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
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
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".
Under 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
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.
An example of an
acknowledgement of a 'territorial designation' from the Lyon Court,
Scotland can be seen by
Clicking Here. This would also be shown on the petitioners Grant of
Arms from the Lord Lyon.