LONDON -- A Canadian Monday paid $153,000 for a desolate patch of scrubland in northern Scotland that entitles the buyer, who remained anonymous, to be the lord of Ruchlaw and a member of a feudal and hereditary aristocracy that began more than 1,000 years ago.
About 100 people crammed into a central London auction room to bid for 36 other non-hereditary lordships offered to members of the public who wish to buy recognition by the crown as a noble, and the linked real estate,
Contenders swiftly bagged the titles. The Guernsey seignory of the Fief Beauvoir, dating from the ancient dukes of Normandy, sold for $51,000, and the Irish feudal barony of Ibane in county Cork went for $28,900. The cheapest was $11,050.
Eustice Corriette, who become the new lord of Horne for $11,900, said he believed he was England's first black lord.
A solicitor representing the unidentified Canadian agreed to the $153,000 price reached for Ruchlaw in the Scottish region of East Lothian.
The buyer now owns half an acre of scrubland that is the hereditary seat of the Scottish feudal barony of Ruchlaw. The title cannot be assumed until the purchaser proves he or she is of Scottish descent, and is cleared by the Scottish Parliament as being 'fit and proper' to control a 'lordship of the manor.'
The system of feudal patronage was clarified in 1086, when King William created his Domesday Book, ostensibly to find out the asset value of his conquered realm. The work declared the existence of 13,418 manor houses, a number that has since remained unchanged.
'It is a limited sort of commodity. Manors cannot be created,' said Robert Smith, one of the organizers of the auction. 'In English law, there is faith in land and property.
'(Selling titles) has been going on for the last 900 or so years, but in the last 10 years there has been an increased interest and a market in it,' Smith said. 'We are selling to people who have a lot of money. This is even more unique than having a Rolls Royce.'
Purchasing a Scottish barony is the only way to acquire a hereditary title apart from inheriting it, or being granted the honor by the monarch.
The new lord of Ruchlaw -- if matriculated -- will be able to bestow the title on a son or daugther, and a wife will be a baroness in her own right.
Before 1747, a Scottish feudal lord had the 'Powers of Pit and Gallows' -- the right to imprison someone in the manor's dungeons or hang someone on the baronial gallows. The new lord will only have the powers to charge a $3.40 fine against petty criminals.
Smith said most of the non-hereditary titles were sold by cash-strapped aristocrats. Some were not so hard-pressed, but held little emotional value in their titles and preferred to part with them rather than family heirlooms.
The new owners can use their titles on British passports, credit cards, checkbooks and visiting cards, and will also be allowed to attend certain social functions reserved for Britain's nobility.