Talk:Commoner (disambiguation)

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Commoners[edit]

I think this definition is not quite precise enough. As shown by the example of Sir Alexander Ramsey (cited in the article on Princess Alexandra), having a title does not stop one being a commoner. I think that, in terms of royal marriages, "commoner" actually means one who is not of royal blood, rather than one who is not of noble blood. Opinions? Deb 19:10 28 Jul 2003 (UTC)

Sir Alexander Ramsay had a Knighthood. Just having a Knightood did not mean that you were no longer a Commoner. If you were a Lord (i.e. a Peer - Baron, Earl, Viscount, Marquis, Duke, or Lord Of Parliament) you would not be a Commoner. Anyone can be a Knight (as long as their male). Princes and Kings can Knighted. That title has NOTHING to do with Royal blood.Indisciplined (talk) 19:20, 19 June 2008 (UTC)
I do not believe that the category of "commoner" has any legal consequences in England at the present time, so it is slightly misleading to say "in British law...." since that implies that there is some currency to the idea. It might be that the more popular meaning is really "correct" simply because it is the current usage. I may, of course, be wrong about it and would be interested to have some law cited at me to the contrary. There is also no such thing as "British law". Francis Davey 01:20, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)
The fruits of legal research suggest that there *might* be a distinction, although I am not sure if the one made on this page is either correct or right -- as I will explain. However searching through a standard legal encylopedia (Halsbury's) for English law, the vast majority of usages of the word "commoner" are for people who have rights of common. Surely this should be under this entry and the usage of commoner that is here put somewhere else?
What difference does being a commoner make? Well, in the first place the procedure used at a trial for impeachment is different -- but since there haven't been any of those for such an inordinate time, I do not believe that makes any real difference and it only appears to have made a difference to procedure.
As to sitting in the House of Commons, things were always more complicated than is expressed below, eg many people were unable to sit (eg clergy), but I believe that Irish peers were. Now of course being a peer does not stop you sitting (nor does being a clerk). In theory Prince Charles could sit as an MP of the House of Commons, although whether he would get elected is another matter.
Otherwise, the only difference I can find is that -- according to Halsbury's -- mesne process etc cannot be levied against a peer. I doubt that is anymore correct, or it shouldn't be.
Speaking as a practising lawyer, it worries me that we have here defined in "law" a term, which appears to have no practical application and is never used except by people obsessed with royalty etc. Whereas "commoner" does mean something useful and practical. Francis Davey 01:38, 19 Feb 2005 (UTC)


This page is entirely wrong. In British law, a Commoner is someone who is not a Peer or the Sovereign. No Commoner is a Peer, and no Peer is a Commoner. Any member of the Royal Family who is not a Peer (e.g. The Princess Royal, Princes William and Harry, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie) is a Commoner, and can legally vote and stand in elections for the House of Commons. Proteus 13:53 GMT 1st December 2003

Can you back this up with a reference please ? I'm pretty sure you are correct but would like some evidence. If you are able to cite a reference, and are therfore certain, then just go ahead and rewrite the page. theresa knott 14:27, 1 Dec 2003 (UTC)
From the BritFAQ of the usenet group alt.talk.royalty:
"Who is a Commoner in Britain?
Anyone who is not the sovereign or the holder of a substantive (as opposed to courtesy) peerage. This includes all members of the royal family who are not peers, and all members of peerage families except the actual peer: for example, Prince William of Wales, the Princess Royal, the earl of Arundel (son of a duke) are all commoners.
While this definition is legally correct, it seems counter-intuitive to many, in part because it is so different from the continental usage. This tends to generate confusion and debates, and use of the word should perhaps be avoided where possible."
I'll probably rewrite the page when I have some time. Proteus 11:16 GMT 4th December 2003

This page could use some discussion of commoners in countries other than the UK. I believe most monarchies have such a distinction. Nate 04:07, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

Titles do not determine anything. A person can have all the titles they want, granted by any monarchy, however, if that person is not descended directly from royalty or noblity recently or sometime in the past the title means nothing. They are still a commoner. In the past, to be a commoner was to be without royal or noble blood and it had nothing to do with titles. RosePlantagenet 03:05, 15 July 2007 (UTC)

No, that's total nonsense. To re-state: A Peer is a reigning monarch or current holder of a Peerage. Anyone else is a Commoner. It really is that simple. It has nothing to do with Royal Blood. Very few modern Peers claim descent from Royalty. Instead there ancestors got their hereditary titles as reward for service or for having held high office. Holding such a title means your are a Peer and not a Commoner.
Historically, holding a peerage in Britain gave you and automatic seat in the House of Lords, but barred you from sitting in the other chamber of Parliament, the one legally reserved for Commoners, and therefore known as The House of Commons. Any member of the House of Commons who inherited a Peerage therefore ceased to be a Commoner and legally lost the right to their seat there (in the 1960s a new law was passed allowing Lords to legally give up their titles, and become commoners again, in order that they could sit in the Commons, see Tony Benn). Since the early 21st Century reforms to Parliament, it is for the first time possible for a Peer to sit in the House of Commons.
'Peer' in Britain is the holder of a specific kind of office. Anyone who does not hold such an office is by default a Commoner. Indisciplined (talk) 19:37, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

Surely the fact that Prince William of Wales is a member of the royal family contradicts any other laws about this peerage nonsense? --Camaeron 16:33, 16 November 2007 (UTC)

Ironic, yes. But he's legally a commoner till they make him a Duke, or he gets the top job Indisciplined (talk) 19:44, 19 June 2008 (UTC)


Yes, it's counter-intuitive to many, especially to the many royals and titles fans who eagerly participate in royals websites, to say that anyone but the monarch and peers is a commoner. They can't accept it. Those fans want to believe that "Lady This" or "Prince That" cannot possibly be on the same level as "Mr. That" or "Miss This." But it's true. In practice, ANY member of the royal family (even non-royals, such as the children of Princesses Margaret and Anne) is regarded by the royals fan base as a royal and not as a mere commoner, and anyone called "Lord" or "Lady" is thought not to be a commoner either. This is especially true among Americans, who have no experience of titles and who don't understand the concept of "courtesy" titles. They don't get it. So, this article needs to be rewritten with this problem in mind; it needs to address the confusion directly. And while discussing the differences between British and Continental usages is very important, it should also be kept in mind that most people anxiously concerned about the matter, and who might be consulting an English-language Wiki article, are British royals fans whose interest is in the British royal family and peerage.Lolliapaulina51 (talk) 02:01, 30 August 2009 (UTC)

(GS) I have another aspect of the status of "commoners" in the UK that I have not seen here. I'm happy to have it repiated, but I think a factor has been forgotten. By my understanding, a "commoner" must also be a landowner. If someone is not a landowner, they rank below commomner. Historically that would have been peasant, serf, labourer or similar, and likely quite skilled people like blacksmiths, cartwrights, shipwrights and so on.

Two Definitions of 'Commoners'[edit]

There are, in my opinion, two different definitions of 'commoners': the "more common" definition is anyone who is not of royal title or of nobility (with peerage - real or even courtesy). The 'royal' definition, a more continental Europe one, seems to be anyone who is not royal. For example, the Countess Claudine Rhédey von Kis-Rhéde (Queen Elizabeth II's great-great-grandmother on Queen Mary's side) was a member of nobility and would certainly be classified as someone with peerage by British definition, but she was viewed as a commoner among the 19th century German and continental European royals using the second definition, as the royals thumped their noses at her. --JNZ (talk) 11:02, 25 February 2008 (UTC)

This is a confusion between British & (Old) German Law. Under the later there were two definitions of nobility: High nobles & Low Nobles. The former were nobles 'for time out of mind' while the later were those of "recent" creation and had usualy held letters of patent. All high nobles are equals (peers) irrespective of their particular title (if they have one). 'Royals' under German law are high nobles and as such it was illegal to marry out of their class. Although all ruling Princes in Germany were High nobles -- many other high nobles were not rulers and could be little more than a Lord of Manor but still be the peer of an ruling prince.

Low Nobles held letters of patent (from ruling princes) were recent creations (post 1400) and often they were more likely to have a 'title'. For continental (& German) nobility - a title was not a requirement for being a noble, but all titled persons were nobles (either high or low). Countess Claudine was NOT a commoner (under German Law) but she was a Low Noble and therefore not a peer to a High Noble - so her marrage was morganatic - under German Law.

Even though her children (through the grant of patent) were created a Dukes and Princes, she and her childeren would be Low Nobles....this doesn't seem to have bothered the British Royal Family who married one them. Jalipa (talk) 22:51, 25 February 2008 (UTC)

There may be some confusion of the continental use of the word 'Countess' as opposed to it's use in Britain. Claudine Rhédey von Kis-Rhéde was a 'Countesss' as a courtesy title as the daughter of a peer. That would be equivalent to holding the courtesy title 'Lady' in Britain because your father was an Earl or Duke. Claudine was NOT actually a Peer in her own right. That makes her equivalent in rank to say Lady Diana Spencer before her marriage to Prince Charles. But where British Royals could marry Commoners freely with no consequence for inheritance rights, a German Prince who married outside his class would be classified as having entered into a Morganatic Marriage, and the children of that marriage were legally barred from the succession - as Claudine's were. Claudine's son was easily able to marry a British Princess, as there were no legal issues around the family's 'low' ancestory in Britain. For that reason, a whole stream of Morganauts (children of Morganatic Marriages) headed to Britain in the 19th Century (like the Tecks and Battenbergs), as the marriage prospects were considerably better than back home. Indisciplined (talk) 19:14, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

Requested move[edit]

The following discussion is an archived discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: moved Kotniski (talk) 13:08, 26 November 2010 (UTC)



Commoners in Great BritainCommoners in the United Kingdom — As far as I know, this covers Northern Ireland and well as Great Britain. The Celestial City (talk) 22:43, 18 November 2010 (UTC)

I'm not 100% sure but I don't think it does. There are separate articles for Peerage of Great Britain and Peerage of the United Kingdom Mhiji (talk) 04:22, 19 November 2010 (UTC)
And the article on Peerage of Great Britain states that it was replaced by Peerage of the United Kingdom in 1801, so what is the objection to the proposal? Skinsmoke (talk) 09:37, 19 November 2010 (UTC)
The Peerage of Great Britain just refers to peerages established in the Kingdom of Great Britain (1707–1800). I don't think that has any consequence on this article. There is also a Peerage of England and a Peerage of Scotland, again unrelated. The Celestial City (talk) 01:46, 20 November 2010 (UTC)
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

This article is wrong[edit]

even the cited sources disagree with this article. The first source makes the point that English law doesn't distinguish between nobility and commoners, this is reiterated when the three estates are listed as knight, parson, ploughman, none of which are peers. is commoner even a legal class in the UK? The claim that Kate Middleton is the 1st commoner to marry an heir in 350 means that Elizabeth Bowes-Lyons is not a commoner, neither was Camilla 71.194.44.209 (talk) 04:34, 8 June 2011 (UTC)

I don't know of a current legal use for the term "commoner" (as used in this article) which ever comes up in practice, nor can I immediately think of one. When I (rarely) use the term "commoner" in a legal context it refers to someone with a right of common. Even the Crown could (theoretically) be a commoner of that kind. Francis Davey (talk) 07:13, 8 June 2011 (UTC)
I can't think of any valid meaning for the claim about Kate being the first commoner for 350 years... I don't think we should include it in the article; just because a few journalists have parroted it doesn't make it true or notable.--Kotniski (talk) 08:43, 8 June 2011 (UTC)
Camilla is the granddaughter of a Baron, so she certainly has some noble blood. Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon is the daughter of an Earl, so again she has noble blood. While they are both technically commoners, it is obviously understandable that Kate Middleton could be branded "the first commoner to marry an heir in 350 years" by those that consider a commoner to be someone with no noble blood. 122.57.99.154 (talk) 06:26, 28 August 2012 (UTC)

There was some discussion about this in the Guardian around the time of the recent royal wedding, it seems that there is no generally accepted definition of the term "commoner" in Britain, different people use it differently. Although Kate Middleton was undoubtedly a commoner, whether some other recent royal brides were is open to interpretation. This article raises problems, are we better off without it? PatGallacher (talk) 10:23, 2 July 2011 (UTC)

I believe there are multiple issues with this article.The first sentence and a half seem full of dubious statements :"In British law, a commoner is someone who is neither the Sovereign nor a peer. Therefore, any member of the Royal Family who is not a peer, such as Prince Harry of Wales or Anne, Princess Royal, is (technically) a commoner." What law? How can a member of the Royal Family be "technically" a commoner? The reference to a 19th century work does say that the younger sons of the sovereign are commoners until they are given peerages - this seems to be operating on the idea that anyone who could at that time have voted in the House of Commons was a commoner and everyone but the monarch and peers could vote in the House of Commons. It would need attention from a very expert person in British law and constitution to work out if this really is a matter of law or of some conventional wording. In any case, the term "commoner" is never applied to royalty and anyone who has "HRH" before their name is royal, also HM of course. To say that anyone who has a royal title such as HRH The Princess Royal is "technically a commoner" is quite ludicrous even if it is founded on some arcane text, it is never used that way, it is very misleading and it should be removed. In fact the article seems to be attempting to define "commoner" and coming up with what are at best extremely rarefied and obscure usages, that is if they are not downright false. I would answer PatGallacher's question "Is wikipedia better off without this article?" in the affirmative.Smeat75 (talk) 06:03, 14 January 2012 (UTC)

Having thought about this further, I believe that all that needs to be said on the subject "Commoners in the UK" is succinctly stated by http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/commoner?region=uk "commoner

Pronunciation: /ˈkɒmənə/ noun 1one of the ordinary or common people, as opposed to the aristocracy or to royalty: this is the story of the commoner who married a king 2a person who has a right over another’s land, e.g. for pasturage or mineral extraction: commoners' centuries-old grazing rights cattle and ponies owned by the commoners 3(at some British universities) an undergraduate who does not have a scholarship: a commoner’s gown

Origin: Middle English (denoting a citizen or burgess): from medieval Latin communarius, from communa, communia 'community', based on Latin communis (see common)"

This does not involve convoluted and tortured logic whereby we wind up being told that royal Princes and Princesses are "technically commoners." That dictionary definition is all that anybody needs to know on the subject and it is Wikipedia policy that Wikipedia is not a dictionary http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:DICTIONARY. My intention is to nominate this article for deletion but I will leave it for a little while at least, partly for the reason that I am a very new editor and also to see if anyone wants to discuss it or objects.Smeat75 (talk) 06:48, 14 January 2012 (UTC)

I'd go along with that. Francis Davey (talk) 10:34, 28 August 2012 (UTC)

Recent discussion about deleting this article[edit]

This article was nominated for deletion and that discussion was closed by an admin with the comment:"The result was no consensus. To delete, that is. But consensus that this should be editorially improved, e.g. by making it a dab page."[[1]]. I am not sure what articles a disambiguation page should link to, so I will not attempt to do that, but if others want to, or want to discuss it here, that would be fine. I am removing the tags on the article as it was considerably improved during the AfD discussion, and ask that the assertions about members of the royal family being "technically commoners", which have been deleted, be not put back into the article without a reliable source.Smeat75 (talk) 23:59, 4 February 2013 (UTC)

I had a go at a disambiguation page version. Mcewan (talk) 09:07, 5 February 2013 (UTC)
Very good in my opinion, thank you for doing that.Smeat75 (talk) 16:18, 5 February 2013 (UTC)
There are a number of incoming links from redirects from the university terms Fellow Commoner, Gentleman Commoner etc and their variants. Explanation of these is not really appropriate for a disambiguation page but I have nevertheless inserted some notes from the previous text. It's possible that we should have an article about this usage Commoner (British universities) perhaps, or alternatively remove the incoming links (i.e. treat it as a dictionary problem). Mcewan (talk) 10:52, 5 February 2013 (UTC)
  • I really wish someone would be thoughtful enough to notify Wikipedia:WikiProject Disambiguation whenever the suggestion to "convert this to a dab page" comes up in a deletion discussion. No one who offered this suggestion made any reference to any of the relevant guidelines concerning the role of disambiguation pages on Wikipedia. With regret, this is not performing that role correctly at the moment. The function of a disambiguation page is to assist readers in navigation among multiple encyclopedia articles that might plausibly bear the same (or very similar) titles. There are at most one, or maybe at a stretch two, articles on this list that might conceivably be entitled "Commoners in the United Kingdom." --R'n'B (call me Russ) 22:36, 5 February 2013 (UTC)

Legally / Technically a commoner[edit]

See Peerage and the Peerage law for some possible origins of this notion. Mcewan (talk) 10:47, 5 February 2013 (UTC)