I grew up in Argyll and can recall the tartan-swathed 11th Duke and Duchess. It is reassuring all these years later to be confirmed in my early impression that all this stuff about Dukes, Duchesses and Clan Chiefs was a total fraud, which crippled rural Scotland with attitudes of deference – not to mention fear of eviction.
Even by the standards of Scottish pseudo-aristocracy, that Duke was an accident, inheriting the title by virtue of being great-grandson of the eighth Duke. The current one is a whisky salesman – or brand ambassador as they call it in these circles – while running Inveraray Castle as a trinket emporium.
That’s harmless enough. However, the real value of family continuity – however contrived – is that it carries land with it. Being a Duke brings control over vast acreages and the people who live on them, with no sign of change.
If Scotland wants to get scandalised, that would be a better place to start. The 11th Duke of Argyll died half a century ago. Argyll Estates live on, at least 50,000 acres in mid-Argyll, Tiree and the Ross of Mull.
The current Duke, opposing Scottish land reform, said: “You go to a French château and it is crumbling and everything inside has been sold because it has been handed to numerous different generations. The history has gone . . .” Sounds like a good idea to me, especially in the case of Inverary!