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though denied to bishops (not being ennobled in blood), is extended to all peeresses, whether so in their own right or by marriage; a peeress by marriage, however, loses by a second alliance all nobility derived from the first. Peers cannot be outlawed in any civil action, nor can they be arrested; they are exempt from attending courts leet or the posse comitatus. In courts of justice, and at conferences with the lower house, peers enjoy the right to sit covered. When examined as a witness in civil or criminal cases, either before the high court of Parliament or elsewhere, every peer must be sworn, and his testimony delivered upon oath ; but when answering bills in chancery, and when sitting in judgment, the reply is made or the verdict returned only “upon honour.” The honour of peers then, like the affirmation of Quakers and Moravians, being on so many occasions received as their oath, is especially protected by the laws of the realm, for to spread false reports respecting peers and certain great officers of the state is called scandalum magnatum, and is subject to severe punishment under several statutes.
An ordinary magistrate cannot require sureties to keep the peace from any peer or peeress; nor can any noble be bound over in any other place than the courts of Queen's Bench and Chancery.
The term, “ benefit of peerage,” is applied to a privilege of the nobility which it is necessary to mention before concluding this summary of the immuni. ties attaching to peers. It is essentially of the same character as “benefit of clergy,” which is a freedom from capital punishments, granted upon pleading
that the offender can read and write ; when therefore a statute imposes a penalty without benefit of clergy, it means that this privilege shall not be pleaded in arrest of execution. That modification of the privilege entitled benefit of peerage,” grants to all peers of the realm having place and voice in parliament a free discharge from accusations where benefit of clergy would be allowed to a commoner without the branding, fine, whipping, imprisonment, or transportation, which the court might impose when the latter claimed the privilege. Peeresses are equally entitled with peers to the “ benefit of peerage,” as was evinced by the unanimous opinion of the judges on the trial of the Duchess of Kingston for bigamy.
This order of hereditary dignities was founded by James I. in May 1611, for the purpose of raising a sum of money to be appropriated to the civilization and settlement of Ireland. The whole province of Ulster having become vested in the Crown by the attainder of its previous owners, James I. conferred grants of lands upon all who would undertake to
maintain thirty soldiers there for three years, and pay £1095 into the English treasury. For this service to the Crown the title of baronet was conferred, with an undertaking on the part of the sovereign for himself and successors, that no hereditary dignity should ever be created to intervene between baronets and the peerage. At its first institution the order was limited to two hundred, but now not only do they exceed five times that number, but the services for which the order was established are no longer de. manded, payment of money will no longer obtain the title, and the only remaining trace of its connection with Ulster, consists in baronets adding to their family arms those of that province, familiarly described as
“the bloody hand.” Although formerly the title was purchasable for money, yet it was essential for the claimant to be of creditable descent, and have an estate of £1000 a year in lands.
Originally they were created by patent, but subsequently a commission was established under the great seal to treat with those who desired to receive the dignity. This commission lasted, however, but a short time, and all subsequent creations have been by patent. The ancient form of this patent has still been preserved, as when money was given for the title, but it is always accompanied by a discharge from the exchequer, as if the stipulated sum had been really paid in.
In 1612, on the publication of a decree respecting the precedence of baronets, their eldest sons, if of full age, were granted the privilege of claiming the honour of knighthood without the payment of any of the customary fees. This clause was thenceforth inserted in every patent subsequently granted, but on the 19th Dec. 1827, George IV. revoked this portion of the decree; and from that time forward the clause has been omitted, though, of course, the letters patent of revocation by George IV. can hardly be considered to exert a retrospective action upon those families to whom the privilege of claiming knighthood had already been granted in their patents. On the 15th July, 1840, “a permanent committee of the baronetage for sustaining the rights and privileges of the order” was founded, and among the claims put forward on behalf of the whole body are the following :
To be considered, not as the head of the nobiles minores, but as the lowest class among the nobiles majores, because their titles, like those of the higher nobility, are both hereditary and created by patent.
To have place and state at all royal or national solemnities.
To enjoy the style and title of “the honourable.”
To have the title of Baronetess ascribed to their wives, in order to distinguish them from knights' ladies.
To have the privilege of claiming knighthood restored to their eldest sons.
These constitute the majority of claims made in favour of the order, but as yet no steps have been taken by the Crown for granting them.
Baronets are entitled to the prefix of “ Sir,” and the affix of “ Baronet :” their wives are styled “lady,
madam, or dame,” according to the usages of the age in which they happen to have lived, but in legal instruments “ dame” is always used. The only instance of a baronetcy being conferred upon a female occurs in that of dame Mary Bolles, of Ashurton, who in 1635 received that dignity with remainder to her heirs whatsoever.
Baronets are either members of the baronetage of England, of Great Britain, of the United Kingdom, of Scotland, or of Ireland.
BARONETS of England are all those who were created from May 1611 till the Scottish union took place.
BARONETS OF GREAT Britain are those whose patents of creation are dated between the years 1707 and 1801.
BARONETS OF THE UNITED KINGDOM were all created from 1801 to the present time.
BARONETS OF SCOTLAND, or Nova Scotia, constitute an order which was established by Charles I. in May 1625, but had been projected by his prede
It was instituted for the encouragement of those who planted and established the province of Nova Scotia, in America. The patents granted certain portions of land in the province, which were erected into baronies and accompanied by ample privileges. In 1629, a riband and a badge were granted by Charles I. to be worn by all who became baronets of Nova Scotia.
BARONETS OF IRELAND are members of an order which in its institution followed the establishment of the English baronetage. It was formed by James I. for the same purpose; viz. the settlement of Ulster,