Can Anyone Become A Royal?

You've probably heard about how easy it is to become a minister these days ... websites like the Universal Life Church offer "online ordinations" for a low low price, and only ask that you not submit names to be ordained that are "obviously false" or "profane." But let's say you like the idea of adding a title to your name (like "Reverend") but don't want to deal with the moral implications of being a clergyperson or the hassle of being asked to consecrate marriages all the time. In that case, for a couple hundred clams (or possibly a lot more) you can have a royal title ... usually in less than a week!

Here's the scoop. There are probably a dozen or more online services offering titles -- everything from Lord, Lady, Baron, Baroness, Count, Countess, Duke and Duchess to Marquis, Marchioness, Viscount, Viscountess, Earl, Sir and Dame. Theoretically, anyone can get one, anywhere in the world, and you can be declared the title of your choosing -- be it the Lord of Luxembourg or the Viscount of Hoboken. A tiny parcel of land in England or Scotland is sold to you -- say one foot square -- and then is re-named "Hoboken" or whatever it is you want to be the Lord, Lady or Duke of, etc. The titles are supposedly called "peerages," but unlike most royal titles, they can't be inherited or passed on to your kids.

The most delightful thing about the sites that offer them, however, are their sales pitches:

It's frightening how people in the twenty-first century still perceive a person with a title to be richer, more intelligent and better thought of, than the average Mr. Joe Bloggs. But people do - and you can take advantage of it. If you (or your loved one) check into a hotel with a title and ring in advance I can tell you - the results are astounding! Many of visitors of this website have told me because of their title they have been given wine, fruit, and a room upgrade simply because the management are eager to improve their present class of clientele. The title holder will notice the instant change in people's attitudes. From the very first moment they realize that you have a title they will treat you as if you were royalty. And if you don't correct them - well... its hardly your fault they treat you this way - is it?

The same website goes on to promise their clientele "access to a privileged world" and "the ability to influence people effortlessly." Sounds great!

Some people, however -- notably the (real) Earl of Bradford in England, have begun to decry these online title services as fraudulent:

Con men are marketing phony baronies and dukedoms by the dozen, which they sell on the internet for thousands of pounds. "The British embassy in Washington is so worried about Americans being misled into buying fake titles that it has posted a warning about it on its website," Bradford said.

On the Earl's on website, he writes "You cannot purchase a genuine British title, with one exception, the feudal title of a Scottish baron; and certainly cannot buy a peerage title". Scottish Feudal Baronies fetch a mighty price; the Barony of MacDonald was up for sale at over £1 million."

Well, that certainly puts a crimp in my plans.

Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California
The Concept of the American 'Backyard' is Newer Than You Think
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California

Backyards are as American as apple pie and baseball. If you live in a suburban or rural area, chances are good that you have a lawn, and maybe a pool, some patio furniture, and a grill to boot.

This wasn’t always the case, though. As Smithsonian Insider reports, it wasn’t until the 1950s that Americans began to consider the backyard an extension of the home, as well as a space for recreation and relaxation. After World War II, Americans started leaving the big cities and moving to suburban homes that came equipped with private backyards. Then, after the 40-hour work week was implemented and wages started to increase, families started spending more money on patios, pools, and well-kept lawns, which became a “symbol of prosperity” in the 1950s, according to a new Smithsonian Institution exhibit.

A man mows his lawn in the 1950s
In this photo from the Smithsonian Institution's exhibit, a man mows his lawn in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington
Library in San Marino, California

Entitled "Patios, Pools, & the Invention of the American Back Yard," the exhibition includes photographs, advertisements, and articles about backyards from the 1950s and 1960s. The traveling display is currently on view at the Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum in Temple, Texas, and from there it will head to Hartford, Connecticut, in December.

Prior to the 1950s, outdoor yards were primarily workspaces, reports. Some families may have had a vegetable garden, but most yards were used to store tools, livestock, and other basic necessities.

The rise of the backyard was largely fueled by materials that were already on hand, but hadn’t been accessible to the average American during World War II. As Smithsonian Insider notes, companies that had manufactured aluminum and concrete for wartime efforts later switched to swimming pools, patio furniture, and even grilling utensils.

A family eats at a picnic table in the 1960s
A family in Mendham, New Jersey, in the 1960s
Molly Adams/Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, Maida Babson Adams American Garden Collection

At the same time, DIY projects started to come into fashion. According to an exhibit caption of a Popular Mechanics article from the 1950s, “‘Doing-it-yourself’ was advertised as an enjoyable and affordable way for families to individualize their suburban homes.” The magazine wrote at the time that “patios, eating areas, places for play and relaxation are transforming back yards throughout the nation.”

The American backyard continues to grow to this day. As Bloomberg notes, data shows that the average backyard grew three years in a row, from 2015 to 2017. The average home last year had 7048 square feet of outdoor space—plenty of room for a sizable Memorial Day cookout.

[h/t Smithsonian Insider]

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