Two members of a Scottish family are fighting over the rights to a baronetcy in one of the most unusual legal disputes seen in a British court.

Accountant Murray Pringle, 74, of High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, and Simon Pringle, 56, a businessman who lives near Hastings, East Sussex, both lay claim to the baronetcy of Pringle of Stichill.

The Queen has asked senior judges to make decisions on the dispute under a piece of legislation dating back more than 150 years.

Seven judges are analysing evidence at a hearing of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London.

The hearing began on Wednesday and is expected to end on Thursday.

The judges, who are all Supreme Court justices, are not expected to publish a ruling until next year.

Judges have been told that Charles II granted the baronetcy of Stichill - a village near Kelso, Roxburghshire - to Robert Pringle of Stichill - and the "male heirs from his body" - on January 5 1683.

The 10th Baronet, Sir Steuart Pringle - a retired Royal Marine commander who survived an IRA bomb attack, died in 2013 aged 84, judges have heard

Now his son Simon, and Murray - Simon's second cousin - disagree over who should claim the title.

Lawyers for Murray Pringle say Simon should not become the 11th Baronet because there has been a "break in the line of paternity".

They say tests have shown that Sir Steuart's DNA "did not match that of the Pringle lineage".


James Guthrie QC, for Murray, suggested that the problem had arisen following the death of the 8th Baronet, Sir Norman Pringle, in 1919.

He said Sir Norman and wife Florence had three sons: Norman, Ronald - Murray's father - and James.

In 1920 Florence had made a formal "Statutory Declaration" saying Norman was the eldest son of the 8th Baronet and was entitled to succeed to the Baronetcy.

But Murray is arguing that the 8th Baronet was not Norman's father.

And he claims that, as Ronald's son, he is the rightful successor to the Baronetcy.

Mr Guthrie told judges that there had been "family gossip" and "tongues wagging".

But he said did not want to "make aspersions" against any Baronet or any "ladies".

Simon, whose legal team is headed by Timothy Scott QC, disputes Murray's claim.

The jurisdiction of the Privy Council dates back hundreds of years.

Its judicial committee heard appeals from countries in the British Empire.

The committee - now normally made up of a panel of Supreme Court justices - still acts as a final court of appeal for Commonwealth countries which have no supreme court.

But the committee can also analyse other kinds of disputes.

And the Queen can refer "any matter" to the committee for "consideration and report" under section 4 of the 1833 Judicial Committee Act.

Officials said that legislation had been used to bring the Stichill dispute to court - after Murray laid claim to the title.

They said a Baronetcy was a hereditary title granted by the Crown - and the Queen had asked the committee for an "opinion" as to who should be entered on the "Official Roll of the Baronetage in respect of the Baronetcy of Stichill".

The dispute is being analysed at the Supreme Court building in central London.