Back when we visited the letter “O,” we talked about the order of precedence and which title was higher or more important than another. Today I’m taking a closer look at the titles themselves.
The major titles in England in order of precedence are:
Duke: the highest rank and title in the peerage after royalty. The wife of a duke is a duchess. A Duke is styled as “My Lord Duke,” and “Your Grace.” His eldest son takes his “second title” and is styled “Lord SecondTitle.” Any younger sons are given the courtesy title “Lord” and addressed as “Lord FirstName FamilyName.” Any daughters are given the courtesy title “Lady” and addressed as “Lady FirstName FamilyName.” There are currently 32 Dukes extant.
Marquess/Marquis: the second highest rank and title. The wife of a marquess is a marchioness. A Marquess is styled “My Lord Marquess” or “Lord Title.” All his younger sons are given the courtesy title “Lord” and his daughters “Lady” and are addressed as “Lord FirstName FamilyName” or “Lady FirstName FamilyName.” His eldest son takes his “second title.” For example, if the Marquess of Dowdy also holds the titles Earl of Hebron and Viscount Tilton, the eldest son will assume the title Earl of Hebron by courtesy and be addressed as “Lord Hebron.” There are currently 34 marquesses. The spelling “Marquis” is used in several older Scottish titles where that spelling was used in the creation of the title.
Earl: the third highest rank and title. An earl is equivalent to a “count” in France, and the wife of an earl is called Countess. An earl is styled “My Lord,” his eldest son takes his “second title,” and is addressed as “Lord SecondTitle.” An Earl’s younger sons do not receive the courtesy title “Lord” and are addressed as Mr. FirstName FamilyName. All of his daughters, however, are afforded the courtesy title “Lady FirstName FamilyName.” There are currently 191 earls.
Viscount: the fourth highest rank and title. The wife of a viscount is a viscountess. The viscount is styled “My Lord,” however his children do not receive the courtesy titles of “Lord” and “Lady.” Sons are simply known as Mr. FirstName FamilyName and the daughters are called Miss FirstName FamilyName. There are 270 viscountcies, however, most are secondary titles.
Baron: the lowest rank in the peerage. The wife of a baron is a baroness. A baron is styled “My Lord” and his wife as “My Lady.” His children do not hold courtesy titles and are styled Mr. FirstName FamilyName and Miss FirstName FamilyName. There are currently 1166 barons in the peerage (including Life Peers).
Baronet: a hereditary rank, lower than the peerage, instituted in 1612 by James I, who fixed the precedence of baronets before all Knights, those of the Order of the Garter alone excepted. A baronet is addressed as “Sir” and his wife as “Lady.” Their children hold no courtesy titles and are addressed simply as Mr. or Miss FirstName FamilyName.
I always think this system is rather confusing, since I did not grow up learning these titles by osmosis as English children di. This explanation, however, has made it a bit less daunting for me. If you’re not well versed in British titles of the peerage, I hope it helps you as well.