A Baronet is an hereditary honour bestowed by the Sovereign of the United Kingdom, higher in the Order of Precedence than a Knight, but lower than a Baron. Traditionally different from the five degrees of Peerage since a Baronetcy did not entitle the holder to a seat in the House of Lords and allowed election to the House of Commons, this distinction is now largely academic.
Unlike the peerage, the baronetage was not limited to citizens of the United Kingdom or even of the Commonwealth. A number of baronetcies were conferred upon non-Britons from New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Iraq, India, Holland, Sweden and even the United States.
Prominent citizens were regularly created baronets until the election of Harold Wilson's Labour Government in 1964. Creation of hereditary peers and baronets almost wholly ceased thereafter, the exceptions being the few hereditary peers (without heirs) cautiously created during Margaret Thatcher's premiership, the traditional Earldom for retired Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and the baronetcy John Major was "persuaded" to create as an hereditary honour for Denis Thatcher, husband of retired Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. Otherwise, the tradition of creating hereditary honours and, therefore, baronetcies, has almost fully fallen out of favour in political circles.
- Select Committee on Public Administration, Minutes of Evidence, Examination of Witness (Questions 860-879), 20 MAY 2004, RT HON JOHN MAJOR CH, http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200304/cmselect/cmpubadm/212/4052005.htm