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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 female marital partner of an office holder or of a prince of the blood, for the duration of their marriage. They are also 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.

Table of contents

Examples of Styles

In Religion

  • His Holiness The Pope (written: HH Pope John Paul II / spoken: 'Your Holiness')
  • His Holiness The Dalai Lama (spoken: 'Your Holiness')
  • His Eminence Cardinal Law (spoken: 'Your Eminence')

In Monarchies

  • Her Majesty The Queen (written: HM Queen Elizabeth II/Margarethe II of Denmark/Sophia of Spain / spoken: 'Your Majesty')
  • His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales (written: HRH The Prince of Wales/ spoken: 'Your Royal Highness')
  • His Serene Highness The Prince of Monaco (HSH Prince Ranier III / spoken: 'Your Serene Highness')
  • His Excellency The Governor-General of Australia (written: HE Sir William Deane / spoken: 'Your Excellency')

In Republics

  • Her Excellency The President of Ireland (HE President McAleese / spoken: 'Your Excellency' or as 'President') [a gaelic equivalent also exists].
  • Mr President (spoken style for the United States President and all living former holders of the office.)
Similar styles are used universally in republics worldwide.

Other Styles

  • The Right Honourable Paul Murphy, MP (written: Rt. Hon. Paul Murphy, MP/when spoken in Parliamentary debates, the 'Right Honourable Member'. ) [This style denotes membership of the Privy Council.]
  • The Honourable member for . . . [used in parliamentary debate for MPs who are not members of the Privy Council]
  • The Distinguished Gentleman [used in the US Congress]
  • His Grace the Duke of Marlborough (spoken: 'Your Grace').

Titles Used as Styles

British Prime Ministers are addressed as Prime Minister. Irish Taoisigh (prime ministers) are addressed singularly as Taoiseach

Styles Existing Through Marriage

Whereas Britain's Princess Royal (Princess Anne) is styled HRH, her husband, Timothy Lawrence, has no style. In contrast, when Sophie Rhys Jones married Prince Edward, as 'Princess Edward' or the 'Countess of Wessex' she has a 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 (Prince Andrew) have HRH styles, the children of the Princess Royal have no styles. (She requested that they be given no courtesy titles or peerages).

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. Dr. Otto von Habsburg, who was Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary (1916-1918), had the style 'His Imperial Highness'. He was last addressed as such by church figures during the funeral of his late mother, Empress-Queen Zita of Austria-Hungary in 1986.

Styles & Titles of Deposed Monarchs

General tradition indicates that where a monarch as 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, Umberto II was technically entitled to be called 'His Majesty the King of Italy' or 'Your Majesty'. In contrast, the ex-King Michael I of Roumania[?], 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 as 'king' in his invitation. ) Former United States presidents are by tradition referred to as if still in office (eg., President Carter, President Ford, etc.)

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 a '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.

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), John Paul II himself kissed cardinals on the checks, 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 the 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.

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.



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