have been asked to give a brief outline on the correct use of
territorial designations as a certain amount of confusion has arisen over
this subject. First of all, what is a territorial designation? A designation
is that part which follows an individual's surname. This is normally derived
from ownership of a named piece of land or historic property (outwith a
Burgh), e.g. a castle, in
one owning such property can call themselves "of" that property but this is
not a title in itself, and should not be treated as such. A tenant would
have been termed as "in" that property.
Once a designation has been recorded at the Court of the Lord Lyon King of
Arms, it becomes inseparable from the surname. Only then, the designation
becomes a title as an inseparable part of the nomen dignitatis
, when the individual is recorded in the "Name and Arms of" e.g.
MacTavish of Auchenshoogle.
These styles are protected by Scots law under the Statute 1672. Cap. 47. The
Lord Lyon will not automatically accept any designation, for instance a
designation will not be accepted if there is non-familial joint ownership of
a property. There may also be a conflict with a chiefly title. If a
David Ross bought Ross Castle, he would not be able to style himself "David
Ross of Ross", as this would indicate that he was chief of Clan Ross. He
would be given the option of being accepted as "David Ross of Castle Ross"
or "David Ross, Baron of Ross". When the Glengarry estates were sold,
McDonell of Glengarry had a proviso put into the deeds that no succeeding
owner was to use the "Glengarry" designation.
Once a designation is established, it becomes a heritable property of the
head of that family (together with the Arms). If the land or castle is sold,
the designation can still be used, but a distinction is made in official
documents. The individual becomes "representer of' e.g. Sir Alexander
Macdonald, Baronet, is "Representer of the Family of Macdonald of Sleat".
Territorial designations have come down to us from the beginning of the
feudal system, and also influenced by our Celtic ancestors who bore a
genealogical second name, the bun sloinn. The system was
widespread in the middle ages. Adam de Balfour would come from Balfour in
Fife ( Balfour:= settlement at the mouth of the Ore, where the river Ore
flows in to the river Leven), William de Couper would come from the Royal
Burgh of Cupar. These territorial names became permanent surnames. To
differentiate between several people of the same name, a territorial
designation was appended to the surname, thus David Balfour of Dovan was
easily distinguishable from James Balfour of Denmiln.
Once a territorial designation has been recognised by the Lord Lyon (who, in
all matters to do with titles and heraldry in Scotland, uses the Royal
prerogative), it must be used and not played with. James MacTavish of
Auchenshoogle cannot be James MacTavish through the week and MacTavish of
Auchenshoogle at the weekend or at Highland Balls. The whole name should be
used as the daily signature, on notepaper, visiting cards, cheques, credit
cards etc. Similarly, anyone writing to him should give his full style, to
style him as "Mr. MacTavish" or "James MacTavish, Esq." is not only
incorrect, it is rude and disrespectful.
There are those who claim that designations make the name too long, and yet
the same individual accepts hyphenated names. The most widely used mouthful
(in text books) is "Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Morgan-Grenville". After
this example, territorial designations are extremely simple. Lord Justice
General, Lord Clyde, clarified the matter on the 4th of May 1961, in the
Scottish Justiciary Appeal Court. He stated "To state that your name is "A"
when it is in fact "B" is obviously a false statement: indeed it seems to be
that nothing could be plainer in common sense, apart altogether from legal
principle. It is quite true that except for persons holding public office,
people in Scotland are free to change their names without obtaining judicial
authority for doing so, but they cannot have two names at the same time". It
should be stated that to change a territorial designation as a nomen
dignitatis does require approval from the Lord Lyon, either by
Matriculation or a Certificate of Change of Name.
The styles for Laird, Baron, Chieftain and Chief are the same. There are
Chiefs who bear designations that do not stem from a named piece of land
e.g. Macdonald of Clanranald. In the middle ages, Chiefs reigned over their
people as if they were Kings or Princes, thus the Chief was the feudal
superior over the clan. The word "reign" is recorded in Privy Council
records in connection with Chiefs. Some Clan Chiefs are accepted in Europe
as being equal in status to Princes. Sir Thomas Innes of Learney, sometime
Lord Lyon King of Arms, in his 'Scots Heraldry', says "Chiefs and Lairds
reigned in their ancestral estates like Princes, their castle forming a
little court, of which the ceremonial reflected in miniature that of
Falkland and Holyroodhouse".
Scots Law a Chief is Laird of his people, thus John MacLeod of MacLeod is
Laird of MacLeod (as well as Baron of Dunvegan), and Kenneth Urquhart of
Urquhart is Laird of Urquhart. Ranald Macdonald of Clanranald is Captain of
Clanranald, in this instance Captain is a mediaeval term for a Chief This
should not be confused with Campbell of Dunstaffnage, who is Captain of
Dunstaffnage. In this instance a Captain is Captain of a castle, who would
be responsible for order within and outwith the castle. The style of "of
that Ilk", e.g. Sir lain Moncreiffe of that Ilk, Bt., is the old way of
styling the Chief of a Name. By the 18thC. the Highland chiefs began to duplicate their name in order to distinguish themselves
from their Lowland neighbours. Some Chiefs have abbreviated their style and
use the initial prefix of "The" e.g. "The Macnab". Other Chiefs use "The",
e.g. "The Macneil of Barra" or "The MacKinnon of MacKinnon".
Highland Chiefs and Chieftains often have Gaelic Patronymics which can be
used when greeting or addressing an individual. Some examples of these
styles are Alexander Stewart of Ardvorlich who is the "Mac Mhic Bhaltair",
The Earl of Breadalbane is the "Mac Chailein mhic Dhonnachaidh"
and Lord Lovat is the "Mac Shimi". There are a few Baronies erected
by Royal Charter that are not connected to land or a building. An example of
this is the Baron of the Bachuil, the Bachuil (or BachuilMor) is the
Pastoral Staff of St. Moluag who died in 592 A.D.. The Barony was
vested in the hereditary keepers or dewars of the Staff, the Macleays, from
the Isle of Lismore, who later changed their name to Livingstone.
The correct prefix for a Laird, Baron, Chieftain and Chief is "The Much
Honoured". Thus our friend James could be either "The Much Honoured James
MacTavish of Auchenshoogle" or "The Much Honoured The Laird of Auchenshoogle".
The styles "Mr." and "Esq." should never be used as these are below the
status of a Laird. The designation is also used by the Laird's wife who, in
this instance, would also be "Lady Auchenshoogle". The heir would be styled
as "younger" e.g. "David MacTavish of Auchenshoogle, younger". The accepted
abbreviations for "younger" are "yr." or "ygr.". The heir may also be styled
"the younger of Auchenshoogle". Younger sons do not bear the designation, in
the past they were expected to found their own territorial Houses, in turn
their sons would do the same. These territorial Houses would form the family
gilfine, effectively a family parliament or privy council. The eldest
daughter is styled "Maid" e.g. "the Maid of Auchenshoogle" or "Miss
MacTavish of Auchenshoogle". The style of Maid had almost died out but it is
having a revival. The daughter of the late Lord Maclean (Maclean of Duart
and Morvern) is now using the style "Maid of Morvern". Younger, unmarried,
daughters use the designation e.g. "Miss Fiona MacTavish of Auchenshoogle".
When speaking to a Laird he is addressed by his designation e.g. "Auchenshoogle",
or when being introduced to someone else "this is Auchenshoogle". When
writing, the envelope should be addressed with the full style of the
individual. If formal, the latter should begin "Dear Sir", or more socially
"Dear Auchenshoogle". As I said above, the wife of a Laird etc. is styled
"Lady" e.g. "Lady Auchenshoogle" and not "Lady Margaret", which would imply
that she is the daughter of an Earl, Marquess or Duke. She should not be
described as "Lady MacTavish of Auchenshoogle", as this would imply that she
was the wife of a Knight or Baronet. This is a style which Knights and
Baronets have taken from the feudal system.
Originally the wife of a Knight was "Dame" e.g. "Dame Agnes Renton or Leslie
of Balgonie" (it was only in the 19thC that wives in Scotland adopted their
husband's surname, today in legal documents they should still be styled by
their maiden name followed by "or" with their husband's surname and
designation e.g. Margaret Robertson or MacTavish of Auchenshoogle"). A
letter would begin "Dear Lady Auchenshoogle". In the 19thC. it became the
practice for the wives of Chiefs and Chieftains to adopt the Irish style of
"Madam" (a style accepted by Lyon
Court) e.g. "Madam Chisholm" or "Madam Maclean of Ardgour". In this instance
a letter would begin "Dear Madam" or "Madam", if formal, or more socially
"Dear Madam Maclachlan of Maclachlan". If she possess a title, she should be
addressed as such e.g. "Dear Dame Elizabeth". These styles are also used by
a woman who is Chief, Chieftainess or Lady in her own right. The widow of a
Chief, etc., would use the style "Dowager Madam Maclean of Ardgour" or
"Dowager Lady Auchenshoogle".
The heir apparent to a Laird etc. is styled the "younger", as mentioned
above, on being introduced he is "the younger of" or "young" , a letter
would begin "Dear Auchenshoogle, younger". Some textbooks say that "younger"
or "yr" may be added between the name and designation. I disagree with this.
The nomen dignitatis is one entity and, in my opinion can not be cut
in half, so "MacTavish, yr. of Auchenshoogle" is incorrect. He should be
styled "David MacTavish of Auchenshoogle, yr", but in the event of the heir
having a different Christian name from his father, "yr." may be omitted. The
wife of the heir would be styled "Mrs. MacTavish of Auchenshoogle, yr.",
until the younger succeeds to the title. The correct form of address for a
Maid is not covered in the accepted text books. I would suggest that a
letter begins "Dear Maid of Auchenshoogle", otherwise the accepted "Dear
Miss MacTavish of Auchenshoogle".
By law, only Peers, Bishops and Chiefs are allowed to sign with one name
e.g. "Atholl". A Laird, Baron or Chieftain must use the Christian name,
surname and designation e.g. "James MacTavish of Auchenshoogle", an initial
can be substituted for the Christian name.