Forms of Address - Seeking Reference

Discussion in 'Research' started by FifthView, Nov 13, 2017.

  1. FifthView

    FifthView Istari

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    Does anyone know of a comprehensive reference guide for varying forms of address, for nobles and royalty, across the broad period and cultural swath of Europe, early middle ages through late renaissance?

    I'm loosely basing the milieu of my Nano project on early Anglo-Saxon Britain (although mixing-mashing Celt, Irish, Anglo-Saxon, Welsh....heh) and following a more Shakespearean guide. My MC is a prince, but "my lord" is all that is used for the princes. Not "highness" for prince, perhaps for king instead (a la Hamlet).* OTOH, I've simply used "my liege" for the king so far. I'm about 95% satisfied with how I'm doing it.

    But I started thinking that a single, comprehensive guide to these things would be extremely handy to have around, if such exists.

    *Actually I did a longer search through Hamlet just now, and "highness" is used only once, heh. For the king. But "majesty" is used a lot for the king. Shakespeare may have been writing for his own time period audience, as well. Plus, he plays on the word "majesty" some, even when not using the word as an address.
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2017
  2. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Valar Lord

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    I like this site:
    Bright Ideas and True Confessions
    May not be exactly what you are looking for.
    To my ear, My Liege sounds very late medieval or at least post Norman.
    And as far as I know... a [British] Queen/King is always Your Majesty and not Your Highness.
     
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  3. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Lore Master

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    I made some notes on this for my own stuff a while back:
    MAJESTY is reserved for Kings and Emperors
    HIGHNESS may be used for rulers but also for other members of the royal family (princes and princesses, esp. the crown prince)
    LORD or SIR is generally safe for any royal or noble (also SIRE for the king)
    GRACE is traditionally the address for dukes
    EXCELLENCY is more suited to governors or viceroys and such
    All this is somewhat fluid, of course, varies from era to era and place to place, etc, etc. I just try to be consistent within a story.
     
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  4. FifthView

    FifthView Istari

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    CupofJoeCupofJoe

    Thanks, after a little more reading, I discovered "liege" most likely has a French origin and would have been used after the Normans invaded England. The Norman king would have been referred to as "My Liege."

    This is not really a problem for me because now I think the basis of my fictional society is probably closer to the middle medieval period. Let's say, circa the 11 c. Early, middle, late—I'm a little confused on that, heh. I'm mixing the naming conventions a lot, including some heavy Anglo-Saxon influences, but perhaps the social and political structure is more "mid" than "early" or a blend on the transition between.

    Basically, the kingdoms in this area of the world are small, perhaps around 150 miles average width, each with a powerful central ruler but lots of much less powerful earls. The capitals aren't much larger than large towns, and the land held by individual earls could be anything from a village or two to a small town and a few villages, heh. So I'm going for that feeling of less development, smaller scale, and trying to avoid the more sophisticated and developed feel of later periods.

    That said, I think I'll go ahead and use "Majesty" for the king, because eventually I might have someone other than his vassals and noble court officers addressing him. (I.e., "liege" wouldn't be appropriate for visiting dignitaries, etc.)
     
  5. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    "Liege" was used in cases where the speaker has multiple lords. If you owed service to three different lords, and they wound up going to war, to whom do you report? To the one to whom you owe alLIEGance. You could even send knights to the other side, but you yourself owed the physical allegiance of your body to your liege lord. That situation was fairly common in France--the Count of Champagne famously owed homage and service to over a dozen lords--but was much less common in England. As others have pointed out, the whole business works much less well in Anglo-Saxon England.

    The OP said across all the Middle Ages and all Europe. Phew. You will never find such a guide because the variety was too great and our sources are too spotty. Moreover, medieval people were delightfully casual about consistency. We moderns are a bunch of OCD tight-a$$es by comparison. "My Lord" comes the closest to being a universal title because it's not tied to a rank. At the same time, medieval people--at least the literate ones--could be wonderfully prolix. Here is how the very much non-noble members of the city council of Augsburg were addressed: "Honorable, venerated, noble, wise, elders of the city...."

    Make something up. Be consistent. Write characters that are more memorable than their titles and you'll be fine.
     
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  6. FifthView

    FifthView Istari

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    A lot of the quick searches I've made lead to a fairly standardized system that points at a later medieval set of titles and address. As I mentioned above to CupofJoe, I'm trying to avoid that in this project.

    Some quick etymology & Wikipedia discoveries from the last two days:

    Majesty appeared around 1300, first used for kings and queens in England late in that century (14th C.)
    Highness appeared a little earlier, in the early 13th C., but Your Highness for royalty appeared around 1400.
    [Etymology Online website]

    The grain-of-salt Wikipedia entry cites Robert Lacey's book Great Tales from English History in saying that Richard II was the first English monarch to demand either Highness or Majesty, and that early kings had been content with My Lord. That corresponds somewhat with the dates above from the etymology site.

    Grace is probably more recent. The word had an earlier origin in France, late 12. C, may have been used in various ways in England, but first used as a title around 1500. (Maybe had an ecclesiastical use earlier than political? I dunno.)
     
  7. FifthView

    FifthView Istari

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    Yeah, hah. Actually in the last couple days I've thought that someone could make some $$$ if they did the research and finally collected all this between two book covers.

    I'm shooting for this. I think there's an odd second consideration, in that readers of fantasy have come to expect certain things, even if those things don't match up well with actual history.

    I perused some Anglo-Saxon literature to see if I could find any clues. Actually, while buying a birthday present on Amazon yesterday, I also ended up buying some histories of Anglo-Saxon England, hah. But the translations I found online of literature...are a bit grain-of-salt, because sometimes words are translated into more recent equivalents, I suspect. Otherwise, it seems that the earliest Anglo-Saxons might have often addressed leaders by given name with some flattering adjective thrown in the mix. E.g., Beowulf first addresses King Hrothgar as simply "Hrothgar," but a little after calls him "O sovran Hrothgar." Then again, trying to judge what was normal in the day-to-day affairs by what was written in the stylized literature of the time might not always lead to accurate portrayals of a culture.
     
  8. Russ

    Russ Istari

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    I don't think there is either one similarity of address across Europe, nor one book addressing that issue for the entire continent.

    If you find one let us know!
     
  9. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    >readers of fantasy have come to expect certain things, even if those things don't match up well with actual history.
    Absolutely this. I grapple with this all the time with Altearth. Most readers will not buy an "accurate" portrayal of the Middle Ages. Myth is more powerful than truth. So I pick my battles and roll the dice.

    >I don't think there is either one similarity of address across Europe, nor one book addressing that issue for the entire continent.
    Absolutely this. Magyar terms are different from Sicilian terms are different from Breton terms are different from Bavarian terms. And, for each of those, there is change over time. Then you want to add in the fact that most of our evidence is literary, which may or may not accurately reflect the actual use of titles. You also want to add in the fact that different orders addressed each other differently. No peasant can speak of a liege lord, for example.

    If you'd like some indication about how incredibly tricky is this entire topic, here are a couple of bibliographic references. I am totally not making this up.

    Irma Taavitsainen and Andreas H. Jucker (eds.). Diachronic Perspectives on Address Term Systems.
    Braun, Friederike. Terms of Address: Problems of Patterns and Usage in Various Languages and Cultures.
    Dupin, Henri. La Courtoisie au Moyen Âge.
    Stowell, William A. Old French Titles of Respect in Direct Address.

    There's lots more but you get the idea. Not that anyone actually reads this stuff. We just want a quick reference. I like this one because it goes beyond England and offers alternate spellings--always a winner with us fantasy writers!
    Glossary of Titles
     
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  10. Russ

    Russ Istari

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    This is so true. My family is old school Austrian, they can spend quite some time discussing how to address different levels of people for an upcoming social occasion, and many disagreements will occur.
     
  11. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    The bibliography from which I drew those references was actually all about that, Russ. Well, not your family exactly. :) It was about politeness with like a score of books and articles specifically on the use of on, versus tu versus vous. Which would be eins, du and Sie in German; there are probably variants in Austrian. But for sure such matters are far more important in other cultures than they are in America, where we pride ourselves on indifference to courtesies. :)

    Do Austrians call their language German? Or Austrian? Or some compound like Schweizerdeutsch?

    I do so love languages; it's a pity I was so poor at learning them.
     
  12. Russ

    Russ Istari

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    Generally Austrians would call their language German, or by the regional dialects which can be very different. Down in the south there is a huge Italian influence, Tyrol is very different, Vienna is very different once again, as is Salzburg. My mother, who is upper Austrian, prefers to talk to a relative of ours who is Prussian in English because it is easier to understand than each other's German.

    But talk about manners and forms of address can go on and on and on. There are discussions about what to say to what level of waiter when you tip them, and what they should say back. There are discussions about who at a party should be referred to as Gnadige Frau or Herr, or a million other mini-honorifics, and if you throw in someone with a title and their associates or relatives things can get right nuts. You are quite right that North Americans or even English speakers don't really quite get this stuff. You have to live it a little to believe it.
     
  13. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    My favorite was learning from my dissertation advisor the subtle--but important!--differences between being Professor, Frau Professor, and Frau Doktor Professor. But I love that bit about different levels of waiters. I am going to have to work in careful honorifics somewhere in Altearth.

    Regional dialects indeed. My dissertation was on 16thc Augsburg. The language in the documents was Schwaebischer Deutsch, but within that it was Augspurger ("b" went to "p" all the time down there).

    This is one reason why it sort of drives me nuts that so much fantasy uses England as its model. England is *boring* compared to the rich diversity of the Continent. Pace Anglophiles. I get it; the language barrier can be intimidating. But the barrier lowers with every improvement in translation software. And the stories to be found there are so good.
     
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  14. Russ

    Russ Istari

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    Totally agree on the over focus on English materials, and you are dead right on the fact that the continent was far more varied and interesting in both history and culture.

    My fantasy world borrows heavily from medieval Austria (surprise, surprise) and Habsburg Spain. It also involves a fair bit of etiquette and social formalities, but hopefully not enough to get in the way. Write what you know...and love!
     
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