Courtesy title

A courtesy title is a form of address in the British peerage system used for wives, children, and other close relatives of a peer. This styles may mislead those unacquainted with the system into thinking that they have substantive titles.

If a peer of the rank of Duke, Marquess or Earl has more than one title, his eldest son, not himself a peer, uses one of the lesser titles. (The eldest sons of Barons and Viscounts do not receive such a privilege.) If that eldest son has an eldest son, and there are additional titles available, he too may use a lesser title. For example, the Duke of Norfolk is also the Earl of Arundel and the Lord Maltravers, and so his son may be styled Earl of Arundel, and the grandson styled Lord Maltravers. However, only the grandfather is a peer: the other two remain 'commoners' until they actually acquire a substantive title. Also, such courtesy titles are only used by the peer's eldest son, and the eldest son's eldest son, and so forth. Other descendants are not permitted to use the peer's subsidiary titles.

The actual title used is a matter of family tradition. For instance, the eldest son of the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry is the Earl of Dalkeith, even though the Duke is also the Marquess of Dumfriesshire, a senior title to the Earldom of Dalkeith. Similarly, the eldest son of the Marquess of Londonderry is Viscount Castlereagh, even though the Marquess is also the Earl Vane. Titles with the same name as a peer's main title are also not used as courtesy titles. For instance, the Duke of Westminster is also the Marquess of Westminster and the Earl Grosvenor (amongst other things). The Duke's son is not the Marquess of Westminster (which would cause confusion between the son and the father), and so is styled Earl Grosvenor instead. The title used does not have to be exactly equivalent to the actual peerage: the eldest son of the current Duke of Wellington uses the title "Marquess of Douro", even though the actual peerage possessed by his father is "Marquess Douro". If a peer of the rank of Earl or above does not have any subsidiary titles of a different name to his main title, his eldest son usually uses an invented courtesy title of "Lord Surname". For instance, the eldest son of the Earl of Devon is Lord Courtenay, even though the Earl has no barony of that name, and similarly the eldest son of the Earl of Guilford is Lord North. The eldest son of the Earl of Huntingdon, who has no subsidiary titles, is styled Viscount Hastings to avoid confusion with the substantive peer Lord Hastings.

A peer's wife takes her courtesy title based on her husband's rank, unless she herself has a higher title. Thus a baron's wife is called "baroness", an earl's wife is called a "countess", a duke's wife a "duchess", etc. Despite being referred to as a "peeress", she does not, however, become a peer "in her own right": these are 'styles', not substantive titles.

Another form of courtesy title, in the form of an honorific prefix, is granted to younger sons, and all daughters of peers. The rules differ for different ranks of peers: the children of a baron, for example, get the prefix "Hon.", the daughters of an earl are called "Lady", and so on. These titles persist after the death of the father and the descent of the peerage to the elder son.

Peer Wife Eldest Son Younger Son Unmarried Daughter
Duke Duchess Father's Subsidiary Title Lord Firstname Lastname Lady Firstname Lastname
Marquess Marchioness Father's Subsidiary Title Lord Firstname Lastname Lady Firstname Lastname
Earl Countess Father's Subsidiary Title The Honourable Firstname Lastname Lady Firstname Lastname
Viscount Viscountess The Honourable Firstname Lastname The Honourable Firstname Lastname The Honourable Firstname Lastname
Baron Baroness The Honourable Firstname Lastname The Honourable Firstname Lastname The Honourable Firstname Lastname

A peer's daughter who marries a commoner either becomes "The Lady Firstname Husbandslastname" or "The Honourable Mrs. Husbandslastname", depending on what her birth style is. If she marries a peer, she gains the courtesy title as that peer's wife. Also note that the children of a peeress in her own right (a peeress that holds a substantive title, and is not merely a wife of a peer) gain courtesy titles as usual, but the husband receives no special distinction.

If a woman marries an Honourable, and holds no higher title, she will become "The Honourable Mrs. Husbandsfirstname Husbandslastname." If a woman marries a Lord, she will become "The Lady Husbandsfirstname Husbandslastname." In case of a divorce, she will keep the same style as during her marriage, or she may choose to assume the style "Mrs. Firstname Husbandslastname." Regardless of what she chooses, she loses all precedence she attained from marriage. Because of the former option, there can be multiple Lady John Smiths.

Occasionally, when someone inherits a peerage from a relative who is not one's parent, their siblings may be allowed to use courtesy titles as if they were the children of that peer. For instance, Rupert Charles Ponsonby, 7th Baron de Mauley inherited the Barony of de Mauley from his uncle in 2002. His brother Ashley had no title, as their father was only an Honourable and was never actually Baron de Mauley. However, in 2003, Ashley was granted the style and precedence of the son of a baron, becoming The Honourable Ashley Ponsonby.


Divorced wives

The divorced wife of a peer will put her Christian name before her husband's title, and lose any style she gained from marriage, and loses any address she gains from that style. So, "Her Grace The Duchess of London" becomes "Mary, Duchess of London," and should be addressed as "Duchess," but no longer "Your Grace." "The Rt. Hon. The Lady London" becomes "Mary, Lady London" and should be addressed as "Lady London," but not "My Lady" (an address gained from the style of Ladyship).


If a peer dies, his wife's style does not change unless the new peer is married. If he is married, traditionally the widowed peeress puts "Dowager" in her style, i.e. "The Most Hon. The Marchioness of London" becomes "The Most Hon. The Dowager Marchioness of London." However, in more recent times, due to negative connotations of the word "Dowager," many widows choose to be styled as a divorcee, except keeping their style. So, "The Rt. Hon. The Viscountess London" becomes "The Rt. Hon. Mary, Viscountess London."

If a widowed peeresses son predeceases her, her daughter-in-law may not use the Dowager styling and must use the Christian name designation until her mother-in-law dies, at which point she may use the Dowager title.

Courtesy Titles for Heirs of Dukes

The Duke of NorfolkEarl of Arundel and SurreyLord Maltravers 
The Duke of SomersetLord Seymour  
The Duke of Richmond and GordonEarl of March and KinraraLord Settrington 
The Duke of GraftonEarl of EustonViscount Ipswich 
The Duke of BeaufortMarquess of WorcesterEarl of GlamorganViscount Grosmont
The Duke of Saint AlbansEarl of BurfordLord Vere of Hanworth 
The Duke of BedfordMarquess of TavistockLord Howland 
The Duke of DevonshireMarquess of HartingtonEarl of BurlingtonLord Cavendish
The Duke of MarlboroughMarquess of BlandfordEarl of SunderlandLord Churchill
The Duke of RutlandMarquess of GranbyLord Haddon 
The Duke of Hamilton and BrandonMarquess of Douglas and ClydesdaleEarl of AngusLord Abernethy
The Duke of Buccleuch and QueensberryEarl of DalkeithLord Eskdaill 
The Duke of ArgyllMarquess of LorneEarl of CampbellViscount Lochaw
The Duke of AthollMarquess of TullibardineEarl of StrathtayViscount Balquhidder
The Duke of MontroseMarquess of GrahamEarl of KincardineViscount Dundaff
The Duke of RoxburgheMarquess of Bowmont and CessfordEarl of KelsoViscount Broxmouth
The Duke of ManchesterViscount MandevilleLord Kimbolton 
The Duke of NorthumberlandEarl PercyLord Lovaine 
The Duke of LeinsterMarquess of KildareEarl of OffalyViscount Leinster
The Duke of AbercornMarquess of HamiltonViscount Strabane 
The Duke of WellingtonMarquess of DouroEarl of MorningtonViscount Wellesley
The Duke of SutherlandMarquess of StaffordEarl GowerViscount Trentham
The Duke of WestminsterEarl GrosvenorViscount Belgrave 
The Duke of FifeEarl of SoutheskLord Carnegie 
The Duke of GloucesterEarl of UlsterLord Culloden 
The Duke of KentEarl of St AndrewsLord Downpatrick 
The Duke of EdinburghEarl of MerionethLord Greenwich 
The Duke of YorkEarl of InvernessLord Killyleagh 

Courtesy Titles for Heirs of Marquesses

The Marquess of WinchesterEarl of WiltshireLord St John
The Marquess of HuntlyEarl of AboyneLord Strathavon
The Marquess of QueensberryViscount Drumlanrig 
The Marquess of TweeddaleEarl of GiffordViscount Walden
The Marquess of LothianEarl of AncramLord Newbottle
The Marquess of LansdowneEarl of Kerry/ShelburneViscount Clanmaurice
The Marquess TownshendViscount Raynham 
The Marquess of SalisburyViscount Cranborne 
The Marquess of BathViscount Weymouth 
The Marquess of HertfordEarl of YarmouthViscount Beauchamp
The Marquess of ButeEarl of DumfriesViscount Mountjoy
The Marquess of WaterfordEarl of TyroneLord Beresford
The Marquess of DownshireEarl of HillsboroughViscount Kilwarlin
The Marquess of DonegallEarl of BelfastViscount Chichester
The Marquess of HeadfortEarl of BectiveLord Kenlis
The Marquess of SligoEarl of AltamontViscount Westport
The Marquess of ElyViscount Loftus 
The Marquess ConynghamEarl of Mount CharlesViscount Slane
The Marquess of LondonderryViscount CastlereaghLord Stewart
The Marquess of ExeterLord Burghley 
The Marquess of NorthamptonEarl ComptonLord Wilmington
The Marquess CamdenEarl of BrecknockViscount Bayham
The Marquess of AngleseyEarl of UxbridgeLord Paget
The Marquess of CholmondeleyEarl of RocksavageViscount Malpas
The Marquess of AilesburyEarl of CardiganViscount Savernake
The Marquess of BristolEarl JermynLord Hervey
The Marquess of AilsaEarl of CassilisLord Kennedy
The Marquess of NormanbyEarl of MulgraveLord Phipps
The Marquess of AbergavennyEarl of LewesViscount Nevill
The Marquess of ZetlandEarl of RonaldshayLord Dundas
The Marquess of LinlithgowEarl of HopetounViscount Aithrie
The Marquess of Aberdeen and TemairEarl of HaddoViscount Formartine
The Marquess of Milford HavenEarl of MedinaViscount Alderney
The Marquess of ReadingViscount Erleigh 

Courtesy Titles for Heirs of Earls

The Earl of Shrewsbury and WaterfordViscount Ingestre
The Earl of DerbyLord Stanley
The Earl of HuntingdonViscount Hastings
The Earl of DevonLord Courtenay
The Earl of Pembroke and MontgomeryLord Herbert
The Earl of Lincoln 
The Earl of Suffolk and BerkshireViscount Andover
The Earl of Denbigh and DesmondViscount Feilding
The Earl of WestmorlandLord Burghersh
The Earl of Lindsey and AbingdonLord Norreys
The Earl of Winchilsea and NottinghamViscount Maidstone
The Earl of SandwichViscount Hinchingbrooke
The Earl of EssexViscount Malden
The Earl of CarlisleViscount Morpeth
The Earl of ShaftesburyLord Ashley
The Earl of PortlandViscount Woodstock
The Earl of ScarbroughViscount Lumley
The Earl of AlbemarleViscount Bury
The Earl of CoventryViscount Deerhurst
The Earl of JerseyViscount Villiers/Grandison
The Earl of MarLord Garioch
The Earl of SutherlandLord Strathnaver
The Earl of Crawford and BalcarresLord Lindsay
The Earl of Mar and KellieViscount Fentoun
The Earl of ErrollLord Hay
The Earl of CaithnessLord Berriedale
The Earl of RothesLord Leslie
The Earl of MortonLord Aberdour
The Earl of BuchanLord Cardross
The Earl of Eglinton and WintonLord Montgomerie
The Earl of MorayLord Doune
The Earl of HomeLord Dunglass
The Earl of PerthViscount Strathallan
The Earl of Strathmore and KinghorneLord Glamis
The Earl of HaddingtonLord Binning
The Earl of GallowayLord Garlies
The Earl of LauderdaleViscount Maitland
The Earl of LindsayViscount Garnock
The Earl of LoudounLord Mauchline
The Earl of KinnoullViscount Dupplin
The Earl of Elgin and KincardineLord Bruce
The Earl of Wemyss and MarchLord Elcho/Neidpath
The Earl of DalhousieLord Ramsay
The Earl of AirlieLord Ogilvy
The Earl of Leven and MelvilleLord Balgonie
The Earl of DysartLord Huntingtower
The Earl of SelkirkLord Daer
The Earl of NortheskLord Rosehill
The Earl of DundeeLord Scrymgeour
The Earl of NewburghViscount Kynnaird
The Earl of Annandale and HartfellLord Johnstone
The Earl of DundonaldLord Cochrane
The Earl of KintoreLord Inverurie
The Earl of DunmoreViscount Fincastle
The Earl of OrkneyViscount Kirkwall
The Earl of SeafieldViscount Reidhaven
The Earl of StairViscount Dalrymple
The Earl of RoseberyLord Primrose/Dalmeny
The Earl of GlasgowViscount Kelburn
The Earl FerrersViscount Tamworth
The Earl of DartmouthViscount Lewisham
The Earl of TankervilleLord Ossulston
The Earl of AylesfordLord Guernsey
The Earl of MacclesfieldViscount Parker
The Earl WaldegraveViscount Chewton
The Earl of HarringtonViscount Petersham
The Earl of PortsmouthViscount Lymington
The Earl of WarwickLord Brooke
The Earl of BuckinghamshireLord Hobart
The Earl of GuilfordLord North
The Earl of HardwickeViscount Royston
The Earl of IlchesterLord Stavordale
The Earl De La WarrLord Buckhurst
The Earl of RadnorViscount Folkestone
The Earl SpencerViscount Althorp
The Earl BathurstLord Apsley
The Earl of ClarendonLord Hyde
The Earl of Mansfield and MansfieldViscount Stormont
The Earl of Mount EdgcumbeViscount Valletort
The Earl FortescueViscount Ebrington
The Earl CadoganViscount Chelsea
The Earl of MalmesburyViscount FitzHarris
The Earl of Cork and OrreryViscount Dungarvan
The Earl of WestmeathLord Delvin
The Earl of MeathLord Ardee
The Earl of DroghedaViscount Moore
The Earl of GranardLord Forbes
The Earl of DarnleyLord Clifton
The Earl of EgmontViscount Perceval
The Earl of BessboroughViscount Duncannon
The Earl of CarrickViscount Ikerrin
The Earl of ShannonViscount Boyle
The Earl of ArranViscount Sudley
The Earl of CourtownViscount Stopford
The Earl of MexboroughViscount Pollington
The Earl WintertonViscount Turnour
The Earl of KingstonViscount Kingsborough
The Earl of RodenViscount Jocelyn
The Earl of LisburneViscount Vaughan
The Earl of ClanwilliamLord Gillford
The Earl of AntrimViscount Dunluce
The Earl of LongfordLord Silchester
The Earl of PortarlingtonViscount Carlow
The Earl of MayoLord Naas
The Earl AnnesleyViscount Glerawly
The Earl of EnniskillenViscount Cole
The Earl of ErneViscount Crichton
The Earl of LucanLord Bingham
The Earl BelmoreViscount Corry
The Earl Castle StewartViscount Stuart
The Earl of DonoughmoreViscount Suirdale
The Earl of CaledonLord Alexander
The Earl of LimerickViscount Glentworth
The Earl of ClancartyViscount Dunlo
The Earl of GosfordLord Worlingham
The Earl of RosseLord Oxmantown
The Earl of NormantonViscount Somerton
The Earl of KilmoreyViscount Newry and Mourne
The Earl of Dunraven and Mount-EarlViscount Adare
The Earl of ListowelViscount Ennismore
The Earl of NorburyViscount Glandine
The Earl of RanfurlyViscount Northland
The Earl of RosslynLord Loughborough
The Earl of CravenViscount Uffington
The Earl of OnslowViscount Cranley
The Earl of RomneyViscount Marsham
The Earl of ChichesterLord Pelham
The Earl of WiltonViscount Grey de Wilton
The Earl of PowisViscount Clive
The Earl NelsonViscount Merton
The Earl GreyViscount Howick
The Earl of LonsdaleViscount Lowther
The Earl of HarrowbyViscount Sandon
The Earl of HarewoodViscount Lascelles
The Earl of MintoViscount Melgund
The Earl CathcartLord Greenock
The Earl of VerulamViscount Grimston
The Earl of Saint GermansLord Eliot
The Earl of MorleyViscount Boringdon
The Earl of BradfordViscount Newport
The Earl of EldonViscount Encombe
The Earl HoweViscount Curzon
The Earl of StradbrokeViscount Dunwich
The Earl Temple of StoweLord Langton
The Earl CawdorViscount Emlyn
The Earl of LichfieldViscount Anson
The Earl of DurhamViscount Lambton
The Earl GranvilleLord Leveson
The Earl of EffinghamLord Howard of Effingham
The Earl of DucieLord Moreton
The Earl of YarboroughLord Worsley
The Earl of LeicesterViscount Coke
The Earl of LovelaceViscount Ockham
The Earl of GainsboroughViscount Campden
The Earl of StraffordViscount Enfield
The Earl of CottenhamViscount Crowhurst
The Earl CowleyViscount Dangan
The Earl of DudleyViscount Ednam
The Earl RussellViscount Amberley
The Earl of CromartieViscount Tarbat
The Earl of KimberleyLord Wodehouse
The Earl of WharncliffeViscount Carlton
The Earl CairnsViscount Garmoyle
The Earl of LyttonViscount Knebworth
The Earl of SelborneViscount Wolmer
The Earl of IddesleighViscount St Cyres
The Earl of CranbrookLord Medway
The Earl of HalsburyViscount Tiverton
The Earl of CromerViscount Errington
The Earl of PlymouthViscount Windsor
The Earl of LiverpoolViscount Hawkesbury
The Earl Kitchener of KhartoumViscount Broome
The Earl Saint AldwynViscount Quenington
The Earl BeattyViscount Borodale
The Earl HaigViscount Dawick
The Earl of IveaghViscount Elveden
The Earl of BalfourViscount Traprain
The Earl of Oxford and AsquithViscount Asquith
The Earl JellicoeViscount Brocas
The Earl of InchcapeViscount Glenapp
The Earl PeelViscount Clanfield
The Earl Baldwin of BewdleyViscount Corvedale
The Earl of HalifaxLord Irwin
The Earl of GowrieViscount Ruthven of Canberra
The Earl Lloyd George of DwyforViscount Gwynedd
The Earl Mountbatten of BurmaLord Romsey
The Earl Alexander of TunisLord Rideau
The Earl of SwintonLord Masham
The Earl AttleeViscount Prestwood
The Earl of SnowdonViscount Linley
The Earl of StocktonViscount Macmillan of Ovenden
The Earl of WessexViscount Severn

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