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Ex-Grocery Clerk Could Become English Earl

Retired grocery clerk Bill Capell (search) has a good reason to plan his first trip to England: He's one step away from being an earl.

A relative who died last month was the 10th Earl of Essex, and the 11th, another cousin, is 61 years old and doesn't have children to inherit the title.

Capell, a 52-year-old, born-and-bred Californian, was largely unimpressed by the news that he might become a nobleman.

"I'm a pretty laid-back guy," he said. "I've known since way back in 1966, as a teenager, when my dad got a call. It's always been on the back burner, sure, but I never really thought about it."

As the Right Honorable Lord William Capell, Capell would be entitled to put his name forward as a candidate, should one of the 95 hereditary members of the House of Lords die. He says Queen Elizabeth II (search) would formally address him as "Our right trusty and entirely beloved cousin."

If Capell does inherit the title, it would later pass to his only son, Kevin Devereaux Capell, 23, who would become the 13th Earl of Essex (search).

At his Yuba City home Tuesday, Bill Capell admitted it's been hard not to daydream about a potential retirement amid the British gentry.

One big hitch worries him, though: "I really don't want to give up my the citizenship I've had for 52 years."

In the meantime, Capell has been researching the title and his family history. He and his wife, Sandra, are planning their first trip to England to see what they think of the place -- and what the Brits think of him.

"I'm not sure they'll like an American as an earl," he said.