Lord of the Manor

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Lord of the Manor is a hereditary title given to a person holding a Manorial Lordship in various European countries such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy and many others. In modern law it is recognized as a form of property, one of three elements of a Mannorialism that may exist separately or be combined, and may be held in Moieties:

  1. the Manorial Lordship Title itself;
  2. the Manorial Lordship Manor and Land Comprising the Manor; and
  3. the Seignory, in other words, the rights granted to the titular holder of the Manorial Lordship.

A few Noble Title similar to that of a Manorial Lordship is known in French as Seigneur du Manoir, Welsh as Breyr, Gutsherr in German, Godsherre in Norwegian and Swedish, Ambachtsheer in Dutch and Signore or Vassallo in Italian.

History

A Lord of the Manor can either be a tenant-in-chief if they held a capital manor directly from Crown or a Mesne Lord if it is a Vassal of another Lord. The origins of the Manorial Lordships came from the Anglo-Saxon system of Manorialism. After the Norman conquest of England in 1066, land at the Manorial level was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 (the Normans' registry in Sicily was called, in Latin, the Catalogus Baronum, compiled a few years later). The title cannot nowadays be subdivided. This has been prohibited since 1290 in the Satute of Quia Emptores that prevents Tenants from alienating their lands to others by subinfeudation, instead requiring all Tenants wishing to alienate their land to do so by substitution.

Alfred Denning, Baron Denning, in Corpus Christi College Oxford v Gloucestershire County Council [1983] QB 360, described the Manorial Lordship as:

In medieval times the manor was the nucleus of English rural life. It was an administrative unit of an extensive area of land. The whole of it was owned originally by the lord of the manor. He lived in the big house called the manor house. Attached to it were many acres of grassland and woodlands called the park. These were the “demesne lands” which were for the personal use of the lord of the manor. Dotted all round were the enclosed homes and land occupied by the “tenants of the manor”.

Title of Nobility

There is ongoing debate as to whether or not a Manorial Lordship is a Noble title or not. The journal Justice of the Peace & Local Government Law advises that the position is unclear as to whether a Manorial Lordship is a title of honour or a dignity, as this is yet to be tested by the Courts. Regardless, it is a form of landed property in the same way a Barony was a form of landed property ownership. Today; however, Manorial Lordships are vastly more common to be held without any of the actual "property" that gave the Manorial Lordship the "Placename."

Technically, Lords of the Manor are barons, or freemen; however, they do not use the term as a title. John Selden in his esteemed work Titles of Honour writes, "The word Baro (Latin for Baron) hath been also so much communicated, that not only all Lords of Manors have been from ancient time, and are at this day called sometimes Barons (as in the stile of their Court Barons, which is Curia Baronis, &c. And I have read hors de son Barony in a barr to an Avowry for hors de son fee) But also the Judges of the Exchequer have it from antient time fixed on them." John Martin Robinson, Maltravers Herald Extraordinary and co-author of The Oxford Guide to Heraldry, gave his opinion that "Lordship of this or that manor is no more a title than Landlord of The Dog and Duck".[10] The style 'Lord of the Manor of X' or 'Lord of X' is, in this sense, more of a description than a title, somewhat similar to the term Laird in Scotland.[11] King's College, Cambridge have given the view that the term 'indicated wealth and privilege, and it carried rights and responsibilities'.

Manorial Courts

Manorial Courts were used by Lords of the Manor and involved a historic legal jurisdiction in the form of the Court Baron. These courts were eventually replaced with an inferior system by the elected parts of government, but their use and function was far superior to their replacements. Manors were defined as an area of land and became closely associated to the advowson of the church and often by default the advowson was appended to the rights of the Manor, sometimes separated into moieties. Many Lords of the Manor were also known as Squires, at a time when land ownership was the basis of power. While some inhabitants were serfs who were bound to the land, others were freeholders, known as 'franklins', who were free from feudal service. Periodically all the tenants met at a 'Manorial Court', with the Lord of the Manor (or Squire), or a steward, as chairman. These courts, known as courts baron, dealt with the tenants' rights and duties, changes of occupancy, and disputes between tenants. Some manorial courts also had the status of a court leet, and so they elected constables and other officials and were effectively magistrates' courts for minor offences.

Manorial Feudal Rights

Manorial Lords and Ladies still have a vast amount of Feudal rights and Privileges when those Manorial Titles are still attached to the land that gave them Placename. Since 1965 Lords of the Manor have been entitled to compensation in the event of compulsory purchase. Manorial incidents, which are the rights that a Lord of the Manor may exercise over other people's land also called an 'overriding interest', or in other words the ability to affect land even if the interests or rights are not registered against that land. They also exercise Mineral rights to any minerals in the land even if that land is 'owned' by someone other than the Lord of the Manor. They have extensive hunting rights, the right to Market, the right to a fair, and many other rights. Not all Manorial Lordships still retain these vast privledges and many have lost them due to be seperated from the land. Many Manorial Lordships inherited or transferred today have no rights attached to the title.

Forms of Address

The owner of a Manorial Lordship can be addressed as [Personal Name], Lord/Lady of the Manor of [Placename], sometimes shortened to Lord or Lady of [Placename] but this practice if not very widely used. It is expected that Manorial Lords use the form of Lord or Lady of the Manor of [Placename].

References