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Excellency is an honorific style given to certain members of an organisation or state. Once entitled to the title "Excellency", its holder may retain the right to that courtesy throughout his or her lifetime, in accordance with widespread international custom and diplomatic norms.
Generally people addressed as Excellency are heads of state, heads of government, governors, ambassadors, certain ecclesiastics, royalty, aristocracy, and military, and others holding equivalent rank (e.g., heads of international organizations, high commissioners in the Commonwealth of Nations).
It is sometimes misinterpreted as a title of office in itself, but in fact is an honorific that precedes various titles (such as Mr. President, and so on), both in speech and in writing. In reference to such an official, it takes the form His/Her Excellency; in direct address, Your Excellency, or, less formally, simply Excellency.
The abbreviation HE is often used instead of His/Her Excellency; alternatively it may stand for His Eminence.
Heads of state and government
In various international organizations, notably the UN and its agencies, Excellency is used as a generic form of address for all heads of state and heads of government. It is often granted to the organization's head as well, and to those chiefs of UN diplomatic missions, such as Resident Coordinators (who are the designated representatives of the Secretary-General), who are accredited at the Head of State (like an Ambassador), or the lower Head of Government level.
In recent years, some international organizations, such as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, or the European Union, have designated their Permanent Representatives in third countries as Ambassadors, although they do not represent sovereign entities. This is now largely accepted, and because these Ambassadors rank after the UN representative in the orders of precedence of representatives of international organizations, the UN coming naturally first as pre-eminent, the UN Resident Coordinators are now also commonly but informally referred to in diplomatic circles as ambassadors, although the UN itself does not refer to them in this way.
Judges of the International Court of Justice are also called Your Excellency.
In some monarchies the husbands, wives, or children, of a royal prince or princess, who do not possess a princely title themselves, may be entitled to the style. For example, in Spain, husbands or children of an infante or infanta (by birth) are addressed as Excellency.
Also, former members of a royal house or family, who did have a royal title but lost this one, may be awarded the style afterwards. Examples are former husbands or wives of a royal prince or princess, like Alexandra, Countess of Frederiksborg, a former member of the Danish Royal Family who divorced from Prince Joachim of Denmark. Likewise, Count Carl Johan Bernadotte of Wisborg, who lost his succession rights to the Swedish throne and renounced his titles in 1946 when he married the commoner Elin Kerstin Margaretha Wijkmark, is entitled to the style.
In some emirates (e.g., Kuwait or Qatar), only the (former) Emir, the Heir Apparent and Prime Minister are called His Highness. Their children are styled with the lower ranking His Excellency or Her Excellency (unless they possess a higher title).
Excellency can also attach to an honorary quality, notably in an order of knighthood. For example, in the Empire of Brazil, it was attached to the highest classes, each time called Grand Cross, of all three imperial orders: Imperial Order of Pedro I, Imperial Order of the Southern Cross (in this case, also enjoying the military honours of a Lieutenant general) and Order of the Rose.
In modern days, Knights Collar and Knights Grand Cross of the Spanish Orders of Chivalry, like Order of Charles III, Order of Isabella the Catholic, Order of Civil Merit, Order of Alfonso X the Wise, Royal Order of Sports Merit, Civil Order of Health, as well recipients of the Grand Cross of Military, Naval, and Aeronautical Merit are addressed as such. Furthermore, Knights Grand Cross of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great and Order of St. Sylvester of the Holy See, Knights of the Order of the Golden Fleece, and Knights Grand Cross of several other orders of high prestige, are often addressed as Excellency.
By a decree of the Sacred Congregation of Ceremonial of 31 December 1930 the Holy See granted bishops of the Roman Catholic Church the title of Most Reverend Excellency (Latin, Excellentia Reverendissima). In the years following the First World War the ambassadorial title of Excellency, previously given to nuncios, had already begun to be used of other Catholic bishops. The adjective Most Reverend was intended to distinguish the religious title from that of Excellency given to civil officials.
According to the letter of the decree of 31 December 1930, patriarchs too were to be addressed with the title of (Most Reverend) Excellency, but in practice the Holy See continued to address them with the title of Beatitude, which was formally sanctioned for them with the motu proprio Cleri sanctitati of 2 June 1957.
Cardinals, even those who were bishops, continued to use the title of Eminence.
In some English-speaking countries, the honorific of Excellency does not apply to bishops other than the nuncio. In English law, Anglican archbishops and bishops are granted the titles, respectively, of Grace (Your Grace, His Grace, as for a duke) and Lordship. The same titles are extended by courtesy to their Catholic counterparts, and continue in use in most countries that are or have been members of the Commonwealth. An exception is former British East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania).
In 1991, the Brazilian Presidential Office issued a composition manual to establish the correct usage of the Portuguese language for all government agencies. The manual states that the title of Excelência (Excellency) is the proper form used to address the President and Vice President, all members of Parliament and judges, among other officials.
Commonwealth of Nations
Within the Commonwealth of Nations, the following officials usually use the style His or Her Excellency:
- The Commonwealth Secretary-General;
- Presidents of Commonwealth republics;
- Governors and Governors-General, and the spouses of Governors-General;
- Commonwealth High Commissioners;
- Foreign ambassadors;
- Foreign dignitaries who are entitled to the style in their own countries.
While reference may be made to the Queen's Most Excellent Majesty, the style Excellency is not used with reference to the Queen.
In Indonesia, the following officials are addressed using the style Excellency:
- The President of Indonesia
- The Vice President of Indonesia
- Provincial Governors
- Cabinet Ministers and Coordinating Ministers
This, however, is not an exhaustive list.
The President of Ireland is addressed as Your Excellency or in the Irish language, a Shoilse. Alternatively, one may address the president simply as President or in the Irish language a Uachtaráin.
The Swedish language title and forms of address are Hans/Hennes Excellens (His/Her Excellency) and Ers Excellens (Your Excellency).
During the most of the 20th century in Sweden, only three persons were entitled to the style of Excellency: the Prime Minister, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Marshal of the Realm (the highest ranking courtier).
During the 1970s it fell out of custom in Sweden to address the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs as such, although they continue to be addressed as such in United Nations protocol and in other diplomatic writing. Today, only the Marshal of the Realm is regularly addressed as Excellency within Sweden.
In the United States, the form Excellency was commonly used for George Washington during his service as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and later during his Presidency, but it began to fall out of use with his successor, and today has been replaced in direct address with the simple Mr. President or The Honorable. However, in many foreign countries and in United Nations protocol the President of the United States is usually referred to as His Excellency. Diplomatic correspondence to President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War, as during the Trent Affair, for instance, frequently referred to him as His Excellency.
In several of the former Thirteen Colonies, the form Excellency is used for the governor. These include Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Virginia. West Virginia likewise adopted the title His/Her Excellency from its parent state. The term is used frequently in Georgia on the state governor's letterhead, the text of executive orders, any document that requires the governor's signature, and in formal settings. Excellency is used frequently when introducing the Governor of Pennsylvania, the Governor of Virginia, and the Governor of North Carolina at formal events. The Governor of Michigan is traditionally afforded the courtesy title, though it has fallen out of use in recent years.
Other governors are sometimes addressed as Excellency at public events. This is a traditional practice that is not at all incorrect, but it is less common, and is the product of custom and courtesy rather than of legislation.
Though ambassadors are traditionally accorded the title elsewhere, the U.S. government does not use Excellency for its chiefs of missions, preferring Honorable instead.
- Canadian honorifics
- Ecclesiastical address
- His Excellency (opera)
- Style (manner of address)
- Use of courtesy titles and honorifics in professional writing
Sources and references
- Protocol - The Complete Handbook of Diplomatic, Official, and Social Usage (page 21), by Mary Jane McCaffree and Pauline Innes, published by Hepburn Books, Dallas, Texas , 1977, 1985, 1989, 1997 [ISBN 0-941402-04-5]
- "Три привітання для Януковича (Three greetings for Yanukovych)". Blogs.pravda.com.ua. 5 September 2012.
- Williams, Stephanie (2011). Running the Show: Governors of the British Empire. Viking. ISBN 978-0-670-91804-1.
- "Satow, Ernest Mason, Sir - A Guide to Diplomatic Practice". Archive.org. 2001-03-10. Retrieved 1 February 2013.
- Acta Apostolicae Sedis 1931, p. 22; L'Osservatore Romano 24 January 1931.
- Ut sive sollicite, 22
- Manual de Redação da Presidência da República (Portuguese)
- "President Pranab Mukherjee prefers 'Shri' to 'His Excellency'- Politics News- IBNLive". Ibnlive.in.com. 3 October 2012. Retrieved 1 February 2013.
- Sveriges statskalender 1915, runeberg.org. Retrieved on June 8, 2013.(Swedish)
- Sveriges statskalender 1964, runeberg.org. Retrieved on June 8, 2013.(Swedish)
- HEADS OF STATE, HEADS OF GOVERNMENT, MINISTERS FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS, Protocol and Liaison Service, United Nations. Retrieved on June 8, 2013.
- Journal of the Senate of the State of Michigan - Michigan. Legislature. Senate - Google Books. Books.google.com. Retrieved 1 February 2013.