13th April 1929. The Red Hand.
The Red Hand of Ulster is shown ‘sinister’ Left) as opposed to the ‘dexter’ (right) on the badge of Ulster which York Herald and Garter King of Arms said is a ‘mistake which was missed’.(1)
It was Today in 1929 that George V by Royal Warrant created the right of Baronets to a Badge of Office which incorporates the Red Hand of Ulster.
The Baronets (Barts) of England, the rank below baron, had applied to Charles I for a Badge of Office, which mysteriously was only allowed to the Scots.
There are records of Baronets from the time of the 14thc Battle of Boroughbridge and Edward III created many, but the title was to be revived by James I (VI) when in 1611 he created eighteen baronetcies.(2)
Each had to pay a £1000 to the crown, ‘for the amelioration of Ulster’, the idea of the Earl of Salisbury who after James balked at asking for money for titles, Salisbury said, ‘Tush, Sire, you want the money, it will do you good’.
In recognition of this they were allowed to incorporate the ancient Red Hand of Ulster into their arms.
Each had to provide 30 foot soldiers at 8d a day for three years for the settlement of Ulster or by a single payment of £1095. The original number of baronets was set at 200 and they ranked above all knights except those of the Garter.
One of the first baronets was George Gresley of Drakelow, near the Author’s home town of Burton, a family descended from Nigel de Stafford who began calling himself Gresley after holding the castle in (Castle) Gresley, Derbyshire.
The British obsession with titles has led to widespread abuse over the years with sale of honours going back to James I (VI) down to Prime-Minister Lloyd George who sold honours on a sliding scale: dukedoms cost more than baronets!
One case was that of the shipbuilder who founded the Northumberland Shipbuilding Company, Sir Rowland Hodge (Bart), created in 1921 for ‘services to WWI despite his being convicted of ‘food hoarding’ in 1918. He was fined £700 and then fled the area.(3)
Further abuse led to the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925 under which John Maundy Gregory was convicted and jailed in 1933, the only man under the Act for selling honours, under six administrations 1919-1932.
Gregory was the fall guy as he was obviously acting as an agent for Lloyd George anxious to build the Liberal Party’s coffers. He died in France as ‘Sir Arthur’ Gregory in 1941.
Cash for Honours was again an issue in the 1990.s under John Major.
(1) On 30th November 2006.
(2) James I (VI) who revived baronetcies in England from 1611; in Ireland from 1619, Scotland 1625, Great Britain after 1707 after the Scottish union and of UK after union of Great Britain and Ireland 1801.
(3) Documents held in the Archives of Parliament show he bought the honour. Also one from the King decrying the composition of the ‘Honours System’.
Archives of Parliament.