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Orders of precedence
The order of precedence in the United Kingdom is the sequential hierarchy for Peers of the Realm, officers of state, senior members of the clergy, holders of the various Orders of Chivalry and other persons in the three legal jurisdictions within the United Kingdom:
Separate orders exist for males and females.
The order of precedence is determined by various methods. The Precedence Act (which technically applies only to determine seating in the House of Lords Chamber) and the Acts of Union with Scotland and Ireland generally set precedence for members of the nobility. The statutes of the various Orders of Chivalry set precedence for their members. In other cases, precedence may be decided by the sovereign's order, by a Royal Warrant of Precedence, by letters patent, by Acts of Parliament, or by custom.
One may acquire precedence for various reasons. Firstly, one may be an office-holder. Secondly, one may be of a particular degree such as duke. Thirdly, in the case of women, one may be the wife of a title-holder (note that wives acquire precedence due to their husbands, but husbands do not gain any special precedence due to their wives). Finally, one may be the son or daughter of a title-holder.
One does not gain precedence as a child of a lady, unless that lady is a peeress in her own right. Furthermore, if a daughter of a peer marries a commoner, then she retains her precedence as a daughter of a peer. However, if she marries a peer, then her precedence is based on her husband's status, and not on her father's.
The King or Queen of the United Kingdom, as the sovereign, is always first in the order of precedence. A king is followed by his queen consort, the first in the order of precedence for women. The reverse, however, is not always true for queens regnant. There is no established law of precedence for a prince consort, so he is usually specially granted precedence above all other males by letters patent or, on the other hand, may rank lower than the heir apparent or the heir presumptive, even if the heir is his own son, such as with Prince Albert and Edward VII, who outranked his father as Prince of Wales.
|The order of precedence for male members of the royal family is:|
|The Sovereign||Whether male or female.|
|The Prince of Wales, and Duke of Cornwall, Rothesay and Edinburgh||i.e. the Sovereign's eldest son.|
|The Sovereign's younger sons||Ordered according to their birth.|
|The Sovereign's grandsons||Ordered according to the rules of primogeniture.|
|The Sovereign's brothers||Ordered according to their birth.|
|The Sovereign's uncles||i.e. the brothers of the Sovereign's royal parent (through whom he or she inherited the throne); ordered according to their birth.|
|The Sovereign's nephews||i.e. the sons of the Sovereign's brothers and sisters; ordered according to the rules of primogeniture.|
|The Sovereign's cousins||i.e. the sons of the brothers and sisters of the Sovereign's royal parent (through whom he or she inherited the throne); ordered according to the rules of primogeniture.|
|The order of precedence for female members of the royal family is:|
|The Sovereign||Whether male or female.|
|The Queen||Current consort.|
|Queens dowager||Ordered most recent consort first.|
|The Princess of Wales, and Duchess of Cornwall, Rothesay and Edinburgh||i.e. the wife of the Sovereign's eldest son.|
|Wives of the Sovereign's younger sons||Ordered according to their husbands' precedence.|
|The Sovereign's daughters||Ordered according to their birth.|
|Wives of the Sovereign's grandsons||Ordered according to their husbands' precedence.|
|The Sovereign's granddaughters||Ordered according to the rules of primogeniture.|
|Wives of the sovereign's brothers||Ordered according to their husbands' precedence.|
|The Sovereign's sisters||Ordered according to their birth.|
|Wives of the Sovereign's uncles||Ordered according to their husbands' precedence.|
|The Sovereign's aunts||i.e. the sisters of the Sovereign's royal parent (through whom he or she inherited the throne); ordered according to their birth.|
|Wives of the Sovereign's nephews||Ordered according to their husbands' precedence.|
|The Sovereign's nieces||i.e. the daughters of the Sovereign's brothers and sisters; ordered according to the rules of primogeniture.|
|Wives of the sovereign's cousins||Ordered according to their husbands' precedence.|
|The Sovereign's cousins||i.e. the daughters of the brothers and sisters of the Sovereign's royal parent (through whom he or she inherited the throne); ordered according to the rules of primogeniture.|
In England and Wales, the Archbishop of Canterbury is the highest in precedence following the royal family. Then come, assuming the post of Lord High Steward is vacant (as it usually has been since 1421), the Lord Chancellor, the Archbishop of York and the Archbishop of Wales. Next come the Prime Minister, the Lord President of the Privy Council, the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Lord Speaker of the House of Lords (since July 2006), the President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (since October 2009), the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales (since November 2007) and the Lord Privy Seal.
The precedence of the Lord Great Chamberlain, the Earl Marshal, the Lord Steward and the Lord Chamberlain are determined by the rank and class of the peerage of the holders of such offices.
In Scotland, the Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland and the Keeper of the Privy Seal of Scotland, if Peers, rank after the Lord Speaker of the House of Lords. If not so, then they rank after the younger sons of dukes. The Hereditary High Constable of Scotland and the Master of the Household in Scotland rank above dukes. If the Keepers of the Seals are Peers, then the Keepers precede the High Constable and Master.
The ranks of Peers are as follows: Duke (and Duchess), Marquess (and Marchioness), Earl (and Countess), Viscount (and Viscountess), and Baron (and Baroness) together with Scottish Lord (and Lady) of Parliament.
Within their own respective ranks, the rank of Peers correspond to the age (venerability) of the creation of their peerages; that is, the older the title, the more senior the title's holder is. However, seniority rules also depend on the country within the current UK where the title originated, so that English peers hold the highest ranks, followed by Scottish peers. After English and Scottish peers, peers created in Great Britain as whole in (1707–1801) follow. together over the Pre-Union Peerage of Ireland (pre-1801), and together they all take precedence over either the senior Peerage of the United Kingdom (post-1801), or the junior Post-Union Peerage of Ireland (1801–1922).
Subject to the same governing rules as detailed in the paragraphs above, the rank of the wives of Peers is also governed by the venerability (age) of the peerage. A dowager Peeress (widow of a deceased Peer) would however always precede the wife of the present Peer.
Barons and Baronesses of the life peerage rank immediately below Barons and Baronesses of the hereditary peerage and Scottish Lords and Ladies in Parliament.
In England and Wales, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of All England, is the most senior person outside of Royalty, and after the Lord Chancellor, immediately followed by the Archbishop of York, Primate of England, and immediately followed by the Archbishop of Wales. Primates, archbishops and bishops of the Church of England in England and the Church in Wales rank immediately above Peers. First come the Bishops of London and Durham, followed by the Bishop of Winchester, followed by the other diocesan bishops in order of seniority, and then the suffragan bishops in order of seniority.
The Bishop of Sodor and Man and the Anglican Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, whose Sees are full and integral parts of the Ecclesiastical Provinces of York and Canterbury, respectively, are also usually included as suffragan bishops of the Church of England for the purpose of precedence.
See the list of Lords Spiritual for the most senior 21 diocesan bishops ordered by seniority.
In Scotland, the Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland ranks immediately below the sovereign or consort (depending on their respective sex), but only when the General Assembly is in session, and immediately followed by the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
According to the unofficial order of precedence for Northern Ireland published by the publishers of Burke's Peerage , 106th Edition, , the precedence of all of the primates and archbishops of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland and the Church of Ireland, together with the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, are to be determined solely by seniority, according to the dates of consecration or translation, or the date of election, in the case of the Presbyterian Moderator, without any presumption of automatic Roman Catholic or Protestant seniority, Anglican or Presbyterian.
The two highest orders of chivalry in England and Wales, and in Scotland, are the Orders of the Garter, and the Thistle, respectively. Knights of the Order of the Garter precede baronets. After the baronets come the members of all the other orders of chivalry in the following order of their ranks: Knight or Dame Grand Cross, Knight or Dame Commander, Commander or Companion, Lieutenant or Officer, and Member.
For individual members with equivalent ranks but of different orders, precedence is accorded based on the seniority of the orders of chivalry: the Order of the Bath, the Order of St Michael and St George, the Royal Victorian Order, and the Order of the British Empire. For equivalent ranks and orders, those appointed earlier precede those appointed later. Knights Bachelor come after Knights Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Wives of Knights of the Garter, Knights of the Thistle, Knights Grand Cross, Knights Commanders, and Commanders or Companions receive precedence based on their husbands' positions. Wives of individuals of a certain rank follow in precedence after female holders of the same rank. Thus, wives of Knights Grand Cross follow Dames Grand Cross.
Wives of baronets go immediately above all Dames Grand Cross, but are below (though not immediately below) Ladies and Wives of Knights of the Garter, the Thistle, and St Patrick. Baronets' widows follow rules similar to dowager peeresses; a widow of a previous baronet comes immediately before the wife of the present baronet.
The House of Lords, formally The Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Membership is by appointment, heredity or official function. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster.
In the United Kingdom and the British Overseas Territories, personal bravery, achievement, or service are rewarded with honours. The honours system consists of three types of award:
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.
The Most Noble Order of the Garter is an order of chivalry founded by Edward III of England in 1348. It is the most senior order of knighthood in the British honours system, outranked in precedence only by the Victoria Cross and the George Cross. The Order of the Garter is dedicated to the image and arms of Saint George, England's patron saint.
A baronet or the rare female equivalent, a baronetess, is the holder of a baronetcy, a hereditary title awarded by the British Crown. The practice of awarding baronetcies was originally introduced in England in the 14th century and was used by James I of England in 1611 as a means of raising funds.
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 the relatives, officials and others do not themselves hold substantive titles. There are several different kinds of courtesy titles in the British peerage.
Sir is a formal English honorific address for men, derived from Sire in the High Middle Ages. Traditionally, as governed by law and custom, Sir is used for men titled as knights, meaning of orders of chivalry, as well as later also applied to baronets and other offices. As the female equivalent for knighthood is damehood, the suo jure female equivalent term is typically Dame. The wife of a knight or baronet tends to be addressed as Lady, although a few exceptions and interchanges of these uses exist.
The Most Illustrious Order of Saint Patrick is a dormant British order of chivalry associated with Ireland. The Order was created in 1783 by King George III at the request of the then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, The 3rd Earl Temple. The regular creation of knights of the Order lasted until 1922, when most of Ireland gained independence as the Irish Free State, a dominion within what was then known as the British Commonwealth of Nations. While the Order technically still exists, no knight of St Patrick has been created since 1936, and the last surviving knight, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, died in 1974. Elizabeth II, however, remains the Sovereign of the Order, and one officer, the Ulster King of Arms, also survives. St Patrick is patron of the order; its motto is Quis separabit?, Latin for "Who will separate [us]?": an allusion to the Vulgate translation of Romans 8:35, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?"
The New Zealand royal honours system, a system of orders, decorations and medals, recognises achievements of, or service by, New Zealanders or others in connection with New Zealand. Until 1975, New Zealand used the British honours system. Since then the country has introduced a number of uniquely New Zealand honours, and as of 2021, only the dynastic British honours continue in active use in New Zealand, with the exception of the Order of the Companions of Honour.
Forms of address used in the United Kingdom are given below.
The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle is an order of chivalry associated with Scotland. The current version of the Order was founded in 1687 by King James VII of Scotland who asserted that he was reviving an earlier Order. The Order consists of the Sovereign and sixteen Knights and Ladies, as well as certain "extra" knights. The Sovereign alone grants membership of the Order; he or she is not advised by the Government, as occurs with most other Orders.
The following is the order of precedence in England and Wales as of January 2022. Separate orders exist for gentlemen and ladies.
The order of precedence in Scotland was fixed by Royal Warrant in 1905. Amendments were made by further Warrants in 1912, 1952, 1958, 1999 to coincide with the establishment of the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government and most recently in 2012.
An unofficial order of precedence in Northern Ireland, according to Burke's Peerage, 106th Edition, this is not officially authorised by or published with authority from either Buckingham Palace or the College of Arms, or the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice or the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, or the Northern Ireland Assembly, or the Northern Ireland Executive.
The Peerage of England comprises all peerages created in the Kingdom of England before the Act of Union in 1707. In that year, the Peerages of England and Scotland were replaced by one Peerage of Great Britain.
The Lords Spiritual of the United Kingdom are the 26 bishops of the established Church of England who serve in the House of Lords. The Church of Scotland, which is Presbyterian, and the Anglican churches in Wales and Northern Ireland, which are no longer established churches, are not represented. The Lords Spiritual are distinct from the Lords Temporal, their secular counterparts who also sit in the House of Lords.
The history of the British peerage, a system of nobility found in the United Kingdom, stretches over the last thousand years. The current form of the British peerage has been a process of evolution. While the ranks of baron and earl predate the British peerage itself, the ranks of duke and marquess were introduced to England in the 14th century. The rank of viscount came later, in the mid-15th century. Peers were summoned to Parliament, forming the House of Lords.
The British nobility is made up of the peerage and the landed gentry. The nobility of its four constituent home nations has played a major role in shaping the history of the country, although now they retain only the rights to stand for election to the House of Lords, dining rights there, position in the formal order of precedence, the right to certain titles, and the right to an audience with the monarch. More than a third of British land is in the hands of aristocrats and traditional landed gentry.
The order of precedence in Ireland was fixed by Royal Warrant on 2 January 1897 during Ireland's ties to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
Letters Patent, in the United Kingdom, are legal instruments generally issued by the monarch granting an office, right, title, or status to a person. Letters Patent have also been used for the creation of corporations or offices, for granting city status, for granting coat of arms, and for granting royal assent.