If you haven’t noticed, I love historical romances. I love to read them. I love to write them. One of the hardest parts is the title. What do you call your hero? Do you want to have a simple Mister? No, that’s too blasé, besides every girl dreams of being swept off her feet by a man with a title. Especially a man with a title who has an incredibly sexy accent. Come on, you know you have fantasized about this, just like me! (wink). What girl hasn’t thought of her prince charming coming in to rescue her? As a child we grew up on Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. Our kids have had Ariel (who marries Prince Eric), Belle (who marries the prince who used to be a Beast), and now Rapunzel (who is really the long lost daughter of a king and queen). Of course the last one did not marry a prince, did she? Okay, so I got that one wrong. But there is the American girl who marries a prince in the Frog Princess. (there! I have redeemed myself!)
Let’s get back to titles.
Since I have problems keeping them straight, I figured I’m not the only one, so a brief refresher course for all of us is probably a good idea. What I really need is a cheat sheet while I’m writing. Something right in front of my face, so I don’t make a huge faux pas and have a historical buff call me to task on it. I used to have a lovely office where all my inspirations were on the wall. Where post-its where stuck here and there to help jar my memory. Where maps and family trees where placed strategically so I wouldn’t have to look far. But once the kids got older, my office got phased out and now I type on my laptop wherever I happen to be at the time – so this leaves no place to hang my post-its. I guess my blog has become my new post-it.
Titles. We all like them but only a few have them.
Order of rank –
- Duke/Duchess - 24 in England
- Marquis/Marchioness - 34 in England
- Earl/Countess - 191 in England
- Viscount/Viscountess - 115 in England
Duke – call him “Your Grace” if you are a servant. But if you are so lucky to have one as your friend, just call him Duke So-and-So.
Duchess – also called “Your Grace” by servants.
· Children of Dukes/Duchesses – are called “Lord firstname” or Lady “firstname” – as in Lord William or Lady Catherine.
· Sometimes the eldest son of a duke/duchess would also carry a lesser title.
· Wife of deceased duke where the son has now inherited – dowager duchess
Marquis/Marchioness – called “your lordship or ladyship” by servants.
· Friends would call them by their title name – example – Marquis of Summerville would be called Summerville.
· They could also be called Lord or Lady Summerville. The son would usually carry the father’s second title.
Earl/Countess – Known as Earl of Summerville, but would be called Summerville by friends.
· Servants would call them my lord or my lady.
· Daughters are called Lady “firstname” and first born sons are also called Lord “firstname” such as Lady Suzanne or Lord William.
· Any other sons are just called “Honorable John Summerville”. The son would carry the father’s second title until he inherited usually that of viscount.
Viscount/Viscountess – servants called them “my lord/lady” or “lordship/ladyship”.
· Friends just call him Summerville.
· Viscount and Viscountess would be called Lord and Lady Summerville.
Baron/Baroness – are just called Lord/Lady Summerville. Servants call them my lord/lady or lordship/ladyship.
· Their children are just called Mr. Summerville or Miss Summerville.
· They can also be called Lord Summerville or Lady Summerville.
Baronet – would be called Sir William or Sir William Summerville. The wife of a baronet would be Lady Summerville.
Knight – would be called Sir William or Sir William Summerville. The wife of a knight would be Lady Summerville.
So how does a title get passed on?
- Some titles are hereditary and are passed down to eldest sons. If there are no sons, the titles are passed to the closest male heir – like a nephew. In very rare circumstances, the title can be passed down through the daughter if there are no males. Otherwise, this title dies out.
- Life peerages are different from hereditary peerages because they only last as long as that person lives. These titles do not get passed down to the oldest sons. Life peerages are usually baron or baroness.