Tuesday, October 14th — Elizabethan Address

October 14, 2008

Today I Learned…

…how to properly address a noble within the social customs of Elizabethan England.  (Thanks to elizabethan.org for the following)

  • Sir goes only with a man’s given name. To address a knight using only his surname, say Master (see examples below).
  • Lord implies a peerage whether temporal (baron or better) or spiritual (bishops).
  • Not every knight is a lord; not every lord is a knight. It is best not to say My Lord to anyone not so entitled.
  • A territorial title is one which is attached to a particular piece of land, such as a county.
  • Peers sign their names and refer to themselves and each other by their territorial titles, such as “Henry Southampton”, “Francis Bedford”, or “Thomas Rutland”.
  • Every woman married to a knight or better can be called my lady. For unmarried women, see the various examples.
  • The children of a knight, baron, or viscount have no titles at all other than Master and Mistress.
  • All the sons of a marquis or a duke are styled lord.
  • Only the eldest son of an earl is called lord (because he takes his father’s secondary title and is one, by courtesy) though all an earl’s daughters are styled lady. They retain this courtesy even if they marry a commoner.
  • Your Grace belongs properly only to royal blood: the queen, dukes, and visiting princesses. It does not apply to Earls or Countesses in the 16th century. Archbishops share this honor as princes of the church.
  • The style of Honourable or Right Honourable for younger sons and daughters of peers has not yet come into use. Peers, however, often receive dedications in a form such as “the right Honourable the Lord Chandos”.
  • Esquires are the younger sons of peers, the heirs male of knights, esquires of the body, and officials such as judges, sheriffs, and officers of the royal household. Esquire is not actually a title, although it may be used after a gentleman’s surname; as, William More, Esquire.
  • If you are not noble, you may wish to address those above you as Your Worship, Your Honour, or Your Lordship/Ladyship.
  • Children are taught to address their parents as Sir and Madam, or my lord and my lady. A noble child refers to my lady mother and the lord my father.

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