Burke's Peerage

Burke's Peerage Limited is a British genealogical publisher founded in 1826, when the Irish genealogist John Burke began releasing books devoted to the ancestry and heraldry of the peerage, baronetage, knightage and landed gentry of Great Britain and Ireland. His first publication, a Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage of the United Kingdom, was updated sporadically until 1847, when the company began releasing new editions every year as Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage (often shortened to just Burke's Peerage).

Burke's Peerage Limited
TypePrivate limited company
PredecessorBurke's Peerage (1826) Limited (2013–2016)
Founded1826; 196 years ago (1826) in London, England
FounderJohn Burke

Other books followed, including Burke's Landed Gentry, Burke's Colonial Gentry, and Burke's General Armory. In addition to the peerage, the Burke's publishing company produced books on royal families of Europe and Latin America, ruling families of Africa and the Middle East, distinguished families of the United States and historical families of Ireland.


Arms of office of Sir Bernard Burke
A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage of the British Empire, Sixth Edition 1839 (known better simply as Burke's Peerage)

The firm was established in 1826 by John Burke (1786–1848), progenitor of a dynasty of genealogists and heralds. His son Sir John Bernard Burke (1814–1892) was Ulster King of Arms (1853–1892) and his grandson, Sir Henry Farnham Burke (1859–1930), was Garter Principal King of Arms (1919–1930). After his death, ownership passed through a variety of people.

Apart from the Burke family, editors have included Arthur Charles Fox-Davies, Alfred Trego Butler, Leslie Gilbert Pine, Peter Townend, and Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd.

From 1974 to 1983, Jeremy Norman was chairman of the company, taking the role while Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd was editor.[1] His fellow directors included Patrick, Lord Lichfield, and John Brooke-Little. Under Norman's chairmanship, new volumes were published on royal families, Irish genealogy, and country houses of the British Isles. In 1984, the Burke's Peerage titles were separated and sold: Burke’s Peerage itself was acquired by Frederik Jan Gustav Floris, Baron van Pallandt, while Burke’s Landed Gentry and other titles were sold to other buyers.[2]


In 1877, the Oxford professor Edward Augustus Freeman criticised the accuracy of Burke's[3] and said that it contained pedigrees that were

purely mythical – if indeed mythical is not too respectable a name for what must be in many cases the work of deliberate invention [... and] all but invariably false. As a rule, it is not only false, but impossible [...] not merely fictions, but exactly that kind of fiction which is, in its beginning, deliberate and interested falsehood.[4]

Oscar Wilde in the play A Woman of No Importance wrote: "You should study the Peerage, Gerald. It is the one book a young man about town should know thoroughly, and it is the best thing in fiction the English have ever done!" In 1901, the historian J. Horace Round wrote of Burke's "old fables" and "grotesquely impossible tales".[3]

More recent editions have been more scrupulously checked and rewritten for accuracy, notably under the chief editorship, from 1949 to 1959, of L. G. Pine and Hugh Massingberd (1971–1983).[5] Pine was particularly sceptical regarding many families' claims to antiquity, saying: "If everybody who claims to have come over with the Conqueror were right, William must have landed with 200,000 men-at-arms instead of about 12,000."[6]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Noel Gerard, "Bursting out of the closet", The Spectator, 22 November 2006, accessed 27 January 2021
  2. ^ "Burke's Peerage – History", Burke's Peerage, accessed 27 January 2021
  3. ^ a b Round, J. Horace (1901), Studies in Peerage and Family History, London, ISBN 0-8063-0426-X, retrieved 25 March 2018
  4. ^ Freeman, Edward A. (June 1877), "Pedigrees and Pedigree-Makers", Contemporary Review, vol. XXX, pp. 11 to 41
  5. ^ Burke's Landed Gentry 18th Edition (1972), editorial preface, Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd
  6. ^ "Twentieth Century Squires", Time, 10 December 1951

External linksEdit

Online editionsEdit