Can Anyone Become A Royal?

Ransom Riggs

You've probably heard about how easy it is to become a minister these days ... websites like the Universal Life Church offer "online ordinations" for a low low price, and only ask that you not submit names to be ordained that are "obviously false" or "profane." But let's say you like the idea of adding a title to your name (like "Reverend") but don't want to deal with the moral implications of being a clergyperson or the hassle of being asked to consecrate marriages all the time. In that case, for a couple hundred clams (or possibly a lot more) you can have a royal title ... usually in less than a week!

Here's the scoop. There are probably a dozen or more online services offering titles -- everything from Lord, Lady, Baron, Baroness, Count, Countess, Duke and Duchess to Marquis, Marchioness, Viscount, Viscountess, Earl, Sir and Dame. Theoretically, anyone can get one, anywhere in the world, and you can be declared the title of your choosing -- be it the Lord of Luxembourg or the Viscount of Hoboken. A tiny parcel of land in England or Scotland is sold to you -- say one foot square -- and then is re-named "Hoboken" or whatever it is you want to be the Lord, Lady or Duke of, etc. The titles are supposedly called "peerages," but unlike most royal titles, they can't be inherited or passed on to your kids.

The most delightful thing about the sites that offer them, however, are their sales pitches:

It's frightening how people in the twenty-first century still perceive a person with a title to be richer, more intelligent and better thought of, than the average Mr. Joe Bloggs. But people do - and you can take advantage of it. If you (or your loved one) check into a hotel with a title and ring in advance I can tell you - the results are astounding! Many of visitors of this website have told me because of their title they have been given wine, fruit, and a room upgrade simply because the management are eager to improve their present class of clientele. The title holder will notice the instant change in people's attitudes. From the very first moment they realize that you have a title they will treat you as if you were royalty. And if you don't correct them - well... its hardly your fault they treat you this way - is it?

The same website goes on to promise their clientele "access to a privileged world" and "the ability to influence people effortlessly." Sounds great!

Some people, however -- notably the (real) Earl of Bradford in England, have begun to decry these online title services as fraudulent:

Con men are marketing phony baronies and dukedoms by the dozen, which they sell on the internet for thousands of pounds. "The British embassy in Washington is so worried about Americans being misled into buying fake titles that it has posted a warning about it on its website," Bradford said.

On the Earl's on website, he writes "You cannot purchase a genuine British title, with one exception, the feudal title of a Scottish baron; and certainly cannot buy a peerage title". Scottish Feudal Baronies fetch a mighty price; the Barony of MacDonald was up for sale at over £1 million."

Well, that certainly puts a crimp in my plans.