Orders of precedence in the United Kingdom
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Orders of precedence
Separate orders exist for males and females.
Determination of precedence
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.
Source of precedence
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 daughter of a lady, unless that lady is a member of the Royal Family or 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.
British royal family
The sovereign, whether a king or queen, is first in the order of precedence. If the sovereign is male, then his wife, the queen consort, is first in the order of precedence for women. The reverse, however, is not always true. There is no solid 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 actual heir, his own son:
|The order of precedence for male members of the royal family is:|
|The Sovereign||Whether male or female.|
|The Duke of Cornwall and of Rothesay||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 Queen||Whether regnant or consort.|
|Queens dowager||Ordered most recent consort first.|
|The Duchess of Cornwall and of Rothesay||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.|
- The Duke of Edinburgh, by The Queen's Order-in-Council, has 'place, pre-eminence and precedence' over all men in the Kingdom—except, where provided by Parliament, The Prince of Wales.
- In 2005, The Queen changed the order of precedence for private occasions, putting the Duchess of Cornwall fourth in the order of precedence, after herself, the Princess Royal, and Princess Alexandra, contrary to the usual position of the heir's consort. Charles' first wife, Diana, Princess of Wales, had ranked above the Princess Royal and Princess Alexandra. The Duchess of Cornwall continues to rank second in the order of precedence at official occasions, such as state dinners.
- The Court Circular also lists Prince William, Duke of Cambridge above his uncles, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, which suggests that he takes precedence over them.
In England and Wales, the Archbishop of Canterbury is the highest in precedence following the royal family. Then come the Lord Chancellor and the Archbishop of York. Next come certain officers: 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 other officers—the Lord Great Chamberlain, Earl Marshal, Lord Steward, and Lord Chamberlain—is based on the degree of their peerage. These officers rank above all other peers of their rank. Thus, if the Lord Steward were a duke, he would outrank other dukes; and if a marquess, would outrank other marquesses; and so forth. The precedence of the Master of the Horse is linked directly to that of the Lord Chamberlain, for the Master follows immediately after the Lord Chamberlain. However, if the Master is of a higher degree of peerage than the Lord Chamberlain, he would rank among his fellow peers of that degree, and not below the Lord Chamberlain.
In Scotland, the officers of state are different. The Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland and the Keeper of the Privy Seal of Scotland, if they are peers, rank after the Lord Speaker of the House of Lords. If not, they rank after 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.
Nobles rank in the following order: dukes, marquesses, earls, viscounts, and barons. Within each degree, peers rank according to the seniority of the creation of their peerages, but peers of England (created prior to 1707) precede peers of Scotland (prior to 1707), who together precede peers of Great Britain (prior to 1801), who together precede peers of Ireland (prior to 1801), who together precede peers of Ireland or of the United Kingdom (after 1801). However, the rules regarding the country of peerage apply only within particular ranks; an earl of England, for instance, would outrank an earl of the United Kingdom, but not a marquis of the United Kingdom.
Wives of peers rank along with peeresses in their own right according to the ancientcy of the peerage (subject to the rules regarding countries mentioned above), whether it is the ancientcy of the peeress' own peerage or of her husband's peerage. However, a dowager peeress (the wife of a former holder of that title and usually an ancestress of the present title-holder) would always precede the present peeress. Thus, the Dowager Duchess of X would come before the present Duchess of X.
As has been noted, the Archbishop of Canterbury is the highest non-royal, and the Archbishop of York is the third-highest. Bishops of the Church of England rank immediately above barons. First come the bishops of London, Durham, and Winchester, followed by the other diocesan bishops in order of seniority, and then the suffragan bishops in order of seniority. See the list of Lords Spiritual for the most senior 21 diocesan bishops ordered by seniority.
In Scotland, the national church, the Church of Scotland, is a Presbyterian church and therefore has neither archbishops nor bishops. The Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland ranks immediately below the sovereign or consort (depending on their respective genders), but only when the General Assembly is in session. The Moderator of the General Assembly, regardless of whether it is in session or not, ranks immediately after the Lord Chancellor.
In Northern Ireland, due to sensitivities regarding the conflict between Catholics and Protestants, no distinction is made between Catholic and Anglican archbishops and bishops. The archbishops of Armagh and Dublin, whether of the Catholic Church or of the Anglican Church of Ireland, all rank above the Lord Chancellor, in the order of seniority. Bishops rank above barons, as in England and Wales.
Baronets and knights
The three highest orders of chivalry in England and Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, are the Orders of the Garter, the Thistle, and St Patrick, respectively. Knights of these orders 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 the Star of India, the Order of St Michael and St George, the Order of the Indian Empire, the Royal Victorian Order, and the Order of the British Empire. For equivalent ranks and orders, those appointed earlier precede those appointed later.
Wives of Knights of the Garter, Knights of the Thistle, Knights of St Patrick, 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.
- Daily Mail, found at Daily Mail website.