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SCA-Titles-art - 4/14/08


"Personal Titles, Landed Titles, and Styles as Used in the Current Middle Ages (or Why You'll Have to Wait to Hear Me Say _Baroness Fionna_)" by Detlef von Marburg.


NOTE: See also the files: Field-Herldry-art, SCA-awards-msg, Award-Rec-Let-art, courts-msg, Peer-Fear-art, SCA-dishes-art, courtesy-msg, SCA-courtesy-art.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org



Personal Titles, Landed Titles, and Styles as Used in the Current Middle Ages

(or Why You'll Have to Wait to Hear Me Say "Baroness Fionna")

by Detlef von Marburg


               Last night I had occasion to break bread with a diverse group of folk in our barony, and the subject came up concerning what to call certain people.  Much of the confusion surrounding this theme arises because of the number of barons and baronesses we have in our midst.  We have one baron and one baroness who are the current Baron and Baroness of Raven's Fort, but we also have past barons and baronesses, as well as court barons and court baronesses who were never Baron or Baroness of Raven's Fort or any other barony.  We can call Baroness Chrystal "Baroness Chrystal", but only since she stepped down as Baroness of Raven's Fort.  We call the current incumbent—Her Excellency Raven's Fort—"Baroness Fionna" only at the peril of flouting the rules of protocol.  Sir Kief is Baron Raven's Fort but not "Baron Kief". Okay—undoubtedly you are saying to yourself "What gives?  Enough with the confusion already!"  Fortunately, there is a way to know when one style is more appropriate than another, and that is to remember the distinction between personal titles and landed titles.


               People in the Society who hold armigerous honors—from the Award of Arms on up to Duke and Duchess—carry with those honors a variety of styles and titles that belong to them personally.  Because these and other titles (see the table below) belong to a person indefinitely from the moment of bestowal, we may refer to them as "personal titles".


In addition to personal titles, quite a few people hold landed titles that also affect the style or manner in which they are addressed. Landed titles include the positions of King and Queen, Prince and Princess, and territorial Baron and Baroness (Corpora Article VIII, Section D.1, refers to "landedness" as "an attribute of the Crown, the Coronet, and the territorial Barons and Baronesses").  Unlike personal titles, landed titles are not held indefinitely—at least, not in the Current Middle Ages (as impossible as it may seem to believe, this actually makes our system MUCH SIMPLER than the one in mundania on which we base ours).  Also unlike personal titles (and this more accurately reflects the Mundane Middle Ages), landed titles are passed on from one person to the next.  My lord in the MMA's—whose given name is Hermann—may be the Landgraf von Thüringen now, but his father was Landgraf before him, and his son Ludwig will be Landgraf after Hermann is no longer with us.  


Like personal titles, landed titles also carry their own peculiar styles with them.  The most recognizable style is that of the king or queen, which is simply "His Majesty the King" or "Her Majesty the Queen".  While certain circumstances require that we refer to these people by their given names, it is completely improper to refer, for example, to "King Aaron" during His Majesty's reign.  It is not improper to refer to a predecessor as, say, "King Inman IV" (but only in the context of that specific reign), because that person is no longer an incumbent in that rank.  The theory behind this is that there will be a number of incumbents who hold the title for a period of time, there will always be only ONE incumbent at a time.  Another way to approach it is to think that, if you are a king, the title "King" does not belong to you personally; YOU belong to the title.  The title itself belongs to the territory.  In a way, "Ansteorra" becomes the king's name—and the queen's as well—for the duration of their reign because, at least symbolically speaking, they ARE Ansteorra.  When the king steps down and is made a count or a duke, that title does belong to him personally (ditto for the queen, who becomes a countess or duchess).


In the case of territorial barons and baronesses, the words "Baron" and "Baroness" also refer to landedness because their titles belong to the barony and not to them personally.  It is technically improper to refer to our baroness as "Baroness Fionna" because "Baroness of Raven's Fort" is a landed title.  The Baron of Raven's Fort presents a slightly different case.  It IS proper—in some instances—to refer to him as "Baron Brian".  Prior to being elevated to the title of Baron of Raven's Fort, His Excellency had already been made a court baron by King Timotheos and Queen Allyson (to give you an example of the appropriate context in which to refer to "King N." or "Queen N.").  In the case of court barons and baronesses, the words "Baron" and "Baroness" do not refer to landedness, because they are not the "Baron" or "Baroness" of any territory, and nobody will succeed them to that particular title.   As such, court barony is a personal title, as with His Excellency Baron Brian.  As Baron of Raven's Fort, he should still be styled "His Excellency the Baron of Raven's Fort," but in other circumstances—for example, in the capacity of knights marshal—calling him Baron Brian is generally appropriate.


In Ansteorra (and other monarchies that are descended from Atenveldt), we have another category of baronage in addition to territorial and court barons, and that is the title of founding baron.  The founding baron of a barony is invested with the title of "Baron" plus the name of the barony without the intervening "of" that is necessarily added to the titles of subsequent barons. For example, Sir Kief is "His Excellency Baron Raven's Fort." Because the title and style incorporate the name of a particular barony, the founding baron finds himself trapped between two worlds by virtue of having a personal title (which is his for life, and should allow him to use his given name in connection with it) that is intimately connected with his previous landedness (which prevents him from using it in connection with his given name).  


In court and legal instruments (including charters of rank), the King and Queen (as well as Princes, Princesses, and territorial Barons and Baronesses) must of necessity be identified by their given names.  It is the mark of the hopeless commoner, though, to refer casually to a monarch by his or her given name.  We may be tempted to do so to show off familiarity or intimacy, but it is really inappropriate to the dignity of the various monarchies and landed baronages, and it diminishes the pageantry that attracts many into our game.  


It is also possible, of course, to use a style without the title.  One should never flinch to hear reference to "His Majesty" or "Her Excellency", even in the case of personal titles such as duchies and court baronies—if the referent is clear (in other words, which king, which duke, which baron).  In addition, it is not at all improper to use the style and the name of the land without the title, in the case of landed titles, or the person's name in the case of personal titles, as in "His Majesty Ansteorra," "His Excellency Raven's Fort," or "Her Excellency Kitsune."  


Anybody in the Current Middle Ages can be addressed informally as "My Lord" or "My Lady," regardless of title (it can even be used for people who do not yet have a title).  The titles of royals, nobles, and knights can be appended as well, such as "My Lord King," "My Lady Duchess," "My Lord Baron," or "My Lady Knight".  Some titles, however, do not work as well, such as Master/Mistress, Companion, or Holder (the technical title for most Award of Arms-level honors).  Using the name of the territory—for example, "My Lord Ansteorra" or "My Lady Raven's Fort"—is period as well, but for the sake of whatever clarity we can hold on to, we draw the line here in the Current Middle Ages.  


In the case of people who have more than one armigerous distinction, whichever distinction is higher in precedence generally but not always dictates the favored form of address.  The occasion will sometimes determine which form of address is most appropriate.  Her Excellency the Baroness of Raven's Fort, for example, is also a Mistress of the Laurel, and as such she can be addressed either as "Your Excellency" or "Mistress Fionna."  Which is best?  During a baronial court over which Her Excellency is presiding, one would do well to address her as "Your Excellency," while in an arts-and-sciences setting (such as a class, or a meeting of the Laurels) "Mistress Fionna" would definitely be more appropriate.  The same applies to our baron:  when he is acting in his capacity as the Baron of Raven's Fort, he should always be addressed as "Your Excellency" and not as "Baron Brian"—which, of course, would be acceptable in other circumstances.  To be on the safe side, there is never a time when "Your Excellency" is an inappropriate manner of addressing our baron or baroness.  Of course, the people in question have some say in which form of address they prefer, and it is never bad form to defer to their preferences—within reason.  


If you think all this is hopelessly complicated, be thankful you are not in a position to keep track of the finer points of protocol necessary for dealing with the royalty and peerage of Great Britain!  Check out a copy of Burke's Peerage and Baronetage and see for yourself.  As dizzying as our system may be in the Current Middle Ages, compared to mundania we have it much easier.


Remembering these points takes quite a bit of training and self-discipline, but it is truly the mark of aristocratic breeding to refer to our territorial barons and baronesses, as well as our kings, queens, princes, and princesses in the appropriate manner.  A sense of awe and wonder that can be cultivated in part through using the proper styles with personal titles and landed titles can certainly add to the richness of our experience of the Current Middle Ages.  It not only attracts newcomers into our fold, it also inspires those already in our ranks to set their sights on achieving great things.


This is the long answer.  The short answer is that we use given names with personal titles and names of regional/local groups with landed titles.  For that reason, while she is Baroness of Raven's Fort, you will not hear me address Her Excellency as "Baroness Fionna."



A   Table of Styles and Forms of Address


For   Diverse Titles


Landed Title


Personal Title










"His Majesty* the   King (of K.**)"


"Your Majesty"








"Her Majesty the   Queen (of K.)"


"Your Majesty"




Crown Prince/






"His/Her Royal   Highness the Crown Prince/Princess (of K.)"


"Your Royal   Highness"




Territorial Prince/Princess




"His/Her Serene   Highness the Prince/


Princess (of P.)"


"Your Serene   Highness"








"His/Her Grace   the Duke/Duchess NN."


"Your Grace"


"Duke/Duchess N."






"His/Her Excellency   the Count/ess NN."


"Your Excellency"


"Count/ess N."






"His/Her Excellency   the Viscount/ Viscountess NN."


"Your Excellency"


"Viscount/ess N."


Territorial Baron/ess




"His/Her Excellency   the Baron/ess of B."


"Your Excellency"




Knight of the Society


"Sir (or Dame)   NN."


"Sir (or Dame) N."




Master (or Mistress) of the   Laurel/Pelican/ of Arms


"Master (or Mistress)   NN."


"Master (or Mistress)   N."




Court Baron/ess


"His/Her Excellency   Baron/ess N."


"Your Excellency"


"Baron/ess N."




Founding Baron/ess


"His/Her Excellency   Baron/ess B."


"Your Excellency"


"Baron/ess B."




Companion of the White Scarf   of Ansteorra


"Don (or Doña)   NN."


"Don (or Doña) N."




Companion of the Centurion of   the Sable Star


"Centurion   NN."


"Centurion N."




Companion of the Order of the   Golden Lance of Ansteorra


"Lancer NN."


"Lancer N."




Companions of Other Orders   Bearing Grant of Rank


"The Honorable Lord   (or Honorable Lady) NN."


"Your Lordship (or   Ladyship)"


"Lord (or Lady) N."




Holders of Orders Bearing   Award of Arms


"Lord (or Lady)   NN."


"Lord (or Lady) N."



*Styles proper are rendered here in boldface.  Styles and titles may be used independently of each other in informal situations.  See the individual award charters for the exact conventions of style and title.


**K.=Name of Kingdom P.=Name of Principality B.=Name of Barony NN.=Full Name of Bearer N.=Given Name of Bearer. The need for greater clarity may require names of Kingdoms and Principalities to be used, while the names of Baronies are always used, particularly in the case of a founding baron or baroness.


Copyright 2007 by Ric Peavy, 808 North Main Street, Temple, TX 76501. <HerrDetlef at gmail.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited.  Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org