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1986 – The Last Commoner who Became Earl in the UK

1986 – The Last Commoner who Became Earl in the UK

Former prime minister Harold Macmillan held the title Earl of Stockton, and he was the last man to receive a hereditary aristocratic title (non-hereditary titles are still being issued).

The last man to be declared a hereditary Earl (not counting members of the royal family) died on this day in 1986. His name was Harold Macmillan, and he served as the British Prime Minister from 1957 to 1963. He held the title Earl of Stockton, named after the town of Stockton-on-Tees, which was where Macmillan won his first seat in the British Parliament.

Of course, British kings and queens once handed out aristocratic titles more freely, and these were regularly inheritable. Today, almost exclusively non-hereditary titles are handed out in Britain, and even then only those of the lowest rank – that of baron. The British system of aristocratic titles has five ranks, from the highest to the lowest:

  • Duke
  • Marquess
  • Earl
  • Viscount

At it has been mentioned, after Harold Macmillan, nobody has been awarded a title higher than that of baron (except for members of the royal family, who regularly receive such titles). Indeed, nobody has even received a hereditary aristocratic title since then. Since Macmillan’s title was hereditary, his grandson now also bears the title Earl of Stockton.

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