the owner to sit in the House of Lords and is the Scottish equivalent to an English squire, in that it is not a noble title, more a courtesy designation meaning landowner with no other rights assigned to it. A laird possessing a Coat of Arms registered in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland is a member of Scotland's minor nobility. Such a person can be recognised as a laird, if not a Chief or Chieftain, or descendant of one of these, by the formal recognition of a territorial designation as a part of their name by the Lord Lyon.[8][9] The Lord Lyon is the ultimate arbiter as to determining entitlement to a territorial designation, and his right of discretion in recognising these, and their status as a name, dignity or title, have been confirmed in the Scottish courts.[10]

Several websites, and internet vendors on websites like Ebay, sell Scottish lairdships along with small plots of land. The Court of the Lord Lyon considers these particular titles to be meaningless[11][12] because it is impossible to have numerous “lairds” of a single estate at the same time, as has been advertised by these companies.[13][14]

A contemporary popular view of Lairdship titles has taken a unique twist in the 21st century. Millions of sales of souvenir land plots from buyers who show no interests in the opinions of the Registry of Scotland or of the Court of Lyon. They see their contract purporting to sell a plot of Scottish souvenir land as bestowing them the informal right to the title Laird. This is despite the fact that the buyer does not acquire ownership of the plot because registration of the plot is prohibited by Land Registration (Scotland) Act 2012, s 22 (1)(b). As ownership of land in Scotland requires registration of a valid disposition under Land Registration (Scotland) Act 2012, s 50 (2) the prohibition on registration of a souvenir plot means the buyer does not acquire ownership, and accordingly has no entitlement to a descriptive title premised on landownership.

Traditional and current forms of address

Traditionally, a laird is formally styled in the manner evident on the 1730 tombstone in a Scottish churchyard. It reads: "The Much Honoured [Forename (John)] [Surname (Grant)] Laird of [Lairdship (Glenmoriston)]". The section titled Scottish Feudal Baronies in Debrett's states that the use of the prefix "The Much Hon." is "correct", but that "most lairds prefer the unadorned name and territorial designation".[15][16]

Another acceptable style is: "The Much Honoured The Laird of [Lairdship]"[17]

According to Debrett's 'Correct Form' (2002 Ed., p. 99), "a wife of a laird was invariably styled as Lady, followed by her husband's territorial designation (i.e lairdship), e.g. the wife of Cameron of Lochiel was called Lady Lochiel.... By the early 20th century, the laird's wife came to adopt her husband's full surname, and not just the territorial designation part, e.g. Joan Cameron, Lady Lochiel".[18]

Currently, the most formal style for the wife of a laird remains "Lady",[19][20] as is a woman who holds a lairdship in her own right. Both women can be formally styled as "The Much Honoured [Forename] [Surname] of [Lairdship]" or, as is described in Peter Holman's Moray-based publication Life After Death: "The Much Honoured The Lady Thunderton [of Thunderton, ie Lairdship]"[21]

In the UK television series Monarch of the Glen, (based on the 1941 novel by Sir Compton Mackenzie), the wife of "Hector Naismith MacDonald, Laird of Glenbogle" is typically accorded the courtesy title "Lady of Glenbogle".[22]

Other current styles are "The Much Honoured [Forename] [Surname], Lady [Lairdship]".[23]

The male heir apparent of a lairdship is entitled to use the courtesy title "The Younger" (abbreviation Yr or yr) at the end of his name, and the eldest daughter, if heir apparent, is entitled to use the courtesy title "Maid of [Lairdship]" at the end of her name.

None of these styles are of the nobility or peerage.

The younger children of a laird are styled as "Mr [Forename] [Surname]" if male, and "Miss [Forename] [Surname] of [Lairdship]" if female.

See also


  1. Innes of Learney, T. (1956). Scots Heraldry (2nd ed.). Edinburgh & London: R. & R. Clark Limited.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Caution the souvenir hunters". 16 April 2012 Registers of Scotland. Retrieved 16 May 2016. The Court of the Lord Lyon commented: “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...<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "The Court of the Lord Lyon: Lairds". 15 May 2012. Retrieved 15 May 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Definition of bonnet laird". Merriam-Webster (Dictionary). Retrieved 30 January 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Online Etymology Dictionary - laird".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Perelman, p.141 ( ch. 7 )
  7. Adam, F.; Innes of Learney, T. (1952). The Clans, Septs, and Regiments of the Scottish Highlands (4th ed.). Edinburgh & London: W. & A.K. Johnston Limited.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "How to address a Chief, Chieftain or Laird". Debrett's Forms of Address. Debrett's. Retrieved 14 July 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Adam, F.; Innes of Learney, T. (1952). The Clans, Septs, and Regiments of the Scottish Highlands (4th ed.). Edinburgh & London: W. & A.K. Johnston Limited. p. 401. ("Scottish law and nobiliary practice, like those of many other European realms, recognise a number of special titles, some of which relate to chiefship and chieftaincy of families and groups as such, others being in respect of territorial lairdship. These form part of the Law of Name which falls under the jurisdiction of the Lord Lyon King of Arms, and are recognised by the Crown. [...] As regards these chiefly, clan, and territorial titles, by Scots law each proprietor of an estate is entitled to add the name of his property to his surname, and if he does this consistently, to treat the whole as a title or name, and under Statute 1672 cap. 47, to subscribe himself so")<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "OPINION OF THE COURT delivered by LORD MARNOCH". Court of Session. Retrieved 29 July 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Scottish Highland Titles". Retrieved 18 June 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Cramb, Auslan (11 December 2004). "How to lord it over your friends for only £29.99". Retrieved 20 June 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "The Ludicrous "Scottish Laird" Scams".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "New Internet Con Selling Phoney Lairdships".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "Scottish Feudal Baronies". Retrieved 11 February 2016. The use of the prefix "The Much Hon." for barons and chiefs is correct, but used only in the most formal circumstances. "Esq." is not required, and "Mr." is incorrect. Most barons and lairds of old Scottish families prefer the unadorned name and territorial designation - Ian Shand of Pitscot - similar to the "de" or "von" of Continental families...<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Rogers, Charles (1872). "Monuments and Monumental Inscriptions in Scotland, Volume 2 - Parish of Urquhart and Glenmoriston". Grampian Club. p. 383. Retrieved 26 January 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Adam, Frank (1970). "The Clans, Septs & Regiments of the Scottish Highlands". Genealogical Publishing Com. p. 410. Retrieved 26 January 2016. In personal letters...(The) old pre-fix of a laird or chief was "The Much Honoured"...where husband and wife are referred to, the correct styles are "Glenfalloch and the Lady Glenfalloch"<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "The Feudal Baronies of Scotland". Debretts 'Correct Form'. 2002. p. 99. Retrieved 1 February 2016. ...a wife of a laird was invariably described as 'Lady', followed by the husband's territorial designation, e.g. the wife of Cameron of Lochiel was called Lady Lochiel....the laird's wife came to adopt her husband's full surname, and not just the territorial designation, e.g. "Joan Cameron, Lady Lochiel...<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Titles and Forms of Address. Bloomsbury Publishing. 31 January 2007. ISBN 9781408148129. Retrieved 26 January 2016. The widow of a chief or laird continues to use the territorial style and the prefix Dowager may be used in the same circumstances as where it is applied to a Peeress. ... In rural Scotland their [i.e., lairds'] wives are often styled Lady, though not legally except in the case of the wives of chiefs.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Adam, Frank (1970). "The Clans, Septs & Regiments of the Scottish Highlands". Genealogical Publishing Com. p. 410. Retrieved 26 January 2016. In personal letters...(The) old pre-fix of a laird or chief was "The Much Honoured"...where husband and wife are referred to, the correct styles are "Glenfalloch and Lady Jean Campbell of Glenfalloch" ..(also).. "Monaltrie and the Lady Monaltrie"<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Holman, Peter (2010). "Life After Death: The Viola Da Gamba in Britain from Purcell to Dolmetsch". Boydell & Brewer. p. 87. Retrieved 28 January 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "Susan Hampshire: Monarch of the TV". Leigh Journal. 17 October 2003. Retrieved 30 January 2016. FAR from being a dotty dowager, Molly - now the Second Lady of Glenbogle - has style...<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. "Obituary: Lady Margaret Morris of Balgonie". The Scotsman. 15 September 2014. Retrieved 31 January 2016. Lady (Margaret Morris) of Balgonie (nee Margaret Newton Stuart): Pillar of the community with a passion for theatre, baking and restoration...<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>