The Writer’s Guide to Royal Titles

Fantasy writers have a love affair with royalty, with kings, queens, and princes littered across the genre. Yet royals and nobles appear in other genres as well, such as science fiction. But unless you interact with a real royal court or a group playing one at your local Renaissance faire or SCA event, most writers struggle. This is especially true if your protagonist is a member of a royal family.

Today I will be covering titles and forms of address in a variety of situations. I will be pulling mostly from medieval and Renaissance European traditions. The rules change dramatically between countries and time periods and vary due to situations and personal preference If you are writing fantasy, they can be discarded completely in favor of your own inventions, if you so wish.

Situations and Personal Preference

The forms of address varied based on the situation and personal preference. For example, if a king was a pompous ass, he could demand his subjects and staff refer to him in the most formal manner all the time. A more laidback royal could request people to use her informal title or even her first name.

The forms of address would vary based on the situation. A formal audience would require different forms of address than a private meeting between people who grew up together or have a close personal relationship.

King Joffrey from “Game of Thrones” was probably one of those royals who demanded a formal mode of address all the time. Photo source.

King

At the top of the great chain of being was the king. He ruled a country or kingdom, and no one was above him except God or maybe a pope.

The proper term of address both verbally and in writing is “Your Majesty” or “Your Grace.” After the initial greeting, he can be referred to less formally. During the Middle Ages, he would be called “sire” or “my king.” The modern equivalent is “sir.”

If a king is greeting another king in a formal setting, he would likely refer to him as “Your Majesty.” If he was being especially formal or buttering him up, he could refer to him as “Your Most Royal Majesty” and possibly continue with “king of (kingdom).” A king could also be called by the name of his kingdom. For example, the king of England could be asked “Will England send aid?”

In an informal setting, two kings would likely call each other “King (First Name).”

If they are close friends and in private, they would likely call each other by their first names. Unless they grew up together, the relationship would start out formal, gradually become more casual until one or both requested that the other call them by their first name.

Queen

The queen was commonly the wife of the king although she could also be a monarch in her own right.

The proper term of address verbally and in writing is “Your Majesty,” although the spouse of a king could also be referred to as “Your Highness” or “Your Grace.” After the initial greeting, she can be referred to as “madam” or “my queen.” If the queen is accompanying her husband, they can be collectively referred to as “Your Majesties.” If someone was being subtly disrespectful, they could refer to a queen ruling as a monarch as “Your Highness,” implying that she is not on the same level as a king.

A queen greeting a king or another queen ruling in her own right in a formal setting would likely use the term “Your Majesty.” A queen who is the spouse of a king would greet another spouse of a king as “Your Highness.”

In an informal setting, the same rules that apply to kings would be used here. The same for close friends in private.

Queen Letizia of Spain greeting Queen Elizabeth II. Photo source.

Other Members of the Royal Family

Other members of the royal family include the sons and daughters of the monarch, their spouses, and their children.

The term of address verbally and in writing is “Your Royal Highness” or “Your Highness.” After the initial greeting, they can be referred to as “sir” or “madam.” Princes could also be called “my prince” or “my lord” and princesses as “my lady.”

A prince or princess greeting another prince or princess would likely refer to them as “Your Highness.”

In an informal setting, they would refer to them as “Prince (Name)” or “Princess (Name),” for example, “Greetings, Prince Derek.”

In private, two friends would use their first names.

Children were expected to refer to their parents formally, such as “my lord father” and “my lady mother.” They could also use “sir” or “madam.”

A prince and a princess meeting. “The Swan Princess.” Photo source.


I hope this was helpful. Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions by using the Contact Me form on my website or writing a comment. I post every Friday and would be grateful if you would share my content.

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Let’s get writing!

Copyright © 2021 Rebecca Shedd. All rights reserved.

[1] Secara, Maggie, A Compendium of Common Knowledge 1558-1603, Popinay Press, Los Angeles, CA, 1990-2008, ISBN 978-0-9818401-0-9, p. 24-29.
[2] Mortimer, Ian, The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century, Touchstone, New York, 2008, ISBN 978-1-4391-1289-2, p. 40-43.
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forms_of_address_in_the_United_Kingdom

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