In the early medieval times, the title of Baron was often assigned to the right-hand man of a king or ruler.
The word baron comes from the Latin word baro, which over the centuries held connotations of warrior, and the early barons were indeed often to be found at the side of the king in battle or in defence of their territory.
So, in the earliest times of the nobility, the way to become a baron was to prove yourself as a worthy assistant to the king, whether through military means, or by assisting in political endeavours or sometimes even by providing financial support.
This latter aspect, the provision of funding to the reigning sovereign, was perhaps the less obvious path to attaining royal favour and an esteemed noble title, but throughout the ages, it proved to be an enduring theme within the social system that evolved into the aristocratic hierarchy that we know today.
Granting Baron Titles
The kings and queens of history may be famed for the judicious granting of royal warrants to ennoble their subjects with titles such as Baron and Baroness, as well as noble ranks such as Duke, Count, Lord or Marquis, yet these esteemed honours were not always attained through valour, merit or royal favour.
On occasion, monarchs would grant noble ranks in recognition of fiscal assistance, most notably to fund expensive wars or invasions, or costly explorations into the New World. The willing subjects who had wealth at their disposal were often keen to impress their monarch, and providing financial support was one way to find favour in a significant manner.
There’s a good chance that some of the Barons of history will have attained their title as a result of their wealth, as well as their generosity and their devotion to their sovereign.
These early methods of obtaining the noble title of Baron may not have been regarded as a purely commercial transaction at the time. It’s likely that the bestowal of a title such as Baron from a king or queen would still be regarded as an esteemed honour and evidence of royal favour.
However, in later times, some monarchs did make noble titles available as a purely commercial venture. Perhaps the most famous example from the history books is that of King James I of England who created a number of Baronet titles that were explicitly available for purchase from wealthy subjects.
This enterprising scheme was the king’s response to the challenge of royal coffers being drained by military action overseas, and the scheme was regarded as a huge success, with many aspiring nobles gladly paying the substantial sums to acquire the new title and the elevated social standing that went along with it.
As for the king’s role in the scheme, this unusual fundraising endeavour was regarded as such a great success that he planned to repeat the process with a new suite of Baronets in order to fund further overseas expenses.
As it turned out, King James died before the scheme could be completed, but it was deemed to be such a sound plan for supplementing the royal purse that his son King Charles established two collections of Baronatages – one for Scotland and one for Nova Scotia – many of which still survive today.
Purchasing Baron Titles
So, even in the earliest times of the aristocracy, one way to join the noble ranks with titles such as Baron or Baronet, was simply to purchase the privilege from the appropriate source.
Historically, one of the founding tenets of the aristocracy was the idea of noble lineage, but all noble lines had to begin somewhere, usually with an ordinary citizen who attained a title through some means.
While many true aristocrats might claim that purchasing a noble title was not the traditional way of things, it’s certainly true that many noble titles changed hands throughout the centuries, and these exchanges were often driven by a need for funds on the part of the seller, or the considerable wealth of an aspiring noble.
If even the reigning monarchs saw the merit of making noble titles available for purchase, it’s not surprising that a number of their subjects were of the same mind, and this is evidenced in the history books by the numerous occasions when aristocratic titles such as Baron were bought and sold for various reasons.
So, while the commercial availability of noble titles may be a little known secret, and it may even be a taboo topic within the more traditional aristocracy, there’s no doubt that it has been a viable route to acquiring a more elevated social status, and there are very likely a number of family lines whose Baron title exchanged hands at some point during the last few centuries.
This may be heartening news to those who have long been captivated by the ancient lineages of aristocrats and nobles, because it opens up the possibility for those not born into established noble families to think that they may too be able to enjoy the social esteem and privileges that come with belonging to the aristocracy.
And the good news is that this rare opportunity is not just a historic entrée into the nobility of old, there are occasions still today of noble titles becoming available for purchase.
While it’s true that these opportunities are becoming increasingly rare, due to the reduction in new royal warrants, along with some of the ancient noble lines becoming extinct, yet among certain circles, there are sometimes noble titles that are quietly offered for sale, usually through discrete specialist agencies who are experienced in handling such matters.
So, for those who have dreamed of becoming a modern Baron or Baroness, whether driven by a love of history or a desire to enjoy life among the higher echelons of society, it may be possible to acquire such a title, in a similar way to many of the noble Barons of old.
And this commercial route not only echoes the transactions of royals and aristocrats of ancient times, it also reflects the attainment of a certain level of success in modern society, as well as a refined taste for some of the finer aspects of social influence – something that the nobles and aristocrats throughout the ages would recognise.