What Does the Royal Title Baron Mean in Scotland?

The Hummel Family

I have a 5th Great Grandfather, Baron James Johnston who was a Baron in Scotland before this family lost his land and titles. If you have a Scottish Baron in your family history it is interesting to know a bit more about what the Royal title Baron means in Scotland,.

In Scotland, the title of Baron is considered a title of nobility or in particular feudal nobility. The Court of Lord Lyons is a court that is set up to handle all the heraldry issues in Scotland. This court still operates today.

My 5th Great Grandfather, Baron James Johnston was once a Scottish Baron who lost his lands and castle due to some political strife at the time. Chances are the barony his family once had is still active in Scotland today.

What is a Scottish Baron?

In Scotland, a baron is considered the head of the feudal nobility. A Scottish baron is a person who is given a feudal barony. A fuedal baron is a vassal holding on a heritable property of rights called a barony. The barony would consist of a specific proportion of land that is granted to the baron by the overlord in return for the baron’s complete allegiance and service.

Most Scottish baronies, were created prior to 1745, except one was created as late as 1824. Each of these baronies would have a coat of arms attached to them. In Scotland, they take all of this very seriously as The Court of The Lord Lyon, This is a court that is set up to specifically rule heraldry in Scotland.

The Lord Lyon is responsible for overseeing state ceremonies in Scotland, granting new coat of arms to persons or organizations and for confirming proven pedigrees and claims (to existing arms) as well as recognizing the clan chiefs. They also register and record the new clan tartans upon request of a clan chief.

The Court of the Lord Lyon is incharge with all aspects of heraldry in Scotland. The term heraldry is defined as:

“the practice of devising, blazoning, and granting armorial insignia and of tracing and recording genealogies.”

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

If you are interested in The Court of the Lord Lyons you can find out more by visiting their website by clicking here.

The Scottish Prescriptive Barony by Tenure

A Scottish Prescriptive Barony by Tenure took place from 1660 to 2004. This barony basically states that the barony could be bought and sold (along with the Caput (Castle or property), rather than having the Barony pass directly by blood inheritance alone.

Scottish feudal barons are the lowest rank of all the Scottish aristocracy, barons, or other royal titles. But they are still an ancient rank as they existed before Scotland had dukes, marquesses, viscount, or baronets. In the pre-union (1707) Scotland, the equivalent of the Baron was the Lord of Parliament in England.

Baron James Johnson

In our family, we have a 5th Great Grandfather who was known to be a Baron. My father’s Grandfather, Lewis Bookwalter, wrote down history as told to him from his mother, Phoebe Johnston. Baron James Johnson would have been Phoebe Johnston’s Great Grandfather.

My Great Grandfather Lewis Bookwalter, wrote this about Baron James Johnston and their Scottish land and titles.

“On my mother’s side, I am of Scottish and English descent. In the Scotch line my ancestry is found to stem back to the Stewart family, once the dynasty of Scotland which House also became the Dynasty of England in 1603.

Baron James Johnston, the head of a clan of this House, was born in the later part of the 17th century. This was a period of fierce strife in Scotland waged between Catholics and Protestants. The Johnstons were Presbyterians. Baron Johnston together with his two brothers, and two elder sons were captured and beheaded. The third and youngest son, James Johnston, my great-great-grandfather, fortunately, escaped, he is absent at the time. Learning of the fate of his father’s house he peddled blankets and was enabled to successfully evade his enemies until the trouble was over.”

Lewis Bookwalter

As my Great Grandfather Lewis Bookwalter was not only a President of a College but also a scholar of history and ancient languages, we assume this history is correct as he heard directly from his mother. We are still trying to locate where this Johnston’s family’s castle or land was in Scotland. Once he lost his land and title, Baron James Johnston and his wife Isabella Fairbairn eventually moved to London, where he became a Jeweler.

If anyone has heard about this story or history, we would love to hear more from you. You can find our contact information by clicking here.

Scotland Barony Today

The feudal dignity of baron remains in Scotland today. It is one of the only places in the world where you can buy a barony. It can be bought and sold independently of the lands to which the barony was formerly attached.

On 28 November 2004, Scotland’s law of The Abolition of Feudal Tenure, etc (Scotland) Act 2000 came into full force. This new law essentially ended Scotland’s feudal system. Under the law, a Scottish prescriptive barony by tenure is now an “incorporeal feudal heritage” and it is not attached to any land and it is a title that can be bought and sold.

The Abolition Act did end the ability to get feudal land priviledges by inheriting or acquiring the caput (land or castle) in Scotland. A Scottish barony can be passed to any person, of any sex, either by inhertiance or by conveyance.

Scotland still has a very strong attachment to the title of Baron, even today. This is because this is one place in the world still has active barons, along with clan chiefs and coat of arms.

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When doing your Swedish family history research, one of the most important things you need to understand is how Swedish last names work. Many Swedish last names have the ending of “son or “sson” as they are patronymic names.

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Anita Hummel

Hi, I am Anita Hummel. I live in Hanoi, Vietnam. I love to share with you about my family history and the many parts of the world our ancestors have lived.

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