Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Forms of Address

It's sometimes said that Henry VII imported the use of 'Your Majesty' into England. Reluctant as I am to acquit Henry VII of anything, I must acquit him of this. Nigel Saul has demonstrated (Richard II pp 340-341) that Richard II was in fact the guilty party.

You will note that in the last post Bolingbroke addressed Richard merely as 'my lord'. I doubt he was being disrespectful, it's just that forms of address at this period had not been codified. So alternate usage was permissible.

6 comments:

Lady D. said...

For some reason I always thought it was Henry VIII who had introduced the term 'majesty'. How interesting.

Brian said...

I think certain Ricardian types have perpetuated the myth as it helps make the Tudors look bad - my view is they don't need any help.

I don't think 'Your Majesty' was used anything like consistently until the 17th C. On the other hand I'm pretty sure I found a couple of cases of Henry IV being addressed in this way, but when I looked yesterday I couldn't find them. Annoying when that happens!

Lady D. said...

I must admit, I do prefer 'Your Grace' to 'Your Majesty'. It just rolls off the tongue better - in modern English anyway :-)

Alianore said...

I remember reading the source for Rich demanding that he be called 'Your Majesty' at university . Can't remember now which source it was, of course, but probably the same one that talked about him having a great throne built and making everyone kneel to him if they happened to catch his eye.

Brian said...

Well of course Richard was trying to build up the status of the monarchy, which when the Tudors do it is a Good Thing, but when he did it, a Bad Thing.

Saul says this 'Your Majesty' business began in the early 1390s and quotes in particular the commons' petitions for 1391. So one place to look would be the 15th C parliament rolls to see whether this practice continued.

Sarah Vallieres said...

I think I read that "Your Majesty" started to be used with Henry VII or Henry VIII as well. Given a few minutes, I could probably rustle up this reference if important.
But, I'm wondering if these terms began to be "codified" as you so aptly put it with the codification of other rituals promoting "majesty" in Edward IV's Black Book, which I have not read but have seen many references. Any thoughts?