South Scotland

Pringle of Stichill baronetcy battle won by accountant

Murray Pringle Image copyright PA
Image caption Judges ruled Murray Pringle was the heir to the historic Borders title

An accountant from High Wycombe has won a legal fight over a historic baronetcy in the Scottish Borders.

Murray Pringle and businessman Simon Pringle, from near Hastings, both laid claim to the baronetcy of Pringle of Stichill in the Borders.

Seven judges have analysed evidence at hearings of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London.

The Queen had asked for a ruling under a piece of legislation dating back more than 150 years.

Judges heard that Charles II granted the baronetcy of Stichill - a village near Kelso - to Robert Pringle of Stichill and the "male heirs from his body" in January 1683.

The 10th baronet, Sir Steuart Pringle - a retired Royal Marines commander who survived an IRA bomb attack - died in 2013 aged 84.

His son, Simon Pringle, and Murray Pringle - Simon Pringle's second cousin - disagreed over who should claim the title.

Murray Pringle said Simon Pringle should not become the 11th baronet because there had been a "break in the line of paternity".

Image copyright PA
Image caption The ruling went against Simon Pringle's claim to the baronetcy

His lawyers said tests had shown that Sir Steuart's DNA "did not match that of the Pringle lineage".

They had suggested that the problem arose following the death of the 8th baronet, Sir Norman Pringle, in 1919.

Judges were told that Sir Norman and his wife Florence had three sons, Norman, Ronald - Murray's father - and James.

In 1920 Florence Pringle made a formal statutory declaration saying Norman was the eldest son of the 8th baronet and was entitled to succeed to the baronetcy.

However, Murray Pringle argued the 8th baronet was not Norman's father and claimed that, as Ronald's son, he was the rightful successor.

Lawyers for Simon Pringle disputed Murray Pringle's claim.

'High degree of probability'

Simon Pringle had said his father and mother - Lady Jacqueline Pringle, who died in 2012 - had hoped the dispute would be solved in their lifetimes.

He said he was glad that judges had been asked for a ruling.

Judges analysed evidence in the baronetcy case at a hearing of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London in November.

They said, in a ruling, that DNA evidence demonstrated to "a high degree of probability" that Norman was not the son of the 8th baronet - and they said there was no legal ground for excluding DNA evidence.

On that basis they had concluded that Simon Pringle was not the "heir male" of the 1st baronet.

They said Murray Pringle was the grandson of the 8th baronet and was therefore entitled to succeed.

In a statement released through his solicitor Nick Stotesbury - who works for Bachelors Solicitors - Simon Pringle said he had no complaints about the decision.

"I want to congratulate Murray for winning the verdict and express the hope that he and his successors will wear the title as honourably as my father," he said.

"This was a horrible ordeal for my parents, and the result is the opposite of the one which they would have wanted.

"However, I believe there would have been relief that the question is resolved and admiration for the process that led to the verdict."

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