No one goes home empty-handed at the Oscars.
Per tradition, Distinctive Assets, a celebrity-oriented marketing company in Los Angeles, has assembled an over-the-top gift package reportedly worth more than $100,000. Nominees for best actor, director, and other categories will receive a grab bag of stuff and services, including age-defying elixirs, spa treatments, liposuction sessions, grocery-store candies and biscuits, and free project-management services for their next home renovation.
But the most talked about item in this year’s “Everyone Wins” gift bag is a certificate for a parcel of land in Scotland that also bestows titles to its owners.
This isn’t quite as outrageous as it sounds. Provided by the Scottish charity Highland Titles, the gift illustrates a novel fundraising scheme: $45, buys you one square foot of land in western Scotland’s Glencoe Wood—plus the title of lady, lord, or laird (albeit just for show). Oscar nominees are likely receiving the top-tier $225 package, which includes a deed for a 100-square-foot plot and all the heraldry and plaid-branded accouterments that evoke Scottish peerage.
Founded by retired zoologist Peter Bevis and his daughter Laura in 2006, Highland Titles began by selling souvenir land parcels on eBay to raise money to buy barren and over-farmed land to rehabilitate. They have since acquired 400 acres of land with hopes of starting of a network of nature preserves across Scotland.
The business of selling aristocratic titles
Highland Titles is just one of several companies capitalizing on the mystique of English nobility. Businesses like Nobility Titles, Elite Titles, and Established Titles tempt customers with a similar gimmick. Sealand, a micronation founded in a derelict oil rig off the coast of Suffolk, England, also peddles royal titles for cash.
The practice also has historical precedence. King James I, for instance, sold off aristocratic titles to fund the war with Ireland. In 1611, he created a new order of “baronet”—a rank between a knight and a baron—for anyone who donated the equivalent of $265,000 in today’s money.
Writing for The Hustle, Juliet Bennett Rylah reports that Scottish barony titles are the only recognized peerage title available today. For $178,000, one can be the Lord or Lady of Aberdeenshire, a title that dates back to the 12th century. One can also sneak into the Germany’s noble class by paying a hefty adoption fee to a royal.
Even though today’s titles-for-sale are more fiction than fact, that hasn’t prevented thousands from paying to add an air of aristocracy to their name. According to Highland Titles’ website, the company has sold land to 350,000 self-made lairds around the world.