Buying a lordship: Aristocracy opens itself to the highest bidders

Thinking of joining the English aristocracy? It's easier than you may think. All it takes is several thousand dollars and the time to go to an auction.

The price of buying yourself a ``lordship of the manor,'' one of England's oldest titles, is shooting up these days as more people cash in on a fast-growing investment.

For a minimum of $8,900 anyone can become lord of a piece of land without actually owning it.

All the aspiring aristocrat receives in return is a few old documents, the title, and sometimes some odd rights -- such as holding fairs on no-longer existent greens and claiming ships wrecked on manors that are now land-locked.

Buyers are also attracted by the lure of the right to ownership of any minerals found under the manor, with the exception of coal and gold.

``Lordship prices have risen 40 percent this year and they have been performing above the rate of inflation and most property investments,'' said Mark Foley of land agents Bernard Thorpe and Partners.

They have sold almost 100 lordships at two auctions held this year.

The buyer does not, however, have the right to put ``Lord'' in front of his name, nor take a seat in Britain's House of Lords, the upper chamber of Parliament.

``It's really a way of buying oneself into English history,'' said Peter Spurrier, an expert in family history and titles.

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