DNA & the Historical Bastard

Charles II granted the baronetcy of Stichill to Robert Pringle of Stichill and the “male heirs from his body” in January 1683.

Steuart Robert Pringle, the tenth baronet of Pringle of Stichill died in 2013. He had inherited the title in 1961 from his father Norman Hamilton Pringle who had inherited it in 1919 from his father Norman Robert Pringle without opposition. Notwithstanding suspicions that Norman Hamilton Pringle was the product of an affair of his mother, Lady Florence Pringle, and another man, weeks before her wedding in 1902.

Sir Norman and wife Florence had three sons: Norman, Ronald and James. In 1920 Florence made a “statutory declaration” that Norman was the eldest son of the 8th Baronet and was entitled to succeed to the Baronetcy. Murray, argued that the 8th Baronet was not Norman’s father and that, as Ronald’s son, he is the rightful successor to the Baronetcy.

In 2013 the succession was disputed. Simon Pringle, son of the tenth baronet, had a claim but it was challenged by his second cousin, Murray Pringle claiming that Simon’s grandfather, was not the legitimate son of the eighth baronet, and that the succession should therefore have passed to him through his grandfather. Scottish law states that a baronetcy as a title of honour, vests by ‘right of blood’ – that is, by biological paternity.

Murray persuaded the tenth baronet, Sir Steuart Pringle, to provide a DNA sample during his lifetime as part of a project on the history of the Pringle family. That sample convincingly proved that the eighth baronet is Norman Murray Pringle’s grandfather.

Simon Pringle, did not dispute this, but sought to have the claim time-barred and the DNA evidence excluded. However, these were dismissed and allowed Norman Murray Pringle’s challenge for succession to the baronetcy.

The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council stated that in the past, the absence of scientific evidence meant that the presumption of legitimacy based on assertions that irregular procreations had occurred in the distant past were particularly difficult to establish. Now DNA evidence can reopen a family succession many generations into the past.

On 27th June 2016 Sir Ronald Steuart Pringle and his son Sir Norman Murray Pringle were entered onto the Official Roll of the Baronetage, as the 9th and 10th Baronets, and Norman Hamilton Pringle and his son Steuart Robert Pringle were removed from the Roll.

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