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’.
The coronation robe for a baroness at the coronation of Elizabeth II, 1953
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.
The coronation robes and coronets of a baroness and baron
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 only once – back in 1999 – just before most hereditary peers were excluded from The House of Lords.
Sophia Nelson returns to her hometown in Yorkshire, England to begin a new job as tour guide at Heaton Abbey House. There, she meets the reclusive Thomas, Baron Heaton, a lonely workaholic.
Despite having a rule never to become involved with her boss, Sophia can’t deny how she finds him incredibly attractive.
When she overhears the secret surrounding his parentage, she is torn. But is it her attraction to him or the fear of opening a Pandora’s box that makes her keep quiet about it?
How long can Sophia stay at Heaton Abbey knowing what she does?