Royalty and Aristocracy

The Queen etc

  • The monarch is His or Her Majesty (HM). Princes and princesses are His or Her Royal Highness (HRH) though this courtesy title may be withdrawn, as in the case of Princess Diana after her divorce, or withheld, as in the case of the Duchess of Windsor. As usual with capitals, a particular person takes a cap, such as the Queen or Prince George. If you are referring to princes or queens in general, they are lower case.

  • This is the current line of succession to the throne.

    1. HRH Prince Charles, Prince of Wales (he may be called the heir to the throne or the heir apparent, but not heir apparent to the throne).

    2. HRH Prince William of Wales, Duke of Cambridge (Prince Charles’s elder son)

    3. HRH Prince George of Cambridge (son of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge)

    4. HRH Princess Charlotte of Cambridge (daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge)

    5. HRH Prince Henry of Wales, always known as Prince Harry (Prince Charles’s younger son)

    6. HRH Prince Andrew, Duke of York (Prince Charles’s younger brother, the Queen’s second son)

    7. HRH Princess Beatrice of York (Prince Andrew’s elder daughter)

    8. HRH Princess Eugenie of York (Prince Andrew’s younger daughter)

    9. HRH Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex (Prince Charles’s youngest brother, the Queen’s third son)

    10. James, Viscount Severn (Prince Edward’s son)

    11. Lady Louise Windsor (Prince Edward’s daughter)

    12. HRH Princess Anne, Princess Royal (Prince Charles’s sister, the Queen’s only daughter).

    You can find the complete list as far as 100 on this website: www.britroyals.com/succession.htm

  • the Queen reigns, she does not rule.

    Individuals are ‘presented’ to the Queen. She is not introduced or presented to them.

    In headlines about the Queen or royalty, please don’t use ‘one’ on every single story. It might have been smart the first few hundred times, but now it is lazy and boring. The same applies to ‘Ma’am’ and ‘we are/she is not amused’. Mail Online hit the jackpot in September 2015 with ‘One is amused’.

    Sadly, a new cliche is rapidly taking hold: ‘By George!’ on stories about the young prince. It’s not clever and it’s not funny.

  • If members of the Royal Family (note: caps only for the British Royal Family, not foreign ones) have extra titles conferred on them by the Queen, these are the more senior titles and in theory should be used on first reference. For example Prince William was given the title Duke of Cambridge on his marriage. From now on he should be called the Duke of Cambridge first, then the Duke or William. However I doubt if there will be many objections to Prince William. In headings and captions, William or Wills is fine.

  • Similarly, Prince Philip should be the Duke of Edinburgh on first mention. Prince Charles should be referred to as the Prince of Wales at first mention and then as the Prince or Charles. (He has other titles but Prince of Wales is the senior one). Princess Anne should be the Princess Royal at first mention and then the Princess or Anne. Diana, Princess of Wales, should not be called ‘Princess Diana’ but I doubt if anyone will ever take any notice  (this form of address was announced by Buckingham Palace after her divorce). The Duchess of Cambridge should have her full title at the first reference, but can be Kate, Catherine or the Duchess thereafter. Kate is fine for captions and headings.

  • Princess Michael of Kent: Traditionally wives of royalty take their husband’s title and name if they do not have a senior title of their own. The Duchess of Cambridge would be Princess William of Wales, but the title of duke is senior to prince, so she uses the Duchess title. Prince Michael of Kent does not hold a dukedom so his wife Marie-Christine is Princess Michael. It does not work the other way round, so when a man marries a princess, it does not make him a prince.

  • Lady: This is the cause of a lot of anguish but the rule is fairly simple. The daughter of a duke, marquess or earl is called Lady Firstname Surname from birth, eg Lady Lara King. When she marries, either someone with a title or without, she retains Lady Lara and takes her husband’s surname (if he is a commoner, he remains Mr). No other rank of woman is Lady Firstname Surname.

    When Lady Antonia Pakenham, the daughter of the Earl of Longford, married Sir Hugh Fraser, she became Lady Antonia Fraser, or Lady Antonia in the second reference. When she married Mr Harold Pinter she became Lady Antonia Pinter.

    A woman without her own title by birth who marries a man who has the title Sir or Lord becomes Lady Surname (no first name). So, if Miss Elizabeth Ashworth marries Sir Mick Jagger, she becomes Lady Jagger. If you want to put in her first name, you can do it by saying ‘Sir Mick Jagger and his wife Elizabeth’, or ‘Sir Mick and his wife, the former Elizabeth Ashworth’, but you never call her ‘Lady Elizabeth Jagger’ or ‘Lady Elizabeth’.

  • The younger sons of earls, and the sons and daughters of a viscount or baron, have the title ‘the Honourable’, usually shortened to ‘the Hon’. The daughter of a viscount or baron who marries a commoner is the Hon Mrs Smith.

  • The divorced wife of a peer conventionally keeps the title but puts her first name in front of it to distinguish her from any subsequent wives. So the Duchess of York should now be Sarah, Duchess of York, even though we will probably never call her anything but Fergie.

  • A dowager is the widow of a peer. The term is used particularly if a married son has inherited the title, to avoid having two women with identical styles. So you would have the Dowager Countess of Bromley and her daughter-in-law, the Countess of Bromley. A queen dowager is the widow of a king.

  • A baronet is a hereditary title but is not a peerage, so the holder is a commoner. In other words he should not be called a member of the nobility or aristocracy. A baronet is styled ‘Sir’ like a knight, but can have the abbreviation Bt after the name, eg ‘Sir Stanley Smith Bt’.

    life peers are not aristocracy (except in the rare case when a title-holder by birth is awarded an additional life peerage). See the Politics section for more.

    There is a multitude of other rules about royal and aristocratic titles, but you will very rarely need to know them. If you do, I suggest you consult the Daily Telegraph stylebook online.

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Miscellaneous

  • Abdication: Cap with specific reference to Edward VIII; in general sense, use l/c.

  • curtsey, not curtsy: Therefore present tense is curtseys, not curtsies, past tense is curtseyed, not curtsied.

  • Marquess: This is a man, eg the Marquess of Bath (Marquis is a foreign title). A woman with the rank of a marquess, or the wife of a marquess, is a Marchioness.

  • Royal Wedding: I can’t think of a logical reason for caps on this but this is how it appears most of the time.

  • royals: Use only as a last resort, and l/c.

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Last updated July 23, 2016