Oh Lord.
July 27, 2006 7:24 PM   Subscribe

Why is he called Alfred Lord Tennyson?

When you become a Lord, do they make "Lord" your middle name? Or is his Lordship part of his last name, as in First Name: Alfred; Last Name: Lord Tennyson? I don't understand how this works. Do they do the same thing for Barons and other titles? What's wrong with Lord Alfred Tennyson, which seems a lot more logical?
posted by evariste to Grab Bag (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It's Alfred, Lord Tennyson

ie Alfred, who is Lord of Tennyson

similar to George, King of England
posted by unSane at 7:27 PM on July 27, 2006

Response by poster: PS-any other examples? I only know this one, and it has always puzzled me.
posted by evariste at 7:27 PM on July 27, 2006

Response by poster: unSane-there's got to be more to it than that. I frequently see it as just "Alfred Lord Tennyson". Plus, I wager people would look at me funny if I said George, King England.
posted by evariste at 7:29 PM on July 27, 2006

Best answer: To be a bit clearer, in this context, 'Lord Tennyson' is a title rather than a name, similar to 'President of the USA'.

Titles predate surnames in England, and even surnames are often historically geographic. So that 'Phil Manchester' ultimately derives from 'Philip of Manchester'
posted by unSane at 7:30 PM on July 27, 2006

Best answer: Last Names and Titles
A few earls and most of the lower nobility have their last name as their title, such as Earl Spencer (Princess Di’s brother again). In such cases, the correct designation would be, for example: Alfred, Lord Tennyson. You would not repeat Alfred Tennyson, Lord Tennyson because that would just be silly. Nor would it be correct to switch the order, saying Lord Alfred Tennyson. Lord Alfred Tennyson would be . . . what? Can you guess? If not, see the next paragraph.

Cases of “Lord First-name Last-name” such as “Lord Alec Knight.”

Younger sons of dukes and marquesses were entitled to use “Lord” in front of their first name as a nod to their lofty parentage, while daughters of dukes, marquesses, and earls also received the right to attach “Lady” to their first name, as in “Lady Diana Spencer” (daughter of an earl before her marriage) or in my novels, “Lady Jacinda Knight.” You could call her Lady Jacinda, but never Lady Knight. Though these courtesy-title bearers could be addressed as “my lord” and “my lady,” technically, they are commoners.

Thus, “Lord Alfred Tennyson” from the example above would signify the younger son of a duke or marquis, whereas in fact Alfred, Lord Tennyson was a baron in his own right.
posted by occhiblu at 7:31 PM on July 27, 2006

Response by poster: Killer. Thanks, you two!
posted by evariste at 7:33 PM on July 27, 2006

(occhiblu, you write historical romance? How did I not know that? Holy moly, that is awesome. /romance reader and kind of writer)
posted by sugarfish at 7:47 PM on July 27, 2006

Best answer: Another quirk occurs when there are two titles. In one of the last James Bond novels, when "M" is finally given a name, it is "Admiral Sir Miles Messervy".

I suppose that the proper form is "Beatle Sir Paul McCartney".
posted by megatherium at 8:07 PM on July 27, 2006

You can even have three titles, if you count ecclesiastical designations as well as military and honorifics.
posted by unSane at 8:12 PM on July 27, 2006

Best answer: Bernard Cardinal Law?
posted by brandz at 8:28 PM on July 27, 2006

Response by poster: brandz-how could I forget that one?
posted by evariste at 8:56 PM on July 27, 2006

That format is common for Cardinals.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:29 AM on July 28, 2006

unSane, and "doctor". Is there a General Sir Doctor Cardinal out there?

Special mention for General Sir Michael Jackson, King of Pop.
posted by ninebelow at 7:23 AM on July 28, 2006

sugarfish - Ha! No, I just found that site through Google. (There was one aborted attempt at a really awful romance novel, though I like to block it from my memory!) But my mother, who was an avid historical romance reader, said she learned more history through those novels than she did in school, and in instances like this, I tend to defer to her wisdom.
posted by occhiblu at 10:05 AM on July 28, 2006

Another example: Saint Sir Thomas Moore
posted by chrchr at 10:15 AM on July 28, 2006

occhiblu:there are occasions where the correct title would be Lady [surname]. This is only where the person being addressed is the wife of a Knight. If her husband is eg Sir Douglas Howe, she is Lady Howe, never Lady Elspeth. Her husband would be Sir Douglad Howe, or Sir Douglas, never Sir Howe.

Interestingly Lady Howe was a lady through descent, as her father was a hereditary baron. She then married Douglas Howe and when he was knighted, she became a lady again . She then became a baroness in her own right when she was made a working peer in the House of Lords. Robin Cook (former Foreign Secretary, now no longer with us) quipped that she was "Once, Twice, Three Times a Lady"!

posted by tonylord at 4:54 AM on July 31, 2006

tonylord, I never meant to imply there weren't. The site I linked to (where all my text came from) deals with that in other sections; I just copied the relevent sections for answering the question. Sorry for the confusion!
posted by occhiblu at 8:21 AM on July 31, 2006

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