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Knighthood or Lordship

My name is K*** McClain, my family is able to trace our ancestry back to Clan Maclaine. I would like to know if it were possible to be knighted or become a Lord, and if possible how I would do it. My family has always been proud of our Scottish decent. But I would like to be able to represent more than just the name McClain. Any help at all would be greatly appreciated.


Your question – “is it possible to be knighted or become a lord?”

There are two routes to being “ennobled” – either through hereditary succession or to have been awarded a “knightly honour” by the monarch of the day.

* Hereditary succession.

That’s where an honour gets past down the line to the senior heir of the family... usually father to son and so on. I always call it “an accident of birth” because the recipient of the honour has done nothing to deserve it – he or she was just lucky to be borne the eldest. If there are no heirs, the title is initially “dormant” until someone can prove without doubt that they are entitled “by blood” to succeed to the honour . This usually turns out to be the descendants of a previous uncle or cousin.

And its not just as simple as putting your hand up and saying “my great uncle was so-and-so’s brother”. All claims to succession have to go through someone called “the Lord Lyon” (always an advocate or barrister or Judge) who have a team of genealogists who will rigorously interrogate the claim using their considerable resources.

Over the years I have heard of many claims lodged, but very few successful.

* Awarded a Knightly honour.

This happens twice a year when the monarch of the day (right now Queen Elizabeth) makes awards on the recommendation of her government of the day. These awards are to people both great and small who have done something that has either brought honour to the country or for something they have done for their community.

The honours start with an MBE, then OBE, then CBE - these are just medals.

Then the next two levels up are Knights (Sir and Dame) and Lords (Lord and Lady).

These knights and lords has not hereditary honours... in other words the honour is not passed to future generations. The “title dies” with the holder.

In very rare cases an individual will be appointed an “hereditary peer”, but his happens once in a blue moon. I might be wrong, but the last individual receiving this honour goes back to the 1959, and by chance I know the individual who inherited the title of Viscount Dunrossil from his eminent father, a politician.

So, unless you know of a dormant honour in your family’s history – the hereditary honour route is a dead end. The alternative of receiving a Monarch’s honour is up to you... but you must have achieved something outstanding on behalf of the United Kingdom.

There are web sites that offer “dormant Lordships”. These are glorified scams to make money.., and sadly the people who buy them open themselves to ridicule and the title holds zero water when it comes to legal documents. The buyers usually receive an illuminated certificate to hang on their wall that means nothing.

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