How to address Medieval Royalty and Nobility?

I know this is an in-depth question, but I could really use the answers. I always pick a best answer!

Can anyone tell me how one would have addressed the following people in medieval times? Also, what are the differences in rank? Kings, Queens, and Princes and Princesses are obvious, but what status does one hold as a duke, count, etc...?

I have searched for the answers, but I keep getting varied results.

King

Queen

Prince (Heir)

Prince (Not an heir)

Princess

Duke

Duchess

Marquess

Marchioness

Earl

Countess

Viscount

Visnountess

Baron

Baroness

Knight

Peeress

Update:

Wow, so much information! This is all great, and very helpful. I'm sorting through everything right now and seeing what fits with what I need.

Also, I should have stated that this was for English nobility, though the contributions for other countries have been helpful, too. :)

11 Answers

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  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Like another answerer said, most of these titles were not around in the middle ages.

    I was just looking through the Gest of Robyn Hode from the 14th century, and the characters in that seem to refer to the king as my lord, or my lord the king, and knights and abbots as "sir" or "master". I'd assume that Earls and Barons would also use these forms of address.

    For example:

    "...My lorde the kynge of Englonde,

    Graunte me myn askynge.

    "I made a chapell in Bernysdale,

    That semely is to se,

    It is of Mary Magdaleyne,

    And thereto wolde I be..."

    If you're writing a book set in the middle ages, it might be helpful for you to look through some middle English texts to get an idea of how people spoke to one another (especially people of different ranks). i.e. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the Robin Hood stories, Piers Plowman, and the Canterbury Tales should be easy to find online.

    Here's the Gest of Robyn Hode. It's very Yeomanly.

    http://www.library.rochester.edu/camelot/gest.htm

    Also, you've left out important medieval dignitaries from your lists. You also need to think about how they would have addressed bishops, monks, and abbots.

    In terms of status; Kings were the most powerful lords in England. During the Saxon period there were Earls who were just other powerful landowners. After the Normans conquered, Barons replaced Earls, and Earls were introduced again later.

    Source(s): I'm a medievalist, and the Gest of Robyn Hode.
  • 3 years ago

    Medieval Nobility

  • 1 decade ago

    "Medieval times" lasted from about 600 to 1500 AD. Things changed a LOT in that time, so an answer that is correct for the 15th century will be nonsense for the 10th. Half the titles you list didn't exist in England for most of the Middle Ages.

    However, in general it's true to say that things were much less detailed - the idea that, e.g. the eldest son of a duke is "the Most Honourable" while the eldest son of a marquis is "the Right Honourable" just didn't exist till quite recently. Oh yes, and no English king was called "Your Majesty" till Henry VII came to the throne in 1485. His demand to be called "Majesty" rather shocked people; every English king before him had been content to be called "Your Grace". But the Tudor kings' policy was to create an atmosphere of far more reverence and specialness around the monarchy than had existed in the Middle Ages.

  • 1 decade ago

    I do know that knights were addressed as sir and their wives (if they had one) were addressed as Lady.

    Most others below Princes were addressed as Lord (as in yes m'lord)

    not sure if that is the official way of being addressed.

    Dukes were addressed as Your Grace, His Grace and Duchesses addressed as Your Grace or Her Grace

    Kings and Queens were addressed as Majesty or Your Majesty

    and Princes and Princesses were addressed as Highness or Your Highness

    Sire was also a way to address those who were known to be of higher rank than yourself, but you weren't actually sure just what that rank was. Better to be safe than sorry

    also there were Lords and then there were lords, as well as Lady and lady, depending on the rank.

    I also know that some peers and peeress were master and mistress,

    Also you have them ranked in the right order of importance for the most part. I am not sure that this had anything to do with it back in medieval times, but when Sarah, Duchess of York was married to Prince Andrew, she outranked Princess Anne. I guess it's all in who they marry. Fergie only outranked Princess Anne because Prince Andrew was third in line for the throne while at that time Anne was 5th in line. she's gone down since the Duke's daughters were born and Prince Edward had children.

    if I remember right a duke's son is known as a Marquess. And an Earl's first son is known as a Vicount and second son's are known as Baron

    An Earls wife is a Countess, in Britain there is no such thing as a Count. in other countries however, I don't know

    personally I think it's just a system that developed so each level could say "I'm better than you"

    Source(s): bits of trivia that has stuck in my head over the years from all the odd things I read
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  • Paco
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    A lot depends on what country you are looking at. In Britain they had a fairly simple system throughout much of the middle ages, consisting of King (a Qeen was never a sovereign), barons, and earls. Prince and Princess was not a regularly used style until the 18th century, well after the middle ages.

    -----------

    The following categories were not native to Britain, but are built on Latin words and positions. They were gradually introduced into Britain starting in the 14th century, near the end of the medieval period.

    Duke Duchess

    Marquess Marchioness

    Count Countess

    ---------------------

    Because the English rank of "earl" was equivalent to a "count" the name "earl" was retained. However since it was originally a military position their was not female equivalent. The wife of an earl is now called a "countess".

    =============

    The current idea of dukes and earls as being wealthy families controlling land and peacefully passing down their family title generation after generation dates to approximately 1660. In the preceeding centures dukes were usually military leaders (often closely related to the king), and were often competing sources of power. Quite a number of Dukes before 1660 were stripped of their power, or they overthrew the king, or they were executed for treason.

    ---------------------

    When Queen Elizabeth came to power, their was only one dukedome extant (Duke of Norfolk), and he tried to marry Mary Queen of Scots 12.8 years into Elizabeth's reign and take over the kingdom. He was executed and for the last 31 years of Elizabeth's reign their were no dukes at all. She was not interested in creating an alternate power base.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    The reason you are getting mixed results is that there are different titles for different countries.

    Kings and Queens are ALWAYS Your Majesty. Royal Majesty, if they were born of Royalty...for instance, Anne Boleyn would probably NOT have been addressed as Your Royal Majesty, whereas Catherine of Aragon would have been.

    The Prince and Princess are Your (Royal) Highness.

    A Duke or Duchess is Your Grace

    The rest, I believe, are Sir or Madame, by gender. Or Milord, and Milady.

    A Cardinal is Your Eminence.

    The Pope is Your Holiness.

    There are others (within the Church), but they escape my immediate recall.

  • ?
    Lv 4
    3 years ago

    Well, you realize, there may be that entire legend approximately the Marovingians (from France) being descended from Jesus and Mary Magdalene. But then, this bunch from the History Channel thoroughly debunked that through doing a DNA scan on an exhumed queen from the dynasty.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Well in Henry IV by shakespeare, Hotspur says, "My liege, I did deny no prisoners". Henry IV lived from 1367 to 1413, so that's medieval.

    I say 'my liege', and 'sire', and "majesty" was more common than "your majesty". I think everyone from duke on down can be 'your grace', and really far down is 'your ladyship' or 'your lordship'.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Refer to The Queen as 'Your Majesty'

    Refer to all other Royals as 'Your Royal Highness'

    You may refer to a Duke as 'Your Grace'

    You may refer to me as 'My Noble Lord' or 'Your Lordship'. DO NOT call me 'Dickie'.

  • David
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago

    At the time I believe "sire" was used; The etiquette being "better safe than sorry"!

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