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Former rancher, now peer

The May 18 1931 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this short article about a former Canadian rancher who was now living unhappily as a peer in England.

A search yielded a Wikipedia article about the Earls of Egmont and a Maclean’s article from 1951 about the 11th Earl, who was the son mentioned in this article. Between them, they tell quite a story.

The earldom of Egmont was originally an Irish peerage. In 1762, the second Earl of Egmont was created Baron Lovel and Holland, a British peerage, earning him a seat in the House of Lords. An additional British peerage, the baronetcy of Arden, also eventually became attached to the earldom of Egmont.

In 1929, the 9th Earl of Egmont passed away. His nearest heir was the man described in this article. He was 55 years old and a rancher in Priddis, Alberta, when he was informed that he was now the Earl of Egmont, and thus was entitled to live at the family estate, Avon Castle in Ringwood, Hampshire. (The Wikipedia article states that the 10th Earl’s claim to his earldom was not officially established during his lifetime. But he did get to live in the castle, so I would assume that he was generally considered the prime candidate.)

After thinking it over for a few days, the 10th Earl of Egmont headed off to his new home. The British press greeted him with no small measure of disdain, as he was not your typical Earl. To make things worse, he had to pay legal fees, as two other people attempted to claim the earldom. To pay these fees, he sold off a number of family paintings. The combined effects of all of this turned him and his son into hermits leading unhappy lives.

Unfortunately, things didn’t get better for the 10th Earl – they got worse, as he was killed in an auto accident near Southampton in 1932. A month later, his son, Frederick George Moore Perceval, became the 11th Earl of Egmont – or, to give him his full list of titles as mentioned in the Maclean’s article:

  • The 11th Earl of Egmont
  • Viscount Perceval of Kanturk
  • Baron Perceval of Burton
  • Baron Arden of Lohart Castle
  • Lord Lovel and Holland of Enmore
  • Baron Arden of Arden, 11th Baronet

The new 11th Earl decided that he would much rather be a farmer in Alberta than an Earl living in a castle. He sold off the castle, married the granddaughter of a superintendent of the North West Mounted Police, set up a farm that he named “Little Avon”, and settled down to what appears to have been a happy and prosperous life.

The 11th Earl of Egmont (his neighbours called him Freddie) lived for half a century after the Maclean’s article came out, passing away in 2001. His son, born in 1934, became the 12th Earl. He passed away in 2011; at this point, the earldom became extinct.

I found an obituary for the 12th Earl, which indicated that he had been a rancher in Nanton, Alberta, but did not mention that he was also an earl. According to the obituary, the 12th Earl was survived by a brother; I’m not sure why the brother didn’t become the 13th Earl, but perhaps he now needed to be a British citizen to be an earl. Or something. I’m not sure how this works these days.

I also found a photograph of the 10th Earl (the man in the original article above, if you’ve lost track). He looks like pretty much exactly what he was: a Prairie farmer who had been on the receiving end of a whole lot of surprises.

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