Scottish baronetcy legitimacy dispute heading to court

Senior judges are preparing to analyse further legal argument in one of the most unusual disputes seen in a British court.

Senior judges are preparing to analyse further legal argument in one of the most unusual disputes seen in a British court.

An accountant and a businessman are fighting over a Scottish baronetcy - and the Queen has asked judges to make decisions under a piece of legislation dating back more than 150 years.

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Accountant Murray Pringle, who is in his 70s and comes from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, and businessman Simon Pringle, who is in his 50s and lives near Hastings, East Sussex, both lay claim to the baronetcy of Pringle of Stichill.

Seven judges began analysing evidence at a hearing of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London in November and are scheduled to hear more submissions from lawyers at a hearing on Monday.

The judges, who are all Supreme Court justices and are analysing the dispute at the Supreme Court building, are not expected to publish any decisions until later in the year.

They have heard that Charles II granted the baronetcy of Stichill, a village near Kelso, Roxburghshire, to Robert Pringle of Stichill - and the ‘’male heirs from his body’’ - on January 5 1683.

The 10th Baronet, Sir Steuart Pringle - a retired Royal Marine commander who survived an IRA bomb attack - died in 2013 aged 84, judges have been told.

Now his son Simon Pringle, and Murray Pringle - Simon Pringle’s second cousin - disagree over who should claim the title.

Murray Pringle says Simon should not become the 11th Baronet because there has been a ‘’break in the line of paternity’’.

His lawyers say tests have shown that Sir Steuart’s DNA ‘’did not match that of the Pringle lineage’’.

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They have suggested the problem arose following the death of the 8th Baronet, Sir Norman Pringle, in 1919.

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Judges asked for decision in Scots baronetcy dispute

Judge have been told Sir Norman and his wife Florence had three sons: Norman, Ronald - Murray’s father - and James.

In 1920 Florence had made a formal statutory declaration saying Norman was the eldest son of the eighth Baronet and was entitled to succeed to the baronetcy.

But Murray Pringle is arguing the eighth Baronet was not Norman’s father and he claims that, as Ronald’s son, he is the rightful successor to the baronetcy.

Lawyers for Simon Pringle are disputing Murray Pringle’s claim to the title.

Simon Pringle has said his father and mother - Lady Jacqueline Pringle, who died in 2012 - hoped the dispute would have been solved in their lifetimes.

The jurisdiction of the Privy Council dates back hundreds of years.

Its judicial committee acts as a final court of appeal for Commonwealth countries which have no supreme court, but it can also analyse other kinds of disputes.

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And the Queen can refer ‘’any matter’’ to the committee for ‘’consideration and report’’ under section 4 of the 1833 Judicial Committee Act.

Committee officials said that legislation had been used to bring the Stichill dispute to court - after Murray laid claim to the title.

They said a baronetcy was a hereditary title granted by the Crown - and the Queen had asked the committee for an ‘’opinion’’ as to who should be entered on the ‘’Official Roll of the Baronetage in respect of the Baronetcy of Stichill’’.