The historic links between Britain and America go back centuries and include a turbulent period of fluctuating relations. 

While many British conventions that crossed the Atlantic with the early colonists did survive the American War of Independence in the 18th century, any ties to one of Britain’s most noble historic legacies – its system of aristocracy – were abolished during the revolution. 

As the American Constitution evolved, it ultimately declared that all US citizens were recognised as being of equal merit, with no formal class system to separate those born into privilege or superior social standing, and those born into more humble circumstances. 

National Archives and Records Administration, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

This commitment to a more egalitarian society left little room for any of the vestiges of the British system of aristocracy to influence American social development. (At least in theory – in reality, it would be generations before those with connections to the British nobility would be regarded as common folk within society.) 

So, in official terms, modern-day America has no system of nobility of its own, and as a republic, it no longer recognises the class superiority or privileges of the aristocratic hierarchy that includes titles such as Duke, Baron, Count, or Lord

However, many contemporary Americans still have a fondness or fascination for this ancient social order and the various noble titles that evolved in Europe during the Middle Ages. 

While it’s not possible for modern American citizens to obtain an aristocratic title from their own government, there is still substantial interest in other ways to obtain a noble title and gain access to a highly exclusive and intriguing social group that has caught the imagination of the general public for over a thousand years. 

Inheriting a British Noble Title

With such strong historic connections, it’s not surprising that many links remain between Britain and America, with many families on both sides of the Atlantic uniting in various ways over the centuries. 

America’s involvement during the World Wars, and the subsequent presence of many Americans in Europe, enhanced these social connections further. In addition, the phenomenon of The Dollar Princesses at the turn of the 20th century connected even more British and American families, couplings that featured many aristocratic claims as well as considerable wealth. 

As a result, any American citizen who is in line to inherit a noble title from the British side of their family, can legitimately claim and hold that title – i.e. Americans can inherit a British title. 

Their claim would be recognised and acknowledged within the British system of aristocracy, as well as any legal rights or privileges that the title included. 

However, none of these aspects of the inheritance would be officially recognised in the American citizen’s homeland, where they would still rank equally with all other members of American society. 

So, it is possible, in theory at least, for an American citizen to inherit British titles of nobility. While this has happened on numerous occasions throughout the history and evolution of American Society, and will likely continue to happen for some years to come, these cases are increasingly rare. 

Ancient noble titles that can be passed along to descendants are relatively rare even in Britain, and as the granting of hereditary titles is no longer a regular practice of the modern British monarch, these titles will become even increasingly rare in the future. 

So the chances of an American being in line for one such noble title are slim, though not impossible. 

However, being the next in line for a genuine hereditary noble title is not the only way American citizens can obtain such an exclusive honour. 

Acquiring a British Noble Title Through Marriage

Historically, it has been possible for an American citizen to become a British noble by virtue of marriage – an honour that was the driving force behind the influx of Dollar Princesses into British and European aristocracy a century ago. 

Perhaps one of the most notable occasions of an American rising in the social ranks is Wallace Simpson, who married the erstwhile King of England. Although her husband abdicated his royal throne in order to marry Miss Simpson (because the British Constitution forbade the marriage of a King to a divorced woman), the couple were allowed to hold the titles of Duke and Duchess of Windsor. 

National Media Museum from UK, No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons

As a result, the Pennsylvania-born Wallace Simpson held the title of Duchess – one of the highest noble titles within the aristocratic hierarchy. This eminent social rank was an official honour within Britain and was also recognised as an esteemed position within social orders all around the world. 

Back home in America, however, the Duchess of Windsor would have still been officially regarded as an American citizen with no superior claim or advantage. In reality, of course, she is likely to have been received and acknowledged as the esteemed royal Duchess that she had become. 

Purchasing Noble Titles

Inheriting noble titles or marrying into the aristocracy have long been the most common ways to join the ranks of the British nobility, whether for Americans, other foreign nationals, or British people not born into the higher social orders. 

However, there is another route to obtaining noble status – a little known practice that is open to almost everyone and has been an exclusive opportunity for those seeking a higher social standing even from medieval times. 

This is the practice of purchasing an official noble title, something that is still available, albeit on very rare and exclusive occasions, and this is an option for citizens of any nation, including America. 

So, if you are one of the many Americans who enjoy the historic legacy and noble connotations of the few remaining authentic aristocratic titles, it is possible to acquire an official title of nobility that can still lend an air of sophistication and social elevation, even in the most modern circles. 

While a purchased title may not carry the ancient lineage of the hereditary titles of old, and it may not come attached to vast country estates or considerable wealth that some of the American Duchesses and Countesses have enjoyed over the centuries, it is still a legitimate and intriguing addition to any modern family, whether in America or anywhere around the world.