15 March 2021
Why is the coat-of-arms of
the Earl of Lichfield used to
sell fake French titles online?
I have written in the past about sites that claim to sell manorial titles such as lord of the manor, or fake French and Italian titles such as count, baron or duke.
Many of the sites selling the supposed titles of Scottish lairds claim they to sell plots of land in Scotland that give owners a claim to a lordship. But they are selling nothing more than novelty gifts, with ornate and decorative pieces of paper that any 10-year-old could design on a laptop and ham-fisted instructions on how to change your name by deed poll – advice better given by a qualified lawyer.
At most, they amount to no more than harmless, good fun, and may help to conserve a large forest and tract of Highland in Scotland. They do not warn you that using the ‘titles’ in Scotland could, at best, make you the butt of laughter, and, at worst, end up with a case in the Court of the Lord Lyon, the authority on all matters heraldic and genealogical in Scotland.
But there is little novelty to or fun about the sites that claim to sell manorial baronies, feudal lordships and supposed French and Italian titles of nobility.
Some years ago, Manorial Auctioneers were offering the title of the ‘Barony of Dungarvan,’ Co Waterford. Later, this supposed feudal barony was back on the market again with an online business known as nobility.co.uk.
Although the Barony of Dungarvan was granted to the Earl of Shrewsbury in 1446, it is doubtful that the title still survives as any kind of legal entity. Despite the fact that there is no territorial Barony of Dungarvan in Co Waterford, the site was offering the ‘Barony of Dungarvan, Ireland,’ along with the titles of ‘Baron and Baroness,’ and said it was ‘once held by Earl of Shrewsbury, Premier Earl of England and High Steward of Ireland.’
Potential buyers were told that ‘the list price’ for this title was once £45,000, but the selling price had been reduced to £20,000. ‘A snip at the price,’ I hear you saying.
Now I seen that the same site is using the coat-of-arms of the seventh Earl of Lichfield – the photographer Patrick Lichfield – to sell fake titles in France. This is the same coat of arms that in the past has decorated a popular pub in Lichfield, the Earl of Lichfield Arms on Conduit Street, known to many people in Lichfield as the Drum.
The Earl of Lichfield Arms has been described as ‘one of the most compact pubs in the whole of Staffordshire.’ The premises had been bought by the Anson family, Earls of Lichfield, by the 1840s, and was renamed the ‘Earl of Lichfield Arms.’
The coat-of-arms outside the Drum was that of Thomas Patrick John Anson (1939-2005), 5th Earl of Lichfield, the photographer known professionally as Patrick Lichfield. In 1975, Patrick Lichfield married Lady Leonora Grosvenor, elder daughter of the 5th Duke of Westminster. She is remembered in a number of monuments and plaques that bear her name in Lichfield. The couple were divorced in 1986; he died on 11 November 2005 and was buried in the Anson vault at Colwich.
This coat-of-arms represents the Earl of Lichfield on the left, and the Grosvenors of Westminster on the right. So, this sign dated from the period 1975-1986.
The very same coat-of-arms is being used by the site nobility.co.uk to sell an unlimited number of supposed French titles online. On first reading, I might even be forgiven for thinking that the site is not selling a fake French title but an actual French countess.
For example, they claim to have unlimited availability of a ‘French Count & Countess’ for $20,000. They say the sale price was reduced this year (2021) from a list price of £300,000 to £15,000, with a saving of £285,000 (95%).
Quoting prices in three different currencies makes no sense to me. Nor does the claim that ‘property owners can Buy this Title through our independant (sic) Loan providers.’ If you are foolish enough to buy this ‘title’, you could end up paying ‘as little as £152 per month’ over 10 years, or ‘as little as £276 per month’ over five years. Check out the exorbitant interest rates yourself.
They also include a ‘Loan Warning’ that says: ‘By adding a 2nd or 1st Loan on a property, if the payments are not kept up you could lose the property if you do not pay the monthly payment.’
The same site is also offering what they claim are French titles of ‘Baron’ and ‘Baroness’ for $12,000 or £9,000, reduced from £300,000, ‘Duke’ and ‘Duchess’ for $26,000 (£25,000), again reduced from £300,000, and ‘Prince’ and ‘Princess’ for $162,000 (£120,000), also reduced from £300,000.
All offers say their titles can be bought ‘through our independant (sic) Loan providers.’ None explains why the same price reduction does not apply across the board – potential princes are getting a poor reduction compared to would-be barons – nor do they explain the different currency conversion rates applied to the different ‘titles.’
Indeed, they do not explain either why the coat-of-arms of Patrick Lichfield and his wife are being used to promote these fantasy titles. They have nothing to do with the Anson family, still less with the pub on Conduit Street, Lichfield.
The site claims the titles were ‘Granted By Prince Franks Descendants (sic) of the Franks Merovingian Charlemagne dynasty.’ They say, ‘His Royal Highness Prince Franks is of direct descendant to the kings of the Franks and as such has inherited “Fons Honurum” (the right to grant Titles of Nobility).’ Presumably they mean fons honorum.
Apart from the mathematical, grammatical and spelling errors, I wondered about the genealogical, heraldic and historical errors too. Provenance is of the utmost importance when buying antiques or works of art. But when I tried to find out who Prince Franks is, I was redirected to a Wikipedia page on the Kings of the Franks.
As anyone knows from watching Who Do You Think You Are?, the mathematical probability is that if anyone who visits that site is a descendant of Charlemagne, then everyone is. Prince Franks, for all his pretensions and all his dersire to get the hard-earned cash of the gullible, is either very shy or very reluctant to reveal his true identity.
The site is also claiming to sell the ‘Irish-lordship of Corbeny (Currabinny) Cork … once held by Viscount Boyle of Bandon,’ and that sale includes mineral, hunting and fishing rights.’
They say that the price has been reduced from £45,000 to £22,000 – a saving of £23,000.
Currabinny is a natural forest, near Crosshaven, which would make it difficult to stake a claim to any supposed ‘mineral rights.’ The site also promises in a most incredible way that ‘as Lord you and your friends have the right to go salmon fishing for free in Currabinny’ and illustrates this claim with a photograph of the waterfront at Cobh at night.
Meanwhile, ‘an authentic English pub sign (one-sided) featuring a painting of the heraldic arms of the Earl of Lichfield, entitled: Earl of Lichfield Arms’ is on sale online. It measures 48 inches high, 36 inches wide and 2 inches deep, and is described as ‘A very fine example of vintage advertising artwork, ready for display.’ It is similar to the sign once at the Earl of Lichfield Arms in Lichfield, but also a version of the same coat-of-arms being used to sell those fake French titles.
The on-line seller in Texas is asking for €2,490.28, although the site says the seller may accept €2,117.
It seems a better bargain and more authentic than the bogus French titles being sold at much higher prices using the coat-of-arms of the Earl of Lichfield.
But you might be better off buying me a drink in the Drum. I could pick it up the next time I’m back in Lichfield. And it would be lot more fun that any fake French title.
John Shaw, The Old Pubs of Lichfield (Lichfield: George Lane Publishing, 2001/2007).
Neil Coley, Lichfield Pubs (Stroud: Amberley, 2016).