A peer of the realm is someone who holds one or more of five titles – duke, marquess, earl, viscount, baron – inherited from a direct ancestor, or bestowed upon him by the sovereign. Depending on the terms in which a peerage was originally granted, some cannot be held by a female and others cannot be transmitted through a female line of succession.
The baron is the fifth and last rank of the peerage and the word baron means ‘man’, being formerly the king’s tenant in chief – a nobleman who held land. A Summer of Secrets’ Thomas Heaton is the current Baron Heaton, having inherited the title from his father just after leaving university. A baron is always referred to, both verbally and in correspondence, as Lord (Heaton) rather than Baron (Heaton). A baron can also be referred to as ‘My Lord’ or ‘Your Lordship’. The title baron or baroness is never used, except in formal or legal documents.
The wife of a baron is known as Lady (Heaton). When A Summer of Secrets’ Lady Heaton was widowed, she became a dowager, but the custom has been not to prefix either the forename or the word dowager to the title, e.g. ‘Forename, Baroness Heaton’ or ‘Dowager Baroness Heaton’ until the heir to the title marries. So she continues to use the title ‘Baroness Heaton’ but she is still commonly called ‘Lady Heaton’, and addressed verbally or to her face as ‘Your Ladyship’.
Thomas Heaton’s elder sister, Stephanie, is known formally as ‘The Honourable Stephanie Heaton’, which is written as ‘The Hon Stephanie Heaton’ on letters and legal documents. She is still commonly addressed as Miss/Ms Heaton as no-one is called ‘The Honourable’ verbally or to their face.
As with all peers, barons are entitled to both coronation and parliament robes. The coronation robe – worn only at the coronation of the sovereign – is of crimson velvet, edged with white fur and has two rows of ermine on the white fur cape. Baronesses are entitled to wear coronation robes similar to those of a baron, these are edged with a two inch border of white fur with a train a yard long. The rank of baron is also shown by the coronet worn at a coronation. As the lowest rank, a baron’s coronet is the plainest design, with six silver balls, known as pearls.
A baron’s parliament robe (left), coronation robe, and coronet
The parliament robe of a baron is a full-length scarlet robe with a collar of white miniver fur and is tied at the left shoulder with a white ribbon. Two bars (edged with gold oak-leaf lace) on the right-hand side of the robe indicate the rank of baron. Thomas Heaton has only worn his once – back in 1999 – just before most hereditary peers were excluded from The House of Lords.
Read An Excerpt:
After the awful rubbery lasagne, Sophia went to the house. Finding the side door open, and with only one wrong turn, made her way downstairs to the kitchen.
“Helen?” she enquired, seeing a middle-aged woman kneading dough on a floury worktop. “I’m Sophia.”
“The tour guide. Hello. Welcome to Heaton Abbey House. All set for tomorrow?”
“Almost,” Sophia replied. “I’m going to do a walk-through of my tour to get it right in my head.”
“Want a bun before you go?” Helen offered, nodding to some buns cooling on a wire tray. “You might need the energy.”
She laughed. “Thanks, I will.”
“I saw his Lordship speaking to you earlier. In a good mood, was he?”
No. “Well, I…” she began.
“He didn’t want the house opened up to the public but didn’t really have much of a choice,” Helen explained. “It was either this or face the possibility of losing it all. So if he’s a bit rude, don’t mind him. He’s had it rough when you realise what he’s had to cope with. His father died not long after he’d left university so he couldn’t have been much more than twenty-two or three. For umpteen years he’s had the burden and responsibility of all this on his shoulders and it’s taking its toll on him from what I can see.”
“What happened to his father?” Selecting a currant bun, Sophia took a bite. It was delicious.
“On the surface he seems to have everything, but actually he’s not been dealt that great a hand in life when you think about it. You can’t really blame him if he appears to be a little irritable and unapproachable at times. We just have to have a lot of patience with him. He and Lady Heaton are not long back from a funeral. He doesn’t like those either. Well, who does? And, of course with what happened to Stephanie last week… If he’s grumpy…just don’t take it personally, will you?”
“No,” Sophia replied. “How is she? Lady Stephanie? I didn’t know whether to ask.”
“It’s just Stephanie,” Helen corrected her with a smile. “Baron’s daughters or sisters aren’t referred to as ‘Lady’.” Sophia flushed. She should have known that. Visitors could ask her anything. “She lost a lot of blood but she seems to be on the mend. Physically, I mean. Mentally, who knows? Losing a baby… None of us can understand why she won’t leave her boyfriend. It’s not the first time he’s hit her and it won’t be the last, you mark my words.”
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