Bright Ideas and True Confessions: How and What to Do and Why

Forms of Address
Ælflæd of Duckford

This article was written for the local newsletter, and I'm leaving the local examples in just to preserve it as-is.

For the benefit of the many new members in al-Barran, here is a review of forms of address, with some real-life examples. As you read, know that some people have achieved two or more ranks, and may just prefer a title other than the "highest" one they have. Some use one for one occasion and other for another. Don't double up on them, though—don't say "Master Sir Raymond" nor ever "Duke Sir Artan" and never "Countess Mistress Kathryn." Pick one at a time.

Beginning at the top, as a demonstration of precedence order:

King and Queen Your Majesty or Your Royal Majesty

Under some formal circumstances (for example, a knight in fealty giving a speech) "my Lord" or "My Liege" might be appropriate. [1] My Lady Queen, by a liegeman, can be pretty.

Crown Prince/Crown Princess Your Royal Highness or Your Highness

The Crown Prince and Crown Princess are only in season between Crown Tournament and Coronation. When the Outlands was a principality within Atenveldt, plain "your highness" was for the prince of the Outlands, and the crown prince of Atenveldt was always "your royal highness" as a means of differentiation. [2]

Duke/Duchess Your Grace

These may be wearing coronets with strawberry leaves. If you don't recognize the strawberry leaves and accidently call one "Your Excellency," he won't be offended unless maybe you do it three or four times and you've known him for a while and were at the ceremony when he was made a duke. Locally active there are Their Graces, Duke Koris and Duchess Leah Kasmira, Herzog Johann von Hohen Staffen [who prefers the equivalent "Herzog" to "Duke"], Duke Artan, Duke Johann von Balduinseck [3], and sometimes Duke Einrich. Each has completed two reigns as King or Queen.



Here begins the "all other" category—all "Excellencies." Coronets will range from plain bands to gaudy big crenolated jobs. If you accidently call one "grace" or highness" they will (ideally) correct you politely. (Or they may be afraid of embarrassing you, and just let it go by.) [4]

Count / Countess Your Excellency / Countess Kathryn

Viscount / Viscountess Your Excellency / Viscount Eldr / Viscountess Beau

Baron / Baroness Your Excellency / Sir Stefan [5]

Court Baron / Baroness Your Excellency / Baroness Elisheva / Baron Tadashi

Counts and Countesses have been king or queen once. "Jarl" is an equivalent title which Gunwaldt and Heinrich both prefer. Others in the barony are Layla, Kathryn, AElflaed, and sometimes Myrby.

Viscounts and Viscountesses were Prince or Princess of a principality, probably the Outlands.[6] Some of those in town who served as prince/ess have been given higher titles since, but Eldr, Michael die Zauberzunge, Keridwen, Beau Marishka or Stefan could be referred to that way, as could Wielhelm of the Bogs, and, when they visit again, Irminsul and Robin of Mightrinwood.

A territorial Baron or Baroness gets the "baron" before the name of the group, not before his or her given name. Stefan is "Viscount Stefan, Baron of al-Barran," or "Sir Stefan," or "Your Excellency," but not "Baron Stefan" and never "Baron." [7] If he were to resign and be made a court baron, then he'd be Baron Stefan, but until that time, "Baron Stefan" isn't correct. Sir Raymond of Sternedell was the founding baron (the very first) of al-Barran, and he was at that time Sir Raymond the Baron al-Barran (no "of"). He's still "the Baron al-Barran" and evermore shall be. Nobody else ever gets that—every subsequent baron or baroness has to use "of al-Barran." They're all excellencies, though.

Court Barons and Baronesses don't really go here in precedence, as that title doesn't carry any precedence in and of itself, but since they're addressed as Excellency here it is. This is a title given by the Crown to a person who is somehow special and unique, and with the title comes the privilege of wearing a coronet and being addressed as "excellency" (and an awards of arms if the person doesn't already have one, or perhaps a grant if the Crown prefers). They are not territorial barons, in that they have no territory. They are more like honorary barons. In al-Barran we have Baroness Kathryn of Iveragh (who has outranked herself by becoming a Countess, and who often uses Mistress Kathryn anyway), Baroness Elisheva, Baron Tadashi and Baron Mark Lasie. [8]

Here Endeth the Excellency Section

Patent of Arms

[If you don't know their names but you can see the insignia of the order: ]
Sir Knight, good Mistress, my lord, my lady

[If you do know their names:]
Sir Bertrand, Master Gunwaldt, Mistress Elinor

This group is commonly referred to as "the peerage" although royal peers are also peers. In this list I'm referring to them as "patents of arms" (to match grants and awards below) even though many of those above this level also have patents of arms. The precedence of these orders is due to their having patents of arms.

Knights and Masters of Arms are part of the same group, the Chivalry. Sometimes it's referred to as the two orders of chivalry, and sometimes as "the order of chivalry." [9] (The latter is better, clearer, more like the way things operate.) You'll sometimes hear "masters at arms" which is not right; it's masters of arms. The "at" probably came from people's vague memories of Sergeant at Arms from Robert's Rules of Order. Knights are referred to as "Sir So-and-so" and Masters (locally only Gunwaldt these days) as "Master So-and-so." Long ago the SCA established that female knights could use "Dame" as is done nowadays in England, but all the female knights around here (meaning Atenveldt, as the Outlands has none at the moment) have always just used "Sir." Members of the Orders of the Laurel and the Pelican are referred to as "Master-" or "Mistress So-and-so." There is no special other address such as nobility or grants of arms have. Don't combine more than one. A double peer (meaning a member of more than one order) isn't Master Sir or Master Master or Sir Master. Yuck. Ptoooee. Don't.

Grant of Arms Your Lordship / Your Ladyship / My Lord / My Lady

Lady Merlina and Lady Elinor du Ponte have Grants of Arms, and here are some ways they can be addressed and referred to. "Lady Elinor" is still correct, as would be "Her Ladyship, Elinor" (note the comma, which represents a pause or downward inflection in speech). To address Merlina (to her face) I could say "My Lady" or "Your Ladyship." In introducing her in court or addressing her in a letter, I could say "The Honorable Lady Merlina," or "Unto Her Ladyship, Merlina Gitano del Sacre Monte." Don't mix and match this stuff or it gets messy. "Your Honorable Ladyship" is too much.

Award of Arms my Lord / my Lady / Lord Vagn / Lady Susan

An award of arms gives a person his or her first title. It is given by the Crown directly, or through the Baron and Baroness as their agents, or sometimes by the Baron and Baroness on the Crown's authority (there's a slight difference in the last two, but it's ultimately an award from the Crown in any case). Rather than being just "Joe-Bob," one becomes "Lord Joe-Bob."

no award of arms m'lord / m'lady / m'lady Elspeth / Elspeth

A person without a formal title is often addressed as "m'lord" anyway, but it is, literally, not as pronounced, and in print (or calligraphy) is shown as above-contracted and uncapitalized. This is the form used when one is unsure of rank or title as well. Many a duke, when putting up his tent in his mundanes, is addressed by those who don't recognize him as "m'lord." If anyone says that to you and you have no title, it requires no correction whatsoever.

Combinations There are fancy, tricky ways to combine titles for those occasions when you may, for one reason or another, want to "lay it on thick." For example, in heralding a tournament, you could say "His Excellency, Master Gunwaldt." That gives the information that he's a member of an order of peerage and also a noble or royal peer. Even more detailed information is given by "His Grace, Sir Johann"—we know he's a duke and a knight. "Duke Artan, Knight of the Society for Creative Anachronism" is a way it's often done in processionals. In more informal introductions you might hear something like "Mistress Kathryn was the second queen of the Outlands, and is a Laurel and a Pelican." It's not the most formal way to present that she's a countess and a double peer, but it's common and useful. [10]

Note for 6/6/96 printout: Some of this information is outdated, as to the rank and office of individuals, but the principles are still sound.

Note for 11/24/06 html touch-up: Most is outdated; some of the individuals are deceased. Historical documents become more historical all the time. —aelflaED


[1] It's hard for some people to understand, but in some circumstances "My Lord" is the highest and most formal way a king could be addressed by one of his own liegemen. A knight can say "thank you, m'lord" to someone who has just helped him set up the lists field, and then kneel in front of the king and say, "My lord, the field is prepared." It's kind of like the difference between an army corporal saying "yes sir" politely to a parking lot attendant and then saying "yes, Sir" to the president or to a general. The difference is that in the more formal situation it's said with feeling, with meaning. It needs to be accompanied by the proper gestures and facial expressions, and it's in awareness of things like this that we can begin to become our medieval selves. Without making conscious decisions about how and why to address people, we're just repeating phrases as from a script.

[2] Different kingdoms have different traditions concerning this, I believe. Ask around.

[3] He moved back to the Citadel of the Southern Pass (El Paso) soon after this article was written.

[4] Or they might get off on being thought to be of a higher rank than they are. I've heard twice of people with coronets which were perhaps a little too ostentatious for most people's tastes, who went to out-of-kingdom events and were called "Highness" or "Majesty" and never tried to correct a single person. Hmm ...

[5] This one is tricky, study the explanation.

[6] In this case probably the Outlands, and if you're reading in another principality I assume you're thinking your own names and situations in each sampling.

[7] Calling someone "Baron" as though it's a name or form of address isn't good. It would be the same as to call His Majesty "Hey, King" or "Yo, King." You could say "My Lord Baron" to get his attention, or "Your Excellency" but never "Baron."

[8] Mark advised me on this article. I knew he was going to be a baron before the end of the month, but this came out before. His name's added to complete the set.

[9] Informally, as "the belts."

[10] I didn't put this in the local article, but there are two other terms besides "double peer." One is triple peer (a knight/laurel/pelican combo) and the other is "Pelaurel"—a combination laurel and pelican. I've heard "Pelaurel" used by Caidans more than anyone else, and I'm not sure how widespread the term is.

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