Nomenclature of Addressing the Nobility or the Aristocracy

The Nomenclature of Nineteenth Century Address

How did one keep all those numerous titles straight when he addressed the members of the aristocracy and the titled?

Here are some of the MANY differences of which one needed to be aware:

“Lady” – used for the wife of a baronet or a knight (i.e., Sir Thomas Bertram’s wife in Mansfield Park is Lady Bertram)

“Lady” – used for a marchioness, countess, viscountess, or baroness (i.e., the wife of Viscount Lexford became Lady Lexford in A Touch of Mercy)

“Sir” – used for a baronet or a knight with his first name (i.e., Sir Thomas Bertram or Sir Walter Elliot from Persuasion)

“Baron” – used for a judge of the Exchequer Court or for a baron of the peerage upon formal occasions (i.e, Baron Johnathan Swenton in A Touch of Honor)

“Lord” – used for an earl, marquis, or viscount – usually this was the title the man possessed (for example, the Earl of Linworth became Lord Linworth); barons were rarely spoken of as Baron Ashworth; instead, the man would be Lord Ashworth

“My Lord” – used for a peer below the rank of duke and to a bishop of the Church of England

“My Lord” – used for a lord mayor and judges of the King’s Bench and Common Pleas court

“Your Grace” – to a duke or duchess if the person making the address were below the gentry; the title is also used for an archbishop of the Church of England

“Duke” or “Duchess” – used for a duke or duchess and used by a member of the nobility or gentry

“Your Highness” – used for the nephews, nieces, and cousins of the ruling monarch/sovereign

“Your Royal Highness” – used for the monarch/sovereign’s spouse, children, and siblings

“Your Majesty” – used for the king or queen 7433803_s


About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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7 Responses to Nomenclature of Addressing the Nobility or the Aristocracy

  1. Nancy says:

    If you had to ask, you weren’t a member of the aristocracy. They believed that they were all taught the intricacies of title usage from the cradle.Quite often it was true as a family could consist of many titled relatives. If a duke lived long enough, he could have a titled son, grandson and great grandson. In a couple of families , one brother inherited a peerage and the others were all created peers. Though the titles are still the same as they were 200 years ago, there are many English persons who do not know the correct form.
    Valentine Heywood says to call a peerage baron, baron, shows one was not an aristocrat nor connected to one of the better families.

  2. marichristie says:

    So, would a “Royal Highness” be called “Royal Highness” verbally? Also… picky question that really bugs me. Was the Prince Regent Your Royal Highness or Your Majesty while he was Regent? (Man, I love that you ladies are here straightening this stuff out for the rest us. Thank you so much for that.)

    • Right now, baby George is “His Royal Highness Prince George.” That is the “HRH” one often sees written with the name.

      As Regent, Prince George (George IV) was acting in his father’s stead, but he would still have been “His Royal Highness” rather than “His Majesty,” which is reserved for the ruling monarch. (At least, that is the way I understand it.)

      • marichristie says:

        Thanks! I was assuming that with the Regent, but it was a lingering question. I know HRH, and it makes sense, I just wondered about verbal address.. would it be so formal in conversation, or would “Your Highness” be used interchangeably. This, of course, is where I always screw things up… thinking anything could possibly be interchangeable (outside Lady and Lord ;-)). Thanks for the clarification.

  3. Nancy says:

    Also, one usually can change over to Sir, or ma’am if one were a member of the aristocracy, even when speaking to royalty. The person of superior rank sets the tone among ladies and gentlemen but the lady sets the tone when speaking to a gentleman. Royalty always sets the tone of a conversation.– formal or a little less so where sir and ma’am can be used. Sometimes it was like walking a tight rope when dealing with Royalty.
    What they didn’t do was use first names quickly or often for years. men were known by their surnames or titles and ladies by titles. If a first name was used it was preceded by Miss or Lady.
    If you notice in Miss Jane Austen’s books, there are several characters whose first names are unknown to us because they were not used even among those who knew them.

    • I am often called to task in my Austen-inspired pieces by readers who believe “Richard” is the first name of Colonel Fitzwilliam, where as I have chosen to give him my late father’s name of “Edward.”
      In the JAFF community, many have chosen to refer to the gentleman by his Christian name of “Richard,” and, and unfortunately, many JAFF readers have only read the Jane Austen fan fiction and do not realize Austen did not present the colonel with a first name.

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