The Victorian age was a notably class-conscious one. Probably few North American readers are familiar with the intricate conventions of rank and nomenclature within the peerage, having little occasion to address a duke ("Your Grace") or send a letter to a marquess ("The Most Hon. the Marquess of"). Reading Dorothy Sayers, it is not necessary to ponder why, when Harriet finally marries Lord Peter Wimsey, she becomes Lady Peter Wimsey rather than Lady Harriet Wimsey, or even Lady Wimsey, whereas Lord Peter’s sister Lady Mary Wimsey eventually becomes part the team “Mr. Charles and Lady Mary Parker." Yet such distinctions were of real significance to the Victorians, at least in the upper classes. Style of nomenclature allowed them to “place” any member of their society. Moving up the ranks, by marriage (for women), by succession, or by acquiring a more impressive title, was a satisfying career move and ego-booster. This article teases out some of the rules and arcane practices concerning the nobility in Victorian times, exposition mingling with real and literary anecdote.
There are five classes, or degrees, in the peerage proper: in descending order, dukes, marquesses, earls, viscounts, and barons. These are the hereditary peers who until recently were entitled to sit in the House of Lords at the age of 21, unless lunatic, felonious, or a woman. Just below the peerage are the hereditary baronets—such as the proud Sir Walter Elliott, Anne’s father in Persuasion—whose order was instituted by James I to form a bridge between the barons and the knights. Knights, of whom Sir John Falstaff is perhaps the most famous, do not inherit but have to earn a knighthood (it’s not clear how Falstaff did so), and are inducted by their sovereign into one of the chivalric orders such as Garter or Bath. They do not pass their title of “Sir” to their sons. Finally come the landed gentry, who have no titles but live in country houses and sport family coats of arms. As local dignitaries in Victorian times they were either the backbone of the country, or a fox-hunting rabble, depending on one’s point of view.
Nomenclature among the peers is very precise. A duke and his wife are always called “The Duke and Duchess of Buckingham,” or whatever their territory may be; similarly with “The Marquess and Marchioness of Bude.” Earls, whose wives are countesses, may be earls of a place, or earl plus their family name (as with the famous Earl Grey, once Charles Grey). Viscounts and barons are not entitled to the “of,” but they too may be called after a place, as was Viscount Palmerston (whose title came from an ancestor who went to Ireland and took the name of Palmerstown in Dublin), or use their surname. All but dukes may be called “Lord So-and-so” in place of their full title. In fact, barons are more commonly known as Lord, Lord Byron being a good example. (It’s hard to imagine all Europe swooning over the exploits of a Baron Byron.) The title “Lady” is more ambiguous, as the lady could be the wife of a peer, a baronet, or a knight.
The princes and royal dukes deserve a paragraph to themselves. These are originally the sons or sons’ sons of a reigning monarch. As youngsters they and their sisters are Their Royal Highnesses, princes and princesses. The monarch’s oldest son is sure to become the Prince of Wales, though not right away. (Prince Charles was created so by Elizabeth II at age nine, and formally invested at the age of 21). The oldest daughter becomes the Princess Royal, as was Victoria’s daughter Vicky. The other sons are created dukes and given a Parliamentary grant as they grow up. Thus the seven sons of George III who survived to adulthood became HRH the Prince of Wales, and HRH the Dukes of York, Clarence, Kent, Cumberland, Sussex, and Cambridge. To his chagrin the Duke of Kent, Victoria’s father, was known just as Prince Edward until he was 31, when he finally got his dukedom and a grant. This was doubly galling in that the Duke of York got his title at age 21. The sons and daughters of these royal dukes are known as Prince or Princess … (their first name) of … (the name of the dukedom). Two of George III’s sons produced another George within two months of each other in 1819: Prince George of Cumberland and Prince George of Cambridge, cousins, and cousins of Queen Victoria. Apparently they were called after the dukes’ brother, the future King George IV, who had lost his wife and had no young George of his own. Grandsons of the royal dukes are the last generation to be Royal Highnesses, after which their offspring come down to the height of normal dukes and their families.
These five ranks of peer were the only “nobility” of the land. All their other family members—their children, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandchildren, along with the baronets and knights—were as much commoners, legally, as their gardeners and governesses. Yet practically this was not the case, and this class did form an aristocracy whose power waned substantially only towards the end of the Victorian period. Not only did the titled heads exert power both directly through the House of Lords and scarcely less directly through their influence in Commons elections, but their family members were routinely favoured as MPs, high civil servants, church and legal officials, and officers in the army and navy. The House of Commons was so liberally sprinkled with baronets, knights, and the sons of peers, that is was no wonder the early Victorian radicals claimed that the Commons was dominated by about 200 great families. Certainly it would be false to see the two Houses of Parliament as representing respectively nobles and common people. Great families owned vast tracts of the countryside or of London real estate, thereby exercising a hold over the fate of thousands of tenants.
Such superior status was reflected in a plethora of pseudo-titles or “courtesy titles.” All family titles belong by right to the head of the family, but most families generally had more than they needed. Valentine Heywood in his useful guide British Titles (1951) mentions that the Duke of Atholl in Victorian times had accumulated nineteen. The second most prestigious title in a family is conferred by courtesy on the heir, so generally the oldest son of a duke is known as a marquess, the oldest son of a marquess is an earl, and earls’ sons are viscounts (below which courtesy titles cease). They can be distinguished from real marquesses and earls by the absence of “the” before Lord, Marquis, or Earl. Should the family be possessed of a third title, it is used to dignify the oldest son of the oldest son, not the oldest son's brothers. If a family runs out of secondary titles, they may still cobble one together and call the heir Viscount plus the family name.
Other sons and daughters of peers have specified titles. All daughters of dukes and marquesses are of the style "Lady Barbara Smith,” that is, their first name plus their family surname, and younger sons of dukes and marquesses are similarly "Lord Henry Wentworth.” Earls mark a dividing line: their oldest son, and all daughters, are Lord and Lady. However, their younger sons, and all sons and daughters of viscounts and barons, have the style "The Honourable Thomas Collins.” Children of these cadet branches have no title at all. Obviously, it is a grave mistake to use the first name of any peer or courtesy peer after the title, as in "Lord Alfred Tennyson"; this is to make him sound like a younger son. If his first name needs to be mentioned, it is in the form “Alfred, Lord Tennyson.” It was a major step upwards when Lord John Russell became John, Lord Russell. It will come as no surprise to hear that women may take the rank of their husbands, but not men of their wives. The rules governing marriages of peers' daughters are too perplexing for an amateur to master entirely, but it is safe to say that a Lady Anne Stilton (daughter of an earl), having successfully secured the affections of Lord Edward Jacobs (younger son of a duke), will ascend to her husband's rank, as signified in the title Lady Edward Jacobs. If she condescends to a mere Hon. George Cracker, however (younger son of a baron), she will retain her own style of name and become Lady Anne Cracker, though George will remain an Hon. If she marries an actual peer, she takes the feminine of his title; had she preferred Edward 's older brother the Marquess of Filling, heir to the dukedom, she might in time have become the Duchess of Sandwich.
The general law for the inheritance of a peerage is that of (male) primogeniture, whereby the title descends in the male line from father to firstborn son. The son who is in the direct line of succession is the “heir apparent.” If there are no sons, the title will go to a brother of the holder or to his son. These are known as the “heir presumptive,” a slightly less secure position, since a late-born heir might always become apparent—as we see in the jealous apprehensions of a childless peer’s relations in a number of Victorian novels. A fine example occurs in Trollope’s Phineas Finn, when the old Duke of Omnium becomes all too friendly with the commoner Madame Max Goesler. Glencora, wife of the long-time heir presumptive, rushes to visit the lady, assuring her that to marry the Duke would be “to rob him of all his friends, to embitter his future life, to degrade him among his peers”---but in the subtext, were she to become pregnant, to do Glencora's husband and son out of the expected dukedom. If the deceased peer has no brothers either, the title passes to a “collateral heir.” It may be necessary to climb up the family tree for generations before finding an ancestor common to the peer who has died and some living sprig---a descendant of his great-great-grandfather, say; and he is acceptable only if the title was in the family at the time. This feature was poignantly exploited in Downton Abbey. As the 7th Earl of Grantham’s three daughters could not inherit, and the younger brother of the 6th earl and his son were lost on the Titanic, the succession finally and unexpectedly lights upon the distant Matthew, a descendant of the younger son of the 3rd earl. At this late stage the Countess of Grantham becomes pregnant, but slips on a bar of soap strategically placed beside the bath by her Machiavellian maid O’Brien. Tragically, she miscarries the baby boy who would have been the longed-for direct heir to his father’s title and lands. Daughter Lady Mary saves the day by marrying the collateral heir and producing young George---who will inherit not because he is her son but through Matthew’s line. It’s just a piece of luck that he happens to be also the present earl’s grandson.
Some ancient baronies may be inherited by females in default of male heirs, and in this case the lady would be a “baroness in her own right.” These were the “baronies by writ,” originating in the first summonses to the King’s Council in Norman times. They descended to the common-law “heirs general” rather than to the “heirs male of his body” usually specified in later peerage creations by letters patent. From time to time a peerage was created specifically for a woman. Several such were given to royal mistresses in the times of the Stuarts. By the nineteenth century, they might be created to honour a woman’s own achievements. Queen Victoria so honoured the philanthropist Angela Burdett-Coutts, making her Baroness Burdett-Coutts “for service.” Or they might serve as an acknowledgement of a husband who did not want to be ennobled himself, perhaps because it would entail his leaving the House of Commons. Thus Disraeli asked for his wife to be made Viscountess Beaconsfield, though not until four years after her death did he receive the separate title of Earl Beaconsfield. In Viscountess Beaconsfield’s case, as was usual, the patent specified that peerage would be inherited by male heirs (as there were none, it became extinct). In a British biography of Victoria’s daughter Princess Louise, I was surprised to read that during her time in Canada, she had a questionable encounter with the Prime Minister, “Lord Macdonald.” What can have prompted this posthumous ennoblement of Sir John A.? I can only surmise that it is reflected glory from his wife, Lady Macdonald, who was made a baroness after his death to honour him. In yet other peerages, the letters patent that grant the peerage specify an unusual succession by “'special remainder"--for instance to the holder's brother, to sons of his second wife, or to his daughter, who become “heirs at law.” In a complete default of heirs, the title may be declared extinct; but if the College of Arms has any reason to believe that an undiscovered heir may turn up, it cautiously declares the title "dormant.”
Be sure, however, to distinguish a dormant peerage from one in abeyance. The latter occurs only in a peerage that females are allowed to inherit. Primogeniture is a strictly male phenomenon. If only sisters are in the line of succession, they are deemed exactly equal. Thus none can inherit the title, and it falls into abeyance between them until all issue of all the sisters but one are dead. Heywood points out that the Barony of Strabogli holds the record in this regard, having been almost constantly in abeyance from 1369 to 1916. The College of Arms, which initially makes this decision, was created in 1484 from the heralds of the king’s household who fanned out across the country to establish who had the right to display coats of arms, and to design them. Since this right was generally linked to heredity, they became the authorities on pedigree, keepers of genealogical records, and arbiters on titles, subject to the House of Lords.
What kept all these titles in order was the notion of “precedence,” or who was ahead of whom in such line-ups as coronations, going in to dinner, or basking in social prestige. At the front of the various guides to the peerage that used to be essential props of the aspiring drawing-room were (and in some cases still are) two Tables of Precedence, male and female. The table for males includes ecclesiastics and the great officers of state such as the Lord Chancellor. The list begins with the king, followed by his sons and grandsons, and then his brothers, dukes of the blood royal. Archbishops precede all but royal dukes, followed by the four great officers of state and the dukes. The oldest sons of dukes are ranked below all the marquesses but above a marquess’s oldest son; the younger sons of dukes rank below the oldest sons of marquesses, and so on. (Greville in his pamphlet on the royal precedency question notes that this placing of sons is an instance of custom trumping legality, since “these are only commoners in the eye of the law.”)1 Within one rank of the peerage, individuals are ranked by “ancientry” or the date their peerage was created. G.D. Squibb’s Precedence in England and Wales (1981) is a good source to help you sort out such questions as whether the oldest son of the younger son of a peer outranks the oldest son of a knight (answer: yes).
The women’s table of precedence was of intense significance in many noble households with daughters; Squibb quotes a remark of the Jacobean jurist Sir Edward Coke that “the contention about precedency between persons of that sex is ever fiery, furious, and sometimes fatall” , though I have not yet come across the fatal example. In general the women follow the same order as their husbands or fathers. After the Queen come her immediate family, women associated with royal dukes or the oldest son thereof, and duchesses. The marchioness segment includes wives of the oldest sons of regular dukes, and dukes’ daughters not married to peers. They are followed by countesses, wives of the younger sons of dukes of the blood royal (note how the younger son is two tranches down from his older brother), wives of the oldest sons of marquesses, marquesses’ daughters not married to peers; and so on. As women are not governed by the principle of primogeniture, there is not a stark differentiation between first and later born. All daughters take the same position as does the oldest son while his father is alive—thus enjoying a higher precedence than their other brothers.
Heywood points out some fascinating convolutions of precedence in aristocratic marriage, one of which I embellish. Supposing a duke’s oldest daughter, Lady Arabella Graves, marries the Viscount Abyss and becomes Viscountess Abyss---a reasonably good marriage, but one that takes her down several notches. Then her next sister succeeds in fascinating the Earl Pitt and becomes Countess Pitt, thus outranking her older sister. The third sister is a social rebel and marries a plain Mr. Trench—a clever and upcoming politician. She keeps her own title of “Lady Mary” and her rank and precedence as the daughter of a duke not married to a peer, thus paradoxically continuing to outrank both her sisters. (This example will probably trigger a recall of Sybil in Downton Abbey, but at the time of her marriage her sisters were still unmarried.)
An interesting question of precedence occurred with the marriage of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (his German title) in 1840. There was no general rule for the title or rank of a man marrying a reigning Queen, as there were few precedents. Should he or should he not outrank the Royal Dukes, Victoria’s uncles? The circumstance was dramatized in the recent television series “Victoria,” which shows the newly-married Victoria expecting to have Albert take her in to dinner, while her uncle the Duke of Sussex points out that he has precedence and should take her in. The solution is a cunning stroke of Victoria’s. The Duke of Sussex—who was perhaps not given his due in the television series as the most liberal and learned of Victoria’s uncles—had made not one but two successive clandestine marriages of the heart which were deemed invalid because, in defiance of the Royal Marriages Act, they had not received prior royal approval. Victoria got Albert seated by her side by a tacit bargain with her uncle in which she recognized his second wife, the former Lady Cecilia Buggin, and created her Duchess of Inverness (though as her marriage was invalid she could not become Duchess of Sussex). As for Albert, letters patent soon established his precedence next to Victoria, though only in 1857, 17 years after his marriage, did he receive the English title of “Prince Consort” to replace his German princehood. Incidentally, Prince Philip of Greece had a smoother time on his marriage to the Princess Elizabeth in 1947 (though of course she was not then a reigning queen). He first became a naturalized Briton and took the surname Mountbatten, then on the morning of his marriage he was created the Duke of Edinburgh. His princely title was Greek and so had officially lapsed, though the press generally continued to call him “Prince Philip”---as they called her “Princess Elizabeth,” though she was now also the Duchess of Edinburgh. When Elizabeth ascended to the throne in 1952, she declared Philip to have precedence next to herself. In 1957 she made him a prince of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, so he could once more legitimately be styled “Prince Philip.”
Appendix: Confusing Names
The names of the British aristocracy can be confusing, what with differing family and title names, still other courtesy titles, succession to a title, and new creations. Who would think that The Hon. Frederick Robinson, the helpful Chancellor of the Exchequer in Liverpool’s cabinet (1823-27), was the very Lord Goderich who failed so dismally as prime minister in 1827-28, and was identical again with the Earl of Ripon, President of the Board of Trade in Peel’s second cabinet (1841-3)? Likewise the young Lord Robert Cecil, MP, “tall, thin, . . . very serious, and deplorably dressed,” battler against the “insane passion for equality,”2 is found to be later the sardonic Viscount Cranborne who nearly wrecked Derby’s Second Reform Bill by walking out of Cabinet over household suffrage, only to mature into the Marquis of Salisbury (now very portly, though perhaps still deplorably dressed) who served as the nation’s most dignified prime minister.
These changes of name could be difficult to get used to, even for contemporaries. Take for instance Lord Howick, elder son of the second Earl Grey. Describing the Corn Law crisis in his memoirs, Greville consistently refers to what “Howick” did; it is left to his editor Henry Reeve to explain in a footnote that, as Howick’s father had died five months ago, “Earl Grey is meant,” though he is “so much better known by his former courtesy title of Lord Howick.”3 Likewise Greville persists in referring to his friend as “Beauvale” long after he had inherited his brother Viscount Melbourne’s title. The Marquess of Lansdowne was probably wise in declining a dukedom partly to keep the name he had long been known by.4 This section discusses a few puzzles that, as an amateur of the peerage, I have tried to sort out. I’m not sure if it counts as “disambiguation” or further ambiguation; it’s definitely a niche pursuit.
GREY: Grey was a popular name in the British Isles, and found its way into several different titles. Most famous is the 2nd Earl Grey (1764-1845), prime minister from 1830 to 1834. His son the 3rd earl was also an active politician and author of an influential book on parliamentary government. The 2nd earl’s younger brother, the Hon. George Grey, was made a baronet, Sir George Grey of Fallodon. The latter’s son the 2nd baronet, also Sir George Grey (1799-1882), was a Whig politician who held various posts in the ministries of Melbourne, Russell, Aberdeen, and Palmerston. In fact in Russell’s 1846 cabinet, the 3rd Earl Grey and the 2nd baronet Grey, cousins, held the important posts of Home Secretary and Secretary for War and the Colonies, in the Lords and Commons respectively.
Beware, however, of confusing Sir George Grey with the other Sir George Grey (1812-98), an explorer, and governor of South Australia, then New Zealand, then the Cape Colony. That he was made a Knight of the Bath rather than a baronet perhaps explains the overlap: one of them was officially Sir George Grey, Bt. In another concatenation of Greys, it was the Governor Sir George Grey of New Zealand who warned the Colonial Secretary, the 3rd Earl Grey, of the dangerous unrest between British settlers and Maoris. It was a check to the scheme for self-government in the colonies that the Colonial Secretary had been promoting. The governor, a friend to the Maoris, pointed out that the proposed constitution only empowered the minority race of British settlers . And incidentally Edward, the third baronet Grey, was given yet another Grey title in 1916, Viscount Grey of Falloden.
But there is also a quite different Earl de Grey. This title descends through a family “extremely distantly related to the Earl Grey,” according to Wikipedia5. The title was created to honour the lady born Lady Amabel Yorke, a widow who was made Countess de Grey in her own right in 1816 – it’s not clear exactly why, but she was a learned writer. Her mother had been the granddaughter of Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Kent and 1st Marquis Grey, whose titles had become extinct. Presumably this explains why the Grey name was used, even though the title of Earl (and Countess) Grey had already been given to the 1st Earl Grey in 1806. The “de” distinguishes her from the Earl Grey’s wife; I have not seen any actual French connection.
Amabel Countess de Grey’s letters patent specified that the title was to pass by special remainder to her sister, the former Lady Mary Jemima Yorke, and her male offspring. This sister, the Baroness Grantham, died before her in 1830. When Amabel died in 1833, the title went to Mary’s oldest son, The Hon. Thomas Robinson, the brother of the aforementioned Hon. Frederick Robinson/Goderich/Ripon (who as a younger son had received his titles not by inheritance but by new creation). Not to be outdone in multiplicity of names, Thomas, already the 3rd Baron Grantham, had changed his surname from Robinson to Weddell on gaining an inheritance in 1803, and changed it again by royal licence in 1833 on becoming Earl de Grey (“Thomas de Grey, 2nd Earl de Grey”). (It is an interesting sidelight that there never was a 1st Earl de Grey, as his mother the 1st Countess de Grey was a widow when ennobled.) He also inherited the title Baron Lucas from his aunt. He died in 1859, with no sons. His daughter could become Baroness Lucas in her own right, but the title of Earl de Grey passed to his brother Frederick’s oldest son, 2nd Earl of Ripon, who thereafter styled himself “Earl de Grey and Ripon.” When he was advanced to 1st Marquess of Ripon in 1871, Earl de Grey became a courtesy title for his heir.
LYTTON: The name of Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer Lytton, first Baron Lytton, novelist and politician (1803 – 73), is perhaps better listed under “amazing names,” though his biographer in the Oxford DNB does admit that “his daunting array of names is a source of frequent confusion.” It’s the proliferation of Lyttons that does it. He was born to Col. Bulwer and his wife née Elizabeth Lytton as Edward Bulwer, sharing the middle names of Earle and Lytton with both his older brothers, William and Henry. The story of his transition from a Bulwer to a Lytton involves a sad family history and interesting sidelights on English land inheritance.
His parents’ marriage was not a happy one. One constant source of friction was the Lytton estate of Knebworth, which his mother was due to inherit (it was entailed on her, in default of brothers). William was heir to the Bulwer estate of Heydon Hall, while Henry was soon scooped up by his grandmother. According to Bulwer Lytton, his father, who “venerated the sanctity of primogeniture,” thought William should inherit Knebworth too, sell it, and add the proceeds to Heydon. But he suspected that his wife would wish to “keep the distinct representation of her own line apart from that of the Bulwers,” and as a result came to dislike Edward as her probable heir6. He was right: Mrs. Bulwer favoured her third son, took him to live with her at Knebworth after her husband died, and in spite of vicissitudes did eventually leave him the estate (now entail-free and hers to bestow by will) in 1843. Early on, Edward began identifying with this side of the family by using his middle name and referring to himself as Edward Lytton Bulwer7. In 1838 he was made a baronet on Melbourne’s recommendation, and took the name of Sir Edward Lytton. I have not been able to find out how he managed to Lyttonize his title, as it was only in 1844, after his mother had died, that he changed his name by royal licence to Bulwer Lytton. At that point he became officially Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer Lytton, in accordance with her wishes. Finally, in 1866 (having become a Tory), he was rewarded with a barony by Derby, and became Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer Lytton, first Baron Lytton. It was, said his grandson, “a tribute which he could dedicate to the memory of his mother,” and his thought when it was announced was “How it will please her.”8
STANLEY: There is nothing untoward in the Stanley family of Knowlesley in Lancashire being in possession of the earldom of Derby since 1485, nor in their giving their eldest son the courtesy title of Lord Stanley. What is potentially confusing is the proliferation of Stanleys in nineteenth-century politics, further complicated by the family propensity to call all their first sons Edward.
The 13th earl (1775 – 1851) was a quiet Edward Stanley, more interested in his aviary, menagerie, and zoological studies than in making a splash in Parliament. In fact, so prominent was he in naturalists’ circles that several species are named after him, including the delightful-sounding woolly opossum (Caluromys derbianus). But in his younger days he was an M.P. (1796 – 1832), sitting in the House of Commons as Lord Stanley. He was a Whig and supporter of Grey’s reform ministry. In 1832—because “Lord Grey’s ministry needed further strength in the House of Lords,” says his DNB entry—he was raised to the peerage. A common way that a man can be seated in the House of Lords while his father is still alive and sitting there is by being “called up in his father’s barony.” This can only occur, however, if the father has a barony as a subsidiary title—which the 12th earl did not. Edward the younger was therefore made “Baron Stanley of Bickerstaffe” in his own right, and joined his father Lord Derby as Lord Stanley (a real lord now). This did not leave the House of Commons without a Stanley, however, as his son had also had a seat since 1822, when he was plain Edward Stanley.
In 1834 the 12th earl died and his son became the 13th Earl of Derby as well as Baron Stanley of Bickerstaffe, allowing the courtesy title of Lord Stanley to descend to his son. This Edward, the most famous Lord Stanley, continued to be active in the House of Commons, and was even mooted as leader. The Times later described him as the only “brilliant eldest son produced by the British peerage for a hundred years.”9 But history repeated itself. Perhaps because Peel’s ministry needed strength in the House of Lords, he too was elevated to the Lords in his father’s lifetime, in 1844. This time there was a barony, Baron Stanley of Bickerstaffe, for him to be called up in. And this time the next Edward, his son, did not join the House of Commons till 1848, leaving a 4-year Stanley-free gap. On the other hand, from 1865 to 1869 there were two Stanleys in the House, Lord Stanley the next heir and his brother Frederick Stanley. In 1851 their father had become 14th Earl of Derby (and auctioned off most of the menagerie), and Lord Stanley served in all three of his cabinets when he was prime minister, though not without a certain friction.
Lord Stanley became the 15th Earl of Derby in 1869. In 1870, already in his 40s, he married the dowager Lady Salisbury, and acquired Lord Salisbury the future prime minister as a stepson. In the absence of a further Edward, the earldom passed to his brother Frederick when he died in 1893. In the meantime, Frederick had been made Baron Stanley of Preston in 1886, and joined his brother in the Lords. Perhaps he was ennobled in order to facilitate his becoming Governor General of Canada, where he served from 1888 to 1893 (accompanied by his son Edward the future 17th earl as aide-de-camp), and established the Stanley Cup.
The eldest sons of Stanleys thereafter eventually became not only Lord Derby, but also Baron Stanley of Bickerstaffe and Baron Stanley of Preston. In case this was not enough Stanleydom, they were also baronets Stanley of Bickerstaffe. This baronetcy was originally created in 1627 for a descendant of the younger brother of the 2nd Earl of Derby. It had been incorporated into the main branch when the 10th Earl of Derby died without suitable descendants. The 5th baronet Stanley of Bickerstaffe, though only distantly related, was the closest collateral to be found, and became the 11th Earl of Derby in 1736.
Another Stanley altogether is Baron Stanley of Alderley—“not to be confused with Baron Stanley,” warns Wikipedia. This branch of the family is distantly related, being descended from the 3rd son of the Baron Stanley who became the first Earl of Derby in 1485. Since 1660 this line had been the baronets Stanley of Alderley Hall (not to be confused with the baronets Stanley of Bickerstaffe). In 1839 the 7th baronet, Sir John Stanley, was made Baron Stanley of Alderley and became entitled to sit in the House of Lords, where he would soon be joined by Baron Stanley of Bickerstaffe (1844). His son Edward, mirroring the other Stanleys’ procedure in 1832 and 1844, was created Baron Eddisbury in his own right in 1848 and joined his father in the House of Lords. In 1850 he became the 2nd Lord Stanley of Alderley and served under this name in the two cabinets of Palmerston.
It might be worth remarking that lords are always “Lords so-and-so of somewhere” (usually their mansion, home town or county), but that the place is only a normal part of the title to distinguish it from another one with the same name. In this case, Bickerstaffe was a manor in Lancashire that had been joined to the Stanley estate. Preston had once been the site of a chief residence of the family, but was also a constituency often represented by Stanleys. Alderley Hall was leagues away in Chester. It still stands, but is now a major pharmaceutical manufacturing hub.
Notes to Sec. 1
1Charles Greville, “The Royal Precedency Question,” Appendix to The Greville Memoirs, Second Part (NY: Appleton, 1885), I, 572.
2“Robert Cecil,” Oxford DNB.
3Greville, Memoirs, Second Part, II, 60.
4“Fitzmaurice, Henry Petty, 3rd marquess of Lansdowne,” Oxford DNB.
5“Earl de Grey,” accessed April 10, 2020.
6The Life, Letters, and Literary Remains of Edward Bulwer, Lord Lytton, by his Son (NY: Harper, 1884), I, 75.
7“Lytton, Edward George, etc.”, Oxford DNB.
8The Life of Edward Bulwer, first Lord Lytton by his grandson the Earl of Lytton (Macmillan, 1913), II, 369.
9Oxford DNB entry for 14th Earl Derby.