Monday, 17 March 2008

St Patrick's Day and the Peerage

Here's to St Patrick, a Cumberland man supposedly kidnapped and taken to Ireland as a slave. He deserves his day.

I developed a niggle of doubt over the terminology I used in my latest wip, so I got busy on the Internet only to emerge even more confused than before. Today I went back to an old standby - the 20th edition of Black's Titles and Forms of Address. I may even buy a copy so that I always have it by me though today the exercise in walking up the hill to consult the library copy did me good. (I also found 2 Mary Ballogh stories I hadn't read, so that was my reward!)

I needed to check on Dowagers and found the following rules appy to all five grades of the peerage: the earliest surviving widow of a preceding holder of the title, regardless of her relationship to the current holder, is: The Dowager Duchess of Somewhere. Or, The Dowager Lady Someone.

If there is a second widow, she is referred to as Mary, Dowager Duchess of Somewhere so that everyone knows who they are discussing.

If the rules of address are followed correctly, so the Editor says, a great deal of information can be revealed on first introduction, and on reading I believe it is so. Here are some basic facts to begin with.

Hereditary titles descend only from father to son, or grandfather to grandson unless descent includes the female line or a remainder has been granted.

A Duke usually owns lesser titles, and the second highest is usually used by the Duke's eldest son. To take a well known family as an example - the Duke of Bedford's eldest son takes the title Marquess of Tavistock, and his son (the Duke's grandson) is known as Lord Howland. When the Duke dies, they all move up. The lesser titles are known as Courtesy titles when they are used in this way, and it is understood that they will be used for a limited period only. They always belong to the peer to whom they were granted. He extends them to his heir as a courtesy.
Authors need to know how to address a peer, and name them correctly for the purposes of accuracy in fiction. According to Black, sparing use is made of titles in conversation. The Duke and Duchess are formally addressed as Your Grace at the start of a conversation and referred to as His Grace and Her Grace.
The younger sons of a Duke bear the title Lord along with their Christian names ie Lord John Russell, or Lady Barbara Russell and never as Lord Russell or Lady Russell.

More tomorrow.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very Interesting!
Thank You!