A lot of people might think of British lordships as being a thing of the 19th and pre-war 20th century, and big fat rich men fretting over the possibility of getting a peerage as belonging the casts of Sherlock Holmes stories and P.G. Wodehouse novels. But the fact is that the handing out of hereditary peerages was common practice until 1965. Life peerages (other than those awarded to the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary) were only invented in 1958, and when the Labour Party under Harold Wilson took power, it set the precedent of using them exclusively to stack the House of Lords in the party’s favour. Our present Queen is likely to be the last British monarch to create the traditional hereditary peerages in any quantity; in her reign, she has created two dukedoms, 12 earldoms, 41 viscounties and 92 baronies. In no particular order, let’s take a look at the people who got them.
Let’s start with the Royal Family. The Queen’s former brother-in-law, Anthony Armstrong-Jones, married Princess Margaret in 1961 and was declared Earl of Snowdon and Viscount Linley. The rest of the royal titles she has bestowed have been as wedding gifts upon her progeny: Prince Andrew as Duke of York, Earl of Inverness and Baron Killyleagh in 1986; Prince Edward as Earl of Wessex and Viscount Severn in 1999; and Prince William as Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Stratherarn and Baron Carrickfergus in 2011.
For a good long while it was customary to give a retiring Prime Minister an earldom. Three prime ministers got titles from Elizabeth II: Clement Attlee (1945-51) became Earl Attlee and Viscount Prestwood in 1955; Sir Anthony Eden (1955-57) became the Earl of Avon and Viscount Eden in 1961 (the titles went extinct when his son died in 1985) and Harold Macmillan (1957-63) became the Earl of Stockton and Viscount Macmillan of Ovenden in 1984.
There were a few late-coming World War generals getting peerages too. Field Marshal Sir Harold Alexander, 1st Viscount Alexander of Tunis, was made Earl Alexander of Tunis and Baron Rideau in March of 1952. Field Marshal Sir William Slim was made Viscount Slim in 1960. Gen. George Jeffreys, a World War I general and Conservative MP during WWII, was made Baron Jeffreys in July 1952. Lt.-Gen. Ronald Weeks, deputy chief of the Imperial General Staff, became Baron Weeks in 1956 (it went extinct when he died in 1960). Lt.-Gen. Willoughby Norrie, commander of the 1st Armoured Division in North Africa under Bernard Montgomery, became Baron Norrie in 1957. Field Marshal Sir John Harding became Baron Harding of Petherton in 1958. Gen. Sir Brian Robertson, Bt., military governor of British-occupied West Germany and later the chairman of the British Transport Commission from 1953 to 1961, became Baron Robertson of Oakridge in 1961. Brigadier Toby Low, later the MP for Blackpool North from 1945 to 1962, became Baron Aldington in 1962.
A sizable proportion of the War cabinet were given peerages by Elizabeth II.
- Frederick Marquis, 1st Baron Woolton, the Minister of Food (and the namesake of Woolton pie), was made Viscount Woolton in 1953, then the Earl of Woolton and Viscount Walberton in 1956.
- Philip Cunliffe-Lister, 1st Viscount Swinton, Minister of Civil Aviation during the war, President of the Board of Trade and Secretary for the Colonies before it and Secretary for Commonwealth Relations after it, became the Earl of Swinton and Baron Masham in 1955.
- Henry Moore, 10th Earl of Drogheda in the Peerage of Ireland, Minister of Economic Warfare from 1942 to 1945, and Chairman of the Cinematograph Films Council from 1944 to 1954, was made Baron Moore in 1954 to give him a permanent seat in the House of Lords.
- David Maxwell Fyfe, Solicitor-General from 1942 to 1945, Home Secretary from 1951 to 1954, and Lord Chancellor from 1954 to 1962, was made Viscount Kilmuir in 1954, then the Earl of Kilmuir and Baron Fyfe of Dornoch in 1962 (they went extinct upon his death in 1965).
- Richard Law, political philosopher, son of prime minister Andrew Bonar Law, Financial Secretary to the War Office from 1940 to 1941 and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs from 1943 to 1945, was made Baron Coleraine in 1954.
- A.V. Alexander, 1st Viscount Alexander of Hillsborough, Churchill’s successor as First Lord of the Admiralty in 1940 and later Secretary of Defence under Attlee, was made Earl Alexander of Hillsborough and Baron Weston-Super-Mare in 1963 (they died with him in 1965).
- Sir Archibald Sinclair, Bt., Secretary for Air from 1940 to 1945 and leader of the Liberal Party from 1935 to 1945, was named Viscount Thurso in April of 1952; his grandson, the 3rd Viscount, is currently a Lib Dem MP.
- Frederick Leathers, 1st Baron Leathers, Minister of War Transport, became Viscount Leathers in 1954.
- Herwald Ramsbotham, 1st Baron Soulbury, Minister of Pensions under Chamberlain, President of the Board of Education from 1940 to 1941, Chairman of the Assistance Board for the rest of the war, and Governor-General of Ceylon from 1949 to 1954, became Viscount Soulbury in 1954.
- Oliver Lyttelton, Minister of Production from 1942 to 1945 and Secretary for the Colonies from 1951 to 1954, became Viscount Chandos in 1954.
- Sir Ralph Assheton, Bt., Minister of Supply in 1942, Financial Secretary to the Treasury from 1942 to 1944, and chairman of the Conservative Party from 1944 to 1946, was made Baron Clitheroe in 1955.
- William Morrison, Postmaster-General from 1940 to 1943 and Minister for Town and Country Planning from 1943 to 1945, Speaker of the House of Commons from 1951 to 1959 and Governor-General of Australia from 1960 to 1961, became Viscount Dunrossil in 1959.
- Robert Grimston, Treasurer of the Household from 1939 to 1942, became Baron Grimston of Westbury in 1964.
Winston Churchill’s cabinet from his second government (1951-55) had a fair share of newly minted peers, as did the governments of Sir Anthony Eden (1955-57), Harold Macmillan (1957-63) and Sir Alec Douglas-Home (1963-64):
- Arthur Salter, political sciences professor at Oxford University, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in 1945 and Minister of Materials in 1952, became Baron Salter in 1953 (dying with him in 1975)
- Mr. Justice Gavin Simonds, Lord Chancellor from 1951 to 1954, became Baron Simonds in June 1952 and Viscount Simonds in 1954 (dying with him in 1971)
- Henry Scrymgeour-Wedderburn, 11th Earl of Dundee in the Peerage of Scotland, a Renfrewshire MP from 1931 to 1945 and Minister Without Portfolio from 1958 to 1961, became Baron Glassary in the UK peerage in 1954
- William Sidney, 6th Baron de L’Isle and Dudley, who won the Victoria Cross in Italy, Secretary for Air from 1951 to 1955 and Governor-General of Australia from 1961 to 1965, made Viscount de L’Isle in 1956
- Harry Crookshank, Leader in the House of Commons from 1951 to 1955, made Viscount Crookshank in 1956 (dying with him in 1961)
- Osbert Peake, Minister of National Insurance from 1951 to 1955, made Viscount Ingleby in 1956 (the title died with his son in 2008)
- James Thomas, First Lord of the Admiralty from 1951 to 1956, made Viscount Cilcennin in 1956 (died with him in 1960)
- Henry Hopkinson, Secretary for Overseas Trade from 1951 to 1952 and Secretary for Colonial Affairs from 1952 to 1955, was made Baron Colyton in 1956
- Walter Monckton, Minister of Labour and National Service from 1951 to 1955, and later Minister of Defence and Paymaster-General under Sir Anthony Eden, became Viscount Monckton of Brenchley in 1957
- Gwilim Lloyd George, son of David, Home Secretary from 1954 to 1957, became Viscount Tenby in 1957
- Patrick Buchan-Hepburn, Government Chief Whip from 1951 to 1955 and Governor-General of the West Indies Federation from 1958 to 1962, became Baron Hailes in 1957 (dying with him in 1974)
- David Lewis, Minister of State for Welsh Affairs from 1957 to 1964, became Baron Brecon in 1958 (dying with him in 1976)
- James Stuart, Secretary for Scotland from 1951 to 1957, became Viscount Stuart of Findhorn in 1959
- Sir Thomas Dugdale, Bt., Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries from 1951 to 1954, was made Baron Crathorne in 1959
- Antony Head, Secretary for War from 1951 to 1956, became Viscount Head in 1960
- Derick Heathcoat-Amory, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries from 1954 to 1958 and Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1958 to 1960, was made Viscount Amory in 1960 (dying with him in 1981)
- Alan Lennox-Boyd, Minister of Transport from 1952 to 1954 and Secretary for the Colonies from 1954 to 1959, was made Viscount Boyd of Merton in 1960
- Percy Mills, industrialist, Controller-General of Machine Tools for the Ministry of Supply during WWII, Minister of Power under Sir Anthony Eden and Paymaster-General under Harold Macmillan, became Baron Mills in 1957 and Viscount Mills in 1962
- George Ward, Secretary for Air from 1957 to 1960, was made Viscount Ward of Witley in 1960 (dying with him in 1988)
- John Hare, Secretary for the Colonies, Secretary of War, Secretary of Agriculture and Secretary of Labour under Sir Anthony Eden and Harold Macmillan, was made Viscount Blakenham in 1963
- Niall Macpherson, Minister of Pensions and National Insurance from 1962 to 1963, became Baron Drumalbyn in 1963 (dying with him in 1987)
- David Eccles, Minister of Works from 1951 to 1954, Minister of Education from 1954 to 1957 and from 1959 to 1962 and President of the Board of Trade from 1957 to 1959, was made Baron Eccles in 1962 and Viscount Eccles in 1964
- Harold Watkinson, Minister of Transport from 1957 to 1959 and Minister of Defence from 1959 to 1962, was made Viscount Watkinson in 1964 (dying with him in 1995)
- John Maclay, Secretary for Scotland from 1957 to 1962, was made Viscount Muirshiel in 1964 (which died with him in 1992)
- Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller, Bt., Solicitor-General from 1951 to 1954, Attorney-General for England and Wales from 1954 to 1962 and Lord Chancellor from 1962 to 1964, became Baron Dilhorne in 1962 and Viscount Dilhorne in 1964
- John Hope, Minister of Works from 1959 to 1962, became Baron Glendevon in 1964
- Frederick Erroll, President of the Board of Trade from 1961 to 1963 and Minister of Power from 1963 to 1964, became Baron Erroll of Hale in 1964 (dying with him in 2000)
- Michael Hughes-Young, Treasurer of the Household from 1962 to 1964, became Baron St. Helens in 1964
The easiest way to get a peerage was to sit as an MP for an appreciable length of time, serve as Under-Secretary or Parliamentary Secretary to a department or two, and retire as the government was casting around to prop up its majority in the House of Lords. For example:
- Edward Turnour, 6th Earl Winterton in the Peerage of Ireland, the MP for Horsham for 47 years and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster under Neville Chamberlain, was made Baron Turnour in February 1952, entitling him to a seat in the House of Lords (the barony died with him in 1962, and his earldom passed to a cousin living in Canada)
- Sir Hugh O’Neill, Bt., MP for Antrim for 37 years and Speaker of the Parliament of Northern Ireland from 1921 to 1929, was made Baron Rathcavan in 1953
- Sir Ralph Glyn, Bt., a Conservative MP for 33 years, became Baron Glyn in 1953 (dying with him in 1960)
- Stanley Holmes, MP for Harwich from 1935 to 1954, became Baron Dovercourt in 1954 (dying with him in 1961)
- Arnold Gridley, MP for Stockport from 1935 to 1955, was made Baron Gridley in 1955
- Thomas Galbraith, MP for Glasgow Pollok from 1940 to 1955, became Baron Strathclyde in 1955
- Henry Strauss, an MP from 1935 to 1955, was made Baron Conesford in 1955 (dying with him in 1974)
- Malcolm McCorquodale, a director of the Bank of Scotland and an MP for 22 years, was made Baron McCorquodale of Newton in 1955 (it died with him in 1971)
- Charles MacAndrew, a Scottish Unionist MP for 33 years, was made Baron MacAndrew in 1959
- William Mabane, MP for Huddersfield West from 1931 to 1945 and head of the British Travel Association from 1960 to 1967, became Baron Mabane in 1962 (dying with him in 1969)
- Roland Robinson, an MP from 1931 to 1964, and later Governor of Bermuda from 1964 to 1972, was made Baron Martonmere in 1964
- William Fletcher-Vane, MP for Westmorland from 1945 to 1964, became Baron Inglewood in 1964
- John Morrison, MP for Salisbury from 1942 to 1965, became Baron Margadale in 1965
Or maybe you could have been the chairman of a major corporation? For example:
- Clive Baillieu, a raw materials purchasing agent for the UK in Washington in WWII and chairman of Dunlop Rubber from 1949 to 1957, became Baron Baillieu in 1953
- Peter Bennett, chairman of auto parts manufacturer Joseph Lucas Ltd. and a Birmingham MP for 13 years, became Baron Bennett of Edgbaston in 1953 (dying with him in 1957)
- William Fraser, chairman of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (now BP) from 1941 to 1956, became Baron Strathalmond in 1955
- Geoffrey Heyworth, chairman of Unilever Ltd. from 1942 to 1960, became Baron Heyworth in 1955 (dying with him in 1974)
- John Jacob Astor V, scion of the wealthy Astor family of Manhattan, owner of the Times from 1922 to 1959, chairman of Phoenix Insurance Co. from 1952 to 1958, a member of the board of directors for the Great Western Railway from 1929 to 1946 and of Barclays Bank from 1942 to 1952, winner of the 1908 Olympic gold medal in men’s doubles rackets (which is not the same as racquetball) and the MP for Dover from 1922 to 1945, was made Baron Astor of Hever in 1956
- Frederick Godber, chairman and managing director of Shell Oil, was made Baron Godber in 1956 (dying with him in 1976)
- Harold Mackintosh, 1st Baron Mackintosh of Halifax, president of the toffee company of the same name and chairman of the National Savings Committee from 1943 to 1958, became Viscount Mackintosh of Halifax in 1957
- Robert Sinclair, Director-General of Army Requirements for the War Office from 1939 to 1942, then Chief Executive of the Ministry of Production from 1943 to 1945, then chairman of Imperial Tobacco from 1947 to 1959, became Baron Sinclair of Cleeve in 1957
- J. Arthur Rank, owner of a number of film studios and cinema chains that he conglomerated as the Rank Organization, was made Baron Rank in 1957 (dying with him in 1972)
- Ellis Robins, the first person to receive a Rhodes Scholarship and a businessman who concentrated a great deal of investment in Rhodesia, was made Baron Robins in 1958 (dying with him in 1962)
- Col. Oliver Poole, an underwriting member of Lloyd’s of London and a big wheel in the upper levels of the Conservative Party, was made Baron Poole in 1958
- William Rootes, owner of the car manufacturer of the same name, was made Baron Rootes in 1959
- John Kemp, 2nd Baron Rochdale, a textile magnate, president of the National Union of Manufacturers from 1953 to 1956 and a member of the BBC’s board of governors from 1954 to 1959, was made Viscount Rochdale in 1960
- Sir George Nelson, Bt., chairman of English Electric from 1930 to 1962, became Baron Nelson of Stafford in 1960
- Basil Sanderson, shipping magnate and Head of Port Transit Control for the Ministry of War Transport from 1941 to 1945, was made Baron Sanderson of Ayot in 1960
- Alexander Fleck, an industrial chemist specializing in radioactive materials and the chairman of Imperial Chemical Industries from 1953 to 1960, was made Baron Fleck in 1961 (dying with him in 1968)
- Simon Marks, chairman of Marks and Spencer, was made Baron Marks of Broughton in 1961
- Sir George Leighton Seager, Bt., the shipping magnate, was made Baron Leighton of St. Mellons in 1962
- Leonard Lord, the last president of Austin Motors and president of the British Motor Corporation from 1952 to 1967, was made Baron Lambury in 1962 (dying with him in 1967)
- Sir Robert Renwick, Bt., head of the County of London Electric Company for the duration of World War II, was made Baron Renwick in 1964
- John Erskine, general manager of the Commercial Bank of Scotland from 1932 to 1953 and Governor of Northern Ireland from 1964 to 1968, was made Baron Erskine of Rerrick in 1964 (dying with his son in 1995)
- Sir Hugh Fraser, Bt., of the House of Fraser chain of department stores, became Baron Fraser of Allander in 1964 (dying with his son in 1987)
- Roy Thomson, a Canadian newspaper tycoon who owned the Scotsman, the Times, and the ITV franchise for central Scotland, was made Baron Thomson of Fleet in 1964 (the family later returned to Canada; the current Lord Thomson is the chairman of media giant Thomson Reuters, and the richest man in Canada)
Diplomats were well served at the peerage buffet:
- Duff Cooper, the first British ambassador to France after its liberation in 1944, made Viscount Norwich in July of 1952
- Sir William Strang, a top official in the Foreign Office between 1933 and 1953, became Baron Strang in 1954
- Sir Oliver Harvey, Bt., ambassador to France from 1948 to 1954, was made Baron Harvey of Tasburgh in 1954
- Gladwyn Jebb, a diplomat and Acting Secretary-General of the UN from 1945 to 1946, became Baron Gladwyn in 1960
- Sir Frederick Millar, the first British ambassador to West Germany (1955-56), was made Baron Inchyra in 1962
- Roger Makins, ambassador to the US from 1953 to 1956 and chairman of the UK Atomic Energy Commission from 1960 to 1964, became Baron Sherfield in 1964
As were judges:
- Thomas Cooper, Lord Advocate of Scotland from 1935 to 1941, Lord Justice Clerk of Scotland from 1941 to 1947 and Lord Justice General and Lord President of the Court of Session of Scotland from 1947 to 1954, was made Baron Cooper of Culross in 1954 (dying with him in 1955)
- Mr. Justice Raymond Evershed, Master of the Rolls and Records of the Chancery of England (the second most senior judge in England and Wales) from 1949 to 1962, became Baron Evershed in 1956 (dying with him in 1966)
- Mr. Justice Norman Birkett, a judge of the Court of Appeals for England and Wales from 1950 to 1956, became Baron Birkett in 1958
- Patrick Spens, Chief Justice of India from 1943 to 1947, became Baron Spens in 1959
And civil servants:
- Sir Edward Bridges, Cabinet Secretary from 1938 to 1946 and Head of the Home Civil Service and Permanent Secretary to the Treasury from 1946 to 1956, became Baron Bridges in 1957
- Sir John Forster, a public servant at the Ministry of Labour and President of the Industrial Court from 1946 to 1959, became Baron Forster of Harraby in 1959 (dying with him in 1972)
- Terence Nugent, Comptroller of the Lord Chamberlain’s Office from 1936 to 1960, was made Baron Nugent in 1960 (dying with him in 1973)
- Cameron Cobbold, Governor of the Bank of England from 1949 to 1960 and Lord Great Chamberlain from 1963 to 1971, was made Baron Cobbold in 1960
- Cyril Radcliffe, Baron Radcliffe, Director-General of the Ministry of Information in WWII and chairman of the Indian Boundary Committee in 1947, made Viscount Radcliffe in 1962 (dying with him in 1977)
- Sir Malcolm Trustram Eve, Bt., a leading member of the Church Estates Commission, became Baron Silsoe in 1963
- Sir Norman Brook, Cabinet Secretary from 1947 to 1962, became Baron Normanbrook in 1963 (dying with him in 1967)
And doctors, too:
- Edgar Adrian, a neurologist and co-winner of the 1932 Nobel Prize for Medicine, was made Baron Adrian in 1955 (the title died with his son in 1995)
- Dr. Henry Cohen, a lecturer in medicine and founding vice-chairman of the Central Health Services Council, became Baron Cohen of Birkenhead in 1956 (dying with him in 1977)
- Dr. Horace Evans, personal physician to George VI and Elizabeth II, became Baron Evans in 1957 (dying with him in 1963)
- Russell Brain, an expert neurologist, author of Brain’s Diseases of the Nervous System and president of the Royal College of Physicians from 1950 to 1956, was made Baron Brain in 1962
Other luminaries ennobled included:
- Sir Basil Brooke, Bt., Prime Minister of Northern Ireland from 1943 to 1963, made Viscount Brookeborough in July of 1952
- Eustace Percy, President of the Board of Education from 1924 to 1929, was made Baron Percy of Newcastle in 1953 (dying with him in 1958)
- Alfred Suenson-Taylor, a banker and Liberal Party organizer, became Baron Grantchester in 1953
- Leslie Hore-Belisha, Minister of Transport under Stanley Baldwin and Secretary of War under Neville Chamberlain, was made Baron Hore-Belisha in 1954 (extinct on his death in 1957)
- Sir Godfrey Huggins, Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia from 1933 to 1953, became Viscount Malvern in 1955
- Arnold McNair, a Cambridge professor of international law and president of the European Court of Human Rights from 1959 to 1965, was made Baron McNair in 1955
- Frederick Lindemann,1st Baron Cherwell, a top scientific advisor to Winston Churchill in WWII, became Viscount Cherwell in 1956 (the titles died with him the next year)
- James Turner, president of the National Farmers’ Union from 1945 to 1960, became Baron Netherthorpe in 1959
- Sir Evelyn Baring, governor of Southern Rhodesia from 1942 to 1944 and of Kenya from 1952 to 1959, was made Baron Howick of Glendale in 1960
- Sir Wavell Wakefield, a professional rugby player, president of Harlequins FC from 1950 to 1980, and an MP from 1935 to 1963, became Baron Wakefield of Kendal in 1963 (dying with him in 1983)
- John Wyndham, private secretary to prime minister Harold Macmillan (1957-63), was given the title Baron Egremont in 1963 (in 1967, he succeeded his father as the 6th Baron Leconfield)
A very peculiar peerage was awarded in 1961 to Urban Huttleston Broughton, 1st Baron Fairhaven, of Lode in the County of Cambridge, a millionaire and art collector. His father, Urban Hanlon Broughton, went to America and made a fortune in railway and mining interests, married into a rich family, then returned to England and served as the MP for Preston from 1915 to 1918, and became very close friends with prime minister Andrew Bonar Law. He was due to be given a peerage but died before it was finalized; the barony was instead given directly to Huttleston, his eldest son, in 1929. In 1961, Lord Fairhaven, by then old and childless, was given another peerage, that of the Baron Fairhaven, of Anglesey Abbey in the County of Cambridge; unlike the first title, this new title could be inherited by Huttleston’s brother, Henry, which he did when Huttleston died in 1966 and the Lode iteration of the Fairhaven title went extinct.
Around the time of Harold Macmillan’s long-overdue ennoblement in 1984, the government of Margaret Thatcher made a half-hearted attempt to revive the practice. It gave out two more peerages: William Whitelaw, who served as Thatcher’s Home Secretary from 1979 to 1983, Lord President of the Council from 1983 to 1988 and Deputy Prime Minister from 1979 to 1988, was made Viscount Whitelaw in 1983; and Thomas George Thomas, Speaker of the House of Commons from 1976 to 1983, was made Viscount Tonypandy in the year he stepped down. Neither man had a son and their titles died with them, Lord Tonypandy in 1997, Lord Whitelaw in 1999. No private British citizen since 1984 has been awarded a hereditary peerage.