A brief note on peerages, titles and other prefixed nomenclatures

A peerage is a collective of persons of the nobility assigned by the sovereign.  Peers are divided into five ranks (in order of importance):

  1. Duke
  2. Marquess
  3. Earl
  4. Viscount
  5. Baron

How do I gain a peerage?

As I understand it peerages are only gained by inheriting them or by being given one by the Sovereign.  I also understand it that peerages can only be given to judges or ministers.

How should I address a peer?

  • Duke – your grace
  • Marquess – the most honourable
  • Earl, Viscount, Baron – the right honourable

Any peer, with the exceptions of Dukes and Duchesses may also be referred to as Lord or Lady.

How does a peer get into the House of Lords?

Until 1999 all persons holding a title in the English peerage automatically entitled the holder to a seat in the House of Lords.  In 1999 the House of Lords act was passed which in removed the hereditary nature of entitlement to a seat in the House of Lords and moved to a system of election by preference for new appointments.  As I understand it the votes are made by the current members of the House of Lords.

What about honours?

These are assigned to various individuals for outstanding achievements or contributions as decided by the Sovereign on the New Years Honours list and the birthday honours list.

Further details: