One of the challenges of writing in the Regency era is getting the titles correct, or more specifically the terms of address. What were people called in the early nineteenth century? It is so confusing. When is our hero Lord Lastname and when is he Lord Firstname? When would he be simply called by his first name? What about his wife? His children? And what are the differences with what we are used to today?
Here is a website that tells it all: Correct Forms of Address
Bookmark this site, because it really has all the answers to any question you might have about titles and names.
The problem is, do readers, especially North American readers, understand or care about titles? Or is being correct just be too darn confusing?
Consider my hero in Scandalizing the Ton. His given name is Adrian Pomroy and in Innocence & Impropriety and The Vanishing Viscountess, Tanner, his friend from childhood, calls him “Pomroy.” In Scandalizing the Ton, however, Adrian’s father has just inherited a title from an uncle and becomes the Earl of Varcourt. Adrian is given his father’s lesser title, Viscount Cavanley, but it is a courtesy title, meaning he’s not really a viscount; he can’t sit in the House of Lords like a viscount. The real title still belongs to his father as well as his father’s new title.
Aren’t all these names confusing? Adrian Pomroy is Viscount Cavanley by courtesy and his father is Earl of Varcourt. Adrian. Pomroy. Cavanley. Varcourt. Four names connected to one person.
Wait, though, there is more to confuse.
When his father was merely a viscount, Adrian would have been called Mr. Pomroy, but when his father becomes an earl, Adrian is now Lord Cavanley. The friends who called him Pomroy will now call him Cavanley. (Except Tanner. Tanner still calls him Pomroy).
In the Regency, though, no one probably would have called him Adrian. First names were rarely used except by close family or school friends. Even spouses typically did not use first names.
In Scandalizing the Ton, my heroine, Lydia, does use Adrian’s first name soon after their meeting. Why would I deliberately choose to be incorrect?
I wanted to signal an intimacy between Lydia and Adrian and I used the terms of address to do that. It will make sense to North American readers, I think, but it really is not the way it would have been.
So my question is, what do you prefer? Accuracy or something that feels more familiar?
In the Historicals you’ve read, have you spotted mistakes in titles that bother you? Have you found the use of titles confusing? Does any of this matter to you?
This is one of those issues that I really don’t know if it matters to anyone but me!
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