Royal and noble styles
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.
Imperial, royal, and princely styles
Only those classified within the social class of royalty and upper nobility have a style of "Highness" attached before their titles. Reigning bearers of forms of Highness included grand princes, grand dukes, sovereign princes, reigning dukes and princely counts, their families and the agnatic descendants of emperors and kings. Royals (usually emperors to princely counts) are all considered "princes" (German: Fürsten).
- Emperors and empresses enjoy(ed) the style of His/Her Imperial Majesty (HIM), the only current example is to be found in HIM Emperor Akihito of Japan. Abbreviation to His Majesty is common and accepted.
- Members of imperial families were generally styled His/Her Imperial Highness (HIH).
- In Austria, the members of the Imperial family, due to their status as also members of the royal family of the Apostolic kingdom of Hungary, held the style of Imperial and Royal Highness (HI&RH), but actually traditionally the other way around: "königliche und kaiserliche Hoheit". Abbreviation to His Imperial Highness is common and accepted.
- Also in the German Empire, the other 'heir' to the Holy Roman Empire, the emperor and empress would be addressed as Imperial and Royal Majesty because of their ruling over both the Kingdom of Prussia and the German Empire. Similarly, the crown prince of Prussia and the Empire was His Imperial and Royal Highness. Other members of the House of Prussia, having no constitutional place in the Empire as such, were only entitled to the style Royal Highness.
- In Russia, children and male-line grandchildren of an emperor had the style of Imperial Highness. Male-line great-grandchildren held the style of Highness. Also, the eldest son of any person who held the style of Highness also held the style of Highness. All other male-line descendants held the style Serenity, often translated as Serene Highness. Some Russian noble princes also hold the style of Serenity; all others and Russian princely counts hold the style of Illustriousness, often translated as Illustrious Highness.
- Kings and queens have the style of Majesty.
- Members of royal families (princes and princesses) generally have the style of Royal Highness, although in some royal families (for instance, Denmark), more junior princes and princesses only bear the style of His or Her Highness.
- Reigning grand dukes and grand duchesses hold the style of Royal Highness.
- The styles of members of grand ducal families have been inconsistent. In Luxembourg, more senior members of the family have also been Royal Highnesses, but only due to their status as Princes of Bourbon-Parma (itself an inconsistency as Parma was only ducal, but this family has male-line descent from kings of Etruria, Spain and France). In Baden and Hesse and by Rhine, junior members held the style of Grand Ducal Highness. Members of other grand ducal families generally held the style of Highness.
- Reigning dukes and duchesses bore the style of Highness, as did other members of ducal families. Junior members of some ducal families bore the style of Ducal Serene Highness, although it fell out of fashion.
- The elector of Hesse-Kassel (or Hesse-Cassel) also bore the style of Highness, as did other members of the Hesse-Kassel family.
- Mediatized dukes and reigning and mediatized princes (Fürsten) bear the style of Serene Highness (German: Durchlaucht), as do other members of princely families. Members of reigning princely families are also styled Serene Highness.
- Mediatized princely counts and countesses bear the style of Illustrious Highness (HIllH, German Erlaucht).
In addition to their national royal styles, many monarchs had 'treaty styles' to distinguish one monarch from another in international settings. For example, the sovereign of the United Kingdom was customarily referred to as "Britannic Majesty", of France as "Christian Majesty", of Spain as "Catholic Majesty", of Hungary as "Apostolic Majesty", of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation as "August Majesty", etc. Monarchs also typically had a longer style than other princely members within the same royal house. For example, the monarch of the United Kingdom has a much longer style than that of other members of the British royal family. The full style of Elizabeth II in the United Kingdom is, "Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith".
Noble styles in France
- Dauphin de France used the style très haut, très puissant et excellent prince.
- Princes of the Blood used the style très haut et très puissant prince or His Serene Highness.
- Foreign princes used the title of haut et puissant prince and claimed the right to use His Highness.
- Dukes and Peers used the style of très-haut et très-puissant seigneur. In the 18th century, that style was used by lesser-ranked nobles.
- Other titled nobility used the style très haut et puissant seigneur or haut et puissant seigneur.
Noble styles in the United Kingdom
- Dukes and duchesses in the peerages of England, Scotland, Great Britain, Ireland, and the United Kingdom as well as nobility bearing the title of "Prince" (who are not royalty of highness) bear the style of Grace, e.g. "His Grace", "Your Grace". They also hold the style of Most High, Potent, and Noble Prince, but even in the most formal situations that is usually simply abbreviated to Most Noble, and even that style is quite archaic and very formal.
- Marquesses and marchionesses bear the styles of The Most Honourable and Lordship (e.g. "His Lordship," "Her Ladyship," "Your Lordship," and "Your Ladyship.") They also hold the style of Most Noble and Potent Prince, but even in the most formal situations this style is rarely used.
- Earls, countesses, viscounts, viscountesses, barons, and baronesses bear the styles of The Right Honourable and Lordship.
- Scottish barons bear the style The Much Honoured.
For more details, see Forms of address in the United Kingdom
Noble styles in Germany
- Mediatized dukes (German: Reichsherzöge) and princes (German: Reichsfürsten) in Germany bear the styles of Serene Highness (German: Durchlaucht) or, in case of Dukes, Ducal Serene Highnes. In case of the dukes, this has come out of use in the 19th century at least for the reigning members (who are Highness).
- Mediatized counts (German: Reichsgrafen) in Germany bear the style of Illustrious Highness (German: Erlaucht).
- Non-mediatized noble dukes (German: Herzöge) and princes (German: Fürsten) used to bear the title of Ducal/Princely Grace (German: fürstliche Gnaden). They are rare, though, and at the beginning of the 20th century were altogether granted the style of Serene Highness by Emperor Francis Joseph II.
- Non-mediatized counts (German: Grafen) in Germany bear the style of High Born (German: Hochgeboren).
- Other German nobles below the rank of count bear the style of High Well Born (German: Hochwohlgeboren). Another style is Well Born (German: Wohlgeboren) which ranks below High Well Born, yet is not used for proper nobility and as such has come out of use.
Sources and references
- RoyalArk, mainly for non-European monarchies
- Genealogists Discover Royal Roots for All
- Clergy, Ecclesiastical Addresses, Prince of the church
- Peerage, Forms of address in the United Kingdom
- Prince compares various types of Princes of the blood and ruling princes
- Princely state treats the nobility, mainly ruling houses, in the colonial context of the British Empire
- Royal and noble ranks
- Thai royal and noble titles
- False titles of nobility