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"He became an exceedingly rich man indeed — so rich that he was able to offer financial assistance to certain exalted persons who need not be mentioned and so, in time, and in consideration of valuable services to the nation not very clearly specified in the Honours List, he became Sir Henry Dormer, Bart. His only child — a girl — had died and there was no prospect of any further family, so there was, of course, no reason why he should not be made a baronet for his trouble."

Dorothy L. Sayers, The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club

Basic Information

The rank of baronet (the female cognate being baronetess rather than the more modern baronette) is generally the lowest level of hereditary honour available to a system of nobility (indeed, the British reckoning holds them to be gentry and not peers of the realm at all). Broadly the honour gives heritable title to the styles and customs of a knight and tends to hold precedence above all those who have actually been awarded a knighthood in their own right1. As hereditary honours go, this is not a great one, and historically was often sold by monarchs as a way of raising revenue (and, let us not forget, obliging someone to undertake feudal service or pay scutage), but it is definitely an elevation to the upper class for those who receive it (or a confirmation of status for those at risk of slipping out).

This is, arguably, the degree that most fantasy writers are thinking of when the assign baron as the lowest rank of the nobility - someone who is essentially nothing more than a hereditary landed knight (and not even that in the present day)

W.S. Gilbert, in his operetta Ruddigore, tells us that "All baronets are bad." This refers to a convention in British melodrama of making the villain of the piece a baronet; just high enough in rank to count as nobility and pose a social threat to the protagonist, but low enough that if necessary a good aristocrat can put him in his place. The title was often abbreviated as "bart." so in the Gibert & Sullivan play referenced, when the hero assumes the title of Baronet of Ruddigore he literally becomes a "bad bart".



Game and Story Use

  • This is exactly the sort of honour that might well be awarded to a commoner as a social reward - and/or purchased by a wealthy commoner for advancement.
  • Likewise, younger sons without a title of their own might well be satisfied with this sort of thing.
  • Effectively a good model for the bottom rung of feudal land-holders.
  • Look for tension between the baronets - who inherit the titles of knighthood - and the guys who had to complete a squirage to win the title over whom they take precedence. Presumably the baronets are also prone to pay scutage rather than turn out themselves for knight service like the guys who actually trained for it.
    • Likely find the baronets at court and the actual knights at the front (or at least in the countryside).
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