Illustrations by: Antony Hare

How to buy titles and influence people

Ned Donovan (FRSA, PhD, Marquess of Rwanda) dives into the murky waters of titles for sale to commoners with money to burn

Forget buying degrees online — it’s far simpler and more prestigious to join some of Britain’s oldest institutions of learning. Take the Royal Society of the Arts, founded in 1754 and boasting alumni such as Benjamin Franklin and Karl Marx. Joining their ranks allows you to put the letters ‘FRSA’ after your name. All it takes is an online form, £175, and two friends to agree to be references for the applicant’s ‘commitment to social change.’

Or you could find a country or monarch short on cash

If it’s a meatier title you’re after, then there’s always the opportunity to buy honours. In recent years, the Caribbean has become a honeypot for this type of fakery. With the right kind of money, a blagger can walk away from a simple email exchange with a citizenship, a knighthood, or even an ambassadorship (complete with diplomatic immunity). Last year, Antigua was rocked by allegations that knighthoods had been handed out in return for donations to government projects.

Meanwhile, the last century has seen most of the world’s more obscure monarchs unceremoniously dethroned, leaving broke rulers to fend for themselves as ordinary citizens. To make up for their sudden loss of earnings, many of these have started to hand out honours as if they were still in power — only this time for a price. A man called David Bagration, for instance, claims to be the ‘Crown Prince of Georgia’, and even has a website advancing his claim. For just a £900 fee, anyone can become a ‘Knight of the Order of the Eagle of Georgia and the Seamless Tunic of our Lord Jesus Christ.’

Why not search out an auction?

Alternatively, you could seek out an online auction held by those selling ancient Lordships of the Manor. By this method, former champion  boxer Chris Eubank is now Lord of the Manor of Brighton and has the feudal ability to graze 4,000 cows on his land. Other benefits of his Lordship include the lucrative right to start fracking under Britain’s sleepiest villages. You can even legally stick the title on your passport. But those in the know will quickly spot the ruse. “Holding a Lordship of this or that manor is no more a title than Landlord of The Dog and Duck,” says John Martin Robinson, the Maltravers Herald Extraordinary, as part of a government campaign to stop gullible Americans being scammed by online auctions.

Rwandan monarchs seem loose and free with titles these days

King Kigeli V of Rwanda was overthrown in 1961, and soon found himself living on a housing project near Washington DC in such poverty that he was forced to start selling titles for cash. (His onetime chamberlain, meanwhile, became a mattress salesman.) The King’s dentist even styled himself a member of the Rwandan aristocracy in a bid to fend off some unpaid bills, while an insurance broker from Miami acted for a time as the king’s Secretary General. “It really starts a conversation” he said. We suspect it ended a few, too — which brings us to the disclaimer that ought to accompany any such purchase. Titles are like cheekbones, or European girlfriends, or Twitter followers: they may look pretty enough, but if you have to pay for them, you’ve slightly missed the point.

Now you’ve got your title learn from someone born with one, David Linley, and how the 2nd Earl of Snowden turned the table on furniture design…

Further Reading