– notes, frequently asked questions and useful links from the archivist and curator of manuscripts at Balliol College, University of Oxford. Opinions expressed are the author's own.

Lord This, Baron That

A little nit-picking about names and titles of titled persons in England (and I do mean England, rules are different in Scotland). Consider it part of grammar and syntax. We’re this careful about getting anyone’s name right – and in documents from earlier centuries that is not a straightforward task, as spellings were anything but standardised, or standardized. So, a few examples of correct and incorrect uses and confusions of names and titles:

  • not Baron Richard Ughtred Paul Kay-Shuttleworth but Richard Ughtred Paul Kay-Shuttleworth, 2nd Baron Shuttleworth, referred to as Lord Shuttleworth
  • not Baron Arthur William James Anthony Greenwood but Arthur William James Anthony Greenwood, Baron Greenwood of Rossendale, referred to as Lord Greenwood.

The distinction is clearer in instances where the surname and title are not the same, e.g.

  • Julian Brook Plumptre, 22nd Baron FitzWalter
  • William Henry Grenfell, 1st Baron Desborough

Another two famous examples where the surname is not generally used because it is the same as the title:

  • Alfred, Lord Tennyson – not Lord Alfred Tennyson or Alfred Lord Tennyson (without the comma, Lord looks like his middle name). Technically it’s Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson.
  • George Gordon, Lord Byron – this is a bit confusing because Gordon looks like but wasn’t his surname. He was George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron.

Then there are instances where someone acquires a title later in life – how should he or she be referred to if one is writing about the pre-title period? It’s a minefield, but if it’s going into print, make sure it’s correct, because some helpful reader will be absolutely certain to point out mistakes…

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