Ladies and Gentlemen

      8 Comments on Ladies and Gentlemen

So. In the book of Enchanted April, much is made of the class differences amongst the four women: Lady Caroline Bramble, of course, is a Lady; Mrs. Graves is the daughter of some sort of prominent intellectual, her husband and father were clearly both gentlemen; Mrs. Arnott is a middle-class woman whose husband has recently achieved financial success, and who could therefore move in Society, if not exactly be in it; and Mrs. Wilton is a solidly middle-class woman, whose husband is a moderately successful solicitor who circles the fringes of Society looking to pick off stragglers to fatten off. They none of them know the same people (or so they think); they are strangers to each other and to each others’ classes.

In the first scene where Mrs. Wilton and Mrs. Arnott meet Lady Caroline Bramble, they repeatedly address her as Lady Bramble. Near the end of the scene, when Mrs. Wilton assures her that they will all grow to be the closest of friends, sisters even, she has the greatest reply. “Yes. Well, let’s start then by not calling me Lady Bramble. Call me Lady Caroline.”

Of course, it’s a deliberate snub. But the snub is on two levels: in addition to saying don’t get too informal with me, she’s also snubbing them because they don’t know how to properly address a Lady. In fact, it’s clear that they have no titled friends, and are very much Not In Society. When they react, they should not only be upset by the distancing, but embarrassed by their ignorance. Not that the audience is going to pick up such shades of meaning, but they are there.

Let’s see. Her mother is Lady Bramble, so assuming that her father, the Duke of Bramble, is still alive, her mother is the only one entitled to the title of Lady Bramble; her grandmother might be the Dowager Lady Bramble, but that is different. Unless, as I understand it, her father is not the Duke of Bramble at all, but only the son of the Duke of Bramble regnant, such that his children are courtesy Lords (and Ladies). But then she would not be Lady Caroline at all, so it’s the straightforward one. And bye the bye, Lord Bramble her father must be at least an Earl, because the daughter of a Baron Bramble or Viscount Bramble doesn’t get called Lady Caroline at all (although Baron Bramble’s wife would still be Lady Bramble).

And Lady Caroline will never be Lady Bramble, either. Unless she marries her cousin, who winds up being Lord Bramble because her father has no male issue (or the brothers died in the War). No, addressing her as Lady Bramble is a terrible faux pas, and one that marks the ladies as distinctly Non-U.

Now, it turns out that Lady Caroline was secretly married, and is actually a widow. A running… not quite a joke, although it’s funny in places, but an ongoing motif of the play, let’s call it, is that everybody thinks that Mrs. Wilton and Mrs. Arnott are widows, when their husbands are alive, but everybody thinks Lady Caroline is single, when she is married and her husband is dead. There’s a rather poignant moment, actually, when Lady Caroline asks Mrs. Wilton and Mrs. Arnott if their husbands were lost in the War; she is clearly searching for what we would now call a support group, although they don’t know it and neither does the audience, yet.

Anyway, I thought that the former Lady Caroline, having married, is no longer Lady Caroline at all, as she loses the title of daughter when she takes the title of wife. It turns out (according to Wikipedia, anyway) that she does keep the title of Lady, unless she marries a Peer. If her husband is Sir Atkins or the Earl of Atkins, then she is the Dowager Lady Atkins. If her late husband was the eldest son of the Duke of Atkins, she would be Lady Adkins; if her late husband was (wait for it) a younger son of the Duke of Atkins or the Marquess of Atkins then she would be properly addressed as Lady Thomas. In all those cases, I would be correct, and she would no longer be properly addressed as Lady Caroline (although of course she would claim to be, to keep the marriage secret). If her husband was a commoner, however, as seems moderately likely given the secret marriage and the time, as well as her eventual marriage to the rich but common Antony Wilding (played by YHB), then she is Lady Caroline Atkins and then Lady Caroline Wilding, and still properly addressed as Lady Caroline.

Is that all clear now? Excellent. Now for extra credit: if her father is a Duke, Marquess or Earl, and her deceased husband was the younger son of a Duke, Marquess or Earl, and is married to a commoner, how should she be addressed? Lady Caroline or Lady Thomas?

And finally, should she, whilst married to the commoner, be ordained in the Church of England and named to be Bishop of the Diocese of Bramble, what would be the proper mode of address?

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

8 thoughts on “Ladies and Gentlemen

  1. irilyth

    > Not that the audience is going to pick up such shades of meaning, but they are there.

    Would the original audience have been expected to pick up on those shades of meaning?

    (“pick up”? “pick up on”?)

  2. Michael

    And finally, should she, whilst married to the commoner, be ordained in the Church of England and named to be Bishop of the Diocese of Bramble, what would be the proper mode of address?

    The Right Reverend Caroline Bramble, Bishop of Bramble
    My Lady

    Unless the Bishop of Bramble is named to the Privy Council, in which case the proper full mode of address would be The Right Reverend and Right Honourable Caroline Bramble, Bishop of Bramble. But that seems unlikely.

  3. Vardibidian

    The original audience of the novel would probably have been expected to pick up (on) those things, or at least to appreciate them. Or, I should say, some of the audience would be U. and pick up on them, and some would be non-U. and pick up on them, and some would be non-U. and not pick up on them, but get the fact that they were not getting it, if you know what I mean… there was an earlier play adapted from the novel, but I’ve never read it; I don’t know how that sort of thing was handled.

    Certainly not. Her name is no longer Bramble at all, just her title; she would be the Rt Rev Caroline Wilding, Bishop Bramble. My Lady would be a correct form, but I believe she could no longer be rightly called Lady Caroline or Lady Thomas, and certainly not Lady Wilding, nor Lady Bramble, but Reverend Caroline. I think. Unless she kept the name Atkins when she remarried. Or the name Bramble, I suppose, in these new-fangled days. One never knows, do one?

    Sorry about the brain, but at least you can still chuckle…


  4. Vardibidian

    Hmph. I am informed that one can only refer to the Reverend Uswusf (or the Rt Rev Uswusf) in third person, but cannot address the Bishop as Reverend Anything. In that case, I’m stumped. I would guess Lady Caroline would not be wrong, but I’m not sure.

    In case it’s not clear, the context would be something like a dinner party, and the sentence something like Lady Caroline, what a lovely frock. The address is being used to identify the recipient of the compliment, and therefore must be specific (rather than M’Lady). And it’s a sufficiently formal place that you can’t call her Carrie. I suspect it’s Bishop Caroline. But I don’t know.


  5. Michael

    Sorry, I wasn’t paying attention to who she was married to and that she had therefore changed her name. In full written address, The Right Reverend Caroline Wilding, Bishop of Bramble.

    How many bishops wearing frocks are you expecting at this dinner party? The protocol guides are consistent on both sides of the pond — a simple My Lady or Bishop for oral address. If you need to expand with the name, you can’t expand My Lady to My Lady Wilding. You’d have to go with Bishop Wilding. She will then ask you call her Caroline, if she actually likes your cooking.

    In the third person, Bishop Wilding. It’s Bishop Shaw and Bishop Harris here, and Bishop Bud only because he’s cool and people know him well on a personal basis. And because we’re uncivilized Americans. Nobody says Bishop Bud to his face to be formal, and the diocese says Bishop Cederholm when writing about him (we checked). Now, Bishop Harris, despite being unrelated to Bishop Harris, somewhat confusingly succeeded Bishop Harris in 2002, in the fashion of proper Boston dynasties (or in canonical Boston fashion, if you will). Should you have both Bishop Barbara Harris and Bishop Gayle Harris at your dinner party, and you make the error of seating them too closely together, and they are both wearing frocks, I would recommend finding something else to compliment them on to avoid the awkward, “Bishop Harris, no, I’m sorry, I mean the old one…, what a lovely frock!” Also, it’s just plain back-handed to the other one to compliment the first one’s frock, since the implication is that the other one’s frock is inferior.

  6. Vardibidian

    The protocol guides are consistent on both sides of the pond

    Surely this can’t be true. I mean, what’s the point of pathetic anglophilia if they don’t have subtle and confusingly different protocol in England?


  7. Matt

    Part of what makes us Americans is that all men are created equal, and therefore we use such protocol guides to wipe our bottoms, over here. Over there, we’re referred to as “ugly Americans” for precisely such reasons.

    But those protocol guides? Consistent with theirs. It’s just that almost nobody reads the things.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.