Sunday, June 8, 2014

Etiquette for Royal Court Presentation and Foreign Titles

Elisabeth of Austria, was the wife of Emperor Franz Joseph I, and thus Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary. "Emperors and empresses rank higher than kings. The sons and daughters of the emperor of Austria are called archdukes and archduchesses, the names being handed down from the time when the ruler of that country claimed himself no higher title than that of archduke."

Foreign Titles

We have no titles in this country, or rather we have so many, and they are so indiscriminately worn, that they are wellnigh worthless. We have, at least, no orders of nobility; nevertheless, as our citizens are constantly visiting foreign countries, it is well to understand something of titles and ranks and their contingent orders of precedence.


In England, as is well known, the king and queen are placed at the apex of the social structure. The mode by which they are addressed is in the form "Your Majesty."

The Prince of Wales, the heir-apparent to the throne, stands second in dignity. The other children are all known during their minority as princes and princesses. The eldest princess is called the crown princess. Upon their majority the younger sons have the title of duke bestowed upon them and the daughters retain that of princesses, adding to that the title of their husbands. They are all designated as "Their Royal Highnesses."


A duke who inherits the title from his father stands one grade below a royal duke. The wife of a duke is known as a duchess. They are both addressed as " Your Grace." The eldest son is a marquis until he inherits the higher title of his father. His wife is a marchioness. The younger sons are lords by courtesy, and the daughters are distinguished by having " Lady " prefixed to their Christian names.

Earls and barons are both spoken of as lords and their wives as ladies, though the latter are by right respectively countesses and baronesses. The daughters of the former are "ladies," the younger sons of both "honorables." The earl occupies the higher position of the two in the peerage.

These complete the list of nobility, unless we include bishops, who are lords in right of their ecclesiastical office, but whose title is not hereditary.

All These Below are Entitled to Seats in the Upper House of Parliament

Gentry, Baronets, who are known as " Sir," and whose wives, in common with those of a higher order, receive the title of lady, are only commoners of a higher degree, though there are families who have borne their title for many successive generations who would hot exchange it for a recently created peerage.

A clergyman, by right of his calling, stands on an equality with all commoners, a bishop with all peers.


The title of esquire, which is brought into such general use in this country that it has come to mean nothing whatever save an empty compliment, has special significance in England. The following in that country have a legal right to the title:

The sons of peers, whether known in common conversation as lords or honorables.

The eldest sons of peers' sons, and their eldest sons in perpetual succession.

All the sons of baronets.

The esquires of the Knights of the Bath.

Lords of manors, chiefs of clans and other tenants of the crown in capite are esquires by prescription.

Esquires created to that rank by patent, and their eldest sons in perpetual succession.

Esquires by office, such as justices of the peace while on the roll, mayors of towns during mayoralty and sheriffs of counties (who retain the title for life).

Members of the House of Commons.


Bachelors of divinity, law and physic.

All who, in commissions signed by the sovereign, are ever styled esquires retain that designation for.

Depiction of Queen Victoria giving the Bible to an African Chief in her Audience Chamber, 1861- by Thomas Jones Barker. Not eligible to be presented at court, but... "Those of more democratic professions, such as solicitors, merchants and mechanics, have not, as a rule, that right, though wealth and connexion have recently proved an open sesame at the gates of St. James."

Imperial Rank

Emperors and empresses rank higher than kings. The sons and daughters of the emperor of Austria are called archdukes and archduchesses, the names being handed down from the time when the ruler of that country claimed himself no higher title than that of archduke. The emperor of Russia is known as the czar, the name being identical with the Roman caesar and the German kaiser. The heir apparent to the Russian throne is the czarowitch.

European Titles

Titles in continental Europe are so common and so frequently unsustained by landed and moneyed interests that they have not that significance which they hold in England. A count may be a penniless scamp, depending upon the gambling-table for a precarious subsistence, and looking out for the chance of making a wealthy marriage. It is sorrowful and humiliating to know that there are many American girls who are willing to forego the right of being republican queens and to sell themselves and their fortunes to a foreign adventurer for the privilege of being known as countesses or baronesses.

A German baron may be a good, substantial, unpretending man, something after the manner of an American farmer. A German prince or duke, since the absorption of the smaller principalities of Germany by Prussia, may have nothing left him but a barren title and a meagre rent-roll. The Italian prince is even of less account than the German one, since his rent-roll is too frequently lacking altogether, and his only inheritance may be a grand but decayed palace, without means sufficient to keep it in repair or furnish it properly.

Yet not all foreign titles are worthless and unmeaning, nor are all those bearing them swindlers or adventurers. There is only one rule to guide a stranger in these matters: let him look to the individual direct and judge of his character impartially, without allowing himself to be dazzled by the glitter of a fine-sounding title and a long-descended coat-of-arms. If the title is found to become him,  so much the better.


It is frequently a satisfaction to an American to be presented to the queen during a sojourn in England. It is at least something to talk about when one returns home; and as the queen is really a good woman, worthy of all honor, we, even as a born republican, can find no valid cause for objection.

Those Eligible To Presentation At Court

The nobility, with their wives and daughters, are eligible to presentation at court unless there be some grave moral objection, in which case, as it has ever been the aim of the good and virtuous queen to maintain a high standard of morality within her court, the objectionable parties are rigidly excluded.

The clergy, naval and military officers, physicians and barristers and the squirearchy, with their wives and daughters, have also a right to pay their personal respects to their queen.

Those Not Eligible

Those of more democratic professions, such as solicitors, merchants and mechanics, have not, as a rule, that right, though wealth and connexion have recently proved an open sesame at the gates of St. James.

Those Who May Present Others

Any person who has been presented at court may present a friend in his or her turn. A person wishing to be presented must beg the favor from the friend or relative of the highest rank he or she may possess.

Articles of Union being presented to Queen Anne in 1706, from Hutchinson's Story of the British Nation c.1923- by Johann Gerhard Huck

Preliminaries To Presentation

Any nobleman or gentleman who proposes to be presented to the queen must leave at the lord chamberlain's office before twelve o'clock, two days before the levee, a card with his name written thereon, and with the name of the nobleman or gentleman by whom he is to be presented. In order to carry out the existing regulation that no presentation can be made at a levee excepting by a person actually attending that levee, it is also necessary that a letter from the nobleman or gentleman who is to make the presentation, stating it to be his intention to be present, should accompany the presentation card above referred to, which will be submitted to the queen for Her Majesty's approbation. These regulations of the lord chamberlain must be implicitly obeyed.

Directions at what gate to enter and where the carriages are to stop are always printed in the newspapers.

These directions apply with equal force to ladies and to gentlemen.

Presentation Costume

The person to be presented must provide himself or herself with a court costume, which need not be particularly described here, but which for men consists partly of knee-breeches and hose, for women of an ample court train. These costumes are indispensable, and can be hired for the occasion.

The Presentation 

It is desirable to be early to escape the crowd. When the lady leaves her carriage, she must leave everything in the shape of a cloak or scarf behind her. Her train must be carefully folded over her left arm as she enters the long gallery of St. James, where she awaits her turn for presentation.

The lady is at length ushered into the presencechamber, which is entered by two doors. She goes in at the one indicated to her, dropping her train as she passes the threshold, which train is instantly spread out by the wands of the lords-in-waiting. The lady then walks forward toward the sovereign or the person who represents the sovereign. The card on which her name is inscribed is then handed to another lord-in-waiting, who reads the name aloud.

When she arrives just before His or Her Majesty, she should curtsey as low as possible, so as to almost kneel.

If the lady presented be a peeress or peer's daughter, the queen kisses her on her forehead. If only a commoner, then the queen extends her hand to be kissed by the lady presented, who, having done so, rises, curtseys to each of the other members of the royal family present, and then passes on. She must keep her face turned toward the sovereign as she goes to and through the door leading from the presence-chamber. Considerable dexterity is required in managing the train in this backward transit, and it is well to rehearse the scene beforehand.

Rights Of Peers And Peeresses

Peeresses in their own right, as well as peers, may demand a private audience of their sovereign.
From "The Ladies' and Gentlemen's Etiquette, A Complete Manual of the Manners and Dress of American Society" by E. B. Duffey ~ 1877 

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia 

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