Titles are confusing, especially when you are an American reader or author. Knowing what a duke was called by his friends, subordinates, and family is imperative for a historical romance author like myself. It’s also fun and interesting for the reader to hear how one might address a lord of a certain stature. That is why I thought I would write this post on historical titles.
There is a lot on proper address in Daily life in the 18th Century, but I will cover the gist of it here. All lords were referred to by titles. Underlings could safely address titles as my lord, or your lordship if the address was made respectfully. If you were family, or very very very close, you could call him by his first name, or just his title, but if not, you better follow the guidelines below.
From top to bottom:
Prince and Princesses were Your Royal Highness – or His/Her Royal Highness.
Duke and Duchess were Your Grace – Her/His Grace – My Lord Duke. It was also acceptable to call them Duke/Duchess. Never Lord Smith or Lord John Smith
Marquess and Marchioness were Marquess/Marchioness of Title – The Most Honorable – Lord John Title – John, Lord Title -. Never Lord John Smith
Earl and Countess – Earl/Countess of Title – The Right Honorable – Lord/Lady Title –
Viscount/Viscontess – Viscount/Viscountess Title – The Right Honorable – Lord/Lady Title –
Baron/Baroness – The Right Honorable – Baron/Baroness Title – Lord/Lady Title (To my understanding this is the only title which can be passed to a daughter)
The Son of an Earl through Duke took on the title below his fathers until he moved up to his full title at his father’s death. These were known as courtesy titles. For Marquess and Duke, all other sons and daughters were lords and ladies (Lord John and Lady Jane). Lesser titled lords passed the title of Honorable to their sons and daughters.
Baronet and Knight, the lowest on the totem pole brought no title or rank to children, thought baronet was inherited by the oldest son. As for wives, Sir John Smith was married to Lady Smith unless she carries her own title from before her marriage in which case she can use that. Lady Smith can be Lady Jane.
An exchange might go something like this…
“Hello, John.” Roger strode into the room, stopping dead as the Duke of Tuttleford’s face came into view.
Clearing his throat, he tugged at his all too tight jabot. “I mean Tuttleford.”
His Grace’s black stare made Roger’s stomach drop.
“I have the papers to sign, My Lord Duke.”
The barest nod indicated that he could sit, and Roger sunk into the chair, relief washing over him like cool water on a hot morning.