A courtesy title is a title that does not have legal significance but rather is used through custom or courtesy, particularly, in the context of nobility, the titles used by children of members of the nobility (cf. substantive title).
In some contexts, courtesy title is used to mean the more general concept of a title or honorific such as Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr., Miss, Sir, and Madam.
In Europe, including France, many titles are not substantive titles but remain titres de courtoisie, and, as such, are adopted unilaterally. When done by a genuine member of the noblesse d'épée the custom was tolerated in French society. A common practice is title declension, when cadet males of noble families, especially landed aristocracy, may assume a lower courtesy title than that legally borne by the head of their family, even though lacking a titled seigneury themselves.For example, the eldest son of the Duke of Paris (substantive title) may be called Marquis de Paris (courtesy title) and younger sons Comte N. of Paris, where N. stands for the first name. In the hereditary Napoleonic and Restoration peerage, declension was a legal right of younger sons, the derivative title being heritable by male primogeniture; King Joseph Napoleon conferred the title "Prince" on his grandchildren in the male and female line.
During the Ancien Régime, the only substantive titles were feudal, land-based and required a royal grant or royal recognition. In order to use the title of count, one had to own a seigneurie elevated to county and to comply with the remainder of the grant. These legal prescriptions, however, came to be consistently enforced only with respect to the title of duke (duc). Most titles were self-assumed courtesy titles, even those used at the royal court and in legal documents.
Clergymen before episcopal ordination used the title of abbé, followed by the name of the principal title of their father. Members of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta used the title of chevalier in the same fashion.
The heir apparent of a titled nobleman used one of the lesser titles of his father as a courtesy title. In the 17th century, the heirs of the most powerful dukes were sometimes allowed to assume the title of prince. In the 18th century, a trend was for the heir to use the title of duke. It was achieved in one of three ways: if the head of family held two dukedoms, his heir could use the junior one; the head of family could resign his French peerage to his heir, who assumed a new title of duke while the father retained his ducal title; the king could confer a brevet de duc, that is formally accord the non-hereditary style and precedence of a duke to the heir of a ducal title.
The younger sons of a noble titleholder used one of the family's lesser titles, but rarely one of duke or prince. Even in untitled families of the nobility, every son used a different territorial designation, the so-called nom de terre.
The daughters used the title of mademoiselle, followed by the name of a manor owned by their father. For example, Anne Marie Louise d'Orléans, Duchess of Montpensier (known as La Grande Mademoiselle), was the eldest daughter of Gaston d'Orléans ( Monsieur ) and his first wife Marie de Bourbon, Duchess of Montpensier. Anne Marie Louise was officially known as Mademoiselle from the time of her birth.
The United Kingdom has a detailed system of courtesy titles and styles by which the eldest son, male-line grandson or great-grandson and heir of a peer may use a subsidiary title of his ancestor even though it is the ancestor who holds the title substantively. By extension, the children not only of all peers but of those who bear derivative courtesy titles as male-line descendants of a substantive peer bear specific titles (Lord/Lady) or styles (The Honourable) by courtesy. Under United Kingdom law, users of courtesy titles of nobility have been held to be commoners, eligible for election to the House of Commons rather than members of the House of Lords.
In November 2020, a Japanese government proposal would establish the courtesy title Kojo ("Imperial Woman") for former princesses. By current Imperial Household Law female members who marry commoners lose their royal status and become commoners. Should such a system become law, the former princesses would still be commoners but would have an official public servant status in order to conduct public duties for the dwindling number of imperial family members.
Styles represent the fashion by which monarchs and noblemen are properly addressed. Throughout history, many different styles were used, with little standardization. This page will detail the various styles used by royalty and nobility in Europe, in the final form arrived at in the nineteenth century.
Morganatic marriage, sometimes called a left-handed marriage, is a marriage between people of unequal social rank, which in the context of royalty or other inherited title prevents the principal's position or privileges being passed to the spouse, or any children born of the marriage.
A prince is a male ruler or a male member of a monarch's or former monarch's family. Prince is also a title of nobility, often hereditary, in some European states. The female equivalent is a princess. The English word derives, via the French word prince, from the Latin noun prīnceps, from primus (first) and caput (head), meaning "the first, foremost, the chief, most distinguished, noble ruler, prince".
The peerage in the United Kingdom is a legal system comprising both hereditary and lifetime titles, composed of various noble ranks, and forming a constituent part of the British honours system. The term peerage can be used both collectively to refer to the entire body of nobles, and individually to refer to a specific title. British peerage title holders are termed peers of the Realm. The peerage's fundamental roles are ones of government, peers being eligible to a seat in the House of Lords, and of meritocracy, the receiving of any peerage being the highest of British honours. In the UK, five peerages or peerage divisions co-exist, namely:
Duke is a male title either of a monarch ruling over a duchy, or of a member of royalty, or nobility. As rulers, dukes are ranked below emperors, kings, grand princes, grand dukes, and sovereign princes. As royalty or nobility, they are ranked below princes of nobility and grand dukes. The title comes from French duc, itself from the Latin dux, 'leader', a term used in republican Rome to refer to a military commander without an official rank, and later coming to mean the leading military commander of a province. In most countries, the word duchess is the female equivalent.
A viscount or viscountess is a title used in certain European countries for a noble of varying status.
Baron is a rank of nobility or title of honour, often hereditary, in various European countries, either current or historical. The female equivalent is baroness. Typically, the title denotes an aristocrat who ranks higher than a lord or knight, but lower than a viscount or count. Often, barons hold their fief – their lands and income – directly from the monarch. Barons are less often the vassals of other nobles. In many kingdoms, they were entitled to wear a smaller form of a crown called a coronet.
A courtesy title is a form of address in systems of nobility used for children, former wives and other close relatives of a peer, as well as certain officials such as some judges and members of the Scottish gentry. These styles are used "by courtesy" in the sense that persons referred to by these titles do not themselves hold substantive titles. There are several different kinds of courtesy titles in the British peerage system.
Forms of address used in the United Kingdom are given below.
A coronet is a small crown consisting of ornaments fixed on a metal ring. By one definition, a coronet differs from other kinds of crowns in that a coronet never has arches, and from a tiara in that a coronet completely encircles the head, while a tiara does not. By a slightly different definition, a crown is worn by an emperor, empress, king or queen; a coronet by a nobleman or lady. See also diadem.
Royal Highness is a style used to address or refer to some members of royal families, usually princes or princesses. Monarchs and their consorts are usually styled Majesty.
Fils de France was the style and rank held by the sons of the kings and dauphins of France. A daughter was known as a fille de France.
A substantive title is a title of nobility or royalty acquired either by individual grant or inheritance. It is to be distinguished from a title shared among cadets, borne as a courtesy title by a peer's relatives, or acquired through marriage.
The German nobility and royalty were status groups of the medieval society in Central Europe, which enjoyed certain privileges relative to other people under the laws and customs in the German-speaking area, until the beginning of the 20th century. Historically, German entities that recognized or conferred nobility included the Holy Roman Empire (962–1806), the German Confederation (1814–1866) and the German Empire (1871–1918). Chancellor Otto von Bismarck in the German Empire had a policy of expanding his political base by ennobling rich businessmen who had no noble ancestors. The nobility flourished during the dramatic industrialization and urbanization of Germany after 1850. Landowners modernized their estates, and oriented their business to an international market. Many younger sons were positioned in the rapidly growing national and regional bureaucracies, as well as in the military. They acquired not only the technical skills but the necessary education in high prestige German universities that facilitated their success. Many became political leaders of new reform organizations such as agrarian leagues, and pressure groups. Catholic nobility played a major role in the new Centre party, while Protestant nobles were especially active in the Conservative party.
Hereditary titles, in a general sense, are nobility titles, positions or styles that are hereditary and thus tend or are bound to remain in particular families.
Prince étranger was a high, though somewhat ambiguous, rank at the French royal court of the Ancien Régime.
The Belgian nobility comprises Belgian individuals or families recognized as noble with or without a title of nobility in the Kingdom of Belgium. The Belgian constitution states that no specific privileges are attached to the nobility.
A prince du sang is a person legitimately descended in male line from a sovereign. The female equivalent was princess of the blood, being applied to the daughter of a prince of the blood. The most prominent examples include members of the French royal line, but the term prince of the blood has been used in other families more generally, for example among the British royal family and when referring to the Shinnōke.
A subsidiary title is an hereditary title held by a royal or noble person but which is not regularly used to identify that person, due to the concurrent holding of a greater title.
In the British peerage, a royal duke is a member of the British royal family, entitled to the titular dignity of prince and the style of His Royal Highness, who holds a dukedom. Dukedoms are the highest titles in the British roll of peerage, and the holders of these particular dukedoms are princes of the blood royal. The holders of the dukedoms are royal, not the titles themselves. They are titles created and bestowed on legitimate sons and male-line grandsons of the British monarch, usually upon reaching their majority or marriage. The titles can be inherited but cease to be called "royal" once they pass beyond the grandsons of a monarch. As with any peerage, once the title becomes extinct, it may subsequently be recreated by the reigning monarch at any time.