Royalty, Nobility and Gentry of England in the 16th Century

For our purposes, we are interested in the peerages created in the Kingdom of England prior to the Act of Union in 1707.

The ranks of the English peerage are Duke (highest rank), MarquessEarlViscount, and Baron.

Although not royalty or noble, I will also include the rank of knight in this topic.

You will find noted below forms of reference and address for the wives of nobility, but not husbands who may have married a female noble. It is expected that she will use the appropriate form of reference and address appropriate to the wife of a man of his rank. She may also continue to use her own title and be addressed in that way if her rank is higher than that of her husband.

*Note: This is not intended to be an academic treatment of the subject and I do not guarantee historical accuracy. The intent of this article is to provide a framework for entertainment purposes in Second Life. If I have made any glaring errors, I would be grateful for feedback and correction.



Our period of interest, the 16th century, was the Tudor era. The Tudor monarchs of that century were;

  • Henry VII, 1485 – 1509
  • Henry VIII, 1509 – 1547
  • Edward VI, 1547 – 1553
  • Mary I, 1553 – 1558
  • Elizabeth I, 1558 – 1603
Whoever assumes the role of King or Queen of the South may or may not choose to portray one of those monarchs, but we would encourage people to make up a new monarch in the style of the time for more flexible role play opportunities. It is not our purpose to accurately portray history, and although heavily influenced by history, we are not bound by it.

Forms of Address: Monarchs are referred to as “His Majesty the King” or “Her Majesty The Queen”. After initially addressing the monarch as “Your Majesty”, the King can be addressed as “Sire” and the Queen as “Ma’am”.

The English coronation oath is the oath of office taken by the British monarch, and dates back to at least the coronation of Edgar at Bath Abbey in 973 A.D.

At the time of Edgar, the Oath was very simple and read as follows:

First, that the church of God and the whole Christian people shall have true peace at all time by our judgment; Second, that I will forbid extortion and all kinds of wrong-doing to all orders of men; Third, that I will enjoin equity and mercy in all judgments.

There were changes made to the coronation oath in 1689, but that is after our period of interest.

The Royal Consort of England was the spouse of the King of England. A queen consort usually shares her husband’s rank and holds the feminine equivalent of the king’s monarchical titles. Historically, queens consort do not share the king regnant’s political and military powers.

The husband of a reigning Queen is likely to have his own title. The husband of Queen Elizabeth II is Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. It was thought that to give the husband of a reigning Queen the title of King would create potential conflict and confusion.



The Prince of Wales is the heir apparent to the British Throne.

In 1409 the revolt in quest of Welsh independence was suppressed by Henry IV. The tradition of investing the heir-apparent of the monarch with the title of “Prince of Wales” is usually considered to have begun in 1301, when King Edward I of England invested his son Edward Caernarfon with the title at a Parliament held in Lincoln.

Forms of Address: The Prince of Wales would be referred to as “His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales.” Initially you would address the Prince as “Your Royal Highness” and afterward as “Sir”. A Princess of Wales in her own right would be referred to as “Her Royal Highness, the Princess of Wales.” You would initially address her as “Your Royal Highness” and afterward as “Ma’am”. The wife of the Prince, the Princess Consort, would be referred to and addressed in the same way as a Princess of Wales in our time frame.



We do not encourage the portrayal of children in our environment, and as a child or grandchild became of age, he would be granted land and a title, most likely Duke or Earl, or if a female, married to someone of high rank.

Forms of Address: The children and grandchildren of the Sovereign would be referred to as “HRH (His Royal Highness or Her Royal Highness) Prince/Princess (name) of (wherever)”. Initially he or she would be addressed as “Your Royal Highness”, and after that Sir or Ma’am. Their wives would be addressed in the same manner.

Great grandchildren would be referred to as “The Lord/Lady (Name)”. They would be addressed initially as “My Lord” or “My Lady”, and afterward as “Sir” or “Ma’am”. Interestingly, the wife of a great grandson would not be referred to by her own name, but as “The Lady (Name of her husband)”. So, the wife of Lord John Stewart, great grandson to the King, would be referred to as “The Lady John Stewart.”



A Duke (male) or Duchess (female) can either be a monarch ruling over a duchy or a member of the nobility, historically of highest rank below the monarch. A duchy is the territory or geopolitical entity ruled by a duke. The term implies a territorial domain, within which the duke has actual subjects or significant land holdings, with respect to which the duke has or had unique legal privileges, e.g. sovereignty or manorial rights or entitlement to certain duties or income from residents (e.g. the corvée), etc. A dukedom is the title or status of a duke, a rank in the present or past nobility, and is not necessarily attached to a duchy. Sons of sovereigns are normally given a dukedom.

Forms of Address: A Duke or Duchess is referred to “His Grace, the Duke of (Wherever)” or “Her Grace, the Duchess of (Wherever)”.  The initial form of address would be “Your Grace” or “Duke” or “Duchess”. Afterward they can be addressed as “Sir” or “Ma’am”.



A Marquess or Marquis  is a nobleman of hereditary rank. The Marquess or Marchioness ranks below Duke or Duchess and above Earl.

In times past, the distinction between a Count and a marquess was that a marquess’s land, called a march, was on the border of the country, while a count’s land, called a county, often wasn’t. Because of this, a marquess was trusted to defend and fortify against potentially hostile neighbors and was thus more important and ranked higher than a count. The title is ranked below duke, which was mostly restricted to the royal family and those that were held in high enough esteem to be granted such a title.

The word “marquess” is unusual in English, ending in “-ess” but referring to a male and not a female. In continental Europe it is usually equivalent where a cognate title exists. A woman with the rank of a marquess, or the wife of a marquess, is a marchioness.

Forms of Address: A Marquess would be referred to as “The Most Honourable Marquess of (Wherever)”, or “The Most Honourable Marchioness of (Wherever)”.  You would address him as “My Lord”, “Your Lordship”, or “Lord (Wherever)”. You would address her as “My Lady”, “Your Ladyship”, or “Lady (Wherever)”. After initial adress you can call him “Sir” or her “Ma’am”.



An Earl is a member of the nobility ranking below Marquess and above Viscount. There never developed a feminine form of earlcountess is used as the equivalent feminine title.

Forms of Address: An Earl is referred to as “The Right Honourable Earl of (Wherever)”, and a Countess as “The Right Honourable Countess of (Wherever)”. Initially you would address an Earl as  ”My Lord”, “Your Lordship”, or “Lord (Wherever)”. You would address a Countess as “My Lady”, “Your Ladyship”, or “Lady (Wherever)”. After initial address you can call him “Sir” or her “Ma’am”.



A Viscount ranks below an Earl but above a Baron. The word Viscount corresponds in the UK to the Anglo-Saxon shire reeve (root of the non-nobiliary, royal-appointed office of sheriff). Thus early viscounts were originally normally given their titles by the monarch, not hereditary; but soon they too tended to establish hereditary principalities.

Forms of Address: The title of a viscount may be either a place name, or a surname, or sometimes, a combination thereof. In any event, a Viscount is referred to as ”The Viscount (Name)”, or “The Viscount (Name) of (Wherever)”. A Viscountess is referred to as ”The Viscountess (Name)”, or “The Viscountess (Name) of (Wherever)”. Initially you would address a Viscount as  ”My Lord”, “Your Lordship”, or “Lord (Wherever)”. You would address a Viscountess as “My Lady”, “Your Ladyship”, or “Lady (Wherever)”. After initial address you can call him “Sir” or her “Ma’am”.



Baron is a title of nobility, entitled to attend the Great Council which by the 13th century had developed into the Parliament of England.

William I introduced “baron” as a rank in England to distinguish the men who had pledged their loyalty to him under the feudal system, bound to perform a stipulated annual military service, and obliged to attend his council.

Forms of Address:  They would be referred to as the “Baron of (Wherever)”, or “Baroness of (Wherever)”. You would address a Baron as “Baron” or the name of the place he is Baron of, and more casually as Sir. You would address a Baroness as “Baroness”, “Madam”, or “Lady (Wherever)”.



A knight is a person granted an honorary title of knighthood by a monarch or other political leader for service to the monarch or country, especially in a military capacity. Historically, in Europe, knighthood has been conferred upon mounted warriors. During the High Middle Ages, knighthood was considered a class of lower nobility. By the Late Middle Ages, the rank had become associated with the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct for the perfect courtly Christian warrior. Since the Early Modern period, the title of knight is purely honorific, usually bestowed by a monarch, as in the British honours system, often for non-military service to the country.

Knighthood in the Middle Ages was closely linked with horsemanship (and especially the joust) from its origins in the 12th century until its final flowering as a fashion among the high nobility.

Knights of the medieval era were asked to “Protect the weak, defenseless, helpless, and fight for the general welfare of all.” They also had to protect women. These few guidelines were the main duties of a medieval knight, but they were very hard to accomplish fully. Knights trained in hunting, fighting, and riding, amongst other things. They were also trained to practise courteous, honorable behaviour, which was considered extremely important.

Forms of Address: Knights were often, but not always, members of an Order.  A woman could be a Lady of the order, and would have the title of Dame. A knight would be referred to as “Sir (Name)” and his wife would be referred to as “Lady (Name)”. They would be addressed as “Sir”, “My Lady”, or “Lady (Name)”. Some orders had female members, and they would be referred to as “Dame (Name)”. They would be addressed as “Madam” or “Dame (Name)”.