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  • Writer's pictureVeronica Cline Barton

Navigating Royal and Noble Titles, an American, Almost Royal, Perspective

I get many questions from my readers on the topic of royal and noble titles—it’s very confusing to an American since we don’t use them here formally. Thanks to Disney, most of us do know the term princess and prince, thanks to the likes of Cinderella, Arielle, Tiana, Jasmine, Mulan—to name a few. I get educated frequently by nieces, granniekids and neighborhood children on the latest happenings in princess-lands—National Enquirer has no chance scooping against these kids…

I researched the topic of titles when I was writing The Crown for Castlewood Manor. For the character of Evan Lancaster, I knew that I wanted him to have a noble title to go along with the family history of the Lancasters. I was intrigued to find out the historical implications of having a title (there are rules), how titles and peerages vary from country to country (for my series, I focused on the UK rules), and finally, who outranks whom (and who has to bow to whom and when)…whew!

I decided to have Evan’s peerage and title be a Marquess (pronounced mar-qwes; peerage: privileged noble class and legal system comprising both hereditary and lifetime titles in the UK). I decided not to go with the title of Duke, there are only 30 in England and Ireland—I didn’t think it would be prudent to do a fictional add since the real royals are getting these titles these days 😉 I liked the Marquess title (currently 34, and the real royals are staying away from this title for some undisclosed reason according to Wikipedia). It carries a bit more ranking weight than counts, earls, and viscounts–and frankly sounds a bit more almost royal to my untrained American ears. I have to admit the final deciding factor was in homage to the Downton Abbey finale, when Lady Edith becomes a marchioness after marriage, outranking her sister Mary (payback bigtime Edith) 🙂

So without further adieu, here is the almost royal ranking list, with a few tidbits of interest thrown in:

  1. Emperor/Empress: Only 1 today, Emperor of Japan. King George VI dropped the Emperor of India title in 1948 for future British monarchs.

  2. King and Queen Consort or Princess Consort/Queen and King Consort or Prince Consort: Queen Elizabeth’s husband is Prince Philip (he was a prince by his own right). Last Prince Consort was Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband. Discussion today is whether Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, will become Queen Consort or Princess Consort when Charles becomes King. It is expected that Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, will become Queen Consort when William becomes King. Wowza, more royal drama to come I’m sure…

  3. Queen Dowager or Queen Mother: Queen Mother Elizabeth (died 2002 at age 101) was Queen Elizabeth’s Mummy 🙂

  4. Archduke and Archduchess: Ceased in 1918

  5. Duke and Duchess: Currently 30 Dukes in England and Ireland. This should increase to 31 when Prince Harry marries Meghan Markle on May 19th. Queen Elizabeth is expected to honor him with Duke of Sussex or Duke of Buckingham titles. Meghan will become Duchess of Sussex or Duchess of Buckingham. 2nd son of the King or Queen becomes the Duke of York (although with 2011 royal succession change act, will Princess Charlotte assume the Duchess of York title as 2nd born to William when he is king?)

  6. Prince and Princess: This ranking surprised me the most as an American—I had always assumed a prince or princess was just below a King or Queen (their children do receive those titles at birth). Almost royal confusion on this one…

  7. Marquess and Marchioness: French translation is Marquis. Character Evan Lancaster is 8th Marquess of Kentshire.

  8. Count/Earl and Countess: Downtown Abbey favorites Lord and Lady Crawley, Earl and Countess of Grantham. And how can we ever forget our favorite dowager countess played by the wonderful actress, Dame Maggie Smith. “What is a weekend?” Genius line, will go down in history 🙂

  9. Viscount and Viscountess: Ladies of London cast member (and former American) Julie Montagu is the only viscountess example I can almost royally come up with (she is Viscountess Hinchingbrooke)…she lives in the Earl of Sandwich’s estate, Mapperton, with her husband, Luke.

  10. Baron and Baroness: Again, I revert to my only known example, Caroline Fleming, member of the cast for Ladies of London. She was born a baroness but holds the title no more. She wrote a wonderful cookbook that I love though, Cook Yourself Happy, the Danish Way

  11. Knight or Dame: We have 2 Beatles now as knights, Sir Paul and Sir Ringo. (and will character Kyle receive his knighthood?)

  12. Lord or Lady: Lots of royal and noble protégé with these honorary titles. You can even buy this title…if the price is right of course.

So as of this writing, Princess Charlotte has broken the almost royal glass ceiling of royal succession–she retains her line to throne ranking (currently 4th) after the birth of her newly named younger brother (Prince Louis Arthur Charles), who does not get to leap frog over her since the 2011 royal succession act. This young princess rules—and at 2 just going on 3, has that royal wave down!

Crowns and Kisses,


P.S. I love my solar waving queen in the featured picture today, she makes me happy 😉 Gemma would approve.

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