When a Baron Isn’t a Baron

Portrait of Micaela Almonester, Baroness de Pontalba Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I thought I had achieved a decent grasp on the peerages of the United Kingdom, at least passably so. I confess, since my first books were released I’ve learned I made mistakes in them, and I have every intention of fixing those errors when I get the rights back.

Let me make a disclaimer right now: despite more hours of research than I care to admit, I still don’t have the whole peerage, honorific, addresses thingy down.

In the meanwhile, I cringe every time a well-meaning (and occasionally, I think, mean-spirited) person makes sure I know my gaffe. But, this post isn’t about my peerage and title faux pas.

As most readers and writers of Regency are aware, the title of baron is the fifth grade of the British peerage and is also the lowest ranking. A baron’s wife is a baroness, and they are addressed as Lord (Flibbertigibbet) or Lady (Flibbertigibbet).

Things are a wee bit different with the Scots though.

Of course, they are. Sigh.

In Scotland a baron was the leader of a feudal barony, also known as a prescriptive barony. The position included land and a dwelling (caput) often a castle or manor house. Prescriptive Baronies by Tenure are not exclusively hereditary, and the position may pass to both males and females. Another interesting fact about feudal baronies is 438px-Lady_Montagu_as_a_gypsy_by_Sir_George_Hayterthey could be bought and sold (with the land and residence).

Although considered nobles, minor barons were not part of the peerage rank of Scotland.

The Scottish equivalent to an English baron is called a Lord (Laird) of Parliament, and males are addressed as Lord (Thingamabob). Females may hold the title but, there is no female title equivalent, therefore, Lady Thingamabob, if she is the title holder, is also a Lord of Parliament.

I’ll give you a second to scratch your head, uncross your eyes, and ponder that.

Complicating matters further, when there was no direct male heir, all daughters inherited equally. An estate was often put in abeyance until the Committee of Privileges was petitioned by one or more of the daughters requesting they be awarded the title. Once the committee settled in favor of a daughter, she held the title.

And why, you are asking yourself, do you need to know this tantalizing tidbit?

Well, my Scottish heroine in Heartbreak and Honor (Highland Heather Romancing a Scot Series, Book 3) is just such a woman. She was raised as a Highland Traveller (Scottish spelling) a type of Scots gypsy, different from the Roma gypsy which were prevalent in Europe.

I worried how I could educate my readers about the difference between Scottish and British barons, as well as Scottish Gypsies, and not bore them to tears with info dumps. It would have been far easier to ignore the difference, but I couldn’t.

The dratted historical accuracy mantra wouldn’t turn off in my head.




Heartbreak and Honor

Coming December 2, 2015

Abducted by a band of renegade Scots, Highland gypsy Tasara Faas blackens her rescuer’s eye when the charming duke attempts to steal a kiss. Afterward, Tasara learns she’s the long-lost heiress Alexandra Atterberry and is expected to take her place among the elite society she’s always disdained.

Lucan, the Duke of Harcourt, promised his gravely ill mother he’d procure a wife by Christmastide, but intrigued by the feisty lass he saved in Scotland, he finds the haut ton ladies lacking. Spying Alexa at a London ball, he impulsively decides to make the knife-wielding gypsy his bride despite her aversion to him and her determination to return to the Highlands.

The adversary responsible for Alexa’s disappearance as a toddler still covets her fortune and joins forces with Harcourt’s arch nemesis. Amidst a series of suspicious misfortunes, Lucan endeavors to win Alexa’s love and expose the conspirators but only succeeds in reaffirming Alexa’s belief that she is inadequate to become his duchess.


He chuckled. “I don’t know when I’ve been taken more by surprise. Am I to presume Sethwick’s hunch had merit, Lady Atterberry?”

She inclined her head a fraction, the smooth planes of her face unreadable. “Yes, though I confess, I was as astonished as you, and I’m not a lady yet. There’s something to do with an abeyance that needs to be settled before the title is bestowed.”

“A matter of formality, I’m sure.” Lucan flattened his palm against the small of her back as he steered her along.

They’d reached an opening on the dance floor’s periphery.

“Trust me when I tell you, this,” Alexandra made a circular gesture in the air with her forefinger, “is a trifle much to take in when one is used to eating outdoors with one’s fingers, bathing in streams, and sleeping in a tent or wagon.”

A vision of her standing in a shallow brook, water dripping from her glorious naked form, and her breasts, nipples puckered and raised to the sky, had him swelling in his breeches.

“And I enjoyed it, truth to tell.” Her last words held a challenge, as if she dared him to judge her upbringing or her.

Not a chance.

She intrigued the hell out of him in a way no properly raised miss ever would. He’d quite like to brave the outdoors with her. Sleep in a tent. Bathe in a stream.

His groin jerked.

Damn, get a grip before you disgrace yourself.

“Do you miss Scotland? The gypsies?” Everything she knew, was accustomed to, she’d left behind. That took tremendous courage.

“Yes.” Huskiness lowered Alexandra’s voice, and her gaze dropped to the floor. “Especially my family . . . and the heather. The hills were blanketed with the flowers when I left, though they were fading.”

Open speculation glinted in several pairs of eyes trained on her. Either she didn’t notice or didn’t care. What freedom it must be to be able to cock a snook in the haut ton’s pretentious face. Alexandra wouldn’t be caged and tamed by society’s dictates, and by God, Lucan couldn’t be more pleased.

He bent his neck and murmured, “How much does Peterson know?”

Her guileless gaze swept the crowd before meeting his. “Enough to cause a scandal, but not the entire truth—not yet, anyway.”

It wouldn’t take much digging, a few coins greasing a palm or two, and the rest would be uncovered. Lucan expected Peterson would persist until he knew all. Hadn’t the Needham’s considered the possibility and the ramifications?

A young woman of quality held captive by a band of renegade Scots for hours, let alone days, was ruined beyond redemption, no matter her social standing or familial connections. The gypsies may view things differently, but amongst the ton’s set Alexandra was soiled goods.

She needed to be betrothed or married before the ugliness became common knowledge. The sooner, the better. What a fortuitous coincidence he happened to be in the market for a bride and desired speedy nuptials as well.


Have you ever found titles confusing or noticed mistakes in books? 

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USA Today Bestselling Author, COLLETTE CAMERON pens Scottish and Regency historicals featuring rogues, rapscallions, rakes, and the intelligent, intrepid damsels who reform them. Blessed with three spectacular children, fantastic fans, and a compulsive, over-active, and witty Muse who won’t stop whispering new romantic romps in her ear, she still lives in Oregon with her husband and five mini-dachshunds, though she dreams of living in Scotland part-time. Admitting to a quirky sense of humor, Collette enjoys inspiring quotes, adores castles and anything cobalt blue, and is a self-confessed Cadbury chocoholic. You'll always find dogs, birds, occasionally naughty humor, and a dash of inspiration in her sweet-to-spicy timeless romances.

17 Responses

  1. ki pha

    Oh yup, those titles and what not gets me all the time. I still get confuse when to call a gentleman, Lord or plainly just a gentleman if they’re related to a noble title and such but not the heirs. And Scots, well that’s just makes things even more confusing since their titles are on a different level than the English.

  2. vvaught512

    Thanks for this interesting tid-bit regarding Scottish barons. My hero in my upcoming release is a baron, but is British. Good to know if I ever decide to have a Scottish hero!

    • Collette Cameron

      I have a French baron as a secondary character in a the Highland Heather Romancing a Scot Series (he is the hero of book 4) and I”m betting I goof somehow with addressing him. Ugh.

  3. vvaught512

    Oops, didn’t read your question. I find quite a few writers will call a second son Lord Suchnot. No, no, no, only Dukes and marquess’ spares have the honorific title of lord. I also see Viscount’s daughter called lady. That’s for earl’s daughters and above. That bothers me and can pull me out of a story.

  4. Barbara Monajem

    I notice the errors, but I’ve become accustomed to ignoring them–I’ve probably made a few of my own. Writing about Scotland would require a lot of research!!

    • Collette Cameron

      I love writing Scottish Regencies but trying to figure out how to create an accurate story without boring readers is a bit challenging.

  5. Collette Cameron

    So true. I’m speaking to several high school classes this Friday about Romance novels, and the first thing I have to do is set them correct about the misinformation their “handout” contained. Supposedly, all romance is contemporary.

  6. Alyssa Alexander

    Oh, the titles. The titles! I have to double check every single character, and I’m sure I’ve made mistakes myself, as well. The most difficult scene I wrote as far as titles went was when a dowager countess (widowed), and the widow of her eldest son (who was also a countess before she was widowed), AND the widow of the second son (who never inherited the title) were all in one room. Who is called what!? Which countess could be called countess, who was a “my lady” and was there a Mrs in there anywhere? I think I got it right, but I still don’t know for sure…

    • Collette Cameron

      Gads! I had a devil of a time trying to figure out what the stepmother of my character was called. She’d been Lady Atterberry while her husband was alive, but since there were no living male heirs and one of the daughters would inherit the title, did she ever become the Dowager Lady Atterberry?

  7. kimberlywestrope

    Great info, Collette. I’m keeping this for future reference. I just started researching titles for England and Ireland, as I have an idea for my first regency novel.

  8. jessicajefferson

    OKAY, PSA time! I’ll admit – I screwed up in my second book (dreaded second son of an Earl!). It happened to a secondary character so it really snuck under the radar. There was an entire issue with courtesy titles (not in this case – what was I thinking!). Long story short – I did realize my mistake right after it went live on Amazon!! Fortunately, my publisher re-released it for me with the error cleaned up. I think I spent more time reviewing peerage for my last book (Ah, the confusing Viscount – last name, location, what?) and then I introduced Scottish relation and it all went to pot! Seriously, why don’t I write contemporary?

  9. allybroadfield

    I’m certain that I’ve made some mistakes, and I’ve been accused of it in at least one review of all of my books. The one that makes me laugh is the set-up for my first book, which was based exactly on the Dashwood family from Sense & Sensibility (because the book started as a short story continuation of S&S for a contest). Apparently Jane Austen didn’t understand titles, either. 😉 I think we just have to do the best we can based on our research and hope readers will forgive us if we make a mistake.