In our last lesson, we talked about the different ranks in British nobility. It drew a lot more questions (which I love!) and also helped me personally answer a Jeopardy question 🙂 The nature of these questions was about the proper way to address each level of the Peerage and about other countries’ classifications. So, today, I thought we’d take a look at how to address our ‘betters’.
In my search for info, I found a great site that goes into to lots of detail about how greet, in writing or speech, the nobility, among many other details, including the role of women. I can see now how complicated those times must have been, knowing how to refer to someone and who would be considered equals or subordinates. I’ll give a few examples here:
If you were writing a letter to a Duke, you would address it to “Dear Duke of…” but in speech, you would call him “Your Grace”, unless you were also a duke, then you would refer to him as “Duke”. As conversation continued, he could then be called “Sir”. His wife would also be called “Your Grace” by underlings, then called “Madam” as the conversation continued.
It gets interesting when you mix in daughters of the peerage and whether they are married or not. If the daughter of a Duke marries a commoner, she can retain her title, but if she marries someone down the peerage chain, she can only keep her title until her husband comes into his own title, then she must be known as the lesser name. The naming continues on, depending on if a son is the oldest or youngest of a Duke or Baron, etc.
Confused yet? I have to admit that I’m very glad to not be running around in those societal times! For a complete look, check out the site here. The site author looks to have done lots of research and has links to other great content, including “Dowagers” and “entails” and more. You could really get lost in the information!
I’ve only ever looked at these terms in passing, as I read through my historical romance books, but I think, now, I’ll be paying more attention to make sure the authors are getting it right. Then again, when you’re talking about the saucy exploits of some of the feisty women you find in the novels, all these fancy rules tend to get tossed out the window 🙂