Courtesy title

A courtesy title is a title that does not have legal significance but rather is used through custom or courtesy, particularly, in the context of nobility, the titles used by children of members of the nobility (c.f. substantive title).[1][2]

In some contexts, courtesy title is used to mean the more general concept of a title or honorific such as Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr., Miss, Sir, and Madam.[3]


In France, for example, many titles are not substantive titles but titres de courtoisie, adopted unilaterally. When done by a genuine member of the noblesse d'épée the custom was tolerated in French society. A common practice is title declension, when cadet males of noble families, especially landed aristocracy, may assume a lower courtesy title than that legally borne by the head of their family, even though lacking a titled seigneury themselves.[4] For example, the eldest son of the Duke of Paris (substantive title) may be called Marquis de Paris (courtesy title) and younger sons Count N. of Paris, where N. stands for the first name. In the hereditary Napoleonic and Restoration peerage, declension was a legal right of younger sons, the derivative title being heritable by male primogeniture.[4]

Ancien Régime

Courtesy title as principal title

During the ancien régime the only substantive titles were feudal, land-based and required a royal grant or royal recognition. In order to use the title of count, one had to own a seigneurie elevated to county and to comply with the remainder of the grant. These legal prescriptions, however, came to be consistently enforced only with respect to the title of duke (duc). Most titles were self-assumed courtesy titles, even those used at the royal court and in legal documents.

The clergymen before the episcopal ordination used the title of abbé, followed by the name of the principal title of their father. Members of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta used the title chevalier in the same fashion.

Courtesy title used by sons and daughters

The heir apparent of a titled nobleman used one of the lesser titles of his father as a courtesy title. In the 17th century, the heirs of the most powerful dukes were sometimes allowed to assume the title of prince. In the 18th, a trend was for the heir to use the title of duke. It was achieved in one of three ways: The head of family may have two dukedoms and his heir could use the junior one; the head of family could resign his French peerage to his heir, who assumed a new title of duke while the father retained his ducal title; the king could confer a brevet de duc, that is formally accord the non-hereditary style and precedence of a duke to the heir of a ducal title.

The younger sons of a noble titleholder used one of the family's lesser titles, but rarely one of duke or prince. Even in untitled families of the nobility, every son used a different territorial designation, the so-called nom de terre.

The daughters used the title of mademoiselle, followed by the name of a manor owned by their father. For example, Anne Marie Louise d'Orléans, Duchess of Montpensier known as La Grande Mademoiselle, was the eldest daughter of Gaston d'Orléans (Monsieur) and his first wife Marie de Bourbon, Duchess of Montpensier. Anne Marie Louise was officially known as Mademoiselle from the time of her birth.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has a detailed system of courtesy titles and styles by which the eldest son, male-line grandson or great-grandson and heir of a peer may use a subsidiary title of his ancestor even though it is the ancestor who holds the title substantively. By extension, the children not only of all peers but of those who bear derivative courtesy titles as male-line descendants of a substantive peer bear specific titles (Lord/Lady) or styles (The Honourable) by courtesy. Under United Kingdom law, users of courtesy titles of nobility have nonetheless been held to be commoners, eligible for election to the House of Commons rather than the House of Lords.

See also


  1. ^ "Courtesy Title". Collins English Dictionary. Collins. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
  2. ^ "Courtesy Title". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
  3. ^ "ComDor Editorial Style Guide: Titles and Courtesy Titles". Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved 15 February 2013.
  4. ^ a b Velde, François. "Titles of Nobility". Retrieved 27 May 2011.

A bailie or baillie is a civic officer in the local government of Scotland. The position arose in the burghs, where bailies formerly held a post similar to that of an alderman or magistrate (see bailiff). Modern bailies exist in Scottish local councils, with the position being a courtesy title and appointees often requested to provide support to the Lord Provost or Provost - the ceremonial and civic head of the council - in their various engagements.


Cervera (Catalan pronunciation: [səɾˈβɛɾə]) is the capital of the comarca of Segarra, in the province of Lleida, Catalonia, Spain. The title Comte de Cervera is a courtesy title, formerly part of the Crown of Aragon, that has been revived for Leonor, Princess of Asturias. The city is also the birthplace of five-time MotoGP world champion, Marc Márquez.

Courtesy titles in the United Kingdom

A courtesy title is a form of address in systems of nobility used for children, former wives and other close relatives of a peer, as well as certain officials such as some judges and members of the Scottish gentry. These styles are used 'by courtesy' in the sense that the relatives, officials and others do not themselves hold substantive titles. There are several different kinds of courtesy titles in the British peerage.

Duke of Burgundy

Duke of Burgundy (French: duc de Bourgogne) was a title borne by the rulers of the Duchy of Burgundy, a small portion of traditional lands of Burgundians west of river Saône which in 843 was allotted to Charles the Bald's kingdom of West Franks. Under the Ancien Régime, the Duke of Burgundy was the premier lay peer of the kingdom of France.

Beginning with Robert II of France, the title was held by the Capetians, the French royal family. It was granted to Robert's younger son, Robert, who founded the House of Burgundy. When the senior line of the House of Burgundy became extinct, it was inherited by John II of France through proximity of blood. John granted the duchy as an appanage for his younger son, Philip the Bold. The Valois Dukes of Burgundy became dangerous rivals to the senior line of the House of Valois. When the male line of the Valois Dukes of Burgundy became extinct, the title was confiscated by Louis XI of France.

Today, the title is used by the House of Bourbon as a revived courtesy title.

Earl Beatty

Earl Beatty is a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was created in 1919 for the prominent naval commander Admiral of the Fleet Sir David Beatty. He was created Baron Beatty, of the North Sea and of Brooksby in the County of Leicester, and Viscount Borodale, of Wexford in the County of Wexford, at the same time, also in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. The latter title is used as a courtesy title for the Earl's eldest son and heir apparent. Lord Beatty was succeeded by his eldest son, the second Earl. He represented Peckham in the House of Commons as a Conservative from 1931 to 1936 and briefly served as Under-Secretary of State for Air in Winston Churchill's 1945 caretaker government. As of 2014 the titles are held by his eldest son, the third Earl, who succeeded in 1972.

Earl Haig

Earl Haig is a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was created in 1919 for Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig. During the First World War, he served as Commander of the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front in France and Belgium (1915–18). Haig was made Viscount Dawick and Baron Haig, of Bemersyde in the County of Berwick, at the same time he was given the earldom, also in the Peerage of the United Kingdom The viscountcy of Dawick is used as a courtesy title by the Earl's son and heir apparent. As of 2016 the titles are held by the first Earl's grandson, the third Earl, who succeeded his father in 2009.

The family seat is Bemersyde House, near Newtown St. Boswells, Roxburghshire.

The family motto is "Tyde what may", which refers to a 13th-century poem by Thomas the Rhymer which predicted that there would always be a Haig in Bemersyde:

'Tyde what may betydeHaig shall be Haig of Bemersyde'.

Earl of Kinnoull

Earl of Kinnoull (sometimes spelled Earl of Kinnoul) is a title in the Peerage of Scotland. It was created in 1633 for George Hay, 1st Viscount of Dupplin. Other associated titles are: Viscount Dupplin and Lord Hay of Kinfauns (1627) and Baron Hay of Pedwardine (1711). The former two are in the Peerage of Scotland, while the third is in the Peerage of Great Britain. The title of Viscount Dupplin is the courtesy title for the Earl's eldest son and heir.

Earl of Loudoun

Earl of Loudoun (pronounced ), named after Loudoun in Ayrshire, is a title in the Peerage of Scotland. It was created in 1633 for John Campbell, 2nd Lord Campbell of Loudoun, along with the subsidiary title Lord Tarrinzean and Mauchline. The 1st Earl's wife Margaret was the granddaughter and heiress of Hugh Campbell, who had been created Lord Campbell of Loudoun; he resigned the peerage in favour of his grandson-in-law, who was later created an earl.

The 6th Countess married the 2nd Earl of Moira, who was later created Marquess of Hastings. The next three Earls also held that Marquessate. However, with the death of the 4th Marquess, the Marquessate became extinct, but the Earldom passed to the elder daughter of the 2nd Marquess.

The heir apparent to the Earldom uses the courtesy title Lord Mauchline.

Earl of Morton

The title Earl of Morton was created in the Peerage of Scotland in 1458 for James Douglas of Dalkeith. Along with it, the title Lord Aberdour was granted. This latter title is the courtesy title for the eldest son and heir to the Earl of Morton.

The family seat is Dalmahoy Farms, near Kirknewton, West Lothian.

Edward Lambton, 7th Earl of Durham

Edward Lambton, 7th Earl of Durham (born 19 October 1961), is a British musician and a member of the band, 'Pearl,TN'. He is better known as Ned Lambton.

He was born in 1961, the youngest child and only son of Antony, Viscount Lambton, eldest son of John Lambton, 5th Earl of Durham. As part of the annual Houghton Feast, an ox was roasted, and a bonfire was lit at the top of Penshaw Hill (formerly part of the Lambton Estate) to mark his birth; he was later baptised by Maurice Harland, Bishop of Durham, in the church of St Barnabas, Burnmoor.

Upon his grandfather's death on 4 February 1970, Lambton's father succeeded as Earl of Durham but disclaimed that title on 23 February that same year. During this short period, Lambton was known by the courtesy title Viscount Lambton, but afterwards used the title Lord Durham (as if using the courtesy title Baron Durham) to avoid confusion with his father, who improperly continued to style himself Viscount Lambton.

He succeeded his father as 7th Earl of Durham in 2006, and has been involved in an inheritance dispute with some of his sisters.Lambton stood for the Referendum Party in his father's former constituency of Berwick-upon-Tweed in the 1997 general election, gaining 3.4% of the vote.


Esquire (, US also ; abbreviated Esq.) is usually a courtesy title.

In the United Kingdom, Esquire historically was a title of respect accorded to men of higher social rank, particularly members of the landed gentry above the rank of gentleman and below the rank of knight. In 1826, William Blackstone reiterated that, "the title should be limited to those only who bear an office of trust under the Crown and who are styled esquires by the king in their commissions and appointments; and all, I conceive, who are once honoured by the king with the title of esquire have a right to that distinction for life."By the early 20th century, it came to be used as a general courtesy title for any man in a formal setting, usually as a suffix to his name, as in "Todd Smith, Esq.", with no precise significance. In the United Kingdom today, it is still occasionally used as a written style of address in formal or professional correspondence. In certain formal contexts, it remains an indication of a social status that is recognised in the order of precedence.In the United States, Esquire is mostly used to denote a lawyer, in a departure from traditional use, and is irrespective of gender. In letters, a lawyer is customarily addressed by adding the suffix Esquire (abbreviated Esq.), preceded by a comma, after the lawyer's full name.


Laird () is a generic name for the owner of a large, long-established Scottish estate, roughly equivalent to an esquire in England, yet ranking above the same in Scotland. In the Scottish order of precedence, a laird ranks below a baron and above a gentleman. This rank is only held by those lairds holding official recognition in a territorial designation by the Lord Lyon King of Arms. They are usually styled [name] [surname] of [lairdship], and are traditionally entitled to place The Much Honoured before their name.Although the UK Government deems that "for Scottish lairds it is not necessary for the words Laird of to appear on any part of a passport, requests from applicants and passport holders for manorial titles and Scottish lairds to be included in their passports may be accepted providing documentary evidence is submitted, and recorded in the passport with the observation e.g.: THE HOLDER IS THE LORD OF THE MANOR/LAIRD OF ....... ".

The Lord Lyon, Scotland's authority on titles, has produced the following guidance regarding the current use of the term laird as a courtesy title:The term ‘laird’ has generally been applied to the owner of an estate, sometimes by the owner himself or, more commonly, by those living and working on the estate. It is a description rather than a title, and is not appropriate for the owner of a normal residential property, far less the owner of a small souvenir plot of land. The term ‘laird’ is not synonymous with that of ‘lord’ or ‘lady’.

Ownership of a souvenir plot of land is not sufficient to bring a person otherwise ineligible within the jurisdiction of the Lord Lyon for the purpose of seeking a grant of arms.

Historically, the term bonnet laird was applied to rural, petty landowners, as they wore a bonnet like the non-landowning classes. Bonnet lairds filled a position in society below lairds and above husbandmen (farmers), similar to the yeomen of England.

Michigan Attorney General

The Attorney General of Michigan is the fourth-ranking official in the U.S. state of Michigan. The officeholder is elected statewide in the November general election alongside the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, members of the Senate and members of the House of Representatives.

Since the Michigan Constitution of 1963 was adopted, the attorney general has served a term of four years. The officeholder is also limited to two terms, for a total of eight possible years of service; ten possible years of service if the officeholder serves two full terms and less than half of one term as a replacement. Until 1950, the attorney general was appointed by the governor.

Inasmuch as the office of Attorney General has common law powers as the chief law enforcement officer of the State, he may exercise the powers of a peace officer and may appoint special agents having this status to assist him in enforcing his powers and carrying out his functions (AG Opinion No. 5236,10/20/1977).

Michigan law, MCL 14.32, provides that "[i]t shall be the duty of the attorney general, when required, to give his opinion upon all questions of law submitted to him by the legislature, or by either branch thereof, or by the governor, auditor general, treasurer or any other state officer . . . ."

Michigan's current attorney general is Democrat Dana Nessel, who was elected in November 2018, and sworn into office on January 1, 2019.

Obama Domain

Obama Domain (小浜藩, Obama-han) was a Fudai feudal domain of Edo period Japan It is located in Wakasa Province, in the Hokuriku region of Honshū. The domain was centered at Obama Castle, located in the center of what is now the city of Obama in Fukui Prefecture.


Princess is a regal rank and the feminine equivalent of prince (from Latin princeps, meaning principal citizen). Most often, the term has been used for the prince consort of a prince or for the daughters of a king or sovereign prince.

Princess of Wales

Princess of Wales (Welsh: Tywysoges Cymru) is a British courtesy title held by the wife of the Prince of Wales, who is, since the 14th century, the heir apparent of the English or British monarch. The first acknowledged title holder was Eleanor de Montfort, wife of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd. It has subsequently been used by wives of post-conquest princes of Wales.

The title is currently held by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall (the former Camilla Parker Bowles), second wife of Charles, Prince of Wales, since their marriage on 9 April 2005. She does not, however, use the title, because of its association with the previous holder, Diana, Princess of Wales, who died in 1997. Instead, she uses the title of Duchess of Cornwall, the feminine form of her husband's highest-ranking subsidiary title.

Subsidiary title

A subsidiary title is an hereditary title held by a royal or a noble but which is not regularly used to identify that person, due to their concurrent holding of a greater title.

For example, the Duke of Norfolk is also the Earl of Arundel, the Earl of Surrey, the Earl of Norfolk, the Baron Beaumont, the Baron Maltravers, the Baron FitzAlan, the Baron Clun, the Baron Oswaldestre, and the Baron Howard of Glossop. In day-to-day practice, the individual who holds all of these titles would be referred to only by his most senior title – in this case, "Duke of Norfolk" – while all of his other titles would be subsidiary titles.

In the United Kingdom, a peer's heir apparent may use his parent's most senior subsidiary title as a courtesy title, provided that it causes no confusion. For example, the Duke of Norfolk's heir apparent is known as Earl of Arundel (without 'the'), although the son does not technically become the Earl of Arundel until his father's death, and he remains legally a commoner until then.If a subsidiary peerage has the same name as a higher peerage, it is not used as a courtesy title. For example, the Duke of Manchester is also Earl of Manchester, but his heir is styled "Viscount Mandeville".

Before the House of Lords Act 1999, which abolished the automatic right of hereditary peers to sit in the House of Lords, an heir apparent could be summoned to the Lords, before his parent's death, by a writ of acceleration – that is, by accelerating the inheritance of a junior title (usually a barony). For example, a writ of acceleration could cause a courtesy Earl of Arundel to inherit the Maltravers barony prematurely, whereupon he would join the House of Lords as Lord Maltravers.

Sōma Nakamura Domain

The Sōma Nakamura Domain (相馬中村藩, Sōma Nakamura han) was a minor feudal domain under the Tokugawa shogunate of Edo period Japan based in southern Mutsu Province in what is now part of the Hamadōri region of modern-day Fukushima Prefecture. It was ruled for the entirety of its history by the Sōma clan. It was centered at Sōma Nakamura Castle in what is now part of the city of Sōma. The domain was also known as Sōma Domain (相馬藩, Sōma-han) or Nakamkura Domain (中村藩, Nakamura-han).


A viscount ( (listen) VY-kownt, for male) or viscountess (, for female) is a title used in certain European countries for a noble of varying status. In many countries a viscount, and its historical equivalents, was a non-hereditary, administrative or judicial position, and did not develop into an hereditary title until much later. In the case of French viscounts, it is customary to leave the title untranslated as vicomte [vi.kɔ̃t] and vicomtesse.

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