Monday, February 28, 2011

Regency Rank & File

Now some of you may wonder why I love Regency romance. It's simple. I love the class structure of the British aristocracy. Dukes and Earls and Viscounts, oh my. I'd like to think I was a Countess in a former life. LOL. (And I know it wasn't all sunshine and lollipops for the lesser classes, but in my world they all had good jobs and decent homes and no one died from disease or pestilence.)

For those of you who'd like a primer in that world, here's a little info that may help you, in either reading, or writing it. Let's start at the top, shall we.

King & Queen -- They are the reigning Monarchs. They rule the country. You would address them as Your Majesty, Your Highness, or, Your Grace.

Prince & Princess -- Children and grandchildren of the King and Queen. You would address them as Your Highness, or, Your Grace.

Duke -- Their wives were known as Duchess. Created in 1337. These were the people who were next in line to the throne after the Prince and Princess. Their family line could be traced to the reigning Monarch. You would address them as Your Grace. During the Low and Middle Ages the Monarch would give their kinsmen land surrounding the castle. More land was gained by marrying into it. Their title would be the name of the county of which their principal holding sat, ie. Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Devonshire, etc. They all held a seat in the House of Lords in Parliament.

Marquess -- (pronounced Mar-Kwess) Their wives were known as Marchioness (pronounced Mar-Ki-o-ness or Mar-Key-o-ness) Created in 1385. These titles were created when England usurped Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Members of these aristocracies in their own country weren't in line to the throne so they couldn't become Dukes. They became Marquess instead, which is why there aren't a lot of them. You would adress them as -- my lord. They also hold a seat in the House of Lords.

Earl -- Their wives were known as Countess. Created in the 800's. You would address them as -- my lord, my lady. They were the chief royal representative in the shires (counties). Their name was usually from their place, Earl of Cory, but later, they could also use their surname if they held no land, Earl Gray. (Yes, there actually was an Earl Gray.)

Viscount -- (pronounced Vi-count) Their wives were known as Viscountess. Created 1440. Originally a Viscount was the sheriff of the shire and reported to the Earl. They mainly used their surname in their title, Viscount Hadley. They were addressed as -- my lord.

Baron -- The least of the nobility. Their wives, of course, were Baroness. Created 1066. This title was usually applied to the chief tenants of the Earl, and their land had been granted to them by the Monarch. I'm not really sure how you would address them. I think - Sir - possibly - my lord. I don't really know a whole lot about Barons.

Baronet-- Created in 1611. This is a special hereditary rank. If you remember, in Jane Austen's PERSUASION, Anne Elliot's father is a Baronet. I know you address them as Sir.

Knight -- Are NOT members of the aristocracy. They are addressed as Sir or Madam. It is an Honorary title. Sir Paul McCartney, Dame Judi Dench.

You could have as many, or as few titles, as you had ancestors. You would sometimes also lose a title if you gained another one. Say you were a Marquess and your father the Duke died, you would become the Duke. Now if you had a son, he would become the Marquess.

If you died without issue (male children) the Monarchy could usurp your title back into its fold, taking with it all land and monies you had. It would either keep it, or reissue it to someone else as was its wont.

You could also gain a title by doing some great heroic endeavor, ie. Admiral, Lord Nelson. He was just plain old Horatio Nelson when he joined the Royal Navy. After his action at Cadiz he was given the title of 1st Viscount. (He was also the Duke of Bronte but that was given to him by the King of Spain. Also, because he died without issue, his Viscountancy was taken back by the King of England, and there has never been another. However, there was a special provision for his Baronetcy that was given to his brother after his death.)

This is the list of Nelson's titles that was read at his state funeral.

The Most Noble Lord Horatio Nelson, Viscount and Baron Nelson, of the Nile and of Burnham Thorpe in the County of Norfolk, Baron Nelson of the Nile and of Hilborough in the said County, Knight of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Vice Admiral of the White Squadron of the Fleet, Commander in Chief of his Majesty's Ships and Vessels in the Mediterranean, Duke of Bronte in Sicily, Knight Grand Cross of the Sicilian Order of St Ferdinand and of Merit, Member of the Ottoman Order of the Crescent, Knight Grand Commander of the Order of St. Joachim.

And there you have my take on the aristocracy. Now, by all means this is not a comprehensive list or definition. This is just a cursory glance at what I've learned. Believe me, I have scads of notes and web-sites that could explain it a whole lot better. And I'll spare you from discussing precedence. It's a nightmare.

Any questions?


Laura Pauling said...

I guess I know where I need to come if I ever decide to write historical England! Good info.

Anne Gallagher said...

Laura -- Or maybe if you get invited to William and Kate's wedding. You'll know what to call everyone.

Jennifer Shirk said...

I've always wondered about those titles.:)
Regencies are my favorite kind of historical too.

Liza said...

Fun lesson. I for one am glad to miss the royal nuptuals...I'd be sure to call someone the wrong thing. Your Highness? Your Grace? Your Lordship? Sir? Ma'm? Hey you in the hat?

Hannah Kincade said...

I have never read any regency romances, though I've read a ton of historical fiction so I knew al of this at one point. Lol! It's been a year since I've read a good historical novel, not for lack of trying. I should just stick with my faves.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I needed this list when I used to read historical romances. Fortunately it was easy enough to realize the hero's title tromped all the others. :D

Anne Gallagher said...

Jennifer -- I just love Prince George. He's SO misunderstood. OR at least he is in my world.

Liza -- Hey, you in the hat! Too funny. However, if you ever get in a jam, My Lord will please just about everyone.

Hannah -- We all have our faves. I for one, cannot read Victorian. It puts me out. I don't know, maybe because I associate it so much with Steampunk now.

Stina -- That's the easy part of the reading. Hero's titles always trump others.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Thanks for the history lesson!

Bish Denham said...

Interesting stuff here Anne. Thanks for the mini-history lesson!

Jacqueline Howett said...

...And most of the above are called blue blood, meaning royal blood. Not sure why its blue however.

Lydia K said...

I like the regency era. Those dresses! The crazy undergarments! The drama!

I just wouldn't want to deal with the whole bathroom situation.

And thanks for the awesome history lesson.

Em-Musing said...

I LOVE this stuff! Thanks, Dame Anne Gallagher.

Tara said...

Always up for a good history lesson :)

Bossy Betty said...

Thanks for this! This was good information for around the house so people will know how to address me depending on what level of royalty feel like on any given day.

Anne Gallagher said...

Alex -- Just in case you ever need it in outer space.

Bish -- Any time.

Jacqueline -- It should actually be purple as purple is the color of royalty.

Lydia -- They couldn't GO to the bathroom even if they wanted to. It usually took three hours to dress. And with no maids to help them. Ucky!

Em -- Gee, that has a nice ring to it doesn't it?

Tara -- You're welcome.

Betty -- I'd go with Duchess and leave it at that. Then you'd always be Your Grace. No matter which of the Big 3 you chose.

Solvang Sherrie said...

What a great primer on the aristocracy! I've read the titles before without really knowing what they meant so this was cool to learn :)

Talli Roland said...

Ooh, great info! Did I ever tell you I lived with a viscount once (I was his flatmate). There were big oil paintings all over the walls of his hideous ancestors and the place was like a dungeon. I should write a novel about that!

VR Barkowski said...

This is why I could never write Regency. Reading it, I usually have no problem with the hierarchies, but the actual titles? Let's just say I'm printing this out as a reference guide. Thanks Anne!

Linda G. said...

Fascinating! But, boy, I'm glad I don't have to remember what to call whom in my everyday life. ;)

Elaine AM Smith said...

Great fun! I love reading Regency novels.
I re-instated the Duke of Suffolk (and Rutland) for my current MG - I'm sure Charles Brandon won't mind ;)

jbchicoine said...

My only question is, How do you keep all that straight? Actually, it does fill in a lot of blanks for me. Isn't it amazing how much research one has to do when writing a novel, and how little we really get to share...

The Las Vegas Writer said...

This is a great post. I didn't know the difference between anything below Monarch.

Anne Gallagher said...

Sherrie -- My pleasure to help. Just in case you ever needed to know this.

Tallie -- YOU SHOULD!

VR -- You're very welcome. You never know, it might come in handy someday.

Linda -- You could always use what LIza said -- "Hey you in the hat."

Elaine -- I'm sure they won't. I'm resurrecting Percival Spencer from the grave.

Bridget -- I had a cheat sheet for the last last novel and after writing it, found I had memorized the list. I know, what we authors do for our fans. lol

Vegas -- Well, now you do. And you'll never be stuck again.

Michelle Gregory said...

Anne, i found you at Christine Hardy's blog, but have seen your comments on other sites i stalk, i mean visit. i love reading Regency and have always wondered about the hierarchy of the titles. we humans do love to put titles on people. in the end, we all put our pants on one leg at a time.

Patti said...

What a great break down. I love history and my dream is to one day write historical fiction, but as you know it takes a lot of work.

roxy said...

Love this era, Anne. What a great post! I'm always on the lookout for a good regency novel. I like the class system because it expected certain behavior from its members. Gentlemen prided themselves on being gentlemen, and a ladies worth in the ton depended upon her reputation. And the scandals that arose with misbehavior! Perfect premise for an interesting story.

Donna Hole said...



Ann Best said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann Best said...

I love this time period! I'd love to study it in depth--if I could, at my age, remember the details!! This is the problem. You have done a great job of summarizing. I've printed this out for future reference. Thanks, Anne!! (I made a stupid typo above!)

Anne Gallagher said...

Michelle -- Actually, depending on the title, you may have someone put your pants on for you.

Patti -- OMG! So much research, it's crazy. But that's why I'm writing 4 books in the series so it won't be wasted.

Donna -- Yes. Would you like to be a countess as well?

Ann -- Don't worry about typo's. I make them all the time. This time period is one of the best I think, as it's so short. I only count the 9 years Prince George was Regent as the official regency but others say it was also the 10 after when he became King. Depends on who you ask.

WritingNut said...

I love it too! It's just all so romantic... the men were so gallant and the ladies so beautiful... don't even get me started on the costumes :D... great, informational post! :)

Anne R. Allen said...

You're so right about that sense of order--it's what's so magnetic about this period. Like listening to Mozart. Lovely and orderly. You know, I've been reading this genre since my teens and I didn't know that was a hard "c" in marchioness. Thanks for educating me.

And hey there, fellow Undergrounder! Were're both in the Notes from Underground anthology, right? Congrats! This is our big launch day. Can't wait to read it.

Al said...

Great list.
Of course there were younger sons who just got called 'lord'
Lord (or lady) was a kind of handy catch all that could be applied to anyone of noble birth regardless of whether they would inherit a title or not.

The Words Crafter said...

I love it when knowledgeable people break down the hard stuff :)

I had no idea about the order of things and it was cool to find out. Stinks, though, that the crown could take back the land and monies. Could you invest or buy on the side and keep that, I wonder?