Saturday, May 5, 2012

Barons & Baronesses

Barons are the fifth and lowest level of the British peerage, coming right below viscounts. Barons may well be the oldest of the ranks, with the titles of earls and marquesses and viscounts originating after barons were already well established. Frequently an earl or marquess or viscount is also a baron, and the lesser title is often the one used by a titled gentleman's eldest son as a courtesy. Often -- but not always -- the baron's title is directly derived from the family name, so that if Henry Smith were to be named a baron, he might be Baron Smith.

He would be addressed as Lord Smith or my lord, and his wife would be Lady Smith (but -- oddly -- not my lady.) The baron's children are known as The Honorable Firstname Lastname.

In modern times, there are a few women who have been named baronesses in their own right, for service to the crown. Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, for instance, is Baroness Thatcher -- most often referred to as Margaret, Lady Thatcher.

(Lady Margaret Thatcher would be a different individual entirely -- the daughter of a high-ranking nobleman, rather than a peeress in her own right.)

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