Wednesday, October 09, 2013

The market for titles and passports. (Who do YOU want to be?)

I’m thinking of setting up a home business.

Would it be legal to set our condo up as some sort of kingdom, of the hail, hail Freedonia variety?

Beaconhillia? Swanboatswana?

After all, what makes any kingdom legitimate?

A man’s home is his kingdom. A woman’s home is her queendom.

We can issue nifty titles to those looking to plump up their c.v. and who want ever so badly to get invited to swell parties where folks want to rub elbows with the Duchess of Beaonhillia or the Earl of Swanboatswana.

I bet I could come up with a swell coat of arms.

And we won’t charge much for our titles, either.

We won’t be able to, given the competition that’s out there from countries that someone has actually heard of.

Like King Kigeli V Ndahindurwa or Rwanda.

King K has been off the thrown for over 50 years, and he’s almost dead broke. But better off the thrown than off with his head. And an ex-king needs to make a living.  So he issues “orders and titles of nobility.” He doesn’t charge outright but, rather, solicits donations.

Cash payments usually range from $1,000 to $8,000, he says. Goods or services will do. A portrait painter was rewarded with the title of baron in July. The royal dentist, who has done $30,000 of unpaid work, is under consideration for an honor. So is the king’s tailor. (Source: The Economist.)

If you don’t have $1-8K, or the ability to fill in a cavity in a molar, a medal declaring you a member of the Imperial Order of the Dragon of Annam, a Vietnamese decoration, can be had for $38. Of course, this may be a bit of a fake, and “the Vietnamese royal website deplores” it.

And even the King K titles may be suspect:

Pier Felice degli Uberti, president of the International Commission on Orders of Chivalry, an academic body, finds Kigeli V’s trade in titles “very sad”. He has warned the ex-king that the titles do not form part of his historical tradition and should not be awarded.

Pier Felice degli Uberti may sneer at King Kigeli V, but I’m not that impressed with Pier Felice’s organization, which is not exactly up to date.  But maybe nothing’s changed in the world of chivalry since 2007, when the most recent report was issued.

The report is quite a wade-through, but I was a bit disappointed to find that Swanboatswana may not be a possibility:

4) Although, at one time - many centuries ago - private people of high standing could and did create some independent orders of knighthood, some among which came, in due course, to gain considerable prestige and obtained formal validity from the Church and the Crown, such rights of creation of orders have long since fallen into desuetude and, nowadays, orders of chivalry as we understand the term must always stem from or be - by
longstanding uninterrupted tradition - under the protection of heads or of houses of recognised sovereign rank.

While we are, indeed, private people, I don’t know how high our standing is. Plus there’s the flat-out fact that the rights to create orders of knighthood and the like “have long since fallen into desuetude.”

Speaking of things falling into desuetude, how about the very word desuetude? Maybe royals and other chivalrous types still use it.

The Germans, not surprising, have made something of a formal business of entitlement:

A Berlin-based broker, GVS Consult, puts clients in touch with German aristocrats willing to make their surnames available through adoption or marriage.

But this will cost you a lot more than dental work.

The title “Freiherr von” typically costs €70,000 ($94,000); the more recognisable “Baron von” is up to €100,000, whereas “Prinz” can be as much as €1.5m.

It’s illegal to sell British titles, so you’ll never be the Prince of Wales or the Duchess of Kent. (For free, you can call yourself the Duke of Earl, and you’ll even have your very own theme song.)

But, hoot mon,

…a legal quirk creates a market in Scottish baronies, “lairdships” or “manorial lordships”. These are merely titles of ownership. But that does not deter buyers. Cicci Rikanovic, a Swedish-Croatian, became “Lady Cicci Rikanovic of Chaol Ghleann” after she purchased a single square foot of land from the privately owned Dunans Castle for €45 in June.

Now that’s the gift for the person who has everything.

If you’re more inclined toward fanfare for the common man, and want to actually move someplace and live without a title, “several European countries [are] selling visas to foreign investors; others are slashing their prices.”

Interestingly, it’s a lot more costly to secure a visa than it is to become a German Prinz.

Christian Kälin of Henley & Partners, a consultancy, says Portugal’s Golden Residence Permit is the “most attractive in Europe”. It needs investment of €1m ($1.3m) in financial assets over five years, €500,000 in property or the creation of ten jobs. Spain is mulling a “golden visa” at the same price. Ireland asks for a donation or investment of €500,000 (it cut this from €1m in July).

Countries on the EU’s fringes are keen too. Macedonia’s scheme costs €400,000. An Albanian law allows naturalization when the country’s “scientific, economic and cultural interest” is at stake….

Five countries will provide the right kind of investors with passports particularly swiftly. Two are in the EU: Austria and Cyprus, where the cash-strapped government has just cut its price from €10m to €2.5m. The others are Caribbean: St Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, and Dominica. Their passports bring not just camouflage but also some handy visa-free travel.(Source: The Economist.)

Buyers include those from iffy or repressive countries, as well as “citizens of rich countries who wish to disguise their origins when visiting dangerous places.” (Multiple sets of papers are advised.)

I wouldn’t mind having an EU passport in my back pocket, if only to cruise through the control lines in European countries.

Not that I have any intention of giving up my U.S. (although I have imagined a number of scenarios under which I would want to high-tail it out of Dodge).

And as the Queen of Beaconhillia – all 1240 square feet of it – I do feel somewhat compelled to stay put. Especially if I can figure out how to make a go of my title business. (I’m afraid it will be a long while before we’re able to issue passports.)

No comments: