Rahul Sharma (Editor)


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Laird (/ˈlɛərd/) is a generic name for the owner of a large, long-named Scottish estate, roughly equivalent to an esquire in England, yet ranking above the same in Scotland. 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 [name] [surname] of [lairdship], and are traditionally entitled to place The Much Honoured before their name.


Although the UK Government deems that "for Scottish lairds it is not necessary for the words Laird of to appear on any part of a passport, requests from applicants and passport holders for Manorial titles and Scottish Lairds to be included in their passports may be accepted providing documentary evidence is submitted, and recorded in the passport with the observation e.g.: THE HOLDER IS THE LORD OF THE MANOR/LAIRD OF ....... ".

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:

The term ‘laird’ has generally been applied to the owner of an estate, sometimes by the owner himself or, more commonly, by those living and working on the estate. It is a description rather than a title, and is not appropriate for the owner of a normal residential property, far less the owner of a small souvenir plot of land. It goes without saying that the term ‘laird’ is not synonymous with that of ‘lord’ or ‘lady’.

Ownership of a souvenir plot of land is not sufficient to bring a person otherwise ineligible within the jurisdiction of the Lord Lyon for the purpose of seeking a Grant of Arms. 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.


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". 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

In the 15th and 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.

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".

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 cannot 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. 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.

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 because it is impossible to have numerous "lairds" of a single estate at the same time, as has been advertised by these companies.

A contemporary popular view of Lairdship titles has taken a unique twist in the 21st century in 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.

Current situation

A study in 2003 by academics at the Universities of Edinburgh and Aberdeen concluded that:

"The modern Scottish Highland sporting estate continues to be a place owned by an absentee landowner who uses its 15-20,000 acres for hunting and family holidays. While tolerating public access, he (82% of lairds are male) feels threatened by new legislation, and believes that canoeing and mountain-biking should not take place on his estate at all".

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".

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

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".

Currently, the most formal style for the wife of a laird remains "Lady", 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]"

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".

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

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. The eldest daughter – if the heir apparent – is entitled to use the courtesy title "Maid of [Lairdship]" at the end of her name. Alternatively, she is known as "Miss [Surname] of [Lairdship]", as would be an only daughter. It is not the custom for younger sons of a chief, chieftain or laird to use either the "Younger" or the territorial title. The younger children of a laird are styled as "Mr [Forename] [Surname]" if male, and "Miss [Forename] [Surname] of [Lairdship]" if female.

None of these styles are of the peerage.


Laird Wikipedia

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