Many American people have long had a fondness for the history of Europe, and one of the most enduring aspects of Europe’s social evolution is its system of aristocracy and nobility. 

Maybe it’s the age-old links with the European colonists who infused American culture with the social mores of their homelands, or perhaps it’s a desire to look further back in time than the last few centuries. 

Whatever the reason, the fascination with the ancient aristocratic hierarchy that emerged in medieval Europe is as strong today as it was centuries ago, when the Renaissance Counts, Dukes and Lords captivated people from all walks of life. 

The nobles of Europe over the centuries played a similar starring role in society as the modern-day sports celebrities and movie stars. 

So, it’s not surprising that questions such as How do you become a Lord or Lady? are still popular topics. And many Americans wonder just what is possible in the US? Can American citizens join the ranks of the ancient aristocrats? And how can you become a noble in modern-day America

How to Become a Lord in the US

Becoming a Lord is one of the most popular queries regarding modern noble titles, and the good news is that there are still options for attaining such an esteemed status symbol, though these are very limited and becoming increasingly rare as time goes by. 

It’s true that it’s not possible for an American citizen to attain a noble title in the traditional way, i.e. granted by the reigning monarch of the country where they live. 

This is because America is a republic and has no recognised royal family or aristocratic system of authority. As such, there is no reigning sovereign to issue honours or titles such as Lord, Lady, Baron, Count etc… which is where all noble titles originally came from, being granted by the Kings, Queens and Emperors of the Middle Ages. 

Admiral Drake knighted by Queen Elizabeth (Sir Francis Drake)
Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Equally, there is no official system of aristocracy within America whereby you can inherit a recognised American noble title from your ancestors. 

But even though it is not possible to become an American Lord, there are ways in which an American citizen could attain the rank of a Lord, or at least enjoy the benefits of being introduced as a member of the aristocracy, or even just have the title of Lord on your driving license.

Official Ways to Become a Lord

1. Marry the owner of land that carries the title of Lord

One way to attain the title of Lord is through one of the oldest access routes into the aristocracy; marriage. 

If you were to marry into a family that holds a Lordship, it’s possible that you would legitimately be able to use the title of Lord yourself. For example, someone marrying a Lady may become a Lord by default. 

2. Inherit the title

While American citizens aren’t able to use noble titles that are recognised within the US, they are still able to inherit titles from ancestors in other countries. The honour and rank may only be relevant if they were to travel to that country – it would have no official standing in America – but they would still have a legitimate claim to the title and status as Lord of the region or estate that they inherit. 

3. Receive the title of Lord from the House of Lords

The House of Lords in England is one of the few remaining vestiges of the ancient system of appointing new Lords. These are selected from a highly exclusive group – making this probably the least accessible option. 

House of Lords Chamber
UK Parliament, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This practice of appointing Lords is similar to the American practice of awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Many of the original Lordships were hereditary, in that they were permitted to be passed down the family line to future generations, However, in recent years, the tendency is to grant Life Peerages, i.e. they are only awarded to the person in question until their death.  

4. Purchase land that carries the title of Lord

Back in the Middle Ages, when Lordships first evolved, they were usually linked to a certain property or hamlet. For example, the phrase ‘Lord of the Manor’ gives a clue to how to become a Lord – you simply become the owner of the relevant manor or area that includes the title. 

So, another way to acquire an official title of Lord is to purchase a property where the title is an inherent aspect of ownership. This was common practice throughout the Middle Ages, with many Lords selling their titles and property when their fortunes fluctuated. 

5. Purchase the title of Lord 

Another common practice during medieval and Renaissance times was the purely commercial route of simply purchasing a legitimate noble title. 

Even the monarchs of the Middle Ages were known to offer certain titles to their subjects in exchange for a considerable fee. Many of the aristocratic families that found themselves facing hard times would also capitalise on their heritage by selling their claim to a noble title – either with or without the accompanying land. 

As a result, there are still today some genuine noble titles that are available to purchase. These include titles such as Lord, Count, Baron, Duke and even on rare occasions, Prince or Princess

These rare gems may grant rights or privileges only within the area they are linked to, and sometimes these places no longer exist as official realms, yet they are still regarded as legitimate noble titles and ownership would bring many of the original benefits of such, i.e. esteem, curiosity, reverence, respect and privilege. They are also renowned for opening doors and garnering positive attention within modern society, even if only from a social rather than official standpoint. 

So, while many of the ancient Lordships of old are lost to the mists of time, there are still a few ways to become a Lord in the US. And while it may not be a recognised title within America, it can be a valuable and influential way to connect with the ancient history of Europe and the world’s enduring fascination with its aristocratic lineages.