My Lord Sir Herald

Titles and Address in England Before 1600

Ursula Georges

Some members of the Society for Creative Anachronism use all or many of their titles simultaneously, as in the phrase "Duke Sir John". This practice, commonly known as "title-stacking", is usually discouraged as non-medieval. However, although there is no evidence that phrases such as "Duke Sir John" or "Baron Master James" were used before 1600, some remarkably similar phrases, such as "the lady Marquess Dorset", were in use.

The words "lord", "lady", "master", "mistress", and "sir" and the phrases "my lord" and "my lady" were used in England to address or refer to someone respectfully. These words could be combined with a name, such as "My lady Margaret"; they could also be used with somebody's office or occupation, as in the phrases "sir priest" and "master mayor". Noble titles used with "lord", "sir", or "mistress" include "king", "queen", and "earl": "Sir king", "Mistress queen", "Lord earl". Occasionally, the same phrase combined a respectful form of address, a title or occupation, and a name, as in the phrase "Maister Doctor Hanibal".

Here are some examples of medieval use of titles, in the original English spellings, taken from the Oxford English Dictionary:


Sir king,..we beþ icome fram verre londe iwis, 1297
Nou sir clerc, quaþ þe king, ʒe mowe þretni ynou, 1297
Sere biscop, ta god kepe, a. 1300
Hys worthynesse, sur Emperour, Passeþ Muche alle ʒowre, a. 1400
Sir Preest, in shrift I telle it thee, That he..Hath me assoiled., c. 1400
Sir Doctour of Phisyke.., Telle us a tale, c. 1400
The fayre tour..whech þou say, Ser Pope, is þe grete excellens of þi dignite, 1451


Mi lorde ser Herowde! ["My lord sir Herald!"], c. 1440
to the said Lord Erle, 1444
I am somoned by a sergent at armes to apere byfore my lorde chaunceller, 1530
My Lorde Abbot I recommende me vnto you, 1533
May a bishop be the name of ‘my Lord bishop, my Lords grace’., 1583
the parts and office of a Lord high Generall, 1598


My lady Prioresse, c. 1386
Unto the right noble puyssant & excellent pryncesse, my redoubted lady, my lady Margarete, duchesse of Somercete., c. 1489
The moost excellent pryncesse my lady the kynges graundame, 1509
Lady maystres ["Lady mistress"], 1530
The Ladye Marques Dorset, 1548


‘Now, maystir marynars,’ seyde sir Trystram, ‘what meanyth this lettir.’, 1470
The Popis Holynes, informed by Maister Doctor Hanibal of my commyng, sent word that I shulde tary a day., 1523
Maister Meir, I haue brought you a byll here, 1525
The same daye paied to a servant of maister treasurer in Rewarde for bringing a wylde bores hed to the king., 1531
Maister Constable., 1600


Such obprobrious words as one Walter Coke shold haw spokyn by Maisteras Mayras ["Mistress Mayoress"], 1541
For ane chayare to the maistres nureis, 1598
Mastris Queene my Master, for valt of a better presence has sent you here a Million, 1636

Ursula Georges, 2005