Etiquette with Rulers
by Erystera Ligen
Because the rules are so complex and the stakes are so high, many people blanche at the thought of speaking with a noble with a title. For starters, it is important to address them correctly, for just as no one likes to be misnamed, no one likes to be mistitled. The problem is that in High Rock, traditions of the peerage differ slightly from region to region. The base rules follow:
There are eight kingdoms in High Rock in the following regions: Northpoint, Daggerfall, Shornhelm, Camlorn, Farrun, Evermore, Wayrest, and Jehanna. If a woman is ruling one of these areas, she is called the Queen. The husband of a Queen and the wife of a King is not necessarily of equal rank -- they may not be Kings and Queens themselves. Their children are Princes and Princesses. Their grandchildren are also Princes and Princesses. If a male ruler dies, his wife takes the title Dowager Queen, providing there is not a Dowager Queen already. Like all rules, there are exceptions. One noted exception took place recently in Daggerfall, when King Lysandus died. In most regions, his wife Mynisera would not have become Dowager Queen of Daggerfall, because Lysandus' mother, the widow Nulfaga, still lived. In Daggerfall, however, it is permissible for there to be two persons with the same title. Thus, both Nulfaga and Mynisera have the title Dowager Queen.
If a female ruler, who does not share rank with her husband, dies, there is no male equivalent to the word Dowager. Widowers of Queens usually take another title, either a lesser family title or one given by their children. There have been a few men in the history of High Rock who have fallen from being addressed as King to being addressed as Mister at the death of their wife.
Other regions are ruled by Dukes and Duchesses, Marquises (or Marquesses) and Marquises (or Marchionesses), Counts and Countesses, Viscounts or Viscountesses, Barons or Baronesses, and Lords or Ladies. This list is theoretically listed from highest to lowest rank, but the ruler of a territory outranks all other nobles, regardless of title. Dwynnen, for example, is a Barony, and the Baron or Baroness of Dwynnen outrank any other noble in that territory, even Dukes and Counts.
In theory, (again, this may not be the case according to local custom) the eldest son or daughter of a noble takes their parents highest family title below their parents. Thus, the Duke of Northmoor, who is also the Marquis of Calder, had a daughter who became the Marchioness of Calder.
Kings and Queens are always addressed as "Your Majesty" in conversation; Dukes and Duchesses, "Your Grace". All other rulers may be addressed with their title and name, or Lord or Lady and their name.
A few hints may be needed to determine exactly who rules a territory. You may rely on people on the streets to make reference to their ruler, but that may not be enough. After all, if the gossip involved Lord Bemmish and Viscountess Byrd, neither or both could be the ruler of the territory. I have found that a more predictable method is to pay some attention to the names of taverns and shops in a region. By tradition, many of these are called "The Duke's Fox" or "The Lady's Provisions." This, more often than not, is the name of the ruler. If the shop's name is "Lady Annisa's Provisions" or "Lord Boxworth's Fox," that is probably the name of a local titled merchant, not the ruler. A store with a unnamed ruler's title has probably been around for some time, and does not bother to change its name with the new name of the ruler.
In speaking with any person, a ruler or not, it is best to know what sort of a person they are first. Rulers tend to stand on ceremony, and prefer that people addressing them speak politely and deferentially. There are, of course, exceptions to this, particularly among younger rulers, or rulers new to their positions. They may prefer a bolder, slangy style. If you are unsure, or unsure of your ability to adopt the vocabulary of either an aristocrat or a criminal, choose to speak as plainly and directly as possible. You will seldom charm someone by plain talk, but you will also not alienate by mangled politesse or dated slang. Alienating a ruler, I need not tell you, can be the last mistake one can make.