THE PREMIER EARL
As is well known, the premier Dukedom in England is held by a Catholic, and, until the death of the seventeenth Earl of Shrewsbury in 1856, the premier Earldom also. But for a somewhat curious decision of the House of Lords in 1869, after a ten years’ trial, the latter distinction might still be held by a Catholic. In 1859 Mr. Simon Thomas Scrope, of Danby, the male representative of the great medieval house of Scrope, claimed the Earldom of Wiltes, which had been conferred upon the eldest son of the first Lord Scrope of Bolton in 1379. The Earl of Wiltes, who among other distinctions was Lord of the Isle of Man, Constable of Bamburgh, Chamberlain of the Household, and a Knight of the Garter, resisted the Lancastrian usurpation and was executed and afterwards attainted, both acts being of doubtful legality. The decision of the House of Lords caused considerable dissatisfaction, for, as Lord Houghton pointed out, it unsettled the titles of several peers, and a protest signed by thirteen peers was laid before the House. It has even been suggested that the odium theologicum [“theological hatred”] may have had something to do with a decision which ran counter to that given in the case of the Earldom of Devon in 1831. Simon Thomas Scrope was the grandfather of the Mr. Stephen Scrope whose death has just been announced. Had his claim succeeded, the present head of the family, Mr. Henry Aloysius Scrope, Mr. Stephen Scrope’s elder brother, would be twenty-second Earl of Wiltes and premier Earl of England.
The above text was found on p.30, 26th December 1936, in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .