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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: (Thank you, Joanna Waugh)

And a book
Terms of Address, published by Adam Black in London (Thank you, Jean Hart Stewart)

Have fun.

Thank you all,
Enter My World of Historical Hilarity


LK Hunsaker said...

It's like learning a whole new language! ;-)

Sandra Sookoo said...

This is hugely interesting to me. In 2011 I'm planning on writing a Regency and the hero will be a Viscount. I suppose I'll need to learn how folks address him but it's so daunting lol

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

Fascinating! I can't imagine writing a Regency, but I can imagine how much research it must take to get it right!

jean hart stewart said...

I've written one Regency historical and have another in the publication stage, and without a handy reference book I couldn't have done it. It'scalled Titles and Terms of Address and is pubbed by Adam Black in London. It's indispensable. Your blog was very well written about a difficult subject. Great.....Jean

Linda Banche said...

I agree, LK. Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever become fluent.

Hey, Sandra, you learn a little at a time. The link I gave is very good.

Hi Julia, you're right about the research. Although most of it will never make it into your book, you have to have the background to make it "feel" right. Otherwise, all you have are 21st century people wearing different clothes.

Thanks, Jean, and thanks for the book reference. I've never heard of TITLES AND TERMS OF ADDRESS.

Tanya Hanson said...

Fabulous. I am intrigued by this even though I write Westerns. But the dad of Diana, Princess of Wales, always seemed to be called Earl Spencer, and her brother Viscount Althorpe.

Are these misused too?

I will definitely bookmark thispost. Wonderful stuff.

Lindsay Townsend said...

Thanks for this, Linda! Very informative and very useful.

Joanna Waugh said...

I use Debretts website of correct forms of address for titled personages. It's very helpful.

catslady said...

I am promptly going to forget all of this roflmao. Thank goodness we don't have royalty in the states - but then I guess children learned this stuff very early on - at least those who were or mingled with the titled.

Linda Banche said...

Tanya, Earl Spencer is correct. Some earls used the family last name as the title. As I said, there are exceptions.

Viscount Althorpe is correct, too. Althorpe is probably one of Earl Spencer's lesser titles.Take a look at my previous post on Courtesy Titles, where I use Lord Peter Wimsey as an example. Viscount St. George is the son and heir of Peter's brother, the Duke of Denver, whose family name is Wimsey.

Thanks, Lindsay. I don't know what I'd do without you.

Joanna, thanks for the link.

catslady, all this stuff was important only to the nobility. The ordinary people didn't understand how it all worked, and they didn't care, either.

Cheryl Tardif said...

What an informative post! Though I don't writer historical or regency romances, I do read them on occasion.

Lady Cherish D'Angelo ;-)

aka Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Linda Banche said...

Thanks, Cheryl. And I hope this helps your to enjoy Regencies more!

Larion aka Larriane Wills said...

ummm, this must be why I've never written a regency. wow, just keeping all that straight would take forever.

Unknown said...

LINDA--interesting, but this why I could never write Regencies--I could never get all that straight. I do read a few Regencies, but their titles go over my head. As Sandra said, it is so daunting. Celia

Linda Banche said...

Larion and Celia, more than one Regency author gets this stuff wrong. I'm more concerned that the story has the Regency "feel", and titles help provide the correct "feel". Every historical should be true to its era, not be a story than can belong anywhere, including the present. That's why I spent some time learning about titles for my Regencies.