A legal dispute over the title of the Earl of Arran has reached the Court of Session in Scotland. Swiss recluse Willi Ernst Sturzenegger has appealed to the Court of Session to be recognised, formally, as the territorial Earl of Arran and be addressed with all due dignity. The court of the Lord Lyon was quite surprised that anyone would want to claim the title Earl of Arran, especially since it is already held by Scotland’s most famous peer, the Duke of Hamilton.
Mr Sturzenegger, who already calls himself online as Lord Arran, had a similar petition turned down by the Lord Lyon, the guardian of Scottish titles and heraldry.
The Lord Lyon, currently the respected legal historian David Sellars, has issued a formal note, dismissing the petition as “on the face of it … a surprising proposition” that would give Mr Sturzenegger the same kind of arms as a member of the House of Lords.
Mr Sturzenegger is one of scores of wealthy men and women, mostly foreign, who have snapped up Scotland’s forgotten feudal titles over the last two decades.
The titles – most frequently baronies or lordships – are the only ones of their kind that can be bought and sold, often along with tiny parcels of Scottish land. The earldom of Arran, however, is one of the rarest of the feudal titles, the most senior it is possible to hold.
There are believed to be only around two dozen feudal earldoms, most held by aristocratic families. Few have sold, usually for very large sums indeed.
Mr Sturzenegger picked his up in 1995 along with a few thousand acres of Arran and the “caput” or title to Lochranza Castle, owned by Historic Scotland.
Mr Sturzenegger has been trying to get himself effectively declared an earl since 2000. In 2001, as part of a compromise deal with the then Lord Lyon, he successfully petitioned to have himself accepted by the Lord Lyon as “Sturzenegger of Arran, holder of the territorial Earldom of Arran”.
That name, granted in 2001, came with a coat of arms that includes the additaments – or “bells and whistles” as some heraldry experts call them – of a baron, but not an earl.