LORD AND LADY
A History of Lords and Ladies From Medieval Times to the 21st Century

Lord and Lady is typically a generic term for a person who has power, control, or authority over others. Rather than a formal nobility title, a lord is a ruler. However, a formal title was historically given to lords that had control over a specific entity, such as the Lord and Lady of the Manor or the Lord of Mann. In modern times, lord is a title generally applied as a title of peerage to personages of importance in the United Kingdom.

Etymology

The word lord can be traced back to hlāfweard, an Old English word that meant “loaf-ward,” which reflects a specific Germanic tribal custom in which the chieftain would provide food for his followers. One common misconception is that lord is the designated title for men and lady is the designated title for women. Whereas lord and lady generally are used for men and women respectively, there are some exceptions. One of the most notable is the Lord of Mann, a title held by the Queen. Additionally, Lord Mayors may be female. The word lady can be traced back to an Old English word that meant “loaf-knkeade.”

Usage Under the Feudal System

Lord had various meanings which were widely up to interpretation, and it was used for practical reasons rather than nobility titles of importance per se. An overlord held a manor or land under multiple forms of feudal land tenure. However, a liege lord was a person of power who a vassal had sworn allegiance to. Rather than terms of dignity, both uses of the word lord were factual titles that described the relationships between multiple people under the markedly stratified feudal system. In fact, the modern word “landlord” can be traced back to the usage of the word overlord. It was common dignitaries to have multiple titles as the Lord of a Manor for numerous manors. In addition, it was common for the Lord of a Manor to also be a vassal of his overlord, and his overlord would be a vassal of the King. A person with a true title of nobility would frequently also hold the title of overlord or Lord of the Manor. Whereas the significance behind an overlord has dwindled over the centuries, a person with the title Lord of the Manor is often entitled to land ownership under current legal statutes.


Historical and Current Significance of Lord of the Manor

The title “Lord of the Manor” was introduced after the Normal Conquest of 1066 to the English medieval system of feudalism. One of the primary functions of the Lord of the Manor was its function in manorial court. Essentially, the lord had the power to exercise capital punishment over tenants of his manor. Historically, legal documents recorded the title as “Lord of [the name of the manor].”  Lord of the Manor was recently used by historians to differentiate feudal barons from lords and other personages of power. Various medieval documents refer to persons of power as “Dominus” derived from Latin and “Sire” derived from Mediaeval French. The title Lord of the Manor was recognized by the British Government as one of the three aspects of a manor that impacted land registry under Her Majesty’s Land Registry.


Modern Recognition of Lord of the Manor and Land Ownership

Interestingly, modern legal cases have upheld the title in land disputes between people that currently hold the title of lord or lady, mostly in cases where the descendants of English land-owning families claim they had inherited land before modern government was formed. The United Kingdom Identity and Passport Service continue to include largely historic titles of recognition and titles of prestige on Passports as an observation. The continual observation of family lineage is often the primary documentary evidence of land ownership for the lord of a specific manor and the owner of designated land by association.

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