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Titles and Peerages

Dear... Far Too Many People,

Titles. Titles, titles, titles.

Titles as in, for reasons of your own, you've decided that - CONTRARY to Conan Doyle I must add - the Holmes are hereditary peers. As opposed to Life Peers or mere country squires/gentlemen, which is how ACD's Holmes described his family. There are some old families in this country that almost pride themselves on the fact that they have never been ennobled, you know.

I'm not sure why some of you think it necessary for the Holmeses to be peers, but, fine. Go right ahead. But would it kill you to actually, I don't know, research how that works? For goodness' sake!

1. Life Peers

As for Life Peers, outstanding service in various fields - politics, sports, the arts, business, medicine, philanthropy, etc etc - while [usually] in the first place honoured with a knighthood (ie "Sir", or "Dame" if the person is female) -- well actually, usually first honoured with something like an MBE/OBE/CBE etc -- can also be rewarded in the Queen's Birthday Honours List each year, with a life peerage.


(While it's the Queen who does the honouring, it's the Prime Minister and various civil servants who actually put the names forward. And you are free to refuse the honour if you so wish. Several people have refused whatever honour they were offered, on various principles, such as the poet Benjamin Zephaniah who declined an OBE because the words "British Empire" made him think of slavery (never mind that we were one of the first nations to abolish the slave trade (in 1807) and slavery in our Empire, Commonwealth, colonies and dominions. And that the Order wasn't created until 1917, long after the abolishion). But that was and is his right.)

A life peerage is a barony that will not be passed on to his/her heirs. Richard Attenborough, the actor (probably most famous to this generation as the Grandfather/Park Owner character in Jurassic Park) is a lord. His younger brother David, TV presenter and naturalist, is a knight. The presenter of the UK version of "Dancing With The Stars" (called Strictly Come Dancing over here, because we used to have televised actual ballroom/Latin dancing competitions, aired under the title Come Dancing.) is Sir Bruce Forsythe. The presenter of Jim'll Fix It was Sir Jimmy [James] Saville. The mogul in the UK's The Apprentice, is Alan Sugar (called Lord Sugar), Baron Sugar of Clapton.

I believe that citizens of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the other Commonwealth Realms are also honoured in similar ways - at least officially - by Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her Other Realms and Territories, Queen [i.e. individually of the other Commonwealth Realms, territories and Crown dependencies, etc], Head of the Commonwealth of Nations, Supreme Governor of the Church of England and Defender of the Faith.

(Technically, I believe her full titles list the sixteen sovereign states - and their territories and dependancies - of the Commonwealth Realms individually, so she is Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of the United Kingdom (etc) and Queen of Canada and Queen of Australia and Her Other Realms and Territories, all through the states of which she is queen, then her lesser titles such as Duke of Normandy (ie Head of State in the Channel Islands), Lord of Mann etc etc. Officially I believe her title is styled slightly differently in each of her realms, so I hope that it is adequately covered by "of Her Other Realms and Territories, Queen" since I'm British and that's her title in the UK. No offence intended to anyone.)


2. Hereditary Peers - Titles

If, in the second paragraph of your fic you call Father Holmes a "Marquise" [of a place in England] I am unlikely to read on. Why? Well, (1) Marquis is the European form; (2) Marquise is actually feminine. The British term is Marquess. His wife is a Marchioness (which actually shows the origin of the title - Marquess comes from "March" an old term for border areas (such as the Marches of Wales) so originally, he was the fellow the king put in charge of a bit of border. Just like "Duke" comes from the Latin "Dux" meaning "War Leader").

As far as I'm aware for someone other than the actual HEIR to a hereditary title to inherit it, to the best of my knowledge you require an Act of Parliament. Mycroft can't just say to Sherlock, "Oh I don't want it, you have it."

Which brings me on to the fact that just because you HAVE a title/peerage, doesn't mean you have to use it. Especially as most hereditary peers (as opposed to Life Peers) no longer sit in the House of Lords. Case in point, one of my Mum's friends is technically a "Lady", as her father is an Earl. In *life* however, she just goes by "Mrs". And Professor Dr Robert Winston, Baron Winston of Hammersmith (life peer) does not write his books as "The Right Honourable Professor The Lord Winston" or present his TV programmes as Lord Winston. I have books on my shelves he wrote after his peerage and his by-line is simply "Robert Winston".

Which brings me on to the interesting point that the children of peers, even younger sons and daughters, tend to carry "courtesy" titles, even if it's only "The Honourable" (as opposed to "The Right Honourable" which means you are in the Privy Council or are a lesser peer (or peer's wife) ). If Father Holmes is a marquess (or a duke), Sherlock would be Lord Sherlock Holmes. If his father were a baron, viscount or earl, he would be The Honourable Sherlock Holmes and an Esquire, not a plain Mister (ie will be "Sherlock Holmes, Esq. - known as The Hon(ourable) Sherlock Holmes). Although, as I said, it's a courtesy and he can quite easily opt not to use it. And some people may refuse to use it, on principle.

Real Life Example: My Dad worked with a man who was known in the office as "The Hon. [pronounced "On"] John" because he was the grandson of a Duke. I believe - but don't quote me on this - that he carried the Honourable because his father was the eldest son and therefore had a title of his own.

Eldest sons of the higher hereditary peers - that is to say not the eldest sons of barons and viscounts, who are known as "The Honourable", in common with their female and younger siblings - will carry (one of) his father's (or mother's) subsidiary titles - you don't tend to be made a Duke (for example) out of the blue; either you or an ancestor was probably made an earl or marquess *first* - for his own. So again, if Father Holmes has an hereditary peerage, Mycroft will have a title of his own. (And again, may opt not to use it in social/private life, but people like Palace Equerries (Harry) would be likely to do so.)



3. The Royal Family and HM Queen Elizabeth II

Things work a little differently with royal titles, styles and Royal Peerages. There are various titles that the eldest son of the monarch carries by right of birth, such as Duke of Cornwall and, I think, Duke of Rothesay in the Scottish peerage - either from birth or from the day his parent becomes monarch - (as opposed to being Prince of Wales, which you have to be "invested" as, and any titles and styles he is granted in the lifetime of a monarch who is not also his parent). These are not inherited by his son or brother (an heir apparent to the Crown who is not also the monarch's eldest son) should he pre-decease the monarch. Consequently, it is possible for the heir apparent to the Throne to be invested as Prince of Wales and yet not hold the style of these Duchies and their subsidiary titles.

For the monarch's children that's also why - unless there is a future Act of Parliament - Princess Beatrice of York will never become the Duchess of York. Once the Duke of York dies the title with either be in abeyance, or Prince Harry (currently of Wales) will be created Duke of York, in right of being the monarch's second son; or Prince William's second child - if he is King William V by then - will take the title (I believe that for the heirs of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (ie Prince William of Wales) the law may be changed to allow their children to inherit in birth order rather than traditional primogeniture (ie if their eldest child is female, she will be the Heir Apparent, not the heiress presumptive and will not be displaced by any subsequent brothers). Whether this will actually *happen* remains to be seen. I remain sceptical). This has been the case ever since Edward IV - who was a Duke of York - won the crown during the Wars of the Roses (1461 IIRC) and (when he had two sons) made his younger son, Richard (younger of The Princes in The Tower), Duke of York. Every monarch since has followed the tradition.))

Oh yes, and while I'm here... there are rather a lot of people in the line of succession. Various Royal Dukes (HM the Queen's cousins - such as the Duke of Kent and the Duke of Gloucester - as well as the Duke of York), various Lords and Ladies Windsor etc etc. The Queen has four children and seven grandchildren. Her late sister has two children, who both, I believe have children. Her father (George VI) had three siblings who have descendants. *His* father (George V) had two sisters who had issue. *HIs* father (Edward VII) was one of Queen Victoria's *nine* children. Queen Victoria was, admittedly, her father's only child, but her grandfather (George III) had fifteen children!

Even allowing for failure of lines and the law barring Roman Catholics and people married to Roman Catholics from inheriting the Crown (the monarch is, after all, Head of the Church of England) the number of people who would have to be killed off (including the Royal Family of Norway!) to allow a *commoner* with no title, such as, oh, I don't know, Dr John Watson [admittedly the prompter *said* it was Crack Prompt - it's the people who didn't get *why* it had to be crack who blew my mind] is *astronomical*. And also, these are REAL PEOPLE you are casually writing off, you know?

Seriously. The Royal Family are *people*. If you start sticking them into your fics, you are writing RPF. HM The Queen is our Head of State (and while I'm at it she is also Head of State in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, The Bahamas, etc - all in all a total of 16 sovereign nation states - even if/though some of them keep *talking* about becoming Republics ;) ). Head of State and head of government are separate here (basically because King George I couldn't speak English and preferred to spend his time in Germany, so we needed Sir Robert Walpole to step in and do the actual running of the country as First Lord of The Treasury), as is also the case in other constitutional monarchies (there are several in Europe - Spain, Norway, The Netherlands etc etc) and countries where there is both a President and a Prime Minister/Chancellor.

I know I'm a monarchist, which makes me quite rare in England, let alone the rest of the world, but would Americans be *quite* so comfortable with people sticking Barack Obama and his family into fics as some are throwing my Royal Family at things? You might note that even Scandal was reticent on the *actual* monarch and who, precisely, the "young female person" was.

HM Queen Elizabeth II is in her eighties, has reigned for over 60 years and, IMO, deserves a little respect. (I realise the tabloid press in the UK is not particularly respectful in general, but even they seem to put "Liz" or "Her Maj" in a slightly different category from her husband, sons and daughter and grandchildren (and their spouses).) It's not criticism I mind... it's having her wander into a room of her own Palace to see John and Sherlock oing at it like rabbits and other such like uses. It squicks me out. Why do you need a to throw *any* Real Life Person (much less one in her 80s) into that scenario in your fanfiction creation?

And, while you are about it, maybe when you're throwing titles about you might want to check that they are not, in fact, currently *held* by anyone. I have neither forgotten nor forgiven the fic that decided to just *erase* HRH Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex (the Queen's youngest son) in oder to make ARTHUR (from BBC Merlin) seventh in line to the throne and Earl of Wessex. At least, I assume it was a replacement, because it was in no place indicated taht this was an AU United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, with a different monarch and an entirely different Royal Family. No. It was just Arthur is the youngest son of the monarch and Merlin is the youngest Holmes in a present-day crossover. Why not make it a proper AU with King Uther VII of the House of Pendragon (or whatever) as the current British monarch and just Arthur (and Morgana) as his heir??!! Why crowbar Arthur Pendragon into the Windsor family?! Why?!


Sorry. This is long and probably not particularly helpful. (Which is why I've tagged it "rant" not "meta".) But I've yet to read a story with "noble" Holmeses, or one where a royal suddenly crops up, which seems to have more than a vague idea of How These Things Work. There are reference and reseach resources available, you know? In this country, even books of facts and lists tend to have a section on styles and titles, then there are Wikipedia and Google etc.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
dkwilliams
Jul. 12th, 2012 03:10 am (UTC)
Bravo! And feel free to rant away! I thought this was wonderfully informative (and I am not even British, although I was a Herald in the SCA for 10 years). I have shuddered at a number of things I've seen written in error regarding titles (something that frequently happens in "Eroica" fandom).

I would also like to add that, if you ARE throwing in titled fictional people, please do your research. I know that I was completely thrown out of a story that is otherwise excellent because the author had gotten the rank of precedence completely wrong. It might not seem important, but if you have a Viscount and an Earl and a Duke thrown together in a story(that sounds like the start of a joke, doesn't it?), you should keep in mind who would be trying to impress whom. It's easy to look up, or ask for a beta.
natsuko1978
Jul. 13th, 2012 02:39 am (UTC)
Interesting - you being an SCA Herald. Glad you enjoyed this. Thanks for reading and commenting. :D

You mean someone had a Duke trying to impress a Viscount?! Oh DEAR. Glad I've never seen anything that bad yet.

I get that to people from countries that don't have them (and I guess some people from countries that do) royals, nobles, peers, knights, baronets etc are all terribly exotic and probably fun to play with... but yes, it isn't all that difficult to fact-check. If you can be bothered.

BTW may I ask how you happened upon this? I know it's unlocked, but I didn't crosspost and I don't think we have any mutual friends, so I'm just curious. :)

dkwilliams
Jul. 14th, 2012 12:30 am (UTC)
Yeah, it was interesting, and it was basically a Royal Duke trying to impress an Earl, which...no.

And I found this from a link on the Holmesian News LJ, I believe.
natsuko1978
Jul. 14th, 2012 09:46 pm (UTC)
it was basically a Royal Duke trying to impress an Earl I laughed IRL. That's ridiculous.

And it's interesting to know that my posts get re-blogged/flagged without me having to do anything. :D
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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