As degenerating mores continue eviscerating propriety the world over (sitting presidents are interrupted during States of The Union, and Jersey Shore yet airs), it is both gratifying and not unexpected that people are looking increasingly hard for a bit of dignity.
Tailored suits have recently resurged, web logs delineating the virtues of neckties abound, and fraternal orders – with their emphasis on chivalric honor – have begun to rebound, especially among young people.
Similar to that last, another vestige of chivalric honor, heretofore long dormant, is becoming again sought after: nobility. Specifically, authentic nobility… that is, titles. A host of brokerages, mainly English, now exist to facilitate trade in British, Irish, and Scottish manorial titles, broken down along lines of peerage and gentry (peerage connotes a lustier sanguinity, while gentry refers to the landed middle-class of feudal aristocracy).
Of course, buying a title and lands – or, more likely, only a title – via brokerage seems counter-intuitive, a bluntly modern way to get something the very purpose of which is to impart antiquated grace. But remember: most estates and titles were first bought rudely by feudal marauders who annually rendered goats and gold to the crown. Buying a title is likely the oldest way to get one. (Inheriting one is the second-oldest, as somebody must have bought the damn thing originally before his son could inherit it.)
Enter Sir Iain Noble, an English merchant banker who bought the Barony of MacDonald from the late – and authentic – Lord MacDonald of Scotland for a pittance some years back. The redundantly-named banker-knight recently unloaded the title, and 23,000 acres attached to it, for over one million pounds sterling. Situated rottingly in that acreage is Knock Castle, centuries-old stronghold of the Clan MacDonald. Sir Iain intends to use the proceeds of the sale to finance, among other things, a whiskey distillery on the Scottish Isle of Skye (traditional home of the MacDonalds).
Scottish Barony titles are the only legitimate feudal titles available for sale; the rest must be granted directly by the Queen and are not transferable. About 14 Baronies go on sale yearly, with sale prices averaging 50,000 pounds. Titles attached to land fetch steeper prices.
True, the idea of manorial estates and titled nobility seems thus more cheaply commoditized than was originally intended; aristocracy is no longer an institution of grace and civility (if it ever was), but of monied self-aggrandizement (was it ever not?). But in times of such fallen culture as Jersey Shore, a premium placed on an ideal of old-fashioned nobility and grace is at least something to inspire hope: an old-fashioned set of chivalric virtues which, like Knock Castle on the Isle of Skye, is decayed… yet stands.