Clan chiefs take their
place in society
The publishers of the definitive guide to British blue blood have decided
that chiefs have been excluded for too long and should be allowed to take
their place among the country's recognised nobles. About 140 chiefs will
be included in the 107th edition of the book when it is published next
Yesterday, Hugh Peskett,
consultant editor for Burke's in Scotland, said the decision to include
clan chiefs in the new edition marks a change in the attitude towards
chiefs which had persisted since the abolition of the clan system in the
middle of the 18th century. After the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie's
Highlanders at Culloden in 1746, the clan system was banned by law.
Highlanders were not permitted to carry weapons, and all tartans and clan
symbols were forbidden. Even bagpipes were banned, being classified as
instruments of war. Coupled with the Highland clearances and a dramatic
drop in the price of cattle, many former clan chiefs were ruined, said Mr
Peskett, and despite the lifting of the proscription in the 1820s, many
clans lost track of their chiefly line. "It is only recently that there
has been a resurgence of interest in the clan system, driven in a large
part by interest from America," he said.
He said when Burke's
Peerage was first published, clan chiefs were not considered worthy of
inclusion. "Burke's started in the early 1800s when chiefs were rather
ignored and looked down on in an Anglo-centric way. It never occurred to
people that chiefs were peers," he said.
About 140 chiefs will be
included, although there are another 200 chieftainships which are as yet
undetermined. Many of those who will appear in the new edition are not
even based in Scotland. The list includes five resident in the United
States, two each in Australia and Canada and one each in South Africa,
Zimbabwe and New Zealand. Some clan chiefs - such as the Earl of Elgin and
Earl of Glasgow, as heads of the Bruce and Boyle clans respectively - are
already included because of their titles.
But the decision to include
untitled clan chiefs was welcomed by Major Timothy Strange, whose official
title is Strange of Balcaskie and will appear in the new edition. He said
he had been unaware of the change in the criteria for inclusion but was
pleased that the clans had finally been officially recognised. "Some
people think it's a load of old bull but I think of it as an honour. I
think the family thing is quite important, more so these days when things
are not so easy to hold together. "My wife comes from a rather
down-to-earth Devonshire family and looked at it a bit sideways to start
with, but I think now she's become quite interested in it."
Recognition of their status
is unlikely to bring any financial benefits to the clan chiefs but the
prestige will appeal to some who would not otherwise be eligible for
inclusion in Burke's Peerage. The book, which is regarded as the
definitive authority on the British aristocracy, has become something of
an institution in its own right. Since it was founded in 1826, it has
charted the family lineages of titled families using records extending
back many generations, some as far back as the eighth and ninth centuries.
It includes most Prime Ministers and the new edition will also include
knights, dames and foreigners who have been given honorary titles among
its 4,800 entries.
publication has already courted controversy by announcing that it will
include some celebrities in the new edition. Critics have suggested that
the decision to widen the scope of its qualifying criteria is indicative
of a move downmarket and has been taken with a view to selling more copies
- at £350 a time - to those who appear in its pages. Those who may appear
in the latest edition include Sir Jimmy Savile, Sir Cliff Richard, Sir
Bobby Charlton and Sir Paul McCartney. Foreign nationals expected to make
it into the pages include Bob Geldof and Rudolph Giuliani.
Charles Mosley, the editor
of Burke's Peerage, has defended the decision to widen the scope of the
entries, arguing that "if they are good enough for the Queen to honour,
they are good enough for Burke's." Three years ago, Mr Mosley upset
traditionalists when he decided to include details of illegitimate
children of the aristocracy for the first time.