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BURKE'S GUIDE TO BRITISH TITLES

Part Two - Taken from the Glossary of Burke's Peerage and Baronetage 106th Edition

Blue, Admiral (of) the: forerunner of modern Rear-Admiral; a commanding officer of one of three squadrons, the other two being the Red and White, into which the Royal Naval fleets were divided under a system in force between the 17th and 19th centuries. The Admiral of the Red was the senior and commanded from the centre of the Fleet. The Admiral of the White commanded from in front and that of the Blue from the rear.

courtesy title: strictly speaking any honorific prefix, whether 'Hon', 'Lady' etc, extended by custom to the near relative of a peer. (For such lesser prefixes, see the individual article baron, duke, earl, marquess, viscount.) It is here proposed to concentrate on the major ones. Many a holder of a peerage (1), especially if of senior rank such as an earl, marquess or duke, has more than one title. He usually 'lends' one of his lesser titles to his eldest son and sometimes one to the latter's eldest son as well. Thus the eldest surviving son and heir of the Duke of Marlborough (qv) is called Marquess of Blandford and the latter's son is called Earl of Sunderland, the two titles being among the Duke's lesser substantive ones. Such 'loans' are called courtesy titles since their bearers are not substantive peers but only commoners in a relationship of expectancy to their father's (or grandfather's) genuine peerages, and although they may be addressed as titled personages it is by courtesy. The lesser title so 'lent' may not necessarily exist, or if it does may not necessarily be one of the substantive peer's actual titles, for example the Barony of Clinton on past occasions in the case of the Earldom of Lincoln, though at present the eldest son of the latter does not use it precisely because it is not a title held by the immediate family. Again, on the death of the 10th Earl of Huntingdon (qv) in 1789 his subsidiary titles passed to his sister but the Earldom passed to a cousin, who became 11th Earl. The 12th Earl's eldest son was known by courtesy as Lord Hastings till he succeeded to the Earldom, even though neither of the two Baronies of that name were held by his branch of the family. And his son, the future 14th Earl, was known by courtesy as Viscount Hastings although that title had not only never been held by the family at all but had never even existed. It is customary to refer in writing to a courtesy marquess, earl or viscount, baron or lord, as 'Marquess of Blandford', 'Earl of Sunderland', etc, without the preceding definite article ('The'). In the body of Burke's Peerage & Baronetage courtesy titles are printed in italics.

custos rotulorum: a Latin phrase meaning 'keeper of the rolls' and referring to an honorific post, often associated with the Lord Lieutenancy of a county.

decreet: Scottish term meaning judgment in a court of law.

dormancy: state of suspension of a title of honour. A peerage (1) or baronetcy is said to be dormant when it has not yet been established who the current holder is, if any. The process of establishing the rightful holder of the title may take centuries, depending on the vigour and wealth of interested parties. Unlike abeyance, with which it is often confused, there is no time limit on the process whereby dormancies may be terminated.

dowager: theoretically any widow possessed of a dower, or life interest in part of her deceased husband's property, but by extension and in modern practice the widow of (1) a baron; (2) a baronet; (3) a duke; (4) an earl; (5) a marquess or (6) a viscount. If the new holder of the title has not married and there are no other widows of previous title holders in the family, the widow's style of address does not change from what it was when her husband was alive. But since hereditary titles may pass through several hands over a relatively short period, for instance during a war, there may be more than one dowager associated with that title at anyone time. The senior dowager, i.e., the one who has first become a dowager, is addressed or referred to as (1) 'The Dowager Lady Blank'/ 'The Rt Hon The Dowager Lady Blank'/ 'Jane Lady Blank' / 'The Rt Hon Jane Lady Blank'; (2) 'Dowager Lady Blank' [note the absence of any definite article]/ 'Jane Lady Blank'; (3) 'The Dowager Duchess of Blank'/ 'Her Grace The Dowager Duchess of Blank'/ 'Jane Duchess of Blank'/ 'Her Grace Jane Duchess of Blank'; (4) 'The Dowager Countess (of) Blank'/ 'The Rt Hon The Dowager Countess (of) Blank'/ 'Jane Countess (of) Blank'/ 'The Rt Hon Jane Countess (of) Blank'; (5) 'The Dowager Marchioness (of) Blank'/ 'The Most Hon The Dowager Marchioness (of) Blank'/ 'Jane Marchioness (of) Blank'/ 'The Most Hon Jane Marchioness (of) Blank'; and (6) 'The Dowager Viscountess (of) Blank'/ 'The Rt Hon The Dowager Viscountess (of) Blank'/ 'Jane Viscountess (of) Blank'/ 'The Rt Hon Jane Viscountess (of) Blank'. Junior dowagers may only use the form featuring their forename. The use of 'Rt Hon' etc is in each case the more formal version.

The state of dowagerhood is taken to imply that the current holder of the title following the dowager's bereavement will, if he has not already done so, take to himself a wife and that the latter will become the 'reigning' baroness, baronet's wife, duchess etc. For that reason it makes no sense to speak of the widow of a knight or life peer as 'dowager' since on the knight's or life peer's death the title becomes extinct. The earliest use of the word in conjunction with a specific title appears to have been for CATHERINE OF ARAGON on her surviving her first husband ARTHUR, when she was called 'Princess Dowager' till she married her brother-in-law the future HENRY VIII. At that time, owing to low life expectancy, a dowager was often a young woman, even a girl. It was only in later centuries, when life expectancy rose substantially, that its association with advanced age began. In modern times that association has caused many widows of peers or of baronets to reject the style of address 'Dowager' and adhere to 'Jane Lady Blank' etc instead.

duke: holder of highest rank of dignity in peerage (2), called a dukedom. The female equivalent is duchess. The word derives from the Latin dux, a military leader or general under the Roman Empire as early as the 2nd century AD who was usually appointed to command troops in a specific campaign. In later centuries he tended to be put in charge of a border region as the equivalent of the modern General Officer Commanding. Similar officials existed in the Merovingian and Carolingian Empires of a few hundred years later. As royal power declined in the 10th century dukes acquired more independence. Meanwhile a class of non-official military leaders developed and where they managed to establish themselves as independent sovereign rulers they kept the title duke as opposed to king. The Dukes of Normandy constitute the example most relevant to English history.

It is often said that the title duke was unknown in England till it was conferred on the Black Prince in 1337, but Kings from WILLIAM I (THE CONQUEROR) down to EDWARD III from the moment of his accession styled themselves Duke of Normandy, Duke of the Normans or Duke of Aquitaine as well as being known by their regal titles. Sixty years later RICHARD II made up for lost time, as it were, when he created five dukedoms in a single day. This is still the record for peerage creations combining both profusion and eminence of rank. He had already created a life dukedom, that of Ireland, conferring it on his close friend the 9th Earl of Oxford (see SAINT ALBANS). In Scotland the first dukedom, that of Rothesay (see ROYAL FAMILY section PRINCE OF WALES), was created in 1398.

Those on whom dukedoms were conferred were always close blood relatives of the sovereign till the 16th century, and even then the first wholly non-royal creation, Charles Brandon, made Duke of Suffolk in 1514, was HENRY VIII's brother-in-law. By the latter half of ELIZABETH I's reign a series of Acts of attainder had totally eliminated dukedoms from the English peerage. The order revived in the 17th and 18th centuries and during the latter period there were at one time 50 extant, though held by only 40 persons, more than has ever been the case since. Dukedoms by now had tended to become the crowning glory for very rich noblemen who controlled several seats in the House of Commons. Two notable exceptions were those of Marlborough and Wellington, awarded for military success and therefore closer in spirit to the original purpose of a dux or duke.

Among those who are reliably reported to have refused dukedoms are the 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne (qv), Disraeli, following his diplomatic triumph at the Congress of Berlin, and Sir Winston Churchill (see MARLBOROUGH) on his retirement from the premiership in 1955. On the last occasion Buckingham Palace is said to have declared to Sir Jock Colville (see COLVILLE OF CULROSS), Churchill's Principal Private Secretary, that no dukedoms would ever again be conferred on non-royals but that the offer would be made to Churchill on the understanding that he was certain to turn it down.

A duke is addressed or referred to formally as 'Yours/His Grace' and addressed less formally as 'Duke'. For his eldest son's style of address see courtesy title. His younger sons and all daughters are referred to as '(The) Lord John Manners/(The) Lady Diana Manners' (see earl for discussion of the definite article before 'Lord'/'Lady'). A duchess is addressed or referred to formally as 'Your/Her Grace' but a duke's divorced wife should not be, though the late Margaret Duchess of Argyll (the correct way of referring to a divorced wife of a duke) campaigned doggedly to retain the prefix.

A related expression, the Dukeries, describes an area of Nottinghamshire rich in estates or mansions that have historically belonged to dukes: Clumber House (Dukes of Newcastle; see LINCOLN, E), Thoresby House (Dukes of Kingston; see KINGSTON), Welbeck Abbey (Dukes of Portland; see PORTLAND, E), Worksop Manor (Dukes of Norfolk; qv).

earl: holder of third highest rank of dignity in the peerage (2), called an earldom. The word derives from the Norse jarl or earl (see also CAITHNESS) via the Anglo-Saxon eorl and is the sole peerage (2) rank not to have a latinate etymology. For a discussion of earls in the immediate pre-Conquest era and for two or three centuries afterwards, both in England and Scotland, see in particular the articles BUCHAN, NORTHUMBERLAND, RUTLAND and WINCHESTER. See also baron. The earl in the first few centuries after the Conquest, being still chiefly an official, was granted the 'third penny', or a slice of the revenue accruing from fees for cases brought in the county court of the shire over which he presided. From the later Middle Ages (see section on earlier creations of Earldom of March in WEMYSS and MARCH) the practice grew up of creating earldoms named after non-county entities, sometimes even families, e.g., Earl Ferrers or Earl Fortescue (note that in such cases the 'of is omitted).

An earl is referred to on paper or addressed on an envelope as 'The Earl (of) Blank' or 'The Rt Hon The Earl (of) Blank' in ascending order of formality, though a few such, notably the Earl of Mar and Kellie and the Earl of Scarbrough (qqv), prefer not to be addressed as 'The Rt Hon' at all on the grounds that the prefix more properly belongs to Privy Counsellors. In a social context 'Lord Blank' rather than 'The Earl (of) Blank' is considered preferable, though if the precise rank of the person referred to needs to be indicated the latter is the only way out. When addressing an earl in the second person 'Lord Blank' will suffice.

An earl's wife is called a countess, reflecting his notional equivalence in rank to the continental count. The same rules of address apply to her as to him, the word 'Countess' being substituted for 'Earl', and where divorced wives of earls are concerned the form of address is as with the divorced wives of a baron except that the words 'Countess (of)' replace 'Lady'. For an earl's eldest son see courtesy title. An earl's younger son(s) is/are addressed as for a baron's son. An earl's daughter is addressed as 'Lady Jane Binks', where 'Jane' is her forename and 'Binks' her surname, whether maiden or married. The practice has revived in recent years of adding a 'The' to 'Lady' when referring to her in the third person (also to 'Lord' where he is a duke's or marquess's younger son). It emanates from Court Circles but is deprecated by some members of the College of Arms. This is on the understandable grounds that it not only encroaches on the definite article which more properly pertains to a full peer but also implicitly places in an inferior position not just the eldest son and heir of an earl, marquess or duke since he has no 'The' to his courtesy title but a Prince or Princess who is not a child of the sovereign since they too are not accorded a 'The'. But the practice may well commend itself inasmuch as it presumbly has the sanction of the Crown.

Earldoms have for the last 200 years been traditionally granted to former Prime Ministers, though neither exclusively nor invariably so.

extinct: state of demise of title, when all possible heirs under the terms of the remainder with which it was originally granted have died out. See also abeyant and dormant.

heir of entail/tailzie: he (or she) who inherits under the terms of an entail.

heir general: senior descendant of original grantee of title regardless of sex, whether of the heir himself/herself or the line by which he/she is so placed in relationship to the grantee.

heir male: he who may inherit a title or titles by virtue of being the senior male-line kinsman of the grantee.

heir male and of provision: in Scottish law, he who inherits as heir male general, that is, not just a direct descendant but the descendant of a brother or ascendant, such as an uncle, great-uncle or cousin (provided the relationship is through the male line).

heir male of the body: as immediately above, but directly descended from the original grantee.

ilk: Scottish term meaning 'of the same name'. Hence a Chief called 'MacQuern of that Ilk' is identical with 'MacQuern of MacQuern'.


Part Three.

 

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