Sunday, October 6, 2013
Common Title Errors
This post is the third in my series on English titles. The three posts are Regency Titles, Courtesy Titles and Common Title Errors.
In my previous two posts, Regency Titles and Courtesy Titles, I talked about English titles. Naming conventions are somewhat complex and errors abound in Regency romances. But once you get the hang of the titles, remembering the correct usage is not too difficult.
The most glaring error is using Lord (Lady) /last name/ in the wrong place when referring to the daughters and younger sons of peers. Most are Lord (Lady) /first name/ /last name/.
I'll continue with Dorothy L. Sayers's Lord Peter Wimsey from my previous post. Peter, as the second son of the Duke of Denver, holds the courtesy title of "Lord"--Lord Peter Wimsey. He is never Lord Wimsey. By the same token, Peter's wife, Harriet, is Lady Peter Wimsey, or Lady Peter for short, but never Lady Wimsey or Lady Harriet Wimsey. Peter's sister, Mary, was Lady Mary Wimsey, not Lady Wimsey, before she wed. After her marriage to Mr. Charles Parker, her name became Lady Mary Parker, not Lady Parker. She is addressed as Lady Mary.
Another error is referring to the younger son of an earl as "Lord". While an earl's heir held one of his father's lesser titles and hence was a lord, his younger brothers were not. Each younger son's title is "The Honorable", and he is addressed as "Mister". And the earl's daughters are all Lady /first name/ /last name/, like Lady Mary Wimsey.
The next error is bestowing the courtesy title of "Lord" or "Lady" on the children of viscounts and barons. Their children are "(The) Honorable", and addressed as "Mister" or "Miss". One very popular romance gave the daughter of a viscount the title of "Lady". In my A Similar Taste in Books, the heroine, Miss Clara Haley, is the daughter of Viscount Haley.
While the generic "my lord" or "my lady" serves to address most title holders, this form is incorrect for dukes and duchesses. A duke is "His Grace" to the lower orders, "Duke" to his peers, and his title to his friends. The friends of Lord Peter's brother, Gerald, the Duke of Denver, call him "Denver". Only his closest friends and family call him "Gerald".
And lastly, while dukes, marquesses and earls are usually "of somewhere", viscounts and barons never (or rarely) are. Viscounts and barons are /title/ /lastname/. Baronets are Sir /first name/ /last name/. Their wives are Lady /last name/. Knights are addressed the same way as baronets. Earls may be "earl lastname", for example, Earl Spencer.
Some examples from my books. John, the Earl of Siddington, in my Regency Halloween comedy, Pumpkinnapper, is Lord Siddington or Siddington. Henry, Baron Grey, the hero of Pumpkinnapper, is Lord Grey or Grey. The baronet Sir Charles Gordon of Mistletoe Everywhere, is Sir Charles.
As for addressing all titleholders, the title is used the first time only. After that, it's "sir" or "ma'am".
Confused? I certainly am. Going through all this becomes easier the more you look at it. And there are always exceptions.
Some good links on titles:
http://www.debretts.com/forms-of-address/titles.aspx (Thank you, Joanna Waugh)
And a book
Terms of Address, published by Adam Black in London (Thank you, Jean Hart Stewart)
Thank you all,