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The Baronial Court in Scotland

Much of the background material for this page and those below it has been taken from the monograph "The Baron's Court" by Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw Bt, Advocate, Rothesay Herald of Arms published by the Convention of The Baronage of Scotland ISBN 0 9514545 2 8.


Barony lands which had been "of New United, Erected, Annexed, Creat and Incorporated into an hail and free Barrony" by the Crown, included in the original grant the heritable rights of jurisdiction and the right to the profits of justice in the area. These rights were awarded as part of the Scottish monarchs’ attempts to bring the kingdom under their control and to hold the feudal allegiance of the landowners.

In 1747, as efforts were hurriedly made to limit the influence of Highland chiefs following the Jacobite Rising of 1745-46, the Abolition of Heritable Jurisdictions (Scotland) Act removed the right of the great barons the dukes and earls to hold courts which were almost the equal of the Crown courts. Up until that time, they had jurisdictions called regalities or sheriffdoms which could bring to trial almost anyone accused of almost any crime other than treason, murder, rape and arson. When these rights were swept away by the 1747 Act, the chiefs and earls were compensated for losing their profits, but they did retain the much less sweeping powers of the baronial court.

The baron’s historic jurisdiction varied according to the wording of the grant at the time the lands were erected into a barony; there was no standard set of rights or obligations. The baronial courts in their truncated form were used largely to enforce payment of rents on the laird's estate.