Style (manner of address)

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A style is a form of address which by tradition or law precedes a reference to a person who holds a title or post, or to the office itself. A style can also be awarded to an individual in a personal capacity. Styles are particularly associated with monarchies, where they may be used by a wife of an office holder or of a prince of the blood, for the duration of their marriage. They are also almost universally used for presidents in republics and in many countries for members of Parliament, judges and senior constitutional office holders. Leading religious figures also have styles.


Examples of styles

In Justice

In diplomacy

  • His Excellency (abbreviation HE, verbal address Your Excellency) — most Ambassadors
  • The Honorable (verbal address Mr./Madam Ambassador) — U.S. Ambassadors

In religion

In monarchies

  • His/Her Majesty (abbreviation HM, verbal address Your Majesty) — Kings and Queens and Sultans
  • His/Her Royal Highness (abbreviation HRH, verbal address Your Royal Highness) — other members of a Royal House, reigning grand dukes, members of some grand ducal houses
  • His/Her Imperial Majesty (abbreviation HIM, verbal address Your Imperial Majesty) — Emperors and Empresses
  • His/Her Imperial Highness (abbreviation HIH, verbal address Your Imperial Highness) — other members of an Imperial House
  • His/Her Imperial and Royal Highness (abbreviation HIRH, verbal address Your Imperial and Royal Highness) — Archdukes of the Habsburg family
  • His/Her Grand Ducal Highness (abbrevation HGDH, verbal address Your Grand Ducal Highness) — junior members of some grand ducal houses
  • His/Her Highness (abbreviation HH, verbal address, Your Highness) — reigning dukes and members of reigning ducal houses, members of some grand ducal houses, junior members of some royal houses, emirs and sheikhs
  • His/Her Serene Highness (abbreviation HSH, verbal address Your Serene Highness) — members of a Princely House
  • His/Her Illustrious Highness (abbreviation HIllH, verbal address Your Illustrious Highness) — members of sovereign comital houses
  • His/Her Excellency (abbreviation HE, verbal address Your Excellency) — Governors-General

In republics

Similar styles are used universally in republics worldwide.

The custom in France is to call office-holders acting withing their official capacity as "Mr" (Monsieur) or "Mrs" (Madame) followed by the name of their offices. Thus, the President of the Republic is "Mr President" or "Mr President of the Republic" if a male, "Mrs..." if a female; this may occasionally lead to amusing situations when there are presidents of various bodies. Styles such as "excellency" or similar are not used, except for talking about foreign dignitaries.

In the United Kingdom

  • The Most Noble or His Grace (verbal address Your Grace) — Dukes. Occasionally the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop of York and other Archbishops are also styled His Grace.
  • The Most Honourable (abbreviation The Most Hon.) — Marquesses
  • The Right Honourable (abbreviation The Rt Hon.) — Earls, Viscounts, Barons and members of the Privy Council
  • The Honourable (abbreviation The Hon.) — younger sons of Earls, all sons of Viscounts and Barons.

In legislative bodies

Local government

United States governors

Political titles used as styles

Commonwealth Realm Prime Ministers are usually addressed just as Prime Minister, but the tile Mr. Prime Minister is also often used in certain countries. "Mr. Prime Minister" remains a common form of address in international diplomacy, "Prime Minister" alone remains more common within domestic politics. Irish Taoisigh (prime ministers) are addressed singularly as Taoiseach. Other Irish and Commonwealth realm politicians tend to be addressed by their title alone, for example "Thank you, Minister" or "Good afternoon, Senator," though the use of "Mr." or "Madam" as a prefix is also sometimes used, as in the United States.

In the United States and other countries politicians are formally addressed by their title preceded by Mister or Madam depending on the gender of the holder. For example Mr. Secretary, Madam Secretary, Mr. Mayor, etc. This is generally regarded as the most formal form of address, however, and the use of titles alone, such as "Senator," "Governor," etc remains more common for day-to-day address, as is the case in most Commonwealth Realms. The only exception is the President of the United States, who is almost never refered to as just "President" (although a fuller title, such as "President Bush" may be acceptable).

In general, the manner of addressing titled officials with the style "Mr/Madam (title)" is frequently used by members of the international media who may not be familiar with a politician's more specific honorific title (excellency, your honor, etc), but still want to show respect.

Styles existing through marriage

Whereas, in the United Kingdom, The Princess Royal is styled HRH, her husband, Timothy Laurence, has no style. In contrast, when Sophie Rhys-Jones married Prince Edward, as Princess Edward or The Countess of Wessex she has an HRH, by virtue of her marriage to a royal prince. Similarly, while the sons of The Prince of Wales and the daughters of The Duke of York have HRH styles, the children of The Princess Royal have no styles. (She requested that they be given no courtesy titles or peerages).

Termination of styles

Styles can terminate when a marriage is dissolved. The late Diana, Princess of Wales held the style Her Royal Highness or HRH during her marriage to HRH The Prince of Wales. Her marital status was indicated by the title Princess of Wales. When the couple divorced, she lost her title which only existed by virtue of her marriage to a royal prince, becoming instead Diana, Princess of Wales. While there was the option of awarding an HRH style to Diana, Princess of Wales in her personal capacity (which could be justified, given that she was the mother of a future king), it was decided not to award her the style. As a result, from the moment of her divorce until her death, she ceased to hold any formal style, though out of courtesy, many people still applied the style 'HRH' to her. Similarly when Sarah, Duchess of York was divorced from her husband, HRH The Duke of York, she too lost her HRH style. Controversially, Wallis Simpson was not given the HRH style by King George VI when she married his brother, the former King Edward VIII, by then known as HRH The Duke of Windsor. The fear was that, even though if the couple divorced (she had already divorced two husbands) she would lose the style, she could conceivably still try to use it, undermining its status and respect.

Former styles

All former monarchies had styles, some, as in the Bourbon monarchy of France, extremely complicated depending on the status of the office or office-holder. Otto von Habsburg, who was Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary (1916-1918), had the style 'His Imperial and Royal Highness'. He was last addressed as such by church figures during the funeral of his late mother, Empress-Queen Zita of Austria-Hungary in 1989, although the use of these styles has been prohibited in Austria since 1920.[1]

Styles and titles of deposed monarchs

General tradition indicates that where a monarch has been deposed but has not abdicated, they retain the use of their style and title for the duration of their lifetime, but both die with them. Hence Greece's deposed king is still technically His Majesty King Constantine II of the Hellenes, as a personal title, not a constitutional office, since the declaration of the Hellenic Republic in 1973-4. Similarly, until his death the last King of Italy, King Umberto II, was technically entitled to be called His Majesty the King of Italy or Your Majesty. Pope John Paul II was called His Holiness only until his death. In contrast, the ex-King Michael I of Romania, who abdicated his throne in 1947, technically lost the use of his title, though out of politeness, he may still be called His Majesty the King or Your Majesty. (While this rule is generally observed, and indeed some exiled monarchs are allowed diplomatic passports by their former state, other states take offence at the use of such titles. The current Hellenic Republic has long challenged King Constantine's right to use his title; in 1981, the then Greek President Constantine Karamanlis declined to attend the wedding of the Prince of Wales when it was revealed that Greece's deposed monarch, a friend of the Prince, had been referred to - correctly - as 'King' in his invitation.)

Other parallel symbols

Styles were often one of a range of symbols that surrounded figures of high office. Everything from the manner of address to the behaviour of a person on meeting that personage was surrounded by traditional symbols. Monarchs were to be bowed to by men and curtsied to by women. Senior clergy, particularly in the Roman Catholic Church, were to have their rings (the symbol of their authority) kissed on bended knee, while cardinals in an act of homage at the papal coronation were meant to kiss the feet of the Supreme Pontiff, the Pope.

Many of these traditions have lapsed or been partially abandoned. At his inauguration as pope in 1978 (itself the abandonment of the traditional millennium-old papal coronation), Pope John Paul II himself kissed cardinals on the cheeks, rather than follow the traditional method of homage, having his feet kissed. Curtsies have for many years been no longer obligatory when meeting members of the British Royal Family; indeed some royals positively hate being curtsied to. One described the experience of a row of curtseying women, bobbing up and down, as leaving them 'sea-sick'. (Curiously, Americans seem more attached to the curtseying to British royalty than most British people.)

As a result, styles, though still used, are used less often. The current President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, is usually referred to as President Mary McAleese, not President McAleese, as had been the form used for the first six presidents, from President Hyde to President Hillery. Tony Blair asked initially to be called Tony. In a break with tradition, though as the second in line to the throne and a son of a royal prince, Prince William of Wales formally has a HRH style, he has chosen while in university not to use it. The United States has become one of the most informal countries in the world, style-wise, with titles such as Excellency now largely abandoned or ignored, even by those who legally have them. First names, or even nicknames are often widely used among politicians in the US, even in formal situations. One notable exception involves judges: a judge of any court is almost invariably addressed as "Your Honor" while presiding over his or her court, and often at other times as well.

However, styles are still widely used in formal documents and correspondence between heads of state, such as in a Letter of Credence accrediting an ambassador from one head of state to another.


The term self-styled roughly means awarding a style to yourself, often without adequate justification or authority. However, often people self style themselves with titles, rather than true styles.

See also

External links


1 Though Republic of Ireland does not possess a Privy Council, the style is still used. The Lord Mayor of Dublin is still styled the Rt. Honourable, as previous lords mayor were ex-officio members of the Irish Privy Council.

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