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Royal titles and styles.

When Her Majesty was proclaimed Queen on 8 February 1952 (two days after her succession), her titles were listed in the style of her father on his death:

"Elizabeth the Second, By the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas, Queen, Defender of the Faith."

With the approach of Queen Elizabeth's coronation on 2 June 1953, it was recognized that significant changes in The Queen's titles had to be made to reflect the changes that had overtaken the sovereign's status in the various countries in which she was recognized as head of state. The royal titles adopted in each of the fifteen realms, of which she was equally Queen, would require the assent of the Parliaments of each.

From the earliest times of the monarchy in Britain, it has been the custom of the sovereign to adopt titles that reflect power, authority and dominion over geography and people. Offa, King of Mercians had claimed to be "Rex totius Anglorum patriae" (King of all England); Egbert, King of Wessex claimed to be "Bretwalda" (Ruler of Britain); Domnall was titled King of Ulster, and Fergus asserted he was King of Scots of Dalriada. After the Roman conquest, it was common to list the titles in Latin, and to formalize the listing in a consistent style.

Before Edward I, in keeping with the precedence of William I, the English kings began to reign only after their coronation, being titled and styled Duke of Normandy until that time.

William I (the Conqueror) was King of England, and his son introduced the title, "Dei Gratia" (by the Grace of God) into the list of titles, styled in Latin as "Dei Gratia Rex Anglorum." That appendage was dropped by his nephew, King Stephen in 1135.

Mary I (Bloody Mary) reintroduced it when she married Philip II, King of Spain in 1554 in what must be one of the longest listing of titles of any British sovereign, "Philip and Mary, by the Grace of God, King and Queen of England, France, Naples, Jerusalem and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, Princes of Spain and Sicily, Archdukes of Austria, Dukes of Milan, Burgundy and Brabant," but the title "Dei Gratia" did not survive her death in 1588. Some three hundred years later, George III reintroduced it on 1 June 1801 when he proclaimed his new style and titles following the Union of Great Britain and Ireland. The title has been included in the style of every sovereign since.


The claim to have been King (or Queen) of France dates to 1340, when Edward Ill styled himself "Rex Angliae et Franciae." It continued in some form or other until George III accepted reality and dropped it in 1801.

The title King (or Queen) of Scots, in some form or other, was used as early as the fifth century. The "Scots" were Irishmen from Antrim who had crossed the Irish Channel and settled in Argyll. The title was used by Fergus Mor ma Erc, King of Dalriada in 501. When James VI, King of Scots became a British king in 1603, he was styled "King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith." Those titles were used by succeeding sovereigns until the Act of Union in 1707 when the words "England' and "Scotland' were replaced in Queen Anne's titles by "Great Britain."

Ancient Ireland had over ninety kingdoms, but it was not until 862 that the title of King of all Ireland was used in the style of Mael Sechnaill, King of Tara. The title, "Dominus Hibemiae" (Lord of Ireland) was adopted by King John in 1199 and appeared in the listing of titles by the next thirteen kings (343 years) until King Henry VIII proclaimed himself King of Ireland in 1542. That claim of sovereignty remained in the listing of titles for the next 411 years (22 sovereigns) until Elizabeth II dropped it in 1953.

When the Act of Union joined the Parliaments of England and Scotland on 6 March 1707, Queen Anne adopted the style and titles, "Anne, Queen of Great Britain, France and Ireland." When Ireland joined the kingdom on 1 January 1801, some ninety years later, the title changed to "... of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland' which remained in use until 1953.

The title "Defender of the Faith" has been part of the titles of every sovereign since Henry VIII. Before the Reformation, Henry had been a staunch ally of four successive Popes, and in 1520 he wrote a treatise (Assetio Septem Sacramentorum) attacking the teachings of Martin Luther, for which, in September of that year, Pope Leo X conferred upon Henry the title "Fidei Defensor." That title was settled on the King and his successors in perpetuity by Act of Parliament in 1543.

One title, claimed by only five sovereigns (71 years), which will never be part of the Royal titles again, is that of Emperor (Empress) of India. Victoria assumed the title on 1 January 1877 and George VI relinquished it on 22 June 1948.

Which brings us to today. The British Royal Titles Act, 1953, established Queen Elizabeth II's styles and titles in the United Kingdom. Its aim was "to reflect more clearly the existing constitutional relations of the members of the Commonwealth to one another and their recognition of the Crown as the symbol of their free association and the Sovereign as the Head of the Commonwealth."


In the United Kingdom, she has adopted the style and titles:

"Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and Her other Realms and Territories, Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith."

Those titles reflected the reality of 1953. The British realm in Ireland had shrunk in the 1920s with the independence of Eire, and the "British Dominions" were about to exercise their own right of consent to the title to be used within their jurisdictions. The title "Head of the Commonwealth' appeared for the first time to conform to the Royal Titles Act and, in accordance with the Act of Parliament in 1543, the title "Defender of the Faith" was continued.

Canada has adopted a slightly different set of titles, recognizing that Elizabeth is in law Queen of Canada:

"Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom, Canada, and Her other Realms and Territories, Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith."

New Zealand and Canada are the only two Dominions that recognize The Queen as "Defender of the Faith." To what extent this was purposeful and its legal complications are not clear. The titles in New Zealand are listed in a slightly different style:

"Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of New Zealand, and Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith."

Some of the colonies and independent countries that recognize The Queen as head of state, have dropped the reference to the United Kingdom, perhaps including the old mother country in the term "other realms."

In Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Barbados, Belize, the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, Mauritius, the Solomon Islands, St Christopher and Nevis, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines, Her Majesty's titles read:

"Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of [--] and Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth."


Jamaica has adopted the style and titles:

"Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of Jamaica and Her other Realms and Territories, Queen, Head of the Commonwealth."

In Grenada, the titles are slightly different:

"Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Grenada, and Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth."

The sovereign's titles appear on the Great Seals of the realm, deputed seals, currencies, and medals. In Canada, though, there seems to be no accepted uniform style. The wording (or abbreviations) appears in Latin, French or English, and in many cases what appears on the seal, coin or medal is vastly different than that of the official style and titles.

James I of Great Britain was officially styled "James I, King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith." Letters patent to Sir William Alexander in 1621 have a Great Seal of Scotland with the Royal titles in abbreviated Latin:


The omission of the title "Defender of the Faith" is probably due to the fact that James was issuing the document under the Great Seal of Scotland, not of England.

The Royal style and titles of George III after 1801 was: "George III, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith." However, the Great Seal deputed of New Brunswick in 1817, has the style and title in Latin:


That is, "George the Third, by the Grace of God, King of the Britons, Defender of the Faith."

The Great Seal of Canada, authorized by The Queen in 1955 has a vastly different legend than her official title:


Similarly, the legends on Canadian military medals and coins appear in different forms. On the Canadian Forces Decoration, the legend reads:


From 1953 to 1964 the legend on Canadian coins was:


But changed in 1965 to


It is unlikely that the style and titles of The Queen will change. Charles, however, has at least one personal choice, and that is the name by which he will be known as king. He might choose another given name, for on succession sovereigns choose the name under which they will rule. James I was christened Charles James, but chose James. Victoria chose her second name, not Alexandria; her son, Albert Edward ruled as Edward VII; and Albert Frederick Arthur George chose George VI. The present Queen chose her first name, by which she had been known for all her life. Charles Philip Arthur George may do the same.

The countries that now recognize The Queen as head of state may choose to change their constitutions on The Queen's death and become republics. That, of course, will eliminate any assumption of titles in those countries, as in the republics of the Commonwealth, The Queen holds no official titles.

In any event, the titles of a sovereign prove to be an interesting journey through history.

Editor's Note: Lieutenant Colonel William A Smy OMM, CD, UE is the author of An An Notated Nominal Roll of Butler's Rangers, 1777-1784 With Documentary_ Sources, (Friends of the Loyalist Collection at Brock University, [C] 2004, 237 pages). Please refer to the book review in The Loyalist Gazette, Volume XLIII, No. 1, Spring 2005, p. 53. All proceeds for the sale of his book are donated to the Friends of the Loyalist Collection at Brock University, whose mandate is to establish a collection of original UEL documents on microfilm that include government correspondence, military orders, regimental muster rolls and land grant records. The total expenditure for this project, hoped to be completed by 2020, is upwards of $ 150,000.00. Lieut. Colonel Smy's book can be purchased from The Friends of the Loyalist Collection at Brock University, P.O. Box 23041, RPO Seaway Mall, 800 Niagara Street, Welland, Ontario. L3C 7E7. Internet web site URL: http://people.becon/org/~loyalist/index.html. Cost $ 40.00 plus $10.00 postage and handling.

By Lieutenant Colonel William A Smy OMM, CD, UE

Photo of author from his most interesting article, "By Beat of Drum: The Recruitment of a Provincial Corps, 1777-1784," in The Loyalist Gazette, Vol. XXIII, No. 2, Dec., 1985, pp.6-9.
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Author:Smy, William A.
Publication:The Loyalist Gazette
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Mar 22, 2008
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