A baronet (traditional abbreviation Bart, modern abbreviation Bt) is the holder of a title, similar to a knighthood except that it is hereditary, known as a baronetcy. The title was introduced by James I of England in 1611 to raise funds. It is an hereditary honour, but it does not amount to a peerage. Note that the title of baronet should not be confused with a baron.
Baronets use the title "Sir" before their name (baronetesses use "Dame"), but whereas all other knighthoods apply to an individual only, a baronetcy is hereditary. The eldest son of a baronet who is born in wedlock is entitled to accede to the baronetcy upon the death of his father. With a few exceptions, baronetcies can only be inherited by, or inherited through, males. Wives of baronets are not considered baronetesses, only females holding baronetages in their own right are baronetesses.
Originally Baronets also had other rights, including the right to have their eldest son knighted on his 21st birthday. However, beginning in the reign of George IV these rights have been gradually revoked, on the grounds that sovereigns should not be bound by acts made by their predecessors.
It is now rare for new baronetcies (like all hereditary titles) to be created, but one notable recent example is that of the late Sir Denis Thatcher, the husband of former Prime Minister (and now baroness) Margaret Thatcher. Upon his death in 2003, their eldest son became the 2nd Baronet, Sir Mark Thatcher.
Baronet is not a peerage title and does not disqualify the holder from standing for election to the British House of Commons. However since 1999 neither do hereditary peerages, so the distinction has become historical. A number of Baronets were returned to the House of Commons in the 2001 General Election. A full list of British Baronets can be found in the book Burke's Peerage and Baronetage.
To correctly style a baronet on an envelope, one should write, in the case of the composer Sir Edward Elgar, "Sir Edward Elgar, Bart." [the abbreviation Bt., rather than Bart. is often used. Other, royal-given titles may be used too, thus Sir George Young, the Member of the British Parliament, would be written to as "Rt. Hon. Sir George Young, Bart., M.P.". For precedence of postnominal letters, see Debrett's.] At the head of the letter, one would write: Dear Sir Edward [this would be the only pre-nominal title used, thus Rt. Hon. Sir George Young would be "Dear Sir George"], and to refer to him, you would use "Sir Edward" or "Sir Edward Elgar" [this would be the only pre-nominal title used, thus Rt. Hon. Sir George Young would be referred to as "Sir George" or "Sir George Young"], but not "Sir Elgar."
As for wives of baronets (who are not baronetesses),in the case of Sir Edward Elgar's wife, Alice, one should write "Lady Elgar." At the head of the letter, one would write "Dear Lady Elgar," and to refer to her, you would simply say "Lady Elgar," but unlike her husband, you would not say "Lady Alice," "Lady Alice Elgar," or "Lady Edward Elgar." She is simply "Lady Elgar," and in shorthand title there is no further way to specify her. To be more specific in who she is, one could call her "Alice, Lady Elgar," or "Lady Elgar, wife of Sir George."
As for the rare baronetess, in the case of Dame Daisy Dunbar, one should write "Dame Daisy Dunbar, Btss." At the head of the letter, one would write "Dear Dame Daisy," and to refer to her, you would say "Dame Daisy" or "Dame Daisy Dunbar," but not "Dame Dunbar."
Last updated: 06-01-2005 22:25:57
Last updated: 09-02-2005 16:52:30