Titles & 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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
, 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Peers, or the titled aristocracy, have an even more complicated form of address, not just for the holder of the peerage, but also for their immediate family. On Charming, the highest rank of peerage allowed is that of an Earl/Countess, and so that is as high as this guide will cover. The ranks of the peerage, with their female equivalents in brackets, in descending order are:
GENERAL NOTES ON ADDRESSING A PEER
- Earls (Countess)
- Viscounts (Viscountess)
- Barons (Baroness)
- Baronet (Baronetess)
The prefix of ‘The’ in formal introductions is used exclusively for the holder of the title- The Earl of X’s wife would simply be Countess of X, as she only uses the title of Countess by courtesy- as an honour given to her, rather than a birthright. It is still exceptionally rare for a woman to hold her own title- in the Victorian Era, it was almost unheard of outside Royalty- and therefore use the prefix ‘The’. Courtesy titles used by eldest sons also do not use ‘The’ as a prefix- more of that below.
EARL AND FAMILY
In the case of a divorce (the scandal!) the former wife of a peer may continue to use her married title until she remarries, when she forfeits it. If her ex-husband remarries and therefore another woman is eligible for the title, then her first name is added before it, much like a widow.
Of course, if anyone was addressing a peer more familiarly as a friend or family member, then all this goes out the window- though as well as the usual familiar forms of address (see the beginning of this doc), a peer might also be referred to by just the location of where he was peer of- for example, Lord Sherrington could be just known as Sherrington (or Sherry!). This, like the use of their first name or surname, would only be used by their closest friends or family.
An Earl or Countess is formally introduced as The Earl of X, or The Countess of X, where X is the place they are the Earl or Countess of. Some titles will not use the form ‘of X’, but will simply use the place name, for example, The Earl X, though this is rarer.
VISCOUNT AND VISCOUNTESSES.
In conversation or in correspondence, the first time they are mentioned an Earl or Countess should be referred to as Lord or Lady X. After the first time, the style of Lord/Lady X may continue, or alternatively, My Lord/My Lady could be used.
The wife of an Earl uses the same form of address as a countess, without the use of ‘The’ as a prefix.
The eldest son of an Earl will often use a courtesy title- a lower ranking title than that of an Earl, which his father also holds. This is most commonly a Viscountcy. (See below)
Younger sons of an Earl are formally introduced as ‘The Honourable Mr Surname’, often abbreviated to ‘The Hon. Mr Surname’ in letters. The rest of the time, however, they are simply referred to as Mr Surname. If an Earl has more than one younger son, the eldest uses the above styles, and the younger one(s) add in their first names to all styles to differentiate, eg ‘The Honourable Mr Firstname Surname’/ ‘Mr Firstname Surname’
Daughters of an Earl are ‘Lady Firstname’ or ‘Lady Firstname Surname’ in more formal introductions. The prefix of ‘Lady’ is retained after marriage as ‘Lady Firstname Husband’sSurname’ unless she gets a title by courtesy through marrying a titled man.
The widowed mother of an Earl is the Dowager Countess, formally introduced as ‘Dowager Countess of X’ but otherwise as Lady X. If her son is married and there is therefore another woman known as Lady X, then ‘Firstname, Lady X’, ‘The Elder Lady X’ or ‘the Dowager Lady X’ is used depending on the preference of the woman herself.
A Viscount or Viscountess is addressed with similar principles to an Earl/Countess. They are formally introduced as The Viscount X/ The Viscountess X, and referred to in conversation and in letters as Lord/Lady X the first time, and afterwards by either Lord/Lady X, or as My Lord/My Lady.
BARON AND BARONESS.
A Viscount by courtesy (aka. an Earl’s eldest son) is addressed the same way as an actual Viscount, but without the use of ‘The’ as a prefix.
The Eldest son of a Viscount, because a Viscountcy is further down the peerage precedence, gets no courtesy title and is addressed the same as a younger son.
Sons of a Viscount are addressed like the younger sons of Earls. They are formally introduced as ‘The Honourable Mr Surname’, often abbreviated to ‘The Hon. Mr Surname’ in letters. The rest of the time, however, they are simply referred to as Mr Surname. If a Viscount has more than one son, the eldest uses the above styles, and any younger sons add in their first names to differentiate.
Daughters of a Viscount do not get the prefix of Lady, and nor do they use the prefix Miss in formal situations. An unmarried daughter is called ‘The Honourable Firstname Surname’ formally, or ‘The Hon. Firstname Surname’ in formal letters. A married daughter is referred to as ‘The Honourable/The Hon. Mrs Husband’sSurname’ formally. Outside of a formal introductions or letters, unmarried daughters are addressed as any other unmarried women may be, and married daughters as any married women may be.
Barons and Baronesses follow the same theme. In formal introductions and letters, they are Baron X/Baroness X, and otherwise are addressed similarly to the other ranks of the peerage- Lord/Lady X at least the first time, and alternatively after My Lord/My Lady.
BARONET AND BARONETESS.
Children of a Baron are addressed as the children of a Viscount- though due to a quirk in British legalities, they may only use the abbreviation ‘The Hon.’ rather than ‘The Honourable’ as a prefix, even in speech.
The lowest ranking title that is hereditary (aka. not a knighthood) is a Baronetcy. A baronet uses the style ‘Sir Firstname Surname’ as a formal introduction, and may be referred to as ‘Sir Firstname’ after at least one use of his full style in conversation. A baronetess is styled ‘Dame Firstname Surname’, though only Scottish Baronetcies may be held by a woman.
Wife of a Baronet uses the style ‘Lady Surname’.
Children of a Baronet get no special style.
Documentation written by Jenny exclusively for Charming.