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Someone once said if you go back far enough, we are all related in some way or another to a member of some royal family.

The question is, what if you really can prove you are an heir to a long lost aristocratic title. Can you claim it?

Most counties, including the British peerage, pass title titles based on the eldest son. If a titled person dies with no son, it reverts to the line of the second son of the previous generation and if that fails it reverts to the third son an so on. For this reason it’s rare for their to be no heir to a title or go into abeyance as they call it, but it could and has happened.

For example, the 9th Baron De La Warr and 6th Baron West died in 1554. At his death, the baronies of West and De La Warr fell into abeyance because he had no children. This meant the co-heirs were the two daughters of his half-brother, Sir Owen West, who was the eldest son of his father’s third marriage.

The barony was eventually reclaimed and re-created by William West, the elder son of Sir George West, second son of Thomas West, 8th Baron De La Warr, by his third wife, Eleanor Copley, and Elizabeth Morton, widow of Robert Walden, and daughter of Sir Robert Morton of Lechlade, Gloucestershire. He was nephew and adopted heir of his uncle of the half blood, Thomas West, 9th Baron De La Warr, eldest son of the 8th Baron’s second wife, Elizabeth Mortimer.

But what about one that has been in abeyance for a really long time? Well it is entirely possible for a peerage to remain in abeyance for centuries. The Barony of Grey of Codnor was in abeyance for over 490 years. It fell into abeyance in 1496 and was only reclaimed in 1989.

That being said, as of 1972 it’s not easy to claim a title that has been in abeyance for more than 100 years. There are exceptions to the rules, but as I said before, it won’t be easy. You’ll have to no doubt do a lot of homework, have a lot of proof and get some legal help.

There are a lot of extinct British peerages. Here are just the Baron’s alone from the last 100 years and next to that is the year they went into abeyance.

  • Baron FitzHardinge 1916
  • Baron Colchester 1919
  • Baron Seaforth 1923
  • Baron Abercromby 1924
  • Baron Ribblesdale 1925
  • Baron Bateman 1931
  • Baron Emly 1932
  • Baron Wenlock 1932
  • Baron Castletown 1937
  • Baron Tenterden 1939
  • Baron Alington 1940
  • Baron Bingley 1947
  • Baron Berwick 1953
  • Baron Seaton 1955
  • Baron Egerton 1958
  • Baron Tredegar 1962
  • Baron Dorchester 1963
  • Baron Nugent 1973
  • Baron Romilly 1983
  • Baron Ormathwaite 1984
  • Baron St Leonards 1985
  • Baron Sherborne 1985
  • Baron Greville 1987
  • Baron Lurgan 1991
  • Baron Calthorpe 1997

These are the Earls

  • Earl Brassey 1919
  • Earl Brownlow 1921
  • Earl Farquhar 1923
  • Earl Loreburn 1923
  • Earl of Ashburnham 1924
  • Earl of Northbrook 1929
  • Earl of Lathom 1930
  • Earl of Orford 1931
  • Earl of Camperdown 1933
  • Earl of Dartrey 1933
  • Earl Buxton 1934
  • Earl of Londesborough 1937
  • Countess Cave of Richmond 1938
  • Earl of Berkeley 1942
  • Earl of Sussex 1943*
  • Earl Wavell 1953
  • Earl Manvers 1955
  • Earl Roberts 1955
  • Earl Jowitt 1957
  • Earl of Athlone 1957*
  • Earl of Feversham 1963
  • Earl of Danby 1964
  • Earl Alexander of Hillsborough 1965
  • Earl of Chesterfield 1967
  • Earl Stanhope 1967
  • Earl of Kilmuir 1967
  • Earl Poulett 1973
  • Earl of Stamford 1976
  • Earl of Midleton 1979
  • Earl Beauchamp 1979
  • Earl of Ancaster 1983
  • Earl of Birkenhead 1985
  • Earl of Avon 1985
  • Earl of Ypres 1988
  • Earl Amherst 1993
  • Earl Sondes 1996
  • Earl of Munster 2000
  • Earl of Halsbury 2010
  • Earl Kitchener of Khartoum 2011

If you want to claim claim to an Earldom, all you have to do is prove your claim. However it may not be easy. Abeyant titles can be claimed as of right, but only by someone who can prove that he (or she) is the sole surviving legitimate descendant in the entire world of the last holder.

Getting a hundred+ years worth of verified documents won’t be easy but it’s not impossible.

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