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Scotsman Finally Gains Official Recognition of Title

June 3, 1986

EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) _ When John Henry Borthwick went to his dentist with a broken tooth he was a retired army major. While there he became the 23rd Lord Borthwick, one of whose ancestors defended the castle against Cromwell.

Malcolm Innes, an Edinburgh lawyer who is Lord Lyon King of Arms and thus has the power to decide such issues, announced Monday that Borthwick, 80, had succeeded in being recognized as the inheritor of the peerage created about 1452.

The wealthy landowner from Crookston, near Edinburgh, and his forebears had been trying to get the job done for 212 years. Some documents that ultimately proved critical were found in a cardboard box beneath his billiard table.

Borthwick has always been so certain of his right to the title that he has called himself Lord Borthwick for more than 40 years.

Innes presides over the Lyon Court, which in reality an office with a small staff. He is officially designated a member of Queen Elizabeth II’s household in Scotland.

His ruling means that, if he wishes, Borthwick may sit in the House of Lords, the unelected second chamber of the British Parliament.

Whether he will do so is not known. He declined comment on the official confirmation of his title, announced while he was in the dentist’s office.

Hugh Peskett, a freelance genealogist who did most of the research, said: ″I am sure Lord Borthwick will be overjoyed at the judgment. I would regard this as my most difficult case so far because of the elusive evidence.″

Innes said in a statement that King James II created the peerage in about 1452, when Scotland was independent.

In 1513, the fourth Lord Borthwick was guardian of the infant Scottish King James V. In 1567, the sixth Lord Borthwick entertained Mary Queen of Scots at Borthwick Castle and, in 1650, the eighth Lord Borthwick defended the castle against Oliver Cromwell, who had overthrown King Charles I.

Noblemen were out of fashion in the Cromwell period, Britain briefly became a republic and rights to the peerage fell into doubt.

Borthwick’s great-great-great-grandfather submitted an unsuccessful claim for recognition in 1774. It was revived 1808, 1910 and 1944.

More than 200 documents were submitted to the Lyon Court in the latest case.

Peskett, who traced President Reagan’s ancestry to the village of Ballyporeen in Ireland, said crucial documents were found in the archives of the Vatican - and in the box under the billiard table.

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