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Headscratchers: Jane Austen
Question about titles
How is it that we have a Lady Susan and a Lady Catherine, but also a Lady Middleton, Lady Bertram, and Lady Russell? Men of rank are always Sir First Name, but what's the rule for women?
  • Lady Catherine might have been a widow? And I'm pretty sure Lady Susan was too. I've only read P/P and Emma, so I think it has to do with the fact that their husbands died.
    • Lady Catherine was called such because she was born the daughter of an earl (her brother is Colonel Fitzwilliam's father; his eldest son is the heir to the earldom). Because her courtesy title outranked her husband's, she kept it even after her marriage. See below for more information.
  • If an aristocrat is "Lady first name," it means she inherited her title by birth. If addressed as "Lady last name", she married into the aristocracy.
  • How the wives and daughters of nobility were addressed in Austen's time has to do with how high up the nobility ladder their relative was. Lady Catherine is the daughter of an Earl (one of the highest titles) Lady Middleton and Bertram are the wives of baronets and Lady Russell is the wife of a knight (much lower on the scale). Lady Catherine is actually the wife of a knight, but her father's status trumps her husband's and she is still addressed by her first name.
  • This is addressed in Knight Fever but to put it succinctly: "Lady Firstname" is the daughter of a duke, marquis, or earl. ("Lord Firstname" is the younger son of a duke or marquis.) "Lady Surname" *or* "Lady Titlename" is either a peeress in her own right, a judge (in some circumstances), or the wife of a marquis, earl, viscount, baron, knight, or baronet. The daughter of a viscount or baron (or the younger son of an earl, viscount, or baron) may be known as The Hon. Firstname Lastname. Children of knights and baronets don't get a special style. Wives of dukes are referred to as "the Duchess of Titlename". Keep in mind that a title doesn't always match the titleholder's surname. Lord Brabourne's last name is Knatchbull, for instance.

IvanhoeHeadscratchers/LiteratureSense and Sensibility

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