The Baronets of Nova Scotia


The Baronetage of Nova Scotia was devised in 1624 as a means of settling the plantation of that province. King James I announced his intention of creating a hundred baronets, each of whom was to support six colonists for two years (or pay 2000 marks in lieu thereof) and also to pay 1000 marks to Sir William Alexander, to whom the province had been granted by charter in 1621. The creation of the new rank of baronet in 1611 occasioned considerable controversy.  James I had to settle the matter with letters patent of 28 May 1612 (which incidentally set the precedence of a number of officials).  Originally, the precedence of baronets was set in each letters patent of creation.  Thereafter, the letters patent of creation repeated the wording of the decree of 1612, and later still just referred to the customary precedences and advantages.  The letters patent of creation also set the precedence of the sons of the baronet.  James I made a promise never to create any other "degree, order, name, title, rank, dignity or state" between the lords of Parliament and the baronets.

James died before this scheme could be implemented, but it was carried out by his son Charles I, who created the first Scottish baronet on the 28th of May 1625, covenanting in the creation charter that the baronets of Scotland or of Nova Scotia should never exceed a hundred and fifty in number, that their heirs apparent should be knighted on coming of age (21), and that no one should receive the honour who had not fulfilled the conditions, viz, paid 3000 marks towards the plantation of the colony. Four years later the king wrote to the contractors for baronets, recognizing that they had advanced large sums to Sir William Alexander for the plantation on the security of the payments to be made by future baronets, and empowering them to offer a further inducement to applicants; and on the same day he granted to all Nova Scotia baronets the right to wear about their necks, suspended by an orange tawny ribbon, a badge bearing an azure saltire with a crowned inescutcheon of the arms of Scotland and the motto Fax mentis honestae gloria. As the required number, however, could not be completed, Charles announced in 1633 that English and Irish gentlemen might receive the honor, and in 1634 they began to do so. Yet even so, he was only able to create a few more than a hundred and twenty in all. In 1638 the creation ceased to carry with it the grant of lands in Nova Scotia, and on the union with England (1707) the Scottish creations ceased, English and Scotsmen alike receiving thenceforth baronetcies of Great Britain.

While the Acts of Union of 1706 and 1800 set the precedence between the peerages of England, Scotland, Great Britain, Ireland and the United Kingdom, they are silent on the matter of baronets.  It is therefore assumed that the precedence is set by the date of creation only (rule followed by the Registrars of the Baronetage appointed under a royal warrant of 8 Feb 1910 to keep a roll of the baronetage).

The Standing Council of the Baronetage, founded as the Honourable Society of the Baronetage in 1898 to protest against the declaration granting sons of life peers superior precedence the year before but renamed in 1903, promotes the interests of the order, in particular by helping claimants.


Baronets and the Order of Precendence

The House of Lords Precedence Act 1539 and the Ordinance of 1595, both of which were to a large extent codifying current practice, form the canvass of the order of precedence.  Everyone's place in the order of precedence is defined by reference to this initial list.

Here is the order of precedence defined by the Ordinance of 1595 (the original text is below). Ranks between parentheses are not actually cited in the Ordinance.

Men Women
dukes by creation duchesses
marquesses by creation marquesses
dukes' eldest sons wives of dukes' eldest sons
  daughters of dukes
earls by creation countesses
marquesses' eldest sons wives of marquesses' eldest sons
  daughters of marquesses
dukes' younger sons wives of dukes' younger sons
viscounts by creation viscountesses
earls' eldest sons wives of earls' eldest sons
  daughters of earls
barons by creation baronesses
marquesses' younger sons wives of marquesses' younger sons
viscounts' eldest sons wives of viscounts' eldest sons
  daughters of viscounts
earls' younger sons wives of earls' younger sons
barons' eldest sons (wives of barons' eldest sons)
  daughters of barons
knights banneret wives of knights banneret
viscounts' younger sons wives of viscounts' younger sons
barons' younger sons  
knights bachelor wives of knights bachelor
(knights' eldest sons) (wives of knights' eldest sons)
(knights' younger sons) (wives of knights' younger sons)

The logic of the order is apparent:

The exception is that barons' eldest sons rank above knights banneret (when they should rank below by this algorithm).

Over time, various categories were inserted at various points in this ordering. Knights of the Garter, Thistle, St. Patrick come right after eldest sons of barons, thus taking the place of the obsolete knights banneret. Baronets rank a little lower, after younger sons of barons, but their eldest sons come after knights bachelor, and their younger sons after eldest sons of knights, while knights grand cross and knights commanders of various orders come right after baronets. Other grades of modern orders (RVO, OBE, etc) have been inserted in various places by the statutes of those orders.