O is for Order of Precedence

From Alexander Jacob's work "A Complete English Peerage"

From Alexander Jacob’s work “A Complete English Peerage”

Those Americans reading or writing historical romance have at some point run into the baffling system of English titles and orders of precedence. The system was created to allow every person to know exactly what their position in society was in relation to everyone else. Based on title and distinction, the ranking can be confusing, unless one grew up learning it. For those of us not of the nobility, here is a quick look at the basic order of precedence.

This ordering would be used on any occasion, from the order in which guests would go in to dinner, to who bows to whom.

Naturally, the king, queen, prince, and royal dukes, and their wives and children are first in line. I’ll list the rest in order of precedent. The wife has the same precedence as her husband. Daughters have the same precedence as sons.



Eldest Sons of dukes – No matter what the courtesy title is.


Eldest sons of marquises – No matter what the courtesy title is.

Younger sons of dukes.


Eldest sons of earls – No matter what the courtesy title is.

Younger sons of marquises


Eldest sons of viscounts – they have no courtesy title

Younger sons of earls


Eldest sons of barons – also no courtesy title

Younger sons of viscounts


Eldest sons of baronets – no courtesy title.

Younger sons of Barons

Landed gentry.

If you would like more information on the orders of precedence, the article “British Titles and Orders of Precedence” in Edwardian Promenade provides the exact order from the Sovereign down to Wives of Gentlemen entitled to bear arms.

Occasionally, the order of precedence can be changed. In 2012, just after the royal wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton, Queen Elizabeth changed the order of precedence so that the Duchess of Cambridge, when not accompanied by her husband, must curtsy to the “blood princesses:” Princess Anne, Princess Alexandra, Princess Beatrice, and Princess Eugenie. For more on this update, see the article, “Queen Updates Order of Precedence and Who Bows to Whom.”

This entry was posted in Alphabet Post and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to O is for Order of Precedence

  1. tomandmaje says:

    Very informative, Jenna. I tweeted.


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