July 11th, 2011


Role and responsibilities of an English duke, present day

 Setting: UK, present day.

I have a character who is the current Duke of Lancaster. (For the purposes of my story, the duchy of Lancaster was not absorbed into the Crown, making my character, John Griffiths, the 17th Duke.)

Any effort at research leads me to stuff from the Regency, which is interesting reading but not what I'm looking for.

1. What would be his responsibilities as a duke, apart from being in the House of Lords, if elected to a seat? Is there anything that would require him to stay in the UK, or could he settle abroad? 

2. How would people address him in social situations? I understand that in formal situations he'd be Your Grace, but what about among friends/acquaintances he's not on a first-name basis with? Griffiths? Lancaster? 

3. More broadly, any resources on the day-to-day life and roles of the British nobility would be wonderful. Again, I seem to be able to find only Regency-era resources, and my story is set in the present day. 

4. Finally, and this is more of a culture question. Would there be any fallout from him being gay? He's very well known to the public and is a very popular subject for the tabloids, so there's not much hope of him being able to live a life of quiet obscurity with his partner. How much flack would he take, if any, from his peers and the press? His partner is American and from a working-class background. (Yes, it's one of /those/ stories. :D) Would he take any grief for marrying below his 'station' as it were?

Thanks in advance!
Being an author

Questions on hereditary peerages and seats in the House of Lords

I have some questions regarding the inheritance and use of terms such as 'dormant', 'abeyant', 'disclaimed', 'forfeit', etc. with respect to peerages and seats in the House of Lords.  Although I have reviewed Debrett's, the Parliament website, and various pages on wikipedia (including Hereditary Peer, Abeyance, Attainder, the Peerage Act of 1963, House of Lords, and the House of Lords Act of 1999), I am still not completely certain about some specifics.  Any help is appreciated.

The story takes place after the aforementioned Peerage Act of 1963, but before the House of Lords Act.  In all the questions below, I am speaking about hereditary peers, and thus hereditary (and guaranteed, considering the time period) seats in the House of Lords.  For ease of discussion, I'd like to assume that in all cases the inheritance is clear -- there is no question as to who should inherit the title or seat.

Can an under-aged child claim a title (for example, upon the death of his parents)?   If not, would the title be described as dormant?  Abeyant?  Some other term? Would the same term apply to the unclaimed seat in the House of Lords? 

As something of a follow-on to the above:  if an individual can claim a title at or before the age of majority (18), how is the seat in the House of Lords described?  Is it dormant until the peer reaches the age of 21?  This is especially confusing as there is a clause regarding disclaiming a seat in the case of succession before age 21, but claiming one's seat was (at some point) part of the 'right of passage' of inheriting a title.  (So how can you succeed to a peerage without taking your seat?)

If a title and seat have been claimed, but the peer chooses not to attend the House of Lords, is this merely described as being 'absent'?  Or is there some other term?

Thank you in advance.

Mods:  I'm sorry, I'm not sure what the appropriate tags for this are. 

A Boat For Science, and Location of Kelp Forests

The setting: Pacific ocean near San Diego(ish), nice weather, modern day
Googled: "small research vessel," Jacque Costeau and Calypso (need something smaller), "whale songs" and "recording whale songs" and "how are whale songs recorded." Found interesting tidbits on recording devices, but not much on ships.

A small group of marine biologists pull an injured merman out of the water. The biologists were just going about their regularly scheduled business, which is probably recording whales, but may change according to story needs.

What kind of ship would they have? I need it to be as small as it can possibly be (so I don't have to deal with too many people on it) and still be a lengthy trip away from land and able to handle eight feet of angry, terrified merman.

And more importantly, what does the inside look like? What would they have on board? What kind of equipment does one need for deploying buoys with recording devices attached to them and tagging whales with listening devices? I have learned from National Geographic and the Discovery Channel that one needs a long stick, but what else?