Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Greeting Nobility

by Marie Higgins

“G-day, mate.”
“Howdie, dude.”
“What’s up?”
“Greetings, my fair maiden.”
“Aliens…welcome to earth!”

Okay, so I’m being funny on some of those greetings, but I want to blog today about one of the things I think is VERY important when writing – or reading – historical stories set in England. I’m not from England, nor do I have close relatives there, but because I write Regency and Victorian romances, I want to make my readers feel like they are in that era…and one of the ways to do it is to make sure the nobility is addressed correctly. Not all gentlemen were called “lords”. And you certainly wouldn’t greet a baron as “Your Grace”. So…without further ado, here is the chart that I use whenever I’m confused about what to call a certain person with a title. 
DUKE: This is example is the Duke of Kenbridge, whose family surname is Worthington.
He will always be announced as His Grace, the Duke of Kenbridge. His close friends would call him by his title “Kenbridge” and possibly by his first name. Everyone else would call him Duke / Your Grace. He’d be referred to as His Grace / Sir.
Duke’s wife: Duchess of Kenbridge.  Or Your Grace / Her Grace / Madame (ma'am) (just as above). 
Duke’s mother: Dowager Duchess of Kenbridge. But to her face is called Duchess or Your Grace.
Duke’s oldest son: The son would have a courtesy title even if there was no actual subsidiary title(the Marquess of Blackwood is a lower title not a courtesy title--the son's use is a courtesy). He'd be called Marquess of Blackwood – or my lord. 
Duke’s daughter: Lady Isabelle Worthington.  
Duke’s younger son: Honorable Lord Nicholas Worthington. 

MARQUESS: His title is Hawthorne and his family name is Lawrence.  He will always be announced as The Marquess of Hawthorne.  His friends would call him Hawthorne, and his servants and others would call him my lord or refer to him as his lordship.
His wife: Marchioness of Hawthorne, or Lady Hawthorne.  
Marquess’ mother: Dowager Marchioness of Hawthorne.  Called Lady Hawthorne unless there was a need to distinguish.
Marquess’ oldest son would more than likely have a title too, and be called Earl of Kelton or my lord.   
Marquess’ daughter: Lady Charlotte Lawrence.  
Younger son: Honorable Lord Peter Lawrence. 

EARL: His title is Thornwyck and his family name is Bennett.
The Earl of Thornwyck / Thornwyck / my lord.
Wife: Countess of Thornwyck / my lady.
Earl’s mother: Dowager Countess of Thornwyck. Or Lady Thornwyck or Countess
Earl’s oldest son: Viscount Birmington / my lord.
Earl’s daughter: Lady Caroline Bennett.
Earl’s youngest son: Honorable Mr. Harry Bennett.

VISCOUNT: Title is Gough. His family name is Bingley (for those Jane Austen lovers!)
The Viscount Gough / Gough / my lord
Wife: Viscountess Gough/ my lady
Viscount’s mother: Dowager Viscountess
Viscount’s son: Referred to in writing and on official documents as the Honorable Mr. Jonathan Bingley
Viscount’s daughter: Referred to in writing and on official documents as the Honorable Miss Jane Bingley 

BARON: Title - Netherfield. His family name is Darcy (once again, for Jane Austen fans)
The Lord Netherfield / Netherfield / my lord
Wife: Lady Netherfield / my lady
Baron’s mother: Dowager Netherfield
Baron’s sons: Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy
Baron’s daughters: Honorable Miss Elizabeth Darcy


Wives of younger sons had the title of Lady Husband's First-name Last Name and were never call Lady Last-Name. The only exception to this is if, for example a duke's daughter married the younger son of a marquis or below. She could then decide to keep her title as it outranks his. She would be called Lady Her-firstname Husband's Last-Name. Or if a daughter of an Earl or above married a man without a title, she became Lady First-Name Husband's name. In either case, she would never be referred to as Lady Husband's Last-Name.

A lady marrying the title holder would always be Lady Title-Name, and never Lady First-Name. Even if her father was a duke and she married a baron.

Baronets were always called Sir First-Name and their wives, Lady Husband's Last-Name.

Thanks to my friend, Kat - here is a great resource link -

I hope this was helpful to you, because I use this chart faithfully when I’m writing! I never go without it!
Marie Higgins / historical author of clean romances 

Louisa wakes from a deep heavy fog, surrounded by strangers and horrified to discover she's been the sole victim of a terrible buggy accident. Worse... she remembers nothing. 

Trevor Worthington, Duke of Kenbridge, can’t trust women. Yet after nearly killing the amnesiac Louisa, he has little choice but to open his home to her. His heart softens to the straggly woman in beggars garb as he strives to help her regain her memory. As proof of Louisa's scars, both physical and those lurking beneath the surface, come to light, Trevor finds himself more and more drawn to the mysterious woman. However he is hesitant to enter another nightmarish entanglement like his first marriage. 

As the heartbreaking facts of Louisa's past are exposed and decade old questions come to light, will the truth keep these lovers from happiness? Will Trevor be able to give love another chance? Or will Louisa's sweet touch prove yet another forgotten memory... 


  1. Great historical information. Because so many of us are history buffs, particularly the customs of different eras, this kind of detail is crucial. I have always wondered how to pronounce Marchioness and for that matter, Marquess. The etymology is Norman French but the Anglicizing of such words is so variable.
    steph from Fangs, Wands and Fairy Dust

  2. During the Georgian/Regency Era the French spelling, Marquis was as likely to be used as the current spelling, Marquess. One period dictionary: Critical Pronouncing Dictionary-Walker-1797) lists Marquis exclusively(check googlebooks). Both spellings were used in contemporary papers of the day(you can do your own search at ) Both are pronounced Mar'kwis.
    Same dictionary lists: Marchioness mar'tfhun-es(There are some marks I cannot replicate here--and remember the "f" is that print oddity that is an "s").

  3. Thanks, Marie, for your wonderful article. This is a valuable bit of information that most Angles outside of Britain don't know. To those of you who are English born, is all of this just common knowledge with which one grows up, or do you have to learn it in school, like in a history class?

    1. Certainly isn't commonly known. I believe the general term of the lower classes for all members of the aristocracy is 'chinless-wonder'. I like the idea of earning titles at school though. We don't of course, but it does seem oddly quaint.

      It is awkward with the business of characters addressing each other by family name since for us it is the very opposite of 'friendly' and can sound dangerously Shakespearian.

  4. I noticed a couple mistakes in there under Viscount's section, but I can't fix them until I get home from work. :( Sorry about that....

  5. Okay, I've fixed the issues... Let me know if you see anymore boo-boos. :)

  6. Marie great post! I understood that viscounts didn't have a place name attached to them. His title would be Viscount Gough and he'd be called Lord Gough. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

  7. Holy Smokes! Where were you when I was figuring this out all by myself? I got there eventually, but having this would have been a heckofalot easier on the hair I was tearing out. Thanks.

  8. Elizabeth Gayle FellowwsJuly 17, 2012 at 7:20 PM

    What helpful information... something to keep straight especially for us from North America....! Thank you...


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