How to Address Nobility No Longer in Power?

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How to Address Nobility from
Nations Where There is
Currently No Noble Chief of State

Questions & Answers, Frequently Asked Questions, and Blog

Site updated by Robert Hickey on 23 March 2020

How to Address an Austrian Aristocrat?     
How to Address a French Aristocrat?    
How to Address a Polish Aristocrat?     
How to Address a Russian Aristocrat?    

How to Address a Noble Person From a Country
       Where There is Currently No
       Royalty Nobility In Power?     

How to Address a Titled Person in English When
Their Title is not from an English-Speaking Country? 

Looking for Diplomats or International Representatives?
Link to Q&A just on Diplomats and International Representatives

How to Address Nobility From a Country
Which No Longer Has a King or Queen?

     I work in the advancement office at Bates College in Maine, and I travel to meet with alumni and parents all over the country and in Europe. I am hoping to secure a meeting in Austria with two Bates graduates who are a count and countess. I would like to send them a notel, but I am unclear as to how to address them. I do not wish to be too formal, but I certainly do not want to be disrespectful.  I see in your book royal forms …but they are British. Can I use those?
        -- RVK

Dear RVK,
     Interesting question: There is an official answer ... and a social answer.
     Officially ... In countries like Republic of Austria which is not a monarchy, having a noble title / being descendant of an aristocratic family / has no legal privileges. Many such families now indicate their pride of their lineage in their family name (e.g., having the particle 'de' [French for of/from] or the the prefix 'van' (Dutch). So at official government events they are addressed as Mr./Ms./Mrs./etc.  ... or whatever honorifics they are entitled to ... Dr., Lieutenant, Professor .... etc. just like any other citizen.
     Socially ... where the royals house is no longer in power – such titles are a matter of pride in one's heritage and personal marks of status. The titles are used at the preference of the bearer.   Some want to be addressed with their -- others don't -- some do but only in certain circumstances. If you don't know, it might be good idea to start addressing them by title ... and if they don't like it they will tell you.  If you know they like to be addressed as a duke or count... when the communication is in English, it is acceptable to use the forms of address of the corresponding British nobility.  As you mention all these are in my book.

       -- Robert Hickey

How to Address an Austrian Aristocrat?
    What is the correct form of address when meeting a Count from Austria? He has a daughter that travels with him. What would be her form of address also?
      -- Matt

Dear Matt:
   Austrian nobility was officially abolished in 1919 at the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. So, count in Austria is a courtesy title – an unofficial title used as a courtesy in social situations by friends to honor the person’s family history.  I've known Austrian barons who did not like being addressed as a baron saying was not legally accurate to use the titles with Austrian citizens, but if your guest likes it, use it in social situations.  E.g., he would not be officially introduced to the President of the United States as a
Count (name), but it could be included as a point of interest in the introduction.
    All that said, there would be a form of address in German, but I assume you want to address him in English. In English using the forms for a British Earl for counts is widely accepted. In the UK they have
earls rather than counts but they are equivalent ranks. See … How to Address an Earl or Countess … and just replace earl with count.
    If his daughter is the eldest, she will inherit the title, but since he is still alive the title has not yet descended. As a daughter of a count, use the form for a daughter of an earl. As a courtesy (in English using the British model) she'd be addressed as Lady (full name) or in conversation as Lady (first name).

                    -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Polish Aristocrat?
May I please ask how I should address a princess of Poland?
      -- Caroline

Dear Caroline,
          In my book I only cover official forms of address: the monarchy & ranks of nobility in Poland were officially abolished, so there are no longer
official forms of address for those who holding Polish noble titles. In contrast, a Prince of the United Kingdom receives the courtesies of his rank (precedence and forms of address are courtesies of rank). But a princess of Poland is now, formally, a private citizen — and has no official precedence or official form of address.
         But all that said, for a person whose ancestors held a noble title, the title is a issue of great personal pride and family honor. To find out the form of address he or she prefers in social situations, you need to do a bit a research. E.g., Princes of principalities are His/Her Serene Highness (Name). So that might be her preference. Or, she might consider herself a member of a king/queen's royal family and want to be addressed as His/Her Royal Highness (Name).  I heard of a Polish princess who wanted to be addressed as Her Imperial Highness (Name) which didn't make much sense to me, but who would I be to argue? Some of the Italian princes and princesses want to be socially addressed directly as Prince/Princess (Name). This is not how one would address a British Prince … but it must work for the Italians.
          -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a French Aristocrat?
     I saw in The New York Times a reference to Jeane de France, Duc de Vendome of the French Royal Dynasty. In your book I don't see a section on French Royalty. What form would one use for this gentleman?
         --- Bill Taylor

Dear Mr. Taylor:
    In my book I cover forms of address for current royalty and nobility, but not former royalty or noblity.
    In the United Kingdom there is a royal family -- so
the nobles -- dukes, marquesses, earls, viscounts, barons, etc. --- are still officially addressed by their noble titles. Same is true in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Japan and other countries where the head of state is a hereditary monarch.  I do provide forms for all these. But my book is already 576 pages, and I decided it made no sense to include "how to address the Czar" or "how to address the Holy Roman Emperor", when those offices no longer exist.
   In republics -- such as the French Republic -- nobility no longer exists. Jean de France would be the Duc of Vendome if nobility had not been abolished with the French Revolution. Today friends and social acquaintances address him as a duc as a courtesy to honor him and his heritage. In an official situation he would be a Mr. de France (in English).
  That said, if you want to address him socially as a
duc -- use the form I provide for a British duke (page 396), It's widely accepted to use British forms when socially addressing a foreign nobles in English.
                  -- Robert Hickey

I Disagree: Hereditary Titles In France
Have Not Been Abolished

       As the holder of the French title "Comte", I would disagree with your statement that, under the Fifth Republic, noble titles are no longer recognized officially by the State. Under a law dating from 1852, the Second Republic agreed to officially recognize all titles bestowed by the former Monarchy. This has not been revoked, and, contrary to what most Frenchmen believe, hereditary noble titles have not been abolished.
       You are quite right to say that noblemen are no longer officially addressed by their title but it can still appear on their passport, after the names, as " dit/e" or AKA," Le comte de...". I have a British passport, and though my title does not appear in front of my names, it is clearly stated in the Information Section, above the names; "Holder is Count C--- V--- R----". Just to put the record straight!

       -- CVR

Dear CVR,
    I don't mean to diminish your family's history. 
    My book is used by official organizations when communicating with one another. Thus everything I write about (and teach at The Protocol School of Washington®) is on formal forms of address -- suitable for use with officials in official situations.
    For example: On the French government's precedence list there are no members of nobility listed who have official precedence at official French events due to their noble title. But in Belgium, Spain, The Netherlands, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates ... members of the nobility have precedence at official events due to their personal rank.
    Thus when an official issues an invitation to an official event, it is addressed to a person in a manner that reflects their role at the event. Thus the US Secretary of State would not officially address a former king as Your Majesty even though others might choose to do so.
    On a passport, governments will put on them whatever you submit. So having count on your British Passport does not mean the government will defend your precedence based solely on your noble title.
    You are referring to social use .... and in the social context I definitely agree with you.  Socially each of us can decide how we are addressed.

       -- Robert Hickey

How to Address Russian Aristocracy?
       I hold a number of inherent noble titles, the highest of which being the title of Count of the Russian Empire. These titles are still internationally recognised even though The Russian Empire is no longer in existence.
        I am a UK citizen being born within the UK and having lived there for most of my life. I do actively use my title and have had it recognised in a number of different formats by UK government agency's, however there is always some confusion as to the manner in which I should be formally addressed within the UK. My primary title carries the styling of His Illustrious Highness (HILLH) but as I am sure you can guess this can course some confusion within the UK.
        I was wondering if there is any formal style and manner of address for nobles within the UK who hold foreign titles, such as Count. Ideally anything specifically related to The Russian Empire.
        If you do know of any such styling then I would be very grateful to hear from you.
        -- HILLH the Count Nicholas Chernoff, BSc (Hons), FdSce, London

Dear Sir:
    I wasn't sure the correct salutation to use!
So, while I don't have an answer for you, I do have some comments. My point of view is formal, official point of view, and definitely ... an American one.
    There's a tradition in forms of address to address by rank ... so your personal rank will be differently considered in various places.
    1) With the current government there are formal diplomatic relations with the current Russian Federation ... but none with the former Russian Empire.  
    So, at The White House you couldn't be officially received as Russian nobility with its implied link to an Imperial Russian head of state.
    You would be received and addressed in the manner appropriate for your official participation at the event.
    Your personal rank would be very interesting to everyone as personal history. We don't have nobility in the US, but many people are descendants of our founders .... and those are relationships of great personal pride to the individual. Maybe it's not exactly parallel, but members of The Daughters of the American Revolution or The Order of Cincinnatti have rank and precedence at their own events, but they receive neither preferential treatment nor special forms of address in official government situations.
    2) In any social situation you should present your name exactly how you want to ... and others should follow your preference. An agency of the British government could use your name -- however you present it -- without validating it to be anything more that what you say your name is. If an official British government agency addresses you as a count, it doesn't imply you are other than a commoner and British citizen ... Right?
    3) His Illustrious Highness isn't a courtesy title used in the British nobility ... and from my experience, rightly or wrongly, most international protocol officers tend to use the British forms with addressing all nobility in English.
    E.g., the King of Thailand is addressed as "Your Majesty" in English even though the actual phrase is different if translated directly from Thai.
    I recently encountered a Polish baroness who requested to be addressed as "Your Imperial Highness."  To me it was a big grand for a baroness since in English we'd use that courtesy title for an Emperor or Empress .... but I called her "Your Imperial Highness." It's not my place to tell her what her name is.  
    4) I think we have more than one persona, and each has a different name. We just need to present the correct version for the individual situation.  
    You are probably in different situations Nick, Nicholas, Mr. Chernoff, and HILLH the Count .....
    Direct others how they should address you and generally they will follow your preference.

                -- Robert

Dear Robert:
As you already stated it very much depends on the situation and the people I am conversing with.
        In regards to most of my financial dealings I tend to use Lord or Mr..  
Lord tends to be the only noble option given other then Sir and Mr because if you have ever tried to order anything online you will understand how rare it is to ever find a title drop-down box with anything in it for males other then Mr and Dr.
        As I work within mainland Europe a lot and spend a lot of time within Norway, France, Austria, Italy, and Germany I tend to use the style of Count with my work dealings as this is more recognised upon the European continent.
        I have at certain times used the following styles depending on the situation:
                His High Ancestry
                His Highborn
                His Illustrious Highness
                His Illustriousness
                Lord Chernoff
                Count Chernoff
        While I am happy with the use of the title of Lord as it is used in England to draw together most levels of the nobility I am weary of using the style of an Earl within England which would be The Right Honourable. My reservations come from the fact that most members of the House of Lord's within the UK hold the style of The Rt Hon and I do not wish to bread extra confusion in the matter of make anyone believe that I am claiming to be part of the UK political system, which I am not.
        I also hold a feudal Scottish title of Laird. The styling is The Much Honoured however this styling tends to depict a title well below the rank of Count. I also feel that this title has been somewhat devalued within recent years after it became legal to sell feudal Scottish titles.
        As with many old European noble titles, my title comes from a cascading noble system. This is important because I have an older brother, HILLH the Prince Simon Nicholas Chernoff, a father, HSH the Prince Nicholas John Chernoff, who both hold titles of a higher grade to me. There titles would be equivalent to Marquees and Duke respectively within the UK.
        I believe this is important when taking into consideration to what style and title to use as I do not wish to breed confusion between myself and my brother or father. My father and brother both rarely use there titles however as people get extremely confused in England when you tell them your a Prince, a title retained within the United Kingdom for members of the royal family.
        I am lucky that I live within the UK as under UK common law I am entitled to use any title or style of address that I see fit as long was it is not in any attempt to defraud people. While this means I could call myself anything, I do of course only wish to stick within the realms of titles I have legal claim to while at the same time making it easier for people to understand my family heritage without too much confusion.
        Interestingly I did have the opportunity to spend some time in Moscow, Russia, last year. I was the first member of my family to return to Russia in 88 years after fleeing during the Russian revolution. While there I was addressed by Russian locals as Count Chernoff, a styling that they decided to use when addressing me in English as my Russian is pretty poor (foreign languages and Dyslexia are not a happy mix).
        Therefore after deep consideration upon the matter I believe I will use the following titles and styles within the following situations:-
        Mr N Chernoff
some finance dealings such as when Lord is not offered and all dealings with the UK tax office
        Lord Chernoff – When in the UK in dealing with all people where the option is given. I will not however adopt the style of The Right Honourable or the title of Earl.
        Count Chernoff – Dealing with on the continent when dealing with foreign co-workers, clients and other such 3rd party's
        HILLH the Count Nicholas Chernoff – For all formal situations
        I believe by using the above styles and titles in the above stated situations I will stay firmly within the spirit of my inherent titles while reducing confusion when dealing with 3rd party's.
        -- HILLH the Count Nicholas Chernoff, BSc (Hons), FdSce, London

Rock Royalty Meets Authentic Royalty?
     I saw in the paper that Lady Gaga was presented to Queen Elizabeth II. Is Lady Gaga really a "Lady"?
           -- New York Times Reader

Dear NYT-R:
    Lady Gaga ("Poker Face," "Just Dance," "Paparazzi" ... ) is not a
Lady in the way the British use the title. She is really Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta of the New York, New York Germanottas. I guess that most formally one would address her as Ms. Germanotta, although I admit probably no one does.
Lady in the U.K. use of the honorific would be a woman holding the rank of Marchioness, Countess, Viscountess, or Baroness ... or be the wife of a man holding one of the corresponding ranks ... or be married to a Baronet or Knight ... or be a Life Peeress in her own right.
      It seems unlikely that Stefani Germanotta is any of those.  But the photo in the New York Times made it look as though she delivered a very dignified performance when she was presented to Her Majesty.

       -- Robert Hickey

Not Finding Your Question Answered?
(1) At left is a list offices/officials covered and (2) below are other topics covered in my blog. Between the two I probably have what you are looking for.
     But after checking both lists if you don't see your question answered send me an e-mail. I am pretty fast at sending a reply: usually the next day (unless I am traveling.)
      If I think your question is of interest to others, I will post the question & answer – but I always change the names and specifics.
      -- Robert Hickey

Mr., Miss, Jr., III, & Names        
Married Women       
Deceased Persons         
People with Two Titles
Post-Nominal Abbreviations and Initials         
Sequence Post-Nominal Abbreviations: Sr., Jr., etc.    
Couples: Private Citizens / Joint Forms of Address 
Couples: U.S. Military / Joint Forms of Address     
Couples: U.S. Officials / Joint Forms of Address      

Former Officials            
Professionals and Academics        

United States Federal Officials, Currently In Office             
United States State Officials, Currently In Office              
United States Municipal Officials, Currently In Office             
       All About The Honorable with U.S. Officials         
       Former United States Officials of all types             
United States Armed Services
       Addressing Active Duty Personnel              
       Addressing Retired Personnel      
       Use of Rank by Retired Personnel      
       Use of Rank by Veterans      

Tribal Officials 
Clergy and Religious Officials           
Canadian Officials         
Australian Officials          
British Officials, Royalty, and Nobility        
Diplomats and International Representatives
Foreign National Officials and Nobility        

Author's Name on His/Her Book       
Business Cards, Names on
Introductions, Names in
Invitations: Names on
Invitations: Names of Armed Service Personnel on        
Name Badges & Tags            
Names on Programs, Signs, & Lists            
Naming a Building or Road            
Place Cards            

Plaques, Awards, Diplomas, Certificates, Names on    
Precedence: Ordering Officials 
Tombstones, Names on      

Site updated by Robert Hickey on 23 March 2020


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Robert Hickey is the author of Honor & Respect:
The Official Guide to Names, Titles, and Forms of Address
Published by The Protocol School of Washington®
Foreword by Pamela Eyring

Available in   Hardcover   /  Kindle   /  Apple Book

Copyright © 2020 Robert Hickey.     All Rights Reserved.
Book Photo: Marc Goodman.