Didn’t I say this would happen? Didn’t I predict this months ago? Didn’t I say that as soon as Duchess Kate gave birth to the royal baby, the heir, that there would be a movement to give Kate’s parents some sort of title/peerage? Months ago, I suspected that Kate and William were actively lobbying the Queen to give Carole and Michael Middleton some kind of peerage, like making them Lord and Lady Crumpets or Michael, Earl of Crumpets and Lady Carole. And now, of course, that lobbying is coming from The Telegraph, one of the most royal-friendly papers in England. The Telegraph’s Christopher Wilson says that now that little Prince George is out in the world, he needs to have grandparents who are titled. Just FYI, I’m just excerpting heavily from the original article because I love reading about peerages and the funky way they are bestowed by the sovereign.
Safe in his Bucklebury redoubt, Prince George of Cambridge is enjoying his first days on earth in the care of a warm and loving family, in an atmosphere far removed from the panoply and pomp normally suffered by future kings.
The free-and-easy Middleton household is the perfect antidote to the exigences of court life – no protocol, no servants, and no formality as the new baby finds his way. Prince William must be truly grateful for this child’s rather more normal start to life. But how grateful? Is the Royal family – indeed, is the nation – ready to reward the Middletons for delivering their daughter and her firstborn into the pages of history? And if so, how?
Students of the royal story are quick to point out that Michael Middleton is the first grandfather of a future king not to bear a title. Indeed, not for 1,000 years has our sovereign had a commoner among its grandparents. Historically, grandfathers of future monarchs have been bluebloods with their own title, the roll-call down the ages heavily spattered with kings, princes and dukes.
Our future King William had an earl (Spencer) as his maternal grandpa, and so did the Queen (Strathmore). Even Anne Boleyn saw her father advanced from commoner to Earl of Wiltshire long before she gave birth to her daughter, the future Queen Elizabeth I.
The only other non-titled grandpa in the past millennium, the father of King Edward IV’s wife Elizabeth Woodville, also had an earldom rapidly bestowed upon him. And so a title for Michael Middleton and his gracious lady Carole? With their manor house and their burgeoning wealth, it would surely not seem amiss.
The couple have been welcomed by the Queen into her wider family, plus their entrepreneurial streak would bring a dash of freshness to a slightly boggy hereditary institution.
Charles Kidd, distinguished editor of Debrett’s Peerage, thinks it unlikely: “I do not think it very feasible that Michael Middleton will be offered an hereditary peerage. After all, neither of the Princess Royal’s husbands have been ennobled – I assume a peerage was offered to both – which means that the Queen has grandchildren who do not have a title, a first in the House of Windsor,” he says. “With every generation that passes, the Royal family absorbs and reflects social changes, and, by the time Prince George of Cambridge becomes King, I think the fact that his maternal grandfather was untitled will not seem odd to the great majority of his subjects.” Well, yes and no – the difference here is that Princess Anne’s children will be lost in the mists of history, while Prince William’s child will be King. And so the possibility remains.
Those charged with such matters at the House of Lords confirm: “Hereditary peerages have not been discontinued – it’s just that they are rarely created these days. Most recent is Prince William’s own peerage, a royal dukedom, in 2011. It is to be assumed that Prince Harry will be granted a dukedom at the time of his marriage. Other recent peerages include Prince Edward’s earldom in 1999 and Prince Andrew’s dukedom of York in 1986. Commoners who received hereditary peerages in the past 30 years include the politicians William Whitelaw and George Thomas.” (Both of whom – a Downing Street joke, surely – were created viscount in 1983 even though each was without an heir.)
So it’s feasible. All it takes is for the monarch to indicate to her prime minister that she would be pleased to hear his recommendation that Middleton be elevated to the Lords. David Cameron, unless deaf, would take this broad hint and suggest brightly to his sovereign that it would be a jolly good idea to ennoble the Middletons. Her Majesty would accept this suggestion, and with very little procedural wrangling the thing would be done.
So far so good for the Middletons – but what rank? What title? Charles Mosley, former editor of Burke’s Peerage, recommends an earldom: “A dukedom would be too much – and anyway you’d have to be colossally rich to support such a title.” As for what name they should take, though much has been made in some quarters of the mixed pedigree of the Middleton family, there’s some distinguished ancestry for the historians at the College of Arms to call upon when researching a possible title. Take Sir Thomas Fairfax, who rode with King Henry VIII on his military expedition to Artois and Flanders in 1513. Fairfax was knighted by the king when the city of Tournai surrendered in the face of their advance. Later he returned to his ancient seat, Gilling Castle, in Yorkshire. He is Michael Middleton’s 12th great-grandfather. There exists a long-established barony, the Lords Fairfax of Cameron, but this is a Scottish peerage dating from 1627.
Earl Fairfax has a nice, swanky, antique ring to it. Another possibility could be the revival of the earldom of Manvers, which became extinct in 1955. Michael Middleton’s ninth generation grandfather, Daniel Meadows, was born in Suffolk in 1577. Through his direct male line, the Manvers earldom was granted in 1806 to his great-grandson Charles Medows, whose maternal grandfather was the first Duke of Kingston.
Choosing a title will present a problem, however, if the family cannot settle on one of the above. Mike will not be allowed to call himself Lord Middleton because others got there before him – the Willoughby family were granted the barony of Middleton in 1677 and have clung onto it ever since. And the Brodricks, Irish politicians, were elevated to become Viscount Midleton in the 18th century. But there are plenty of choices, including a wide variety of geographical names from which they could choose – though Earl and Countess of Bucklebury are not among them.
Additionally Charles Mosley suggests that, were such a peerage created, it should follow the line of some Scottish peerages in including a female remainder, allowing the title to pass from Michael Middleton to his first-born – Kate – thereby allowing one of her children to bear a title not specifically created for the Royal family. Earl Fairfax? Lord and Lady Lupton? What could be nicer?
There was so much more fuss and historical name-gaming in there but it was giving me a headache so I edited it out. Basically, the gist of it is that Carole and Michael cannot be Lord and Lady Middleton or the Earl of Bucklebury or whatever because those titles exist (in varying forms) to other people. So, they would have to be created or reused from “extinct” titles, which… despite what I think about Carole and Michael, sounds kind of cool, even if you’re playing fast and loose with the history behind the titles.
And yes, if you’re going to give the Middletons a title, don’t make it “Duke”. I wouldn’t even say it should be an earldom. Just make them Lord and Lady Whatever. Crumpets does have a nice ring to it!! As for the chances this will actually go down… I don’t know. As I said, my guess is still that William and Kate are lobbying for it to happen, and the Queen might be in a more generous mood now that she’s seen Prince George and he’s been named after her father. So maybe she will “offer” and of course the Middletons would accept. Prince George, formerly Baby Crumpets, is going to have a grandfather named Lord Crumpets, mark my words.
Photos courtesy of WENN.