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Irish 'Feudal Titles'
The following is an article periodically updated dealing with the controversial subject of title sales. Additions or corrections can be e-mailed (remove 'SPAMOUT' from address).
While of course distinct from the question of Gaelic Chiefships, the matter of the validity of Irish 'feudal titles' arises from time to time, and so it seems a good idea to create some sort of ad hoc register of same. The whole matter of noble titles and distinguishing the real from the fake is a complicated one which few fully understand, a fact which purveyors of false titles fully exploit. The Earl of Bradford maintains a good site on the subject of British titles at http://www.faketitles.com/index.html, which of course has considerable relevance to Ireland. See also Baronage Press's FAQs, two of which deal with Irish titles: http://www.baronage.co.uk/2001/faqs-01.html.
Scottish feudal baronies are considered to be a form of property which can be disposed of legitimately, but the existence of of Irish and indeed English feudal titles has been questioned on the grounds that feudalism was abolished in both countries in the seventeenth century. Lord Lyon previously recognised Scottish feudal titles, but has signalled an intention to phase this recognition out (see below). Residues of feudalism in Scotland relating to land have only recently been abrogated by the Abolition of Feudal Tenure Act 2000. As to titles, the act states that when 'an estate held in barony ceases to exist as a feudal estate, the dignity of baron, though retained, shall not attach to the land; and on and after the appointed day any such dignity shall be, and shall be transferable only as, incorporeal heritable property' (http://www.hmso.gov.uk/legislation/scotland/acts2000/00005--g.htm#63). On 17 December 2002, Robin O Blair, Lord Lyon King of Arms, announced that as a result of the Abolition of Feudal Tenures Act 2000, he would from 28 November 2004 no longer 'officially recognise a person as a feudal baron, nor make any grant of baronial additaments as part of armorial bearings'. A substantial list of Scottish barony titles sold in recent years may be viewed at http://www.baronytitles.com/forsale/11.html The writer attempted to gain an understanding of the arcane practices involved in the sale of Scottish feudal baronies by asking for clear citation of documentary evidence relating to the Barony of Plenderleith (postings on the forum rec.heraldry in August 2006), but was met with reluctance or refusal to answer, mixed with some personal abuse (allegations of being a 'fool', a 'nutter', etc).
The act abolishing feudal tenure in England was passed in 1660, and two years later an almost identical act was passed in Ireland. The full title of the Irish legislation of 1662 is An Act for Taking Away the Court of Wards and Liveries, and Tenures In Capite, and by Knight's Service (14 and 15 Charles II, Chapter 19, Irish Statutes, 2, Dublin 1786 Edition, pages 515-21). The Irish act declared that the Court of Wards and Liveries, and feudal tenures, that is, tenures by knight's service of the King or otherwise, in capite or by socage in capite of the King, were 'more burdensome to the Kingdom than beneficial to the King'. Accordingly, these and other feudalities specified were to be abolished, and the act was made retrospective to 1641. This act in effect abolished feudalism in Ireland, aside from some largely theoretical residues (see the full text of the Tenures Abolition Act 1662, courtesy of Derek Howard). The Irish and English acts contain a proviso exempting a title of honour by which any person might have the right to sit in the House of Lords, and the privileges belonging to them as peers. However, unlike the Scottish act mentioned above, the Irish act did not specifically exempt feudal titles or manorial lordships. The (Irish) Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009 provides for the repeal of the 1662 act and other old legislation in need of updating: http://www.oireachtas.ie/documents/bills28/acts/2009/a2709.pdf. Section 9(2) of the act declares, 'In so far as it survives, feudal tenure is abolished', while Schedule 2 specifies that the Tenures Abolition Act 1662 is repealed 'so far as unrepealed'.
While the writer is not in a position to state that there are no authentic Irish titles on sale, many if not most of those on offer are fabrications of varying degrees of sophistication which usually require hours of work to expose. At this stage the writer has gone beyond a general warning of 'buyer beware' to 'do not purchase'. There follow are details of titles I have encountered over the years or which have been brought to my attention via the discussion group rec.heraldry or otherwise.
Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland
The following titles have been noted among the Office of the Chief Herald's Grants and Confirmations of Arms: Baron of Kells, County Meath?,1988, Lord Ballymadun, County Dublin,1991, Baron Ratoath, County Meath,1991 (supporters), Barony of Corran, County Sligo, 1993 (supporters), Barony of Leyny, County Sligo,1995 (supporters), Barony of De Courcy, County Cork, 1998 (supporters), Barony of French Park, County Roscommon, 1998, Barony of Carbury, County Sligo, 1998 (supporters; see statutory declaration below), Barony of Slane, County Meath, 2000, dated 1999 (supporters). The following titles appear in entries in the Office's Register of Foreign Arms: Lordship of Manor of Nobber, County Meath, 1989, Barony of Delvin, County Meath, 1994 (grants of arms and supporters), Barony of Duleek, County Meath, 1994 (grant of arms and supporters), Barony of Kinnalea, County Cork, 1994 (grant of arms and supporters), Barony of Tirerrill, County Sligo, 1994 (grant of supporters), Barony of Eglish-Fircall, 1995. The Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland's practice of granting arms and supporters to holders of an 'Irish feudal lordship or barony' is stated to have ceased in 1998, although the list above shows that it continued until 2000 at least. This was a period when it was clear that through its involvement with Terence MacCarthy, the Duchess of Braganza and others, the Office had become in effect a brokerage house for bogus and questionable arms, titles and pedigrees. It should be noted that the practice of validating so-called feudal titles appears to have been suspended during Dr Patricia Donlon's tenure as Chief Herald in 1996-1997, which incumbent was much criticised for supposed lack of 'expertise'. After Dr Donlon's retirement in early 1997, the practice of validating feudal titles was resumed for a period, over the signature of Fergus Gillespie, Deputy Chief Herald.
Arising from queries suggested by discussion on rec.heraldry concerning the granting of supporters to the holder of a feudal barony as late as 2000, the writer secured the following reply from Chief Herald Brendan O Donoghue on 22 October 2002: 'With regard to . . . [the holder of the Barony of Slane], notwithstanding that a decision had been taken early in 1998 to discontinue the practice of granting supporters to persons who claimed to have purchased feudal baronies or lordships, it was considered appropriate to honour earlier commitments to do so in his case.' Who made these commitments, and whether they followed monetary deposits has not been established.
Supporters are generally taken to indicate high status, and indeed it would appear that it would be safer for an heraldic authority in a republic not to grant them. The Chief Herald stated that it was the current policy of his office 'to limit the granting of supporters to certain corporate and civic authorities and to persons holding high public office'. Notwithstanding this, the Deputy Chief Herald in 2000 certified the use of supporters for John Paul Joyce, 'head of the family of Joyce' (http://www.nli.ie/Arms25.htm, no longer accessible), this apparently being the controversial Anglo-Norman Joyce title which the Office of the Chief Herald now denies having placed on a par with Gaelic Chiefs. While it does not appear that any of his predecessors enjoyed the honour, Chief Herald O Donoghue's own grant of arms dated 30 June 1999 includes supporters for his lifetime, 'On either side a fox rampant collared or, pendant therefrom on the dexter the Harp of Ireland and on the sinister a book or' (volume Y, folio 55).
Arms with supporters granted to Chief Herald of Ireland 1999
Bogus Mac Carthy Mór Titles
The sale by Terence MacCarthy of 'Gaelic feudal lordships' was effectively rubber stamped by the then Chief Herald in a now notorious series of letters:
Letter 1, Chief Herald to MacCarthy Mór, 16 June 1988
Dear MacCarthy Mór,
This is by way of a reply to your letter of June 7th 1988. First allow me to congratulate you on your new publication 'One Thousand Royal and Noble Ancestors of the House of MacCarthy Mór'. Now to the matter of the Gaelic feudal lordships which, as you say, are cited in the St Leger Tract of 1588. Such incorporeal hereditaments, whatever their precise nature, would, I believe, come under the term 'property' for legal purposes. Accordingly, under our Constitution you have the right to beneficial disposal of such property, irrespective of whatever I might say or think. Although no register of such property exists here we have nonetheless an interest in your proposed course of activities. Having considered the matter we do not propose to stand in the way of your disposal of the aforementioned hereditaments.
Yours sincerely, Donal F Begley, Chief Herald of Ireland
Letter 2, Chief Herald to Publishing Director, Burke's Peerage, 3 November 1988
Dear Mr Brooks-Baker,
My attention has been drawn to your letter of August 24th 1988 to The MacCarthy Mór of Belfast, regarding his intention to dispose of certain hereditaments which may subsist in the Chiefship of the House of MacCarthy Mór. I can confirm that I have written to him (June 16th 1988) to say that the Office here would not stand in the way of the action he proposes to take. For your further information MacCarthy Mór (applicant Terence McCarthy of Belfast) is one of a number of old Gaelic designations which are shortly due for official recognition here.
Sincerely, Donal F Begley, Chief Herald of Ireland
Source: A New Book of Rights, Gryfons Publishers, Little Rock, Arkansas, 1998, pages 78-79; texts verified as being authentic by the Office of the Chief Herald.
The following is a list of titles bestowed by MacCarthy, all of which of course are fabrications: Clandermond, Kilbonane, Ballywoodane, Castlecormac, Duhallow, Drumtariff, Dromagh, Mashanaglass, Clonmeallane, Cosmaigne, Skart, Ballea, Tiraha, Cappanacushny, Cloghphilip, Clanlauras, Duarigle, Castleshort, Kileughterco, Carigacashel, Castlemore, Cullen, Drumcarra, Gortnacloghy. And further titles brought to my attention: Curragh, Dromcummer, Downyne, Letter, Benduff, Aglish, Lohort, Castlequin, Clandonoroe, Cloghda, Kilmeedy.
It was alleged in 1999 by Terence MacCarthy that a consultant working in the Office of the Chief Herald held the title 'Baron of Rathdown' and was involved with the bogus Duchess of Braganza (http://www.montana.com/mccarthy/MacCarthyMor/openlet.html and http://www.montana.com/mccarthy/MacCarthyMor/july21.html, both now removed). The contract of the individual in question was not renewed in 2001.
Various Title Sellers
The age of chivalry may be dead, but romantic yearning for noble titles and the perceived prestige they bring has never been stronger. Of course money has frequently been a factor in the award of aristocratic titles by monarchs and governments, but it is one thing to have an Earldom bestowed on a wealthy ancestor who was generous to the government of the time, and quite another to present oneself as the bearer of the Dukedom of Neasden, recently purchased from a shelf company. There are a number of firms selling titles internationally, by way of the Internet or privately, and while a few have a permanent presence, others change title every so often, although the principals usually remain the same.
Here are some other titles noted by or brought to the writer's attention:
Barony of Callan, County Kilkenny (South Africa Government Gazette 3 August and 2 November 2001) Barony of Galmoy, County Kilkenny (Same 7 December 2001).
Barony of Newcastle, County Wicklow, and 'Lord Stewardship of Ireland' (for sale by Manorial Auctioneers March 2002 http://www.msgb.co.uk/msgb/Titles.html). A posting on rec.heraldry on 26 January 2003 states that the Earl of Shrewsbury through Manorial Auctioneers is offering for sale the titles of 'Deputy Lord High Steward of Ireland' and 'Lord Steward of Waterford'. The writer is informed that the Earl of Shrewsbury's claim to be Lord High Steward of Ireland rests upon its being a 'Coronation Office', that is, one performed simply by attending upon the sovereign at his or her crowning. Furthermore, the Court of Claims in the past has considered the right of the Earls of Shrewsbury to this office but suspended judgement on the matter. It is therefore very doubtful whether there is any real validity to the titles of 'Deputy Lord High Steward of Ireland', or 'Lord Steward of Waterford' or any other Irish county.
Baronies of Ibane, Donnegan and Killyde (see above), County Cork (failed to sell at London auction per Irish Independent 15 June 2001).
Baronies of Muskerry and Donnegan (see above), County Cork (www.privateproperty.co.uk auction results 14 February 2000).
Baronies of Clanmaurice, County Kerry, and Ballycowan, County Offaly (reported to have been sold in London on 6 December1995 http://www.heraldicmedia.com/site/info/manor.html).
Baronies of Skibereen, Millstreet, Killyde, Kinnatalloon, Mitchelstown, Kinaleah, Orrery, Macroom, County Cork; Lordships of Manors of Castletownroche, County Cork, Mount Nagle, County Cork, Athenry, County Galway (for sale by British Feudal Investments March 2002 http://www.nobletitles.com/lists.htm; see general commentary at http://www.baronage.co.uk/nl/nl-03-04.htm#Anchor-FEUDAL).
Barony of Fernmoy, Co Cavan, Barony of Brayny, Co Westmeath, Lordship of the Manor of Ballyglass, Lordship of the Manor of Ballynacorra, Lordship of the Manor of Kilkeelan (reported as for sale by auction by Manorial Auctioneers June 1996 http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/Amy_Jenkins/ldshpinf.htm).
Lordship of the Manor of Hawkinstown, Co Meath, offered by Viscount Gormanston, Barony of Elyogarthy, Co Tipperary, offered by Trustees of the Ormond Settled Estates; Barony of Ardes, Co Down, offered by Viscount Bangor; Lordship of the Manor of Gafney, Co Meath, until recently belonging to Viscount Gormanston (reported for private sale by Manorial Auctioneers at date unknown on http://www.atreides.demon.co.uk/MNet/MAuct/MSite1a/Titles.html).
Viscountcy/Barony of Barryroe (reported sold for £90,000 ($144,000) on 10 November 2000? by auction by Strutt & Parker, London, on http://www.expatworld.org/article8.htm).
Viscountcies (sic) of Barryroe and Orrery, Baronies of Barryroe, Orrery, Kilmallock, Skibereen, Millstreet and Killyde, and Lordships of the Manor of Athenry and Butlerstown ('special offers' from $10,000-80,000 from Sovereign Classics http://www.sovereignclassics.com/index_nob_sale.htm June 2002; some duplicated under British Feudal Investments above, and Barryroe titles reported sold in previous entry).
On 8 August 2002 the following Irish titles were for sale on the British Feudal Investments site at http://www.nobletitles.com/lists.htm: Lordship of the Manor of Cove of Cork ($5,500), Barony of Skibereen ($25,000), Barony of Millstreet ($16,400), Barony of Killyde ($20,000), Barony of Mitchelstown ($18,000).
It is reported that among titles to be auctioned by Strutt and Parker on 23 October 2002 are two Irish ones, the Lordship of the Manor of Monkstown and the Lordship and Territorial Barony of Barnahely, but there is some question as to whether the alleged vendor, Lord Shannon, actually disposed of them: http://www.faketitles.com/html/strutt___parker.html
In a forensically detailed analysis of the activities of Anthony Boada and British Feudal Investments, there are references to the sale of Lordships of Belvelly, Ballywalter Demesne, Cove of Cork and Carrowreagh, all of which appear to be spurious: http://www.noblescams.com/boada/boada14.htm The British Feudal Investments webpage at http://www.nobletitles.com/ returns a message stating, 'This website is temporarily closed for refurbishment'.
A firm called 'Burke's Peerage' - which should not be confused with Burke's Peerage and Gentry, which continues to issue Burke's quality publications - is offering 'Ancient Irish Titles' for £30,000-45,000 each, claiming, 'It is possible to eventually register these titles with the Chief Herald in Ireland': http://www.burkes-peerage.com/acquisition.htm As indicated above, while the Office of the Chief Herald formerly offered validation of such titles, it has now distanced itself from the practice.
In July 2003 Manorial Auctioneers was offering for sale two Irish feudal baronies, namely, Ballystousone, County Cork, and Clonmacowan, County Galway: http://www.msgb.co.uk/Titles.html
Also in July 2003 there was an interesting discussion concerning Irish feudal baronies on the Heraldry Society of Scotland website at http://www.heraldry-scotland.co.uk/Forum/ShowMessage.asp?ID=3404. Defending the existence of such titles, Willy E Sturzenegger of Arran stated that he had in 1993 acquired the Barony of Eglish-Fircall from the Earl of Rosse, and was recognised as the bearer of same by Chief Herald Begley and Deputy Chief Herald Gillespie in documents issued in 1995 and 1997 respectively. But what is the earlier documentation proving the existence of the Barony of Eglish-Fircall?
The sale of titles by the firm Burke's Peerage (again not to be confused with the publishers Burke's Peerage and Gentry) was the subject of a critical article in the Irish Sunday Independent of 25 July 2004. Among the titles advertised by the firm are some Irish baronies, one of which is stated to be Gillabbey. Gillabbey is indeed a place in St Finbar's Parish in County Cork, but the writer cannot document any title associated with it, and a reply is awaited from Burke's Peerage as to their evidence for claiming an associated title. The Sunday Independent article quoted Harold Brooks-Baker of Burke's Peerage, as refusing to reveal who owns the titles for sale, and repeating the claim that 'you can register the barony with the Chief Herald of Ireland'. To repeat, while it is true that the Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland effectively rubber stamped feudal titles in the past, as indicated above, it has for a number of years discontinued the practice, without however invalidating those already entered in its registers. The newspaper article also quotes Fergus Gillespie, Deputy Chief Herald and administrator of the Irish Office in the absence of a permanent Chief Herald: 'Anyone thinking of buying these titles would need to be pretty sure they are not buying a pig in a poke'. Indeed.
Disproving the authenticity of titles such as those listed above is time-consuming even for a specialist, as a wide range of records has to be checked, and the writer could not afford to keep on doing this indefinitely and for every title, particularly where deliberate mystification and obfuscation of sources is involved. Consider again the above listed superficially plausible titles sold by Terence MacCarthy or accepted by the Chief Herald of Ireland, and imagine the work required to disprove all of them conclusively (work which the writer would of course be able to perform professionally if he was not blacked from such employment as a result of his refusal to acquiesce in what was going on in the Office of the Chief Herald in particular). Accordingly, it seems reasonable to attempt to lay down some criteria for validating feudal titles, if indeed there are any which are authentic. Firstly, the claimed owner or vendor of such a title must be able to produce clear documentary evidence that the title existed, and if an original grant is not extant, that the title was used over a significant period of time. Secondly, it will have to be shown that a feudal title has survived into the modern period, and has not been affected by the Tenures Act 1662 or any later legislation such as the Land Acts. Needless to say, hazy references to 'documents in the family's possession', or mere reference to the existence of a barony in the Townlands Index 1851 or similar works will not be satisfactory. In the case of documents in private ownership, copies would have to be produced for inspection, and in the case of manuscripts or books in public repositories, copies again preferably provided or else clear reference and page/folio details given so that they can be checked easily. Failure to produce or properly cite documentary evidence can reasonably be taken as an indication that a feudal title claimed to exist or being offered for sale is of questionable validity.
A site exposing irregular title sales has an interesting article, 'The Illegal Sale of Feudal Baronies', based on information provided by an unnamed expert (http://www.phoneynobletitles.com/irish_and_english_baronies.htm, accessed 5 July 2005). It is noted that as a result of the above mentioned English and Irish tenures acts of 1660 and 1662, baronies by tenure or feudal baronies were legally abolished. The only exception was baronies by tenure which became baronies by virtue of a writ of summons to sit in parliament. In England case law has confirmed that such feudal titles cannot be revived, namely, the Fitzwalter case of 1668 and the Berkeley case of 1858. In addition, arising from a spate of claims based on dubious genealogical evidence, an English ruling of 1927 found that baronies by writ of summons cannot be revived if they have been in abeyance for more than a hundred years. While there have been no specific rulings in Ireland, the wording of the Irish act of 1662 is so similar to the English act of 1660 that there can be little doubt that the effect is the same. The legal authority of the Chief Herald of Ireland and his Deputy to approve or certify feudal baronies and allow their sale is called in question, and it is noted that following some ill-judged approvals and acceptance of forged evidence, the practice has simply ceased. In the case of Scotland, it is noted that the tenures act of 2000 allows the sale of feudal baronies as titles of honour. In contrast, in England and Ireland, such feudal baronies cannot be considered to be incorporeal hereditaments open to sale and purchase, as they have been abolished in law. As such, those firms who sell such titles are acting outside the law and may be subject to penalties. The foregoing, it should be stressed, is a summary of views received at second hand, and what is wanting is a full copy of the opinion on which it is based, with detailed citations.
The Earl of Bradford has added some caveats to his web commentary on the Manorial Society of Great Britain, including the following: 'In particular I feel Mr Smith of The Manorial Society sometimes relies too heavily on the use of a Statutory Declaration to 'prove' the ownership of a Manorial Lordship in the absence of existing documentary evidence, and indeed, court cases, in which he has been involved, have proved that the use of statutory declarations to prove ownership in this way is far from satisfactory or reliable.' (http://www.faketitles.com/html/the_manorial_society.html, accessed 5 July 2005). Additionally, a rival firm of title sellers has posted the following, presumably accurate transcription of a 1999 'Mail on Sunday' article relating to court proceedings over the 'non-existent manor of Flushing': http://www.nobility.co.uk/bogus6.htm (accessed 5 July 2005). In 2005 the Manorial Society was offering for sale the Irish titles of the Barony of St John, County Wexford, and the Lordship of Fallmore, County Roscommon. An attempt to obtain further details of these titles was unsuccessful, and Manorial Auctioneers has now ceased to post the names of titles for sale on its website. It is only fair to point out that the titles being offered by the rival firm, Noble Titles (http://www.nobility.co.uk/lord_of_the_manor_titles.html), are open to question as well.
Three Case Studies
In the light of the 1662 Act it is difficult to see how it can be claimed that feudal titles still exist today in Ireland as hereditaments which can be bought and sold. As we have indicated, many if not most of such titles on offer today are essentially spurious, often based on the device of choosing an administrative barony and claiming that an unextinguished feudal title attached to it. Consider for example the following case studies, the first two rather crude, the third somewhat more sophisticated.
The first case, brought to the attention of the writer in April 2003, is that of the Lordship of the Manor of Mount Nagle, County Cork. I examined documents supplied to a third party by Pitts-Tucker & Co and their client Anthony Boada Cartaya in relation to this alleged title. Mr Boada stated that he purchased the 'Barony of Fermoy' in 1993, following which 'historical research' allegedly revealed that Mount Nagle and other 'feudal baronies' were included with the Fermoy title. It is claimed that the Townlands Index 1851 'states that the Lordship of the Manor of Mount Nagle was located in County Cork (East Riding), in the administrative Barony of Fermoy and the parish of Killathy'. The work in question does not list lordships of the manor as such, but does list a townland called Mountnagle in County Cork East Riding, Barony of Fermoy and Parish of Carrigleamleary (page 717). Two maps of County Cork East copied from Mitchell's A New Genealogical Atlas of Ireland were supplied, but these in no way supported the existence of any lordship of the manor, the work again being merely a reference aid to establishing administrative divisions. Also provided was an historical account of the Lordship of the Manor of Mount Nagle attributed to one 'Dr Erik de Sergiana, PhD', but this could not be said to be scholarly, as it was without source citations. It was also claimed that the Lordship of the Manor of Mount Nagle belonged to the de Roche family, Barons and Viscounts of Fermoy, but no documentary evidence was cited to support this. Mount Nagle takes its name from the Nagle family, which is the form used by the County Cork branch of the Anglo-Norman de Angulo family (Edward MacLysaght, Irish Families, Dublin 1985 Edition, page 134). In conclusion therefore, the statement that there existed a Lordship of the Manor of Mount Nagle associated with the Barony of Fermoy is unsupported by any kind of acceptable documentary evidence, and in the writer's opinion is not only highly implausible, but based on brazen fabrication.
1994 patent of Earl of Shrewsbury bestowing post of Deputy Lord High Steward of Ireland
on Anthony Boada, Baron of Fermoy, Athenry and Barrymore
The second case was brought to the writer's attention in July 2005, and relates to the alleged title of Barony of Clare, County Galway, offered for sale by Manorial Auctioneers (Catalogue, pages 68-73). The piece opens with the declaration, 'This barony in the province of Connaught belongs to Lord De Freyne whose ancestor attended William the Conqueror into England', and the appended pedigree commences with Fulco de Freyne, floruit 1302, descended from Rollo, First Duke of Normandy. In contrast, the 107th edition of Burke's Peerage starts Lord de Freyne's pedigree with Walter French of Galway, floruit 1425. The Manorial Auctioneers catalogue also favours us with the information that The 'Tua-de-Danans' 'were originally Scythians, who had settled some time in Greece, and afterwards migrated to Scandinavia', which of course is pure 19th-century antiquarian fantasy. There follows more padding of this kind, leading on to a summary account of Lord de Freyne's ancestors, surnamed French. Lord de Freyne is introduced as 'Baron of Clare' for the first time on page 70 of the catalogue, but no evidence is given that his ancestors ever bore such a title. Then follows an account of the name Clare, tracing it to the 'Honour of Clare, in Essex', mentioning Richard de Clare, the famous Strongbow who led the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169. Reference is also made to peerage titles in the name of Clare, and it is suggested, 'The Barony of Clare must surely derive its name from the Anglo-Norman 'conqueror' of Ireland, Richard Strongbow'.
The ignorance not to say impudence displayed in the latter statement is remarkable. The name 'de Clare' derives from a place in Suffolk in England. The placename 'Clare' in Ireland is generally an anglicisation of the Gaelic 'clár', meaning 'plain'. There are several places called 'Clare' in Ireland, including the county of the name, and a barony of the name in the adjoining County Galway. As indicated, baronies in Ireland are old administrative units, and do not always have titles, feudal or otherwise, attached, contrary to what sellers of dubious titles frequently assert. The Manorial Auctioneers catalogue entry for the Barony of Clare concludes with the following note: 'Many documents and memoirs of the Barony and family will be found at the National Library, Dublin.' This citation is so vague as to be worthless, and no documentary evidence whatsoever is given to show the existence of a feudal title associated with the Barony of Clare in County Galway, or that the ancestors of Lord de Freyne bore such a title. As such the title should not have been offered for sale, and should be withdrawn without delay. A series of queries based on the above points has been put by e-mail to Manorial Auctioneers, but to date no reply has been received. Furthermore, Manorial Auctioneers has ceased to list the purported titles it is selling on its webpage at http://www.msgb.co.uk/Titles.html, which of course makes it more difficult to test their veracity.
The third case was drawn to the writer's attention in September 2006, and relates to Manorial Auctioneers' offer for sale of the Barony of Knockgraffon, County Tipperary. The sale catalogue claims that the Barony of Knockgraffon 'has been Butler property for many centuries', specifying that Richard Butler, 3rd Lord Mountgarret, held the title in the early seventeenth century, and that it belonged to the 17th Viscount Mountgarret and Earl of Ormonde 'until recently'.
While 'feudal' titles offered for sale have frequently been based on administrative baronies and are completely spurious, a feudal Barony of Knockgraffon did in fact exist in medieval times. Thus there survives a rental of the Barony dated 1308-09, which appears in a compilation of Butler records (Red Book of Ormond, Dublin 1932, pages 145-47). In 1538 Knockgraffon is listed as one of a number of 'lordships or manors' granted by Henry VIII to Piers Butler, then Earl of Ossory and subsequently Earl of Ormonde (Calendar of Ormond Deeds, 4, Dublin 1927, pages 178-79). A legal document of 1599 indicates that the Manor of Knockgraffon was then associated with Thomas Butler, Earl of Ormonde (Calendar of Ormond Deeds, 6, Dublin 1970, page 192).
It will be noted that by the sixteenth century Knockgraffon had ceased to be described as a 'barony' but only as a 'manor'. None of the above documents are mentioned in the Manorial Auctioneers catalogue, and no later documents are cited which would prove the continued existence of a Barony of Knockgraffon in the possession of the Butler family, and specifically the Earls of Ormonde. A record of the mid-seventeenth century indicates that lands in the Parish of Knockgraffon were held by Piers Butler, Gentleman, but the terms 'barony' or 'manor' do not appear (Census of Ireland c1659, Dublin 1939, page 306). Furthermore, if a Barony of Knockgraffon had survived until this time, it is questionable whether it would have continued to exist after the passing in 1662 of an act abolishing feudal tenures in Ireland (14 and 15 Charles II, Chapter 19, Irish Statutes, 2, Dublin 1786 Edition, pages 515-21).
In summary, evidence has been found that a Barony of Knockgraffon existed in medieval times, and there was a manor of the name associated with the Butlers in the sixteenth century. However, no evidence has been located to show that a Barony of Knockgraffon survived into modern times or that it exists at the present day. As such the Barony of Knockgraffon as offered for sale by Manorial Auctioneers is at the least of doubtful validity, and very probably spurious.
Statutory declaration by Viscount Gormanston concerning the Barony of Carbury, County Sligo,
19 March 1993, registered in Registry of Deeds, Dublin, and accepted by Office of Chief Herald of Ireland
Three Further Case Studies 2007
The property consultants Strutt and Parker held an auction of 'feudal lordships by tenure' at Ironmongers' Hall in London on 24 May 2007. Most of the titles on offer were British, but the following Irish ones were included: the Lordship and Feudal Barony of Castle Knock, County Dublin, the Lordship and Feudal Barony of Carrigaline, County Cork, and the Lordship and Feudal Barony of Clanwilliam, County Tipperary (sale catalogue, pages 30-31, 52-54, 64-66). The guide prices were respectively £27,500, £25,000 and £27,500.
With regard to Castleknock, it can be said that there was indeed a feudal barony of the name held by the Tyrrells until the 14th century (Ball, History Co Dublin, 6, pages 7-14). Strutt and Parker's catalogue states that the barony was conferred on Sir Jenico d'Artois in 1402, from whom it descended to the Prestons, later Viscounts Gormanston, until it was transferred in 1995 to Dr Harry Lockett. Most of the catalogue entry is composed of genealogical and historical information, and while the 'Gormanston Archives' are cited, no particular documents are identified. An entry book of the title deeds of the Preston estates about 1397-98 has been published, but it contains no reference to the Barony of Castleknock (Calendar of the Gormanston Register, Dublin 1916). Viscount Gormanston has been an active seller of titles in recent years, and has relied on the device of a 'statutory declaration' to the effect that a title exists and was inherited by him (see the illustrated Carbury declaration). The Castleknock title does not appear to have been sold at the London auction, and if offered for sale again, it would be necessary to provide precise citations of documents proving that it continues to exist and was in the possession of Viscount Gormanston's family until 1995.
Carrigaline is a town and parish, which did have a functioning manorial court in the 1830s, the proprietor being the Earl of Shannon (Lewis, Topographical Dictionary). This much is accurately stated in the Strutt and Parker catalogue, in the midst of the usual background information, and concluding with a general list of sources without page or folio references. What is not provided is any kind of specific documentary evidence that Carrigaline had the status of a feudal barony, as opposed to a manor. Although it is clearly of questionable validity, the so-called Barony of Carrigaline was sold for £15,000 at the London auction.
No evidence has been found to show that Clanwilliam, Co Tipperary, was a feudal barony, but it is an administrative barony, as well as a UK barony among the subsidiary titles of the Earl of Clanwilliam (Burke's Peerage, 2003 edition). The Strutt and Parker catalogue once more contains interesting but largely extraneous background information, claiming that the Barony of Clanwilliam remained in the possession of the Butlers, Marquesses and Earls of Ormond, until its sale in 1998 to an unnamed individual. Among the general sources listed are the 'Butler Archives', with no reference to specific documents therein. A listing of the medieval title deeds of the prominent Anglo-Norman Butler family has been published, but it contains no mention of any feudal Barony of Clanwilliam (Calendar of Ormond Deeds, 3 volumes, Dublin 1932-35). A single reference to Clanwilliam turns out to be an editorial interpolation of the administrative barony to locate the place Lisybylly (volume 1, deed 392, page 153). The alleged Barony of Clanwilliam fetched £16,000 at the London auction, and again it would not be unreasonable to suggest that it was effectively a fiction as presented.
It is obvious that purveyors of bogus and questionable feudal titles can manufacture them at a quicker rate than they can be checked. It would not be possible to devote dozens of hours to researching each title which appears, so it is necessary to revert to brief notes. While the remnants of feudal tenure were abolished by statute in the Republic of Ireland in 2009 (see above), the sale of feudal titles relating to places within its territory has continued, for example, an offer by Manorial Auctioneers of the Barony of Dungarvan, County Waterford (http://www.msgb.co.uk/Titles.html, as at 12 February 2010). Although the Barony of Dungarvan was recorded as having been granted to the Earl of Shrewsbury in 1447 (Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1, London 1837, page 578), it is doubtful if the title still survives as any kind of legal entity as opposed to a pseudo-chivalric accoutrement or vanity acquisition. As of May 2010 it was reported on rec.heraldry that Manorial Auctioneers were offering for sale the Barony of Greencastle, County Down, but it has been pointed out that this 'former lordship was not a barony but rather a manor' (http://groups.google.ie/group/rec.heraldry/browse_thread/thread/3ad413fa48d4fcf6?hl=en#). In November 2011 a Wicklow newspaper reported that the above mentioned outfit Noble Titles was about to auction the title of 'Royal Baron of Newcastle', allegedly dating from 1169 and deriving from King Henry II, but the historian Dr Emmett O'Byrne was quoted to the effect that no such title existed at that time and that Henry only arrived in Ireland in 1171 (Bray People, 30 November 2011).
The writer again points to the need to present properly cited evidence in support of Irish and indeed all other titles offered for sale, with an honest statement of the current status of such titles in the light of legislation and legal opinion. There should of course be tighter legal controls on those who sell titles, which in all cases would oblige them to describe their goods in accordance with advertising standards and consumer legislation, and in a few cases legal proceedings for fraud might be necessary. In the case of those who insist on proceeding with the purchase of a noble title, the writer can only urge them to seek independent expert advice before parting with their money. There is evidence of a crackdown on dubious title brokering in England, in that in 2009 the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal in London found that Roger Pitts-Tucker 'had been guilty of conduct unbefitting a solicitor and in breach of his professional obligation', arising from his role in about thirteen transactions relating to the sale of feudal titles (http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/in-practice/sdt-decisions/roger-pitts-tucker). It had earlier been reported that the titles in question were sold by Anthony Boada of British Feudal Investments and included Irish items, namely, Mount Nagle (see above), Carrowreagh and Clonakilty (http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/law/article5187689.ece). It remains to be seen if any Irish tribunal would take similar action, and of course one cannot look to the Office of the Chief Herald for guidance given its own past involvement in title brokering and indeed doubts over its legal status. In short, there is a vacuum of regulation in this country which sellers of Irish 'feudal titles' have never been slow to exploit.
Sean Murphy MA
Centre for Irish Genealogical and Historical Studies
Commenced 21 March 2002, last updated 8 December 2011
Addendum: Another Case Study, the Barony of Duleek
Five years have passed since the writer updated this webpage, in which time the sale of 'feudal titles' has continued unabated. As noted above, it has not been possible to continue to devote many hours of research to the investigation of individual titles. However, Manorial Auctioneers included a 'Feudal Barony in Ireland' among its titles for sale during the Summer of 2016, which a number of individuals asked the present writer to evaluate. The title in question is described as the 'Barony of Duleek (registered in Dublin), Co Meath, Ireland' (http://www.msgb.co.uk/Titles.html, accessed 17 July 2016). The alleged Duleek title is mentioned earlier in this article in the context of a previous sale, and the expression 'registered in Dublin' may indicate that it was entered in the Registry of Deeds. In this case there is a further supporting document purporting to validate the title, in the form of a letter by Chief Herald of Ireland Donal Begley issued 25 March 1991, and the following is a copy with some redactions:
In the first place, it was highly inappropriate for a state official working within the National Library of Ireland to write such a letter, signing his name above his title, but with no letterhead or address and only a FAX number, and concluding with a request for money payable to himself. The letter issued at a time when the Office of the Chief Herald 'had become in effect a brokerage house for bogus and questionable arms, titles and pedigrees', as outlined above. Completing a tried and tested rubber-stamping process again described in the earlier part of this article, Begley, in his capacity as Chief Herald acting 'by the authority of the Government of Ireland', also issued in 1994 a grant of arms with supporters to the then bearer of the 'Medieval Feudal Barony of Duleek'. It is only fair to point out that the National Library is no longer associated with such activities.
Herebe my observations on the three points in Begley's above letter of 25 March 1991:
(1) Dowdall Deed number 506, 20 March 1497, does not prove the existence of a 'feudal' barony, but deals with a grant to Christopher Doudall (Dowdall) of lands in Brounstoun in the 'barony of Dolek' (Duleek), the said barony being one of the common Irish administrative divisions so named and not associated in the deed with any title (full citation not given above: Charles McNeill and A J Otway-Ruthven, Editors, Dowdall Deeds, Irish Manuscripts Commission, Dublin 1960, page 210).
(2) Dowdall Deed number 385, 14 June 1414, grants to William de Prestoun (Preston) rents from lands in the Manor of Dyueleke (Duleek) and other manors (McNeill and Otway-Ruthven, Editors, Dowdall Deeds, page 157). While demonstrating the existence of a manor of Duleek in which a member of the Preston family acquired a rental interest, again this source does not prove that the Prestons were owners of a 'feudal barony'. It has not been possible to trace the 'Foster' reference, but 'Cocaigne' (sic) must refer to Cokayne's Complete Peerage, which while placing Christopher Preston, Viscount Gormanston, at a hosting on the Hill of Tara in 1593, makes no mention of his bearing the title 'Baron of Duleek' (vol 6, page 22).
(3) While a bona fide title may continue to exist apart from a demesne or estate ('caput'), again no reliable evidence has been presented to prove the existence of a 'Feudal Barony' of Duleek 'capable of being alientated', that is, traded or sold. It would be fair to say that the above letter employs the familiar sleight of hand of creating a confusion between baronies as mere administrative divisions and baronies as feudal titles.
In short, it is the writer's opinion that the 'Feudal Barony' of Duleek is not a genuine title and he could not advise anyone to purchase it.
31 August 2016
Another Addendum on the Alleged Lordship of Rathfolan
So-called 'feudal titles' can be conjured up in a relatively short time and will sell for a pretty penny, but require hours of voluntary work to expose. Here I will be as brief as possible. As to the 'Barony of Duleek' title above, it would appear that it may yet remain on offer, despite its lack of authenticity. I have to repeat that the Chief Herald's 1991 letter validating the Duleek title for a fee was highly inappropriate and characteristic of state heraldic behaviour in the era of the MacCarthy Mór affair (see short account).
Manorial Auctioneers of London has now offered for sale another alleged title, the 'Lordship of Rathfolan', County Clare (http://www.msgb.co.uk/Titles.html). The sale catalogue (not online) states that the title is being offered 'on the instruction of The O'Brien' but advances no evidence of the existence of any such lordship. At this stage Google is a massive repository of references from historical works, but a search there returns only a single entry for 'Lordship of Rathfolan', being the said Manorial Auctioneers webpage. There was indeed a castle at Rathfolan, in the possession first of the MacNamaras and then the O'Briens, but no recorded lordship (http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/archaeology/ryan/part4_chapter43_rathfolan_castle.htm).
The Manorial Auctioneers sale catalogue provides only the following sparse information: 'The Lordship of Rathfolan lies in the civil parish of Kilnasoolah, meaning Church of the Religious People'. Actually a better meaning of Kilnasoolah, Gaelic Cill Átha na Súileach, is 'church of the ford of the eye' (https://www.logainm.ie). Historical padding elsewhere in the catalogue shows evidence of careless copying from that fount of scholarship, Wikipedia, eg, 'they cut down the tree of Magh Adhair, which was acred (sic) to the Brians (sic) as it was the site of their royal inaugurations'. Wikipedia reads, 'cut down the tree of Magh Adhair, which was sacred to the Dalcassians as it was used as their site of royal inaugurations' (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O'Brien_dynasty).
It is not known if there is any questionable heraldic documentation being used to buttress the alleged 'Lordship of Rathfolan', but again my advice is that it is not a genuine title.
3 March 2017