FAQ Series: Royal Glossary of Terms
Abdicate: To give up, as in one’s succession place or the throne
Queen Beatrix abdicated the throne in favor of her son.
Abolish: To do away with
Greece chose to abolish its monarchy in favor of a republic in 1973.
Absolute monarchy: A form of government in which the ruling sovereign has total power
An absolute monarchy is mostly a thing of the past, but Lichtenstein’s constitution gives one of the closest modern examples of an absolute ruling sovereign prince’s powers.
Accession: To reach the top of the order of succession.
Prince Charles’ accession will take place upon his mother’s death.
Aristocrat: An untitled individual of the highest social class; sometimes shortened to “aristo”
Prince Harry’s former girlfriend, Cressida Bonas, is a popular example of an English aristocrat.
Banns: A written proclamation of the intent to marry; traditionally read in front of a congregation of people
The reading of a royal couple’s banns of marriage is a historic ceremonial tradition in some countries, most notably Sweden, that usually takes place a few weeks prior to the wedding.
Black tie: A semi-formal style of dress worn after 6 PM
Men wear an evening waistcoat or dinner jacket. Women wear an evening gown.
Civil ceremony: A legally-recognized marriage ceremony performed by a government official; also referred to as a civil wedding or civil marriage
Royal civil ceremonies usually take place a few days prior to the religious ceremony and are traditionally smaller affairs.
Consort: The spouse of a reigning monarch
Queen Mathilde is a queen consort, meaning she is queen by right of marriage, not birth.
Constitutional monarchy: A form of government in which the ruling sovereign’s power is determined and restricted by the constitution
This type of monarchy is the more frequently seen in today’s world.
Coronation: a formal ceremony involving the placement of a crown on the new monarch’s (and/or consort’s) head, officially marking the beginning of a new reign
Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation was held 16-months after her actual ascension, due to the mourning period for her father.
Count: a noble rank below a marquess but above a viscount; known as “Earl” in some countries
Countess: The feminine form of Count or Earl; can be held by right of marriage or in one’s own right
Courtesy title: A non-substantive title that is based upon usage, not law, and is not inherited or directly bestowed by a monarch; it can be used to mean the title held by an heir or those used by members of abolished monarchies
Crown Prince Pavlos is the heir to an abolished monarchy (Greece). He holds the title of crown prince by courtesy only.
Heirs to noble titles (such as James, Viscount Severn) usually hold one of their father’s lesser titles as a courtesy title.
Crown Prince: A hereditary title used by certain royal families to indicate whom will inherit the throne
As heir, Crown Prince Frederik is titled differently than his younger brother Prince Joachim.
Crown Princess: The female counterpart of crown prince; usually held by female heirs and wives of male heirs
Crown Princess Victoria is the future monarch of Sweden.
Crown Princess Mary is the wife of Denmark’s heir apparent, Crown Prince Frederik.
Defunct: No longer in use
The titles of abolished monarchies are considered to be defunct.
Dowager: The widow of a titled male
A dowager queen is the widow of a deceased king.
Duchess: The feminine form of Duke; can be held by right of marriage or in one’s own right
Catherine is the Duchess of Cambridge because she is married to the male bearer of that title.
Princess Madeleine is the Duchess of Halsingland and Gastrikland because that title was bestowed to her, in her own right, by the king.
Duke: a title that can indicate a member of the nobility (ranking just under the monarch), or a monarch ruling over a duchy/dukedom
Prince William is now formally referred to as The Duke of Cambridge because the title of duke outranks the title of prince.
Luxembourg is the only remaining area with a monarchial duke.
Earl: A noble title indicating rule of an earldom; ranking below a marquess but above a viscount; known as "Count” in some countries
Enthronement: a formal ceremony marking the beginning of a new reign, similar to a coronation, but without the placement of a crown
Albert II of Monaco had an enthronement, instead of a coronation, because of his princely status.
Grand duke: The sovereign ruler of a grand duchy; below a king, but higher than a sovereign prince
Luxembourg is the only nation currently ruled over by a grand duke.
Heir: The person first in line to the throne
Heir apparent: An heir whom cannot be displaced; a concrete position, unless extraordinary circumstances take place
Catharina-Amalia is heir apparent in the Netherlands because a future brother would not displace her.
Heir presumptive: An heir whom can be displaced; a tentative position
Leonor is Spain’s heir presumptive because a future brother would displace her.
Hereditary title: A title that is automatically inherited according to a set tradition or precedence
Most noble titles, like Earl of Wessex or Duke of Kent, are hereditary and are traditionally inherited by the eldest son.
HIH: The style used by members of an imperial family
His Imperial Highness/Her Imperial Highness
HM: The style used by a reigning monarch and/or consort
His Majesty/Her Majesty
HRH: The style used by most members of a royal family
His Royal Highness/Her Royal Highness
HSH: The style used by members of a princely family
His Serene Highness/Her Serene Highness
Illegitimate: Children born out of wedlock (to non-married parents)
In most cases, illegitimate children are not given succession rights.
Name Day: A public celebration of a royal’s birthday
Victoriadagen is the official celebration of Crown Princess Victoria’s birthday. Queen Elizabeth II’s official birthday celebration is marked by a parade event called Trooping the Colour.
Investiture: A ceremony in which someone is given a new title or honor; occasionally interchanged with enthronement or coronation
Willem-Alexander’s investiture ceremony was held on the same day his mother officially abdicated as queen.
Monarch: The head of state in a monarchy; usually the king or queen regnant
Felipe VI is the current monarch of Spain.
Morganatic marriage: A marriage where there is no gaining of succession rights, styles, or titles by the spouse or resulting children
A rare occurrence in modern royal times.
Morning dress: a formal daytime dress code; usually consists of a morning coat (with tails) and top hat for men and a knee-length or midi-length dress (not gown) and hat/fascinator for women
Morning dress is the traditional dress code for Royal Ascot and most daytime weddings (i.e. the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s).
Noble title: a title held by a member of the nobility; usually held by a non-royal individual (ex: the Duke of Northumberland), but the title itself may have a royal history, even if the current bearer does not possess an HRH
Many royals also hold noble titles in addition to royal titles, such as HRH Prince Andrew, Duke of York.
Parure: A matching set of jewels intended to be worn together
The Napoleonic Amethyst Tiara is part of a parure.
Popular monarchy: A type of monarchy in which the sovereign’s popularity with the people determines his or her power
Belgium is the only popular monarchy in a existence today; this explains why King Philippe is known as King of the Belgians instead of the king of Belgium.
Pretender: The claimant or heir claimant to a defunct throne
Primogeniture: The preference given to the order of succession.
Spain and Monaco have male-primogeniture laws, meaning male heirs come before female heirs (in a respective family), regardless of age.
Great Britain recently adopted absolute, or equal, primogeniture which allows the eldest child to inherit, regardless of gender.
Prince Consort: A formal title that may be granted to the spouse of a queen regnant
Queen Margrethe II gave her husband Prince Henrik the title of Prince Consort in 2005.
Although Prince Philip is the consort (spouse) of Queen Elizabeth II, he has not been formally bestowed the title of Prince Consort (with a capital C).
Principality: A sovereign state, not large enough to be a country, ruled over by a prince
The principality of Monaco is governed by its sovereign prince, Albert II.
Queen dowager: the surviving widow of a king
Queen Noor is considered a queen dowager because she is the widow of
King Hussein of Jordan.
Queen mother: a woman who is a simultaneous dowager queen and mother of a reigning monarch
Elizabeth Bowles-Lyon was a queen mother from the time of her husband’s death in 1952 until her own in 2002.
Regent: The guardian of a young monarch who is not yet old enough to reign/The temporary substitute for an absent monarch
Princess Benedikte acted as regent when her queenly sister and princely nephews were out of the country on holiday.
Regnal name: A name, other than a given name, adopted by a monarch at the time of his/her accession to rule under
Prince Albert, Duke of York chose to rule under the regnal name King George VI when he took the throne in 1936.
Regnant: In his or her own right.
Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Margrethe are both queens regnant, meaning by right of birth, not marriage.
Sovereign: an individual that holds supreme power, usually a monarch
King Harald V is Norway’s current sovereign monarch, although most contemporary sovereigns are just figureheads.
Style: A manner of address often used in reference to members of a royal family
Her Royal Highness Princess Madeleine of Sweden
His Majesty The King of Spain
Subsidiary title: A lesser title that is held, but not regularly used; sometimes referred to as “secondary titles”
The Princess of Asturias holds several subsidiary titles, including Princess of Girona and Princess of Viena.
The title of Viscount Severn is one of the Earl of Wessex’s subsidiary titles. His son and heir, James, is referred to as Viscount Severn by courtesy.
Substantive title: A title that is based upon law and one that usually follows the bearer’s name
Princess Catharina-Amalia holds the substantive title Princess of Orange.
Succession: The order of inheritance to a throne
Princess Isabella is third in Denmark’s line of succession.
Title: a form of identification by which royals and nobles are distinguished
Carl XVI Gustaf holds the title of King of Sweden by right of inheritance.
Prince Daniel holds the title of Prince of Sweden by royal decree.
White tie: The most formal style of dress code; Worn after 6 PM to state dinners, formal balls, and evening weddings
Men wear waistcoats or tailcoats with white bow ties, women wear ball gowns and tiaras. State decorations are also worn.
Disclaimer: Every attempt was made to simplify the information here to improve overall understanding, sometimes at the expense of technicalities. Definitions provided here are intended to contextualized as applied to royalty and not any broader applications. *Read: Please don’t bless me out over small-ish details or inconsistencies; If you spot an error that majorly affects the understanding of something, privately and politely message me so we can discuss it.
To be updated as necessary. Part II pending.