Monday, June 2, 2014

Regency Forms of Address

by Susanne Dietze

What to do when one encounters a member of British peerage while out and about (or when writing a British-set historical novel)? What does one call the Earl's mama? What's the difference between a baron and a viscount? In movies, lords are often called Your Majesty or Your Grace. Is that accurate?

The answer to that last question is a resounding no. And as for the earlier questions, well...that's tricky. One addresses members of the peerage according to a particular set of rules.

First of all, Your Majesty is reserved for the Sovereign (today, Queen Elizabeth II). In the Regency period, the Prince Regent was always  addressed as Your Royal Highness, and after that, Sir. (Today, Prince Charles is styled the same way.)

Following the Royal Family, the peerage has five descending ranks: Duke, Marquess, Earl, Viscount, and Baron. While a few women were and are peeresses in their own right, the majority of peers are men and they are considered noble. Wives and children of peers are considered commoners (Lady Diana Spencer, daughter of an earl, was a commoner when she married Prince Charles--even though she became the Princess of Wales, she was not a princess in her own right and was still a commoner). Children, primarily first-born sons, sometimes receive a courtesy title of lesser rank, but it is not until their father dies that the eldest son inherits the father's title and is considered a peer rather than a commoner.

Surnames are not the same as titles, by the way. Well, I take that back, in the case of Lady Diana Spencer's family. Her father was Earl Spencer and their surname is Spencer, but that's the only example I can think of off the top of my head (and note, he's not the Earl OF Spencer. The "of" is omitted is the surname and the title are the same.). Titles are often associated with a place, such as Devonshire or Argyll. Think of Downton Abbey, where the family surname is Crawley, but the title is Grantham. Grantham refers to the area (the village is called Grantham, for example).

On another note, first names were not always used by noblemen during the Regency. Often, from birth to adulthood, a peer was referred to by his title rather than his first name, even by his close family. But not always.

Now for my Forms of Address list. I hope it's handy and helpful, but please note it's only a guide that may not be appropriate for every situation. I have also included Lords of Parliament in my list, which is a Scottish title. You'll see Baronets listed, too, although they are not peers but commoners. However, the title is hereditary and they are included in published Peerages listing Who's Who and Whom Enters the Dining Room first (yes, there are such things, and there have been for centuries).

Duke  (David Moneybags, the Duke of Bigbucks)
   Introduced as:   His Grace the Duke of Bigbucks
   Referred to as: His Grace
   In Speech: Your Grace

Duchess (Davinia Moneybags, the Duchess of Bigbucks)
    Introduced as: Her Grace the Duchess of Bigbucks
    Referred to as: Her Grace
    In Speech: Your Grace
    Dowager: Her Grace Elinor, Duchess of Bigbucks or Her Grace the Dowager Duchess of Bigbucks

Eldest Son (George Moneybags, The Marquess of Midas -- courtesy title)
    Introduced as: The Marquess of Midas
    In Speech: Lord Midas

Younger Son (Henry Moneybags)
    Introduced as: Lord Henry Moneybags
    In Speech: Lord Henry

Daughter (Olivia Moneybags)
    Introduced as: Lady Olivia  Moneybags
    In Speech: Lady Olivia

MARQUESS (Sometimes Marquis)

Marquess (John Awesome, the Marquess of Fabulous)
    Introduced as: The Marquess of Fabulous
    Referred to as: Lord Fabulous
    In Speech: Lord Fabulous, My Lord, or Your Lordship
    Referred to by employee as: My Lord or Your Lordship

Marchioness (Emily Awesome, the Marchioness of Fabulous)
    Introduced as: The Marchioness of Fabulous
    Referred to as: Lady Fabulous
    In Speech: Lady Fabulous, Madam (not my lady)
    Referred to by employee as: My Lady, Your Ladyship
    Dowager: Mary, Marchioness of Fabulous, or the Dowager Marchioness of Fabulous

Eldest Son (Charles Awesome, the Earl of Cool -- courtesy title)
    Introduced as: The Earl of Cool
    In Speech: Lord Cool

Younger Son (William Awesome)
    Introduced as: Lord William Awesome
    In Speech: Lord William

Daughter (Sarah Awesome)
    Introduced as: Lady Sarah Awesome
    In Speech: Lady Sarah


Earl (Sylvester Goodlooks, the Earl of Handsome)
    Introduced as: The Earl of Handsome
    Referred to as: Lord Handsome
    In Speech: Lord Handsome, My Lord, or Your Lordship
    Referred to by employee as: My Lord or Your Lordship

Countess (Jane Goodlooks, the Countess of Handsome)
    Introduced as: The Countess of Handsome
    Referred to as: Lady Handsome
    In Speech: Lady Handsome, Your Ladyship (not my lady)
    Referred to by employee as: My Lady or Your Ladyship
    Dowager: Elizabeth, Countess of Handsome or The Dowager Countess of Handsome

Eldest Son (Andrew Goodlooks, the Viscount Comely--courtesy title)
    Introduced as: The Viscount Comely
    In Speech: Lord Comely

Younger Son (The Honorable Bertram Goodlooks--note "Honorable" only occurred in writing, never in speech)
    Introduced as: Mr. Bertram Goodlooks
    In Speech: Mr. Goodlooks

Daughter (Georgiana Goodlooks)
    Introduced as: Lady Georgiana Goodlooks
    In Speech: Lady Georgiana


Viscount (Edmund Jewel, the Viscount Diamond--note, there is no "of" in the title)
    Introduced as: The Viscount Diamond
    Referred to as: Lord Diamond
    In Speech: Lord Diamond, My Lord
    Referred to by employee as: My Lord, or Your Lordship

Viscountess (Gemma Jewel, the Viscountess Diamond)
    Introduced as: The Viscountess Diamond
    Referred to as: Lady Diamond
    In Speech: Lady Diamond, Madam (not My Lady)
    Referred to by employee as: My Lady
    Dowager: Sapphira, Viscountess Diamond, or The Dowager Viscountess Diamond

Eldest Son (The Honorable Robert Jewel)
    Introduced as: Mr. Robert Jewel
    In Speech: Mr. Jewel

Younger Son (The Honorable Giles Jewel)
    Introduced as: Mr. Giles Jewel
    In Speech: Mr. Jewel

Eldest Daughter (The Honorable Emeraldine Jewel)
    Introduced as: Miss Emeraldine Jewel
    In Speech: Miss Jewel

Younger Daughter (The Honorable Pearl Jewel)
    Introduced as: Miss Pearl Jewel
    In Speech: Miss Pearl Jewel (includes first name)


Baron (Peter Storehouse, Baron Gold)
    Introduced as: The Lord Gold
    Referred to as: Lord Gold
    In Speech: My Lord or Your Lordship
    Referred to by employee as: My Lord or Your Lordship

Baroness (Eliza Storehouse, Baroness Gold)
    Introduced as: The Lady Gold
    Referred to as: Lady Gold, Madam (not my lady)
    In Speech: Lady Gold
    Referred to by employee as: Your Ladyship
    Dowager: The Right Hon. the Dowager Lady Gold or Caroline, Lady Gold

Son (The Honorable Hugh Storehouse)
    Introduced as: Mr. Hugh Storehouse
    In Speech: Mr. Storehouse

Eldest Daughter (The Honorable Aurora Storehouse)
    Introduced as: Miss Aurora Storehouse
    In Speech: Miss Storehouse

Younger Daughter (The Honorable Cassandra Storehouse)
    Introduced as: Miss Cassandra Storehouse
    In Speech: Miss Cassandra Storehouse

(LORD OF PARLIAMENT -- a Scottish title which would fall here in order of succession)

Lord of Parliament (Angus MacDonald, The Lord Haggis)
    Introduced as: The Lord Haggis
    Referred to as: Lord Haggis
    In Speech: My Lord
    Referred to by employee as: My Lord

Lady (Flora MacDonald, Lady Haggis)
    Introduced as:   The Lady Haggis
    Referred to as: Lady Haggis
    In Speech: Lady Haggis
    Referred to by employee as: Your ladyship

Oldest Son (Alexander MacDonald, The Master of Haggis)
    Introduced as: The Master of Haggis
    Referred to as: The Master
    In Speech: The Master

Younger Son (Fergus MacDonald)
    Introduced as: Mr. Fergus MacDonald
    In Speech: Mr. MacDonald

Daughter (Fiona MacDonald)
    Introduced as: Miss Flora MacDonald
    In Speech: Miss MacDonald


Baronet (Thomas Pleasant)
    Introduced as: Sir Thomas Pleasant
    Referred to as: Sir Thomas
    In Speech: Sir Thomas
    Referred to by employee as: Sir Thomas

Wife (Anne Pleasant)
    Introduced as: Lady Anne Pleasant
    Referred to as: Lady Pleasant, Madam
    In Speech: Lady Pleasant, Your Ladyship
    Referred to by employee as: My Lady
    Dowager: Dowager Lady Pleasant

Son (Edward Pleasant)
    Introduced as: Mr. Edward Pleasant
    In Speech: Mr. Pleasant

Eldest Daughter (Lydia Pleasant)
    Introduced as: Miss Lydia Pleasant
    In Speech: Miss Pleasant

Younger Daughter (Maria Pleasant)
    Introduced as: Miss Maria Pleasant
    In Speech: Miss Maria Pleasant


Knight (Richard Braveheart)
    Sir Richard Braveheart

Wife (Caroline)
    Lady Braveheart

The various orders of knighthood are not hereditary.
Taken from my website. For more tidbits about the Regency and Victorian Americana, pop on over!


  1. Replies
    1. This stuff can be so confusing. I needed to make a list so I can keep track a little easier!

  2. Very fun! And now I'll be mentally editing all the movies and TV shows that get it wrong!

    1. LOL. I yell at the TV when somebody calls a prince "Your Grace" or "Your Majesty" or whatever. As if it helps.

  3. Oh, bless you for this list! I'm saving it for future use. :D

  4. well, you had some fun with the list despite how much work it was to figure it out...
    If this ever comes up for me, I'll refer to the list and THEN I'll ask you to correct me.

    1. I should have stated that I probably have an error or two in there...this stuff gets so confusing.

  5. Wow. My head is spinning. This is quite the list, Susie. If I ever write a Regency, I'm definitely consulting YOU! ;)

    1. LOL Suzie. It's fun for me! And you could totally write a Regency, you know.

  6. Good list, Susie!

    Can I add that the courtesy title was the father's next highest title. Titles were often awarded for service to the crown, and a man might be elevated to a higher title for particular service. So, if the sixth Baron ServedtheKing chose the right side in the War of Roses, he might be elevated by the king to the first Earl of Chosetherightside. His eldest son would be Baron ServedtheKing (because the family still retains that title).

    I had to research the Sutherland titles for a book I was writing (later rejected -- bummer), and that's a fascinating one. There are now 2 branches of the family -- a duke (in England) and an earl (in Scotland). At one time, the Earl of Sutherland was a lesser title of the Duke of Sutherland. However, the (lesser) Scottish title could be inherited by a daughter. The English title couldn't. So when one of the dukes had only a daughter, the girl inherited the title of Countess of Sutherland (in her own right, a title she could pass to her son) and the title Duke of Sutherland went to a male cousin.

    And Susie, does the eldest son's eldest son get the next highest title?

  7. Fascinating research, CJ! And yes, you are so right about courtesy titles. Lords often hold multiple titles.

    The courtesy title chosen tends to be one of family tradition, rather than highest rank. For instance, the the Marquess of Londonderry also holds the title of Earl Vane. The title of Earl is of higher rank than Viscount, but his eldest son is styled Viscount Castlereagh.

    As to the topic of eldest sons' eldest sons receiving courtesy titles, the answer is yes. The Duke of Norfolk's eldest son and heir, for example, is styled as Earl of Arundel. He is a young man, but if he has a son before his father's death, the son will be known as Lord Maltravers, as he himself was styled before his grandfather's death.

    However, Maltravers and Arundel are both commoners until they actually become Duke.


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