Did you know you can pay to become titled? That’s right, for a small cash payment, you could be signing yourself Lord, Lady or Laird.
In fact, I have already done so. You are reading an article by Lady Felicity Hannah, does it add a certain gravitas to my words? What if I tell you it cost me just £29.99?
How do you become a lord of lady?
My advances into the aristocracy were made through the Glencoe Estate. £29.99 bought me a square foot plot on the estate, allowing me to declare myself a laird – or in my case lady.
Whether I decide to use my title or not, I was happy with this purchase.
The funds went towards supporting conservation work on the estate, preventing woodland being felled and developed. I paid just under thirty quid for my grandiose title but there are websites out there that charge between £200 and £1,000 for a similar service.
There’s obviously real demand for paid-for titles; a quick internet search shows pages of companies offering to make you a lord, lady or laird, or even a marquis or duke if you pay enough. All you need is cold hard cash.
Why would you want to?
Of course, a £29.99 title doesn’t mean your friends are likely to start tugging their forelocks when you approach.
However, several online forums claim that their titles have helped them get tables at top restaurants, access to exclusive night clubs and free upgrades during plane flights. In fact, one website selling these titles claims: "Just imagine being upgraded at the restaurant, being offered upgrades on airlines, living your life VIP style.”
I thought the best person to advise me on whether a title was worth it was someone who’s been a lady all her life, and not just since her PayPal payment was processed.
So, I spoke to Lady Pollyanna Fitzgerald, to find out if she thinks her title has made a difference.
“On a day to day basis I do not get treated differently… I think it depends on the social network you move around in. I really don't have the time or patience to socialise with some of the upper class. For one I don't have the money for it,” she said.
Hmm, perhaps I should have spent my £30 on lottery tickets instead.
But does Lady P find that she is treated differently?
Actually, she says she worries about discrimination: “I don't use my title on my CV so that there are no pre-judgments made and I am looked on for my qualifications and experience. Employers don't usually find out until they have given me the job.”
Is it real?
You’d be right to be suspicious of these £30 titles.
After all, if it was that easy to get a title that really meant something, then people wouldn’t pay tens of thousands of pounds for the same honour.
Elite Titles sells titles for up to £995 but its small print explains: “Titles are not to be used to commit Fraud or Mislead with intent to commit any offence, or obtain money by deception. They are for show purposes only; just like you can put personalised number plates on your car legally for show purposes.”
In fact, under UK law, you can call yourself whatever you like as long as your purpose isn’t to “commit fraud or evade an obligation”.
So I can call myself Lady Felicity but I could equally call myself ‘Baroness Lazy-Foot the Fifteenth’. Or Bob.
Still, my certificate makes me feel slightly less like a fraud – owning a tiny patch of Scottish land makes my adopted title seem slightly less ridiculous.
Okay, how much is a real title?
You can buy certain real titles, but it’s a pricey business.
Chris Eubank paid £45,000 back in 1996 for the title Lord of the Manor of Brighton.
Elsewhere, French international footballer Djibril Cisse became Lord of the Manor of Frodsham when he bought a manor house in Cheshire that came with the title. The property is rumoured to have cost a cool £2m.
Lady P doesn’t use her title for booking tables or flights, so I wondered if she simply isn’t making the most of it.
I decided to put my title to the test by booking a table at the last minute on a Saturday night. Perhaps a curry house in my north-west town wasn’t the best place to try out my new-found nobility, but I had to work with what was available.
When I phoned for a table, I was told I could be seated an hour later than I requested. “My name is Lady Felicity Hannah,” I persevered and there was a silence on the other end of the phone. I won’t lie - it was more confused than reverential.
Eventually, he said: “Madam, if it is that important to you, we can seat you at seven.” Good stuff.
How has life changed for me?
Well, I’ve been able to call myself a lady for a week now, so how has life changed?
I’m sad to say that I haven’t seen any noticeable deference from my friends and family, despite making a formal announcement via Facebook. It’s a far cry from what the website promised: “Friends and colleagues will be impressed and envious whenever you mention it."
But what about special treatment and freebies?
I can see that it might impress some restaurants, and there’s anecdotal evidence that it might wing you an upgrade on a flight.
But I don’t think it’s quite the financial investment I’d hoped it would be.
You have to make a fuss to have a chance of special treatment and I’m just too British for that.
However, for £30, it has been a fun experiment, especially since the money has gone towards protecting a historic Scottish estate.
As for socialising with even minor nobility, I’m afraid my title doesn’t quite cut it. Lady Pollyanna explained: “Buying a title is hugely looked down on in aristocratic circles.” Damn....