TITLES like ‘prince’, ‘duke’ and ‘earl’ aren’t just fancy names given to royals and their extended family members.
They belong to a ranking system for British nobility known as the peerage. Here's what you need to know.
What is the peerage system and which titles belong to it?
The peerage is a legal system made up of both hereditary and lifetime titles.
It’s comprised of various noble ranks, forming what is known as the British honours system.
The five possible titles for men, ranked from highest to lowest, are: duke, marquess, earl, viscount, and baron.
But above and at the top of the peerage system are the royals – here’s what each of the titles means.
Regardless of gender, the only way to be the monarch of the country is to inherit the title.
If the monarch is a man, he goes by the title of king, but the husband of a female monarch does not get the title of king — instead he becomes a prince.
Typically the eldest child of the reigning monarch takes on the role on the death of the existing King or Queen, or if the position is abdicated.
In the UK, the husband of the reigning queen is called a prince, as is their male children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and so forth.
However if a princess marries, her husband will not be called a prince as they would if she became Queen.
All members of the Royal Family should be addressed “His/Her Royal Highness” while the Queen should be addressed with “Your Majesty”.
William and Kate's three children all have Prince and Princess titles.
But their cousin Archie is being raised as a private citizen – so will known by his surname Mountbatten-Windsor and not as Prince Archie.
A duke is the member of nobility that ranks just below the monarch.
A duke is a ruler of a ‘duchy’ (county, territory or domain).
It's also tradition for men of the royal family to get a new title when they marry – often taking on duke status.
For example, Prince William became the Duke of Cambridge when he married Kate Middleton (and she the Duchess of Cambridge because of his assent).
Meanwhile Prince Harry became the Duke of Sussex on marrying Meghan Markle, making her his duchess.
To become a duke of a particular duchy, the title must be available – which happens when the last person who held the title died without legitimate heirs to take the title for themselves.
When this happens, the title is bestowed back to the Queen.
Dukes and Duchesses should be addressed with “Your Grace”.
A marquess is the second most senior rank in the peerage, beneath dukes.
The marquess stands above the ranks of earl, viscount and baron. The dignity of amarquess is referred to as a marquessate. At present, there are just 34 marquesses in the UK.
A Marquess should be addressed “My Lord”.
Below a marquess comes an earl.
Members of the Royal Family further away from the crown such as Prince Edward (Earl of Wessex) are given the title.
As with a marquess, an earl should be addressed as “My Lord” or “Your Lordship”.
A viscount is the fourth rank in the British peerage system, standing below an earl and above a baron.
There are approximately 270 viscountcies in the Uk, most of whom have inherited the title.
In British practice, the title of a viscount may be either a place name, a surname, or a combination of the two, such as the Viscount Falmouth or the Viscount Colville of Culross.
Again, though, it’s correct to address viscounts with the title ‘lord’.
Last but not least comes the barons – who are theoretically rulers of a barony (an administrative division of a country, of lower rank than a county).
Barons can either be addressed as “My Lord” or “The Right Honourable”.
The children of barons can continue to use the title, but the wife of a baron in her own right gains no title.
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