Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Common Title Errors
In my previous two posts, 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 was Lady Mary Parker, not Lady Parker.
Another error is referring to the younger son of an earl as "Lord". This son's title is "The Honorable", and he is addressed as Mister.
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".
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 are. As for addressing them, John, the Earl of Siddington in my Regency Halloween comedy, Pumpkinnapper, is Lord Siddington or Siddington. Baron Henry Grey, the hero of Pumpkinnapper, is Lord Grey. The baronet Sir Charles Gordon of my upcoming Mistletoe Everywhere (available November 3), is Sir Charles.
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,
Enter My World of Historical Hilarity