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Forms of Address

Another element of Victorian etiquette was making sure the correct form of address was used, both when speaking to someone in person, and also in correspondence. Incorrect use could be taken as a slight or insult, and it certainly wasn’t that simple to pick up!

While we hope you will strive to use the appropriate titles where…appropriate, we don’t expect everyone to hold rigidly to this all the time!

~Informal Address

Even the Victorians didn’t formally address each other all the time, though it was proper for husbands and wives to refer to each other as ‘Mr X’ or ‘Mrs X’ (even within their own homes) to the servants, or their own family and friends!

First names were most often used by childhood or school friends. If the friendship was made after school age, first names would only really be used by women. Men were far more likely to refer to their friends by their surnames, a mark of familiarity.

‘My love’ and ‘My dear’ were the main diminutives a husband and wife could address to each other in public, though in private first names were more common.


The manner by which a servant was addressed depended entirely on their ranking within the household staff.

House Stewards, Butlers, Valets and Lady’s Maids were addressed solely by their surname. This was a mark of respect, familiarity and trust, a great honour. A more distant form of address, as used for lower-ranking servants, would be considered a subtle reprimand.

Housekeepers and Cooks were always Mrs Surname, even if they weren’t married. A male cook was Mr Surname; unless they were French, when the family may refer to them in conversation (when the Cook is not present) as Monsieur Surname, as having a French cook was considered a luxury. When talking to the cook, however, he was always Mr Surname.

Governesses were in an awkward position—neither servant, nor family. The mistress of the house, who she reported directly to, might call her by her surname if she had been in the family a long time and she was highly trusted, or potentially her first name if she was a family member/school friend she had grown up with. Otherwise, she would be called Mrs Surname or Miss Surname, and would always be addressed like this by the children and master of the house—even if she was a family member like an aunt. Nannies faced similar issues as Governesses. The vast majority would have been addressed as Mrs Surname, as with a housekeeper or cook, but a minority who had been with a family a while may have been called by their surname only. She could also be called ‘Nanny’, most often when being referred to in a conversation she was not part of, or by particularly young children.

Footmen are also complicated. When a family has more than one footman, all enquiries are addressed to the Head Footman, or First Footman, who is addressed as ‘Mr X’. First names would probably be used in the very rare case a secondary or junior footman would need to be referred to, however it would be far more likely that the family would never do so and may not even know their name, addressing all concerns or requests to the first footman instead. In a disciplinary scenario, the Head Footman would introduce the other footman as Mr Firstname Surname, so the head of the family wouldn’t be caught in the awkward scenario of not knowing the servant’s name. If there was only one footman, he was still ‘Mr X’. If the Footman doubles as a valet, then surname alone may be used, depending on the degree of closeness.

The Hallboy was referred to solely as ‘boy’ or ‘the boy’, both by his employers and co-workers—even if one of his co-workers was family, as they often were.

Maids (Nursery, House, Kitchen and Scullery) would be called by their first names by their employers and other servants. A nursemaid, or senior nursemaid, may have risen to ‘Miss Surname’ or ‘Mrs Surname’ if the nanny was referred to solely by her surname, though this was rare. Kitchen and Scullery maids would have been rarely, if ever, seen by their employers, let alone addressed by them, but ‘girl’ was also used, even by other servants, as they were the lowest ranking. If the family wished to refer to them in conversation, rather than call upon their services, ‘the maid’ or ‘one of the maids’ was sufficient.

Outside servants varied. Only the richest families kept a gardener employed full time—if they did, he was referred to by his first name, unless he was Head Gardener, when he was Mr Surname, and his under-gardeners were called by just their first names. If he was only part-time, he was always ‘Mr X’. Similarly, Coachmen were rarely kept full-time- they were far more likely butlers or footmen most of the time, but otherwise were addressed as Mr X. Grooms were also Mr X, unless they had no stable-hands under them, when they may have been called by their first names, though this wasn’t common. Stable hands were always called by their first names, or if there was only one, then ‘boy’ would again have been used.


All men, regardless of age, always used the style Mr Surname. Mr Firstname Surname was often used when younger sons wished to differentiate themselves from their elder brothers, or by any man to introduce a degree of familiarity into a relationship, or simply as a matter of convenience if there were plenty of Mr Surnames running around—it was a matter of preference. However, once a boy had left school, formally he was always Mr Surname.

Young boys may have been referred to as ‘Master’ by servants and the adults of their more extended family (grandparents etc.) ‘Master Surname’ was reserved for the eldest son not yet old enough for school, and ‘Master Firstname’ for any subsequent younger brothers. Servants could refer to their charges as ‘the young master’. This was a traditional practice, rarely seen outside the Upper Classes, though house elves do seem to largely refer to their owner as ‘Master’ or ‘Master Surname’ regardless of his age.

In the Victorian Era, the use of ‘Dr.’ as a style was protected under law and reserved for members of The Royal College of Doctors, and would have required attendance at a muggle university. Surgeons (Members of The Royal College of Surgeons) were not permitted to use the title of ‘Dr’, and still aren’t today.


Unlike a man, a woman’s address would normally change several times through her life, and through more than just preference.

The eldest unmarried daughter was always Miss Surname, unless there were multiple Miss Surnames present, when first names would be added to differentiate. First names were also known to have been added when the girl’s elder sister who had since married (or been disowned), who had also been known as ‘Miss Surname’, had a bad reputation the girl wished to avoid associating herself with. If there was also a scandalous young woman of the same surname around, then first names may have been used when introducing to new acquaintances, to avoid any embarrassing mix ups! First names could be occasionally introduced by preference if the woman wished to make a more familiar relationship.

Younger unwed daughters were always ‘Miss Firstname Surname’, to differentiate between them and their elder sister. When the eldest unmarried daughter got married, the use of ‘Miss Surname’ was passed down to her next eldest unmarried sister, and it was common practice for a girl to change the design of her ‘Miss Surname’ calling cards to one her unmarried sister would prefer when she got engaged, so none would be wasted- and also to announce that the user of the style would soon be changing.

Spinsters or unwed daughters who ran their own households were ‘Miss Surname’, even if they had an older sister who was also unmarried. If she was in the company of a relative who also used ‘Miss Surname’, spinster or unmarried daughter, then ‘the elder/the younger’ was used to differentiate, or their first names. First names could be introduced by preference if the woman wished to make a more familiar relationship.

Married women and widows were referred to as Mrs Surname. It was highly unusual for a woman to not take her husband’s surname—double-barrelling (ie. Collins-Potter) was more often used when a lady wished to retain her surname for whatever reasons.

‘Mrs Husband’sFirstName Surname’ was also commonly used, not just to differentiate between multiple Mrs Surnames. The only time a wife would have been referred to by her own first name was if there happened to by multiple women married to men of the same names, as use of her own name or initials suggested the marriage had been dissolved.

Madam is a title particularly used in Harry Potter as a term of respect. Madam Rosmerta, for example, ran a respected business, Madam Hooch was a member of staff that wasn’t academically employed (and therefore not called Professor) and Madam Pomfrey was in charge of the Hospital wing. Mistress would be used similarly to Master (see above) for young girls, and also by house elves. It is not indicative of marital status. In letters, for example if a governess was writing to a travelling mother about her daughter, it may be abbreviated to Ms Surname for the eldest daughter, and Ms Firstname for any subsequent girls.

Divorced women would continue to use their married names unless they remarried. A divorced woman, unlike a wife, would use her own firstname, and would be “Mrs Firstname Ex-Husband’s-Surname”. Ms originates as a form of ‘Mistress’, which was not indicative of marital status, but it was not used for divorced women until after the Victorian Era.

Documentation written by Jenny exclusively for Charming.