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When Is a Lord a Lord? A Brief Explanation of English Titles
In order of precedence, the titles of the English nobility are:
The next rank is that of Duke/Duchess. The wife of a Duke is a Duchess. In the rare case where a Duchess holds the title in her own right, her husband would not automatically share the title. A Duke or Duchess is called "Your Grace" by servants and the lower orders. Friends and social acquaintances might call them "Duke" or "Duchess," or by whatever name the individuals involved favor. The family surname is most likely to be the same as the title's name.
Sons and daughters of a duke are known by the honorary title of "Lord Firstname" or "Lady Firstname." The eldest son will frequently hold some lesser title given by tradition in the family to the heir. The degree of that title would depend upon the titles available to the family -- it would not necessarily be the degree immediately beneath the rank of Duke.
For Regency set (1811-1820) books, either spelling might be considered correct, but "Marquess" appeared in common use only after the Regency. The English pronunciation is "Markwiss." The wife of a Marquis is a Marchioness (pronounced "Marshuness"). Servants and lower classes would call this couple "your lordship" or "your ladyship." Fellow aristocrats would call the Marquis by his title's name, i.e., Georgette's Heyer's Marquis of Vidal, is known as Vidal. In addition to the formal use of their title, this couple might be referred to as Lord or Lady Vidal.
Children of a Marquis are known by the honorifics "Lord Firstname" and "Lady Firstname."
In Saxon times, the Earl was the highest ranking nobility short of royalty, but the Normans added their new-fangled titles over the years.
In England, there are but four earldoms where the title name is the same as the family surname -- Earl Spencer, the brother of the late Princess of Wales, being a well-known example. The remaining earls are Earl of Whatever. The wife of an earl is a countess.
Servants and the lower classes would refer to the couple as "my lord/lady" or "your lordship/ladyship." The Earl's friends will likely use his title's name, i.e., Georgette's Heyer's Earl of Worth, is known as Worth.
All daughters of an Earl are entitled to the honorific "Lady Firstname," but only the first-born son is called "Lord Firstname." The remaining sons are "Honorable Firstname Surname," but the "Honorable" tile is used only in written correspondence.
Another newish titled adopted from the French. The wife of a viscount (pronounced "Vie-count") is a Viscountess. A viscount is not viscount of anything -- the title name is the family surname.
Servants or the lower classes would refer to the couple as "my lord/lady" or "your lordship/ladyship." The Viscount's friends will likely use his surname, i.e., Georgette's Heyer's Viscount Stanton (Freddie's father), is known as Stanton. In addition to the formal use of their title, this couple might be referred to as Lord or Lady Stanton.
Children of Viscounts are "Honorables," an address used only in writing.
A baron's wife is a baroness, and is referred to as Lady Surname. Servants and lesser folk would refer to the couple as "my lord/lady" or "your lordship/ladyship."
Children of barons are not entitled to honorifics. They are Mister or Miss Surname.
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