Royal Styles and Titles in England and Great Britain


See also:

England (to 1707)

William II (1087) was the first to introduce the consistent use of the style N Dei Gratia Rex Anglorum.   Under king John the phrase changed on the royal seal from "king of the English" to Rex Anglie, "king of England"

His successors would add other titles over time: Henry I added dux Normannorum (duke of Normandy) in 1121, Henry II added dux Aquitanorum et comes Andegavorum (duke of Aquitaine and count of Anjou) in 1154 (see the seal of Richard I with the legend "Ricardus Dei gratia rex anglorum" on the obverse and "Richardus dux Normannorum et Aquitanorum comes Andegavorum" on the reverse). 

Lord/King of Ireland

In 1199, John added dominus Hiberniae (lord of Ireland, a title he held since 1177, perhaps by virtue of a bull of Pope Hadrian II of 1155 giving Henry II permission to subdue Ireland so that "illius terrae populas te recipiat et sicut dominum veneretur").  The style dominus Hyberniae had been used in a royal council by Henry I in his 33d year (Parry 1839, 12).  Under John the royal seal bore the legend : "Iohannes Dei Gratia Rex Anglie Dominus Hibernie | Ioh's Dux Normannie et Aqitannie Comes Andegavie."

By Irish statute of 1542, Henry VIII became king of Ireland.

The French possessions

England was conquered by a duke of Normandy in 1066.  Although Normandy and England were initially separated after the Conqueror's death in 1086, they were reunited by force under king Henry I in 1106.  After Henry's death the succession was disputed between his daughter Maud and his nephew Stephen.  Maud's husband count Geoffrey of Anjou wrestled away Normandy and gave it to his son Henry Plantagenet, who eventually succeeded Stephen in 1154 and reunited again Normandy and England unde rone ruler  Also, being the husband since 1152 of Alienor duchess of Aquitaine, he considerably enlarged the French holdings of the English kings.  Over the next two centuries, however, the French kings successfully pared down the Angevin empire to a sliver of land along the Atlantic coast around Bordeaux by 1339.

The biggest single loss was sustained in 1204, afterPhilip II Augustus of France declared king John of England, his vassal as duke of Normandy and count of Anjou, a rebel (April 28, 1202), and confiscated his lands.  Neither John nor his son and successor Henry III were able to reverse the loss, which was formally accepted by the king of England at the treaty of Paris.

The details of the process by which the treaty was drawn up by plenipotentiaries in 1258 and ratified over the course of 1259 are given in Chaplais (1952).  In short, the ratifications were dated Oct. 13, 1259 for the king of England and October 1259 for the king of France, although the treaty did not take effect, according to its clauses, until Henry III gave homage in person to Louis IX as duke of Aquitaine, in Paris on December 4, 1259.  Henry III had a new seal cut, with his new style, in late July or August 1259, and it was used to seal documents sent to France, but not elsewhere, until after the homage of December 4.  Henry III gave orders on Dec. 7 that his new style should be used in his chancery, although (since he had the new seal with him in France) this did not take effect until after his return to England in April 1260.  The last exchequer writs with the old style are dated June 19, and the first ones with the new style June 30.  Thereafter, the king of England's style was Henricus Dei gratia Rex Anglie, dominus Hibernie et dux Aquitannie.

King of France (1340-1800)

By a writ of April 16, 1340, Edward III publicly assumed the title of king of France, and dropped the title of Duke of Aquitaine (because merged in the French crown): thus his great seal was changed to read : Edwardus Dei Gracia Rex Francie et Anglie et Dominus Hibernie. He dropped it after renouncing his claims at the peace of Brétigny on 24 Oct 1360, which secured to him Aquitaine and Gascony. On 19 July 1362 he granted to his eldest son the principality of Aquitaine and Gascony, reserving himself to raise them to the title and dignity of a kingdom; hereafter the Black Prince styled himself "primogenitus regis Angliae, princeps Aquitaniae" (e.g., on the coinage he struck in Aquitaine). Aquitaine never became a kingdom, and the title of duke of Aquitaine continued to be used on coinage struck there.

Edward III, considering that the French had breached the treaty of 1360, with the advice of his Parliament, resumed the title of king of France (Rotuli Parliamentorum  3:300, 43 Ed. III):

Et le Meskerdi suant [=8 Jun 1369], l'Ercevesque et Prelatz, eu sur la Charge qe lour feust done devant mature delib[er]ac[i]on, d'une acord respondirent,et disoient, Que n[ost]re dit Seign[ou]r le Roi par les Causes susdites poait reprendre et user le Noun du Roi de France de droit et bone conscience. Et a ce acorderent les Ducs, Countes, Barons et autres Grantz, et Com[m]unes, en plein Parlement. Quele Noun de Roi de France le Roi reprist, et le XI jour de Juyn le Grant Seal le Roi quel il usa a devant mys en garde, et un autre Seal emprente de noun de France repris, et furent Chartres, Patentes, et Briefs ensealez; et toutz les autres Sealx en les autres places le Roi en mesme la maniere chaungez le dit jour.


salut of Henry VI, Rouen
gold salut of Henry VI, struck in Rouen. The legend reads "Henricus Dei Gra[tia] Fra[n]coru[m] Z A[n]glie Rex. The arms are those of France and England (itself England and France quartered).

Pursuant to the treaty of Troyes of May 21, 1420, Henry V replaced the title of king of France with that of heir of the kingdom of France (Rotuli Parliamentorum 4:171). Henry V died on Aug 31, 1422, before Charles VI of France, who died on Oct 21 of  the same year.  His successor Henry VI resumed the title of "king of France", and it  remained part of the royal styles and titles until 1801 (see below), although the English lost Paris in 1436, Normandy in 1450, Aquitaine in 1453, and Calais (their last continental possession) in 1558.


Early English kings were not numbered. Since it was customary to date legal documents by the year of their reign, to distinguish various kings the form "king X son of king Y" was used. Examples taken from Parliament rolls (in Statutes of the Realm reprint 1993, vol. 1):

  • "Anno regni Regis H[enrici] fil[ii] Regis Jo[ha]nnis vicesimo" in 20 Hen III c.1
  • "Ce sunt les Establisemenz le Rey edward le fiz le Rey Henry fez a Weymoster a son p[re]mer parlement apres son corounement" in 3 Edw I c.1
  • "anno d[omi]ni millio CCC. undecimo regni vero Regis Edwardi filii Regis Edward Quinto" in 5 Edw II c. 41
  • "le Roi Edward, filz au Roi Edward filz le Roi Henri" in 1 Edw III stat. 2
In the case of Edward (III), son of Edward (II), confusion was possible with Edward (II) son of Edward (I). One solution, shown here, was to go back two generations. Another solution was adopted the following year in the Parliament rolls:
  • N[ot]re seign[eu]r le Roi Edward, le tierz ap[re]s le conqueste" in 2 Edw III
  • "lan du Regne del Roi Henry quint puis le co[n]queste noevisme" in 9 Hen V stat. 1
  • "Roy Henry quart puis le conquest pier a Roy qore est" (king Henry fourth since the conquest father to the king that now is") in 2 Hen V stat. 2 c.6
  • "lan du Regne le Roi Henry quint ap[re]s le conqest tierce" in 3 Hen V
  • "lan de regne du Roy Henry sisme puis le conquest prim[ier]" in 1 Hen VI
  • Edward p[ar] la g[ra]ce de Dieu Roi Denglet[ere]e & de Fraunce & Seigneour Dirland puis le Conquest quart" in 1 Edw IV c.1 (a statute that inter alia validates all acts done "en le temps de Henry le quart, Henry le quint son filz, & Henr[y] le sisme son filz, nadgairs en fait & nient en droit successivement Roies Denglet[e]re")
  • "Richard p[ar] la grace de Dieu Roy Denglet[e]re & de Fraunce & S[eigneu]r Dirland puis le conquest tierce" in 1 Ric III
  • "lan du reigne du Roy Henry le septisme puis le conquest p[re]mer" in 1 Hen VII
From then on, English kings, explicitly or implicitly, were numbered as "Nth since the Conquest", although other formulas are sometimes used (e.g., "Roi Edward aiel n[ot]re s[eigneu]r le Roi qorest" = king Edward grandfather of our lord the King that now is, in 1 Hen IV c. 15).

This numbering, however, was not part of the style used by the king himself (in the examples above for Edward IV and Richard III, the rest of the text speaks of the king in the third person). Henry VIII was the first to use a numeral after his name, in 1525.

Usually, sovereigns who are the first of their name are not numbered; only if there is a successor bearing the same name are they retroactively numbered. There are exceptions, however:

  • the official style of Mary I proclaimed in 1553 calls her: "Mary the First"
  • the inscription on the coffin of James I in Westminster begins: "Depositum Invictissimi Principis Jacobi primi, Magnæ Britanniæ, Franciæ, & Hiberniæ Regis"
  • Under the face of the clock of Westminster Palace (commonly called Big Ben) is a prominent inscription: "Domine salvam fac reginam nostram Victoriam primam" (see a close-up)

Changes under the Tudors

Defender of the Faith (since 1521)

To express his appreciation for a treatise that Henry VIII wrote against Martin Luther, pope Leo X bestowed on him the style of Defender of the Faith by a bull of 11 Oct 1521. Even after the break with Rome, British monarchs retained the style, to this day, but on the basis of acts of Parliament rather than the papal bull.

Here is the relevant excerpt of the bull (Magnum Bullarium Romanum):

"Nos [...] qui in hac Sancta Sede a qua omnes dignitates ac tituli emanant, sedemus [...] Majestati tuae titulum hunc, videlicet Fidei Defensorem, donare decrevimus, prout te tali titulo per praesentes insignimus, mandantes omnibus Christifidelibus, ut Majestatem tuam hoc titulo nominent, & cum ad eam scribent, post dictionem Regi adjungant Fidei defensori."

We [...] who sit in this Holy See from which all dignities and titles emanate [...] decree that we grant to your majesty this title, namely Defender of the Faith, asking all Christians to style you with this title, and when they write to you, to insert "Defender of the Faith" after the word "king".

Supreme Head (1544-53)

A statute of 1544 (35 Hen VIII c.3) granted Henry VIII the style of King of England, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, and of the Church of England and also of Ireland on earth the supreme head. This act was repealed by Mary in 1553.

Mary and Philip (1553-58)

Mary and her husband Philip of Spain were jointly styled: Philip and Mary by the grace of God king and queen of England, France, Naples, Jerusalem and Ireland, defenders of the faith, princes of Spain and Sicily, archdukes of Austria, dukes of Milan, Burgundy and Brabant, count of Habsburg, Flanders, Tyrol. Note that the title of king of Ireland was not the one created by Henry VIII in 1542, but the one conferred by Pope Paul IV in 1555 (see the full text).  The style was adjusted when Philip became king of Spain on his father's abdication in 1555.

Elizabeth I used the simpler by the grace of God queen of England, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc. (See below for the "etc").

The "etc" (1558-1800)

See Maitland 1900.

At the accession of Elizabeth I, a subtle change was made to the royal styles. If one compares her proclamation of accession (1558) with that of her predecessor (1553), one sees that they are identical except that the phrase "and in the earth supreme head of the Church of England and Ireland" has been replaced by "etc". This was no accident, and the decision was taken at the highest levels: two days after her accession, her secretary of State Robert Cecil was preparing to assemble "a commission to make out writs for the parliament touching &c. in the styles of writs". When Parliament assembled in January 1559 it appointed a commission to examine the validity of the writs, and it was decided that the omission of "supreme head" did not invalidate them.

A few years later, some English Catholics consulted with Rome and asked whether they could in conscience add the particule "et cetera" to the style when "it is understood that it stands for supreme head of the Church"; to which they were told that heretics might well interpret it to mean head of the Anglican church, but Catholics are not obliged to do so, since it is a "vox indifferens" which can mean many other things and is often added to royal styles. The purpose of replacing "supreme head" with "etc" was thus achieved: it allowed to finesse the problem and neither drop nor explicitly use Henry VIII's religiously divisive title.

The "etc" was dropped in 1801.

Scotland (to 1707)

The style was Rex Scotorum. The phrase "by the grace of God" was introduced by John Baillol and used consistently from David II on. Mary and Francois II of France (1559-60) were styled king and queen of France and Scotland. Mary and Darnley were styled Henry and Mary king and queen of Scotland, but Bothwell was never styled king.

Seal of François II of France and Mary queen of Scots (1559). Note the legend: "Franciscus et Maria D[ei] G[ratia] R[ex et] R[egina] Francor[um] Scot[orum] Angl[iae] et Hyber[niae]". (Source: base de données Archim.)

Great Britain (1707-1800)

"Great Britain" before 1707

Although technically, there was no United Kingdom of Great Britain until the Act of Union in 1707, British monarchs had begun using "king of Great Britain" as a short-hand for "king of England and Scotland" or "king of Scotland and England" as soon as personal union took place. In a proclamation of Oct. 24, 1604, James I stated: "We do by these presents, by force of our kingly power and prerogative, assume to ourself by the clearness of our right, the name and style of King of Great Britain, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc. as followeth in our just and lawful style, and do hereby publish, promulge and declare the same, to the end that in all proclamations, missives foreign, and domestical, treaties, leagues, dedicatories, impressions, and in all other cases of like nature, the same may be used and observed."

In fact, Henry VIII had planned to marry the prince of Wales and Mary, Queen of Scots, and the 1548 articles proposed that the eventual ruler of both countries be called Emperor of Great Britain, and a similar proposal was by a member of Parliament in 1604 (Bindoff 1945). The term "Great Britain" itself appears in a marriage convention of 1474 between the daughter of Edward IV and James II of Scotland. It is used repeatedly in print after the mid-16th century.

This proclamation of 1604 was followed, on the whole. The style of king of Great Britain was used by James I on his seal as king of England as well as his seals as king of Scotland (but with different arms on each seal: "quarterly 1 and 4 England, 2 Scotland, 3 Ireland" for the English seal; "quarterly 1 and 4 Scotland, 2 England, 3 Ireland" for the Scottish seal). Likewise, coins of James I (and all Stuart kings) used that style (the Scottish coins used the Scottish arms after a decision of the Privy Council of 7 Dec 1609; see Burns 1887, 2:425). Charles I used the same style on his first English seal of 1625, then reverted to "king of England, France and Ireland" on his second seal of 1627, and then back to "Great Britain" on his third seal of 1640. His English and Scottish coins both use "Great Britain" (see, for example, this Oxford crown at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, whose legend reads "Carolus D[ei] G[ratia] Mag[nae] Brit[anniae] Fran[ciae] et Hiber[niae] Rex"), even as, like the seals, they display different coats of arms (see for example a 30 shilling coin whose reverse shows the Scottish arms in quarters 1 and 4, the English arms in quarter 2). Charles II and James II both styled themselves kings of Great Britain on their seals and coins.

On Dec 16, 1653, Oliver Cromwell was proclaimed Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland. His style on the Great Seal of the Connonwealth is "Olivarius Dei Gratia Reip[ublicae] Angliae Scotiae et Hiberniae, &c Protector."

The Union of 1707

By the Act of Union of 1707 (xi. sect.1), it was decided "That the two Kingdoms of England and Scotland shall, upon the 1st day of May next ensuing the date hereof, and for ever after, be united into one Kingdom by the Name of Great Britain, and that the ensigns armorial of the said United Kingdom be such as Her Majesty shall appoint, and the crosses of St. Andrew and St. George be conjoined in such manner as Her Majesty shall think fit, and used in all flags, banners, standards and ensigns, both at sea and land."

Consequently, the style adopted was "N, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France and Ireland King/Queen, Defender of the Faith, &c" (see for example Letters patent of Queen Anne dated 1712. Upon the accession of the house of Hanover in 1714, the style was occasionally modified to be "by the Grace of God King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, Duke of Brunswick and Lunenburg, Arch Treasurer, and Prince Elector of the Holy Roman Empire, &c" (e.g., the ratification of the treaty of Paris dated 1784). The Latin form was "Georgius I Dei Gratia Magnae Britanniae, Franciae et Hiberniae Rex, Fidei Defensor, Brunscvicensis et Luneburgensis Dux, Sacri Romani Imperii Archithesaurarius et Elector".

United Kingdom (since 1801)

Union of Great Britain and Ireland (1801)

The Act of Union of 1801 created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. It was proposed to George III that he adopt the style of "Emperor of the British and Hanoverian Dominions," a suggestion he rejected. But he dropped the title of king of France (see more on the circumstances).

By Proclamation of Jan 1, 1801, the style adopted was by the grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland king, defender of the faith (in Latin: Georgius Tertius, Dei Gratia, Britanniarum Rex, Fidei Defensor).

Hanover becomes a kingdom (1814)

In 1814, the prince regent changed his father's German title to "king of Hanover, Duke of Brunswick and Lunenburg". The royal arms were modified two years later, in 1816.

Separation of the United Kingdom and Hanover (1837)

In 1837 the personal union between Hanover and the United Kingdom ended with the accession of Ernst Augustus I in Hanover and Queen Victoria in the United Kingdom on 20 Jun 1837. Since Hanover did not appear in the royal style, however, no change was needed, although the royasl arms were modified.

seal of Victoria
Seal of Queen Victoria. Credit: The National Archives, ref. HO125/2.

India becomes an Empire (1876)

By proclamation of April 28, 1876, the title of Empress of India was added, and by proclamation of 1901 the style was changed to by the grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of the British dominions beyond the Seas king, defender of the faith, Emperor of India.

"All Britains" (1901)

From 1901 to 1952, a new Latin title was used on coins: Dei Gratia Britanniarum Rex, or King of the Britains. In 1868, a book by C. W. Dilke popularized the phrase "Greater Britain" to mean Britain and all its colonies. This may have led to the proposal of the title "King of all Britains", in the last years of the 19th c., by the earl of Rosebery. The Oxford English Dictionary (s.v. "Britain") provides two quotes:
1897 Earl of Rosebery in Daily News 5 July 4/5 : "`Regina Britanniarum' - the Queen of the Britains... She is sovereign, not of one or two, but of numberless Britains, all self-supporting."
1901 Westminster Gazette 11 Dec. 2/2: "Lord Rosebery has succeeded with his cry of `All the Britains', as the three letters `Omn' on the new coins are to testify... Our King henceforth is to be King of All the Britains."
This style may have been influenced by the Russian style of "Czar of all the Russias". It appeared on coins abbreviated as Britt. Omn.: the double T in Britt is a mark of plural, a common abbreviation on Roman coins.

seal of Victoria
Seal of Edward VII. Credit: The National Archives, ref. HO125/5.

seal of George V
Seal of King George V, obverse (second version, 1930). Credit: The National Archives, ref. HO125/17. See also a picture of the first version of 1912.

Ireland ceases to be part of the United Kingdom (1927)

The Anglo-Irish treaty of 1922 put an end to the union of Great Britain and Ireland by creating a new dominion, of which George V remained king. The Parliament in Westminster ceased to represent all of Ireland, which required a change in its style.

The Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act 1927 (17 Geo 5 c. 4) gave the king authority to issue a royal proclamation within 6 months "to make such alteration in the style and titles at present appertaining to the Crown as to His Majesty may seem fit". Accordingly, a proclamation of May 13, 1927 changed the style to by the grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and of the British dominions beyond the Seas king, defender of the faith, Emperor of India. The only alteration was to replace the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of with Great Britain, Ireland and; and, in the Latin version, to replace Britanniarum with Magnae Britanniae, Hiberniae,. The new seal, designed by Percy Metcalfe (1895-1970) in 1930, replaced the seal designed by Gilbert Hayes (1872-1953) in 1912.

The same act also changed the style of Parliament, which would "hereafter be known as and styled the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" (instead of "...and Ireland"). It also provided that the phrase "United Kingdom" would henceforth refer to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In diplomatic correspondance, the government became known as "the government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland".

The Ireland Act 1949 declared that "the part of Ireland heretofore known as Eire ceased, as from the 18th day of April, 1949, to be part of His Majesty's dominions." But the royal style remained unaltered until 1953. In a treaty signed with the Sultan of Muscat and Oman on 20 Dec 1951, George VI is referred to as "HM the King of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the seas," and as late as 22 Dec 1952 a warrant addressed to Lord Lyon setting the precedence of the duke of Edinburgh in Scotland styled the Queen as "by the Grace of God of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas Queen, Defender of the Faith." No change was made to account for the new situation until May 1953 (see below).

India's independence (1947)

The title of Emperor of India was abandoned by proclamation of June 22, 1948, by virtue of the India Independence Act (10-11 Geo 6 c. 30, s. 7(2)) which specified: "The assent of the Parliament of the United Kingdom is hereby given to the omission from the Royal Style and Titles of the words 'Indiae Imperator' and the words 'Emperor of India' and to the issue by His Majesty for that purpose of His Royal Proclamation under the Great Seal of the Realm." (the Handbook of British Chronology mistakenly dates the proclamation to June 22, 1947 and says it was issued in anticipation of royal assent for the Act!).

seal of George VI
Seal of King George VI. Credit: The National Archives, ref. HO124/49.

The current style (1953)

The statutes of Westminster of 1937 in fact required the assent of the legislatures of all Commonwealth members to any change in the style of the British sovereign. Since such assent could not be secured in time, the change was nevertheless applied, and George VI ceased to sign G.R.I. as of August 15, 1947 (the I standing for Imperator). Nonetheless, work began to devise a new style acceptable to various Commonwealth countries. In December 1952, representatives of the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan and Ceylon agreed that "there is need for an alteration [of the style and titles appertaining to the Crown] which, whilst permitting of the use in relation to each of those countries of a form suiting its particular circumstances, would retain a substantial element common to all." The results, delayed by the death of George VI, were authorized by the Royal Titles Act 1953 (c. 9) ("The assent of the Parliament of the United Kingdom is hereby given to the adoption by Her Majesty, for use in relation to the United Kingdom and all other the territories for whose foreign relations Her Government in the United Kingdom is responsible, of such style and titles as Her Majesty may think fit having regard to said agreement, in lieu of the style and titles at present appertaining to the Crown, and to the issue by Her for that purpose of Her Royal Proclamation under the Great Seal of the Realm"). They were made public on May 29, 1953, when a proclamation made simultaneously in the various capitals of the Commonwealth set a different style in each. In London, the style was by the grace of God, of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of her other realms and territories queen, head of the Commonwealth, defender of the faith. On coins, the style is simply D[ei] G[ratia] Regina F[idei] D[efensor], while on the great seal of the realm it is "Elizabeth II D[ei] G[ratia] Britt. [=Britanniarum] Regnorumque Suorum Ceter[orum] Regina Consortionis Populorum Princeps F[idei] D[efensor]" in conformity with the proclamation of 1953. (For a description of the great seal, see press notice 261/01 from the Lord Chancellor's Department, titled "seal of the realm" and dated 18 July 2001, on the Government News Network).

Miscellaneous Questions

Duke of Lancaster

Is the Queen "duke of Lancaster"?  The duchy's web site seems to think so.

Brief history of the honor of Lancaster

The first earl of Lancaster was Edmund Plantagenet (d. 1297), younger son of Henry III, earl of Leicester since 1265 and earl of Derby since 1266.  He  was granted the honor, county, castle and town of Lancaster on June 30, 1267.   He was succeeded by his son Thomas (beheaded for treason in 1322).  Thomas's brother Henry (d. 1345) was restored in 1327 to the earldoms of Lancaster and Leicester, and was succeeded by his son Henry (d. 1361), who was created duke of Lancaster by chater of March 6, 1351.  He died without male heirs and his dukedom became extinct; the barony of Lancaster, created by writ of summons of 1299, fell in abeyance between his daughters Blanche and Mathilda.  Mathilda died without issue the following year and all the estates fell to Blanche, who married John of Gaunt, son of king Edward III.

John of Gaunt was created on Nov 13, 1362 duke of Lancaster.  Blanche died in 1369, having given birth to Henry of Bolingbroke. John of Gaunt remarried in 1371 with Constance, daughter of Pedro king of Castille and Leon, and he bore for a while the title of king of Castille and Leon.  He died on Feb. 3. 1399. King Richard II seized the inheritance from the duke's son Henry of Bolingbroke, then in exile in Paris.  Henry returned to England, ostensibly to claim his inheritance, but eventually deposed Richard II and became himself king Henry IV (so proclaimed in Parliament on September 30, 1399).  Henry IV's son Henry of Monmouth (b. 1387) was created Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, and Earl of Chester on October 15, 1399. 

One of Henry IV's first acts was to prevent the merger of his Lancaster inheritance with the crown estates.  On Nov. 10, 1399, the following took place in Parliament (Rotuli Parliamentorum 3:428):

notre Seigneur le Roy considerant, coment luy Dieu tout-puissant de sa grande grace luy ad mys en l'onorable estat du Roy, & partant il ne poet mesmes pur certeine cause porter le Noun de Duc de Lanc[astre] en son estile: Et auxi mesme n[otr]re S[eigniou]r le Roy considerant, coment cel honorable Noun & estat de Duc ad este mesnez & governez moelt honourablement en l'onorable Personne de son pier, qi Dieu assoill', & des pleusours ses honorables Auncestres; & veullant sur ceo q[e] le dit Noun de Duc de Lancastre soit continuez en honor comme affiert; de l'advis & assent des toutz les Seignrs Espirituels & Temporelx, & de les Communes avaunt ditz, ad ordeignez, q[] Henry son eisnez fitz ait & porte le Noun de Duc de Lancastr[e], & q'il soit nomez Prince de Gales, Duc d'Aquitaigne, de Lancastre, & de Cornewaill', & Count de Cestre.  Et outre ceo, mesme n[ot]re S[eigniou]r le Roi considerant, coment diverses Libertees & Franchises aient este grantez devant ces heures, si b[ie]n a son dit pier come as autres ses Auncestres Ducs & Counts de Lanc[astre], voet & grante, de l'advys & assent avaunt ditz, Qe mesmes les Libertees & Franchises soient & demorgent a son dit eisnez Fitz, & ses heirs Ducs de Lanc[astre], disseverez de la Corone d'Engleterre, quitement & entierment, solonc l'effect et purport de les Grantes avaunet dites. Et sur ceo monstra une Chartre en Parlement ent faite, & la bailla son eisnez Fitz avaunt dit.

 The charter is dated Oct. 14, 1399, as is a similar charter concerning the estates of Hereford which the king held from his wife (they were annexed to the duchy of Lancaster in 1414).

Henry IV was succeeded in 1413 by his son Henry V, who remained in possession of the duchy of Lancaster.  He died in 1422 and was succeeded by his son Henry VI.  The latter was deposed on March 4, 1461, and on Nov. 4 of the same year his successor Edward IV had him attainted by Act of Parliament and the duchy of Lancaster was forfeited to the Crown.  On November 14, a parliamentary charter maintained the separation of the duchy from the Crown: all the possessions of Henry VI as of March 4, 1461 were incorporated and called "duchy of Lancaster" and vested in Edward IV and his successors the kings of England (Edward IV, of course, was not heir to the duchy of Lancaster under the charter of 1399).  When the throne passed to Henry VII in 1485, a similar act (Nov. 14, 1485) vested the duchy of Lancaster in the new king.

The title and style of "duke of Lancaster"

The duchy of Lancaster has remained separate from the Crown, but always held by the sovereign, since 1413.  This is not in doubt.  What is more open to question is in what capacity did the king hold the duchy: as king, or as duke?

An incontrovertible fact is that "duke of Lancaster" was never part of the official styles and titles of the sovereign, which are now set by royal proclamation pursuant to statutes of Parliament.

Peerage law holds that all titles held by an individual merge with the crown when the individual ascends.   The duchy was created in 1351, and became extinct in 1361.  It was created once again in 1362; when Henry IV acceded to the crown on September 30, 1399 the title merged with the crown.  That is why the preamble of the act of 1399 that established the duchy as separate from the crown says that the king "himself may not for a certain cause bear the name of duke of Lancaster in his stile". 

The estates, however, were kept separate by the charter of October 14, while at the same time the title was conferred the same day on Henry IV's son, amounting to a third creation.  When Henry V ascended the throne on March 21, 1413 all his honors merged with the crown (Cokayne: Complete Peerage 7:419), while the estates, under the charter of 1399, remained separate.  It is true that the roll of Parliament says that the grant of 1399 was to Henry IV's son and his heirs dukes of Lancaster, and this might be taken as evidence that an explicit exception was made to the common law rule that all titles merge in the crown on accession.  In any event, the act of attainder of 1461 against Henry VI would clearly extinguish any such title if it had remained.  The charter of 1461 makes no mention whatsoever of a title of duke, nor does it say that the king is duke of Lancaster.  What it does, explicitly, is create a corporation by the name of "duchy of Lancaster":
we have ... ordained and established that the same [possessions] shall make, and from the fourth day of March last past be the said Duchy of Lancaster corporate, and shall be called the Duchy of Lancaster"
and it provides that these possessions shall be owned by "us and our heirs Kings of England, separate from all our other hereditaments".

Particular exceptions to common law created by statute must be interpreted strictly and narrowly.  All that the charter does is separate some of the sovereign's possessions from others, give them a name ("duchy of Lancaster") and provide for their administration.  It does not create a title where there is none. 

A clear statement in law that the the king is not duke of Lancaster can be found in the Duchy of Lancaster Case (1561).  A parcel of the duchy had been leased while king Edward VI was of less than full age; the lease would normally be invalid, but by common law the king is never underage.  Did the principles of common law regarding the person of the king apply to the owner of the duchy?  The question had been considered at length and the nearly unanimous conclusion of the various judges of the Queen's bench and judges of common pleas was that the queen could not avoid the lease.

The general principle was that there was no distinction between the king's actions as a private individual (in his "body natural") or as sovereign (in his "body politic").  As for the particular case, after Henry IV's accession, "the possessions of the dutchy of Lancaster were in him as king, and not as duke, for the name of duke being lower than the name of king, was drowned by the name of king, and by the accession of the estate royal to him who was duke, for the king could not be duke in his own realm, though he might out of it."  The judges considered the charter of 1399 severing the duchy from the crown, but they did not find anything in it that altered the status of the king, but rather it altered the status of the thing possessed  (the duchy): and "altho' the charter and the act make the king to have the dutchy and all the liberties, privileges, and jurisdictions thereof, as they were before in the hands of the duke, yet they don't make the king to be duke of Lancaster, for there is not a word in them to any such purpose, nor can it be reasonably supposed to be the intent of the charter or of the makers of the act to make him so, for the king cannot be duke in his own realm, tho' he may out of it, a it is said before."  They similarly considered the charter of 1 Edward IV and that of 1 Henry VII, and again found that "nor is there any word that tends to make the king duke of Lancaster, or to make him duke of Lancaster with regard to the possessions of the dutchy".

At best, the phrase "duke of Lancaster" can be seen as a short-hand for "the king in his capacity as owner of those of his possessions separately incorporated and administered under the name "duchy of Lancaster"; the extant to which this capacity has any legal meaning being narrowly defined by the statutes governing the duchy of Lancaster.

That being said, Sir Robert Somerville found a few instances of the style "duke of Lancaster" used in documents under the seal of the duchy of Lancaster under Henry VI, and even some rare occurrences under Richard III and Henry VII.  The phrase "the king and his heirs dukes of Lancaster" also appears a number of times in duchy instruments of the first half of the 15th century.  He concludes that "at any rate under the Lancastrian dynasty the king was considered to be duke of Lancaster".   But this practice does not seem to have extended much after the reign of Henry VI, since Edward IV was not legitimate heir to the duchy of Lancaster by the terms of the charter of 1399.   As mentioned above, the charter of 1461 vests the duchy not in the king and his heirs dukes of Lancaster, but in the king "and [his] heirs Kings of England".    Somerville admits (p. 232) that "there is no clear evidence that Edward was considered to be duke of Lancaster".   Richard III was styled once as duke of Lancaster in a charter confirming the incorporation of Pontefract (p. 257; translated in Benjamin Boothroyd's History of the Ancient Borough of Pontefract, 1807).   For Henry VII, "the style does not appear anywher eas part of the royal style and Henry is not specifically called duke of Lancaster.  We may note in parenthesis that Henry VIII is twice referred to in bills as duke of Lancaster [dewkys of the said dewche], and although this evidence lacks the authority of official documents it nevertheless reveals a popular conception that is in fact confirmed by references in every sense official" (p. 260) [Letters and Papers foreign and domestic of the reign of  of Henry VIII, II, i. n.55: pardon for John Saintclair as late sheriff of Essex and Herts "with proviso that the pardon shall not extend to any sums payable by sheriffs of Essex and Herts to the King as Duke of Lancaster"; 23 Jan , 6 Hen VIII].  Somerville cites no other instances of the style until 1603, where his history stops.

Somerville only notes two instances in the modern era: the preamble of the Chancery of Lancaster Act 1850 (13 & 14 Vic c. 43) mentions the Queen's "Prerogatives and Rights as Duchess of Lancaster", and a draft of the
London County Council (Improvements) Bill of 1939 referred to "the duke of Lancaster for the time being".  These rare instances can hardly be seen to overturn the Duchy of Lancaster case.

Somerville, who believes that the Queen is duke of Lancaster, mentions the custom of toasting the sovereign in Lancashire as "the king/queen duke of Lancaster."  This custom appears to have royal sanction: it was approved by Victoria, who preferred "duke" to "duchess", the wording of 13 & 14 Vic c. 43 notwithstanding (see also Lord Campbell's Life
, 2:220, where the Lord High Chancellor toasted the queen as "duchess of Lancaster" at a dinner in 1847).  It was also approved by George V, George VI, and Elizabeth II.


The duchy of Lancaster, held by Henry IV at his accession in 1399, was not merged into the crown but was kept separate, to be inherited by his heirs. After the accession of Edward IV, the duchy was  forfeited to the king and formally established as a corporation in 1461, consisting of a collection of estates owned by the sovereigns of England but kept separate from the Crown.  The last duke of Lancaster (as a title or dignity) was the eldest son of Henry IV, so created in 1399, and the title merged with the crown in 1413.  Although the king was occasionally described as "duke of Lancaster" in official documents under the Lancastrian kings, the practice disappeared by the mid-16th century.  A famous law case of 1561 decided that the king was not, and could not be, duke of Lancaster, as Henry IV himself had said in 1399.

The phrase "duke of Lancaster" appears on occasion, and can be taken as a shorthand for "the owner of the corporation called 'duchy of Lancaster'".  Is the Queen duke of Lancaster?  Yes, in the sense that she owns the corporation called "duchy of Lancaster".  Is she or should she be styled duke of Lancaster?  Just as much is she is or should be styled "Elizabeth, by the grace of God ... owner of the castle of Balmoral".

Duke of Normandy

A similar toast is apparently customary in the Channel Islands, styling the British sovereign as "duke of Normandy". 

The website Royal Insight, edited by members of the Royal Household, has asserted repeatedly over the years, in response to queries, that the Queen is duke of Normandy (see Feb 2003, July 2003, Oct 2003, Sept 2005, Jan 2007).  Most recently, it has said that ""Since [1106], the English Sovereign, whether male or female, has always held the title Duke of Normandy and assumes the title upon accession to the throne". 

There is even evidence that the Queen thinks of herself as Duke of Normandy.

But is she?

There are some superficial similarities with the style of "duke of Lancaster", although the logic of English peerage law is inapplicable here.  As noted in the duchy of Lancaster case, the king may be a duke out of his own realm.  And, in fact, so were the kings of England from 1066, dukes of Normandy outside of their realm, and as such vassals of the kings of France.  Did this title somehow survive to the present by virtue of Jersey and Guernsey?

The Renunciation of 1259

The Channel islands are said to have been granted to Rollo, first duke of Normandy, by royal charter of 933.  They were undeniably part of the duchy of Normandy until the 13th century.  The French kings were able to seize mainland Normandy in 1204, but, in spite of some (poorly documented) attempts, not the islands.   

By the treaty of Paris of October 1259, the king of England renounced to a number of titles. What follows is the relevant part of the treaty (art. 6), in both the old French and the Latin versions, as it appears in the ratification signed by Louis IX in October 1259, sent to England, and published in Rymer's Foedera (1:690-691; 3d ed., 1:389-390):

... E de ce, que nos au Roi d'Angleterre, e a ses heirs avonz done en fiez e en demaines, li Rois d'Angleterre, e si heir feront homage lige a nos, e a nos heirs Rois de France; e ausi de Bordiaus, e de Baone, e de Gascoigne, e de tote la terre que il tient deca la mer d'Angleterre en fiez, e en demaines, e des Isles (s'aucune en ja) que li Rois d'Angleterre tieigne, qui soient de l'Roialme de France; e tendra de nos come Pers de France, & Dux de Acquitaigne... de hoc, quod nos Regi Angliae et haeredibus suis donavimus in feodum et domaniam, Rex Angliae, et haeredes sui facient homagium ligeum nobis et haeredibus nostris Regibus Franciae, et ita de Burdegala, de Bayona, et Vasconia, et de tota terra quam ipse tenet citra mare Angliae, in feodo et domania; et de Insulis (si aliqua est) quas Rex Angliae teneat, quae sint de Regno Franciae; et tenebit de nobis sicut Par Franciae, et Dux Aquitanie...
Et, par ceste pais faisant, a quite, e quitie de tot en tot, li rois d'Engleterre, et si dui fils, a nos, e a nos heirs, et a nos freres, e a lor successours, por soi, e por ses heires, e por ses successours, se ils Roys d'Angleterre, ou ses ancessors aucune droitoure ont, ou orent onques en chose que nos teigniens, ou teignissens onques, ou nostre ancecssor, ou nostre frere, c'est a savoir en la Duchie, e en tote la terre de Normandie; en la Conte et en tote la terre d'Anjou, de Toraine, et de l'Maine; e en la Conte e en tote la terre de Poitiers; ou aillors en aucune partie de l'Roiaume de France, ou des Isles (se aucunes ou tenoms nos, ou nostre frere, ou autres de par nos, ou de par els) e toz arrerages. Et faciendo istam pacem, quiptavit, et quiptat, de toto in totum, Rex Angliae, et sui do filii, nobis, et nostris haeredibus et successoribus, nostris fratribus, et haeredibus suis, pro se, haeredibus, et successoribus suis, si ipse Rex Angliae, vel sui antecessores aliquam droituram habent, vel habuerunt unquam in rebus quas nos tenebimus vel tenuissemus unquam, vel antecessores nostri, vel fratres nostri, videlicet in Ducatu et Comitatu terrae Normandiae: et in comitatu et tota terra d'Anjou, et de Tureyne, et du Meyne; et in Comitatu et in tota terra Pictaviae; vel alibi in aliqua parte Regni Franciae, vel in insulis (si aliquas tenemus nos, vel fratres nostri, vel alii nomine eorum) et omnia arreragia.

That is, the king of England renounced any rights he had or would ever have in things that the king of France or his predecessors or his brothers held or once held, namely the duchy and the whole land of Normandy, the county and the whole land of Anjou, Touraine and Maine, and the county and the whole land of Poitiers or elsewhere in any part of the kingdom of France and any islands if any is held by the king of France or his brothers or others from them and all arrears.

The phrasing is clear: Henry III renounces Normandy, Anjou, Touraine, Maine, Poitiers, anything else in the kingdom of France, any islands held by the king of France, and any arrears.  The formulation carefully distinguishes between titles and lands and specifies that the king renounces both titles and lands. What is excluded from the renunciation are islands not held by the king of France or his brothers or anyone from them, including the Channel Islands.

The lands received (Limoges, Cahors, Perigord, Agenois) or retained (Bordeaux, Bayonne, Gascony and any other lands and islands that he held) by the king of England were to be held altogether by him as peer of France and duke of Aquitaine, and for those lands he was to give homage liege to the king of France.   If anything, then, the Channel Islands are the last remnant of the duchy of Aquitaine!

As said above, the great seal of England was changed in late July or August 1259, although the old one was retained for all documents other than those sent to the king of France or related to the peace.  When Henry III went to France to give homage as required by the treaty, he took both seals with him.  Homage was given on Dec. 4, and on Dec. 7 he wrote to his officials in England and ordered them to use his new style, from which the title of "duke of Normandy" had disappeared, but this did not take full effect (since the new seal was with the king in France) until Henry III returned to England in April 1260.  The last documents using the style of duke of Normandy are exchequer writs of June 19, 1260.  The old seal was destroyed on October 18, 1260 and "with it disappeared the last symbol of the English resistance to the conquests of Philip Augustus; henceforth the duchy of Aquitaine was the only remnant held de jure and de facto by the English king of the great continental empire inherited by John" (Chaplais 1952, 251).  Edward I, who as heir of Henry III had protested against the renunciation, himself confirmed it upon receiving the county of Ponthieu in 1279, and never made any claims (Ormrod 1994, 199, n9).

The official styles of the kings of England and later kings of Great Britain and of the United Kingdom (as they appeared on seals, coins, and at the beginning and end of letters patent, charters and other official documents emanating from the sovereign) never again included the title of "duke of Normandy".   There are a few instances of the style "duke of Normandy" being used by the sovereign himself or in his presence, although only one instance in over seven centuries in relation to the Channel Islands.  The other uses pertain to two limited time periods: 1356-60 and 1417-19, and pertain to the duchy of Normandy on the mainland, not the islands.  I now describe those instances (see also Matthews 1999).

"Our duchy of Normandy"

Edward III (1357-60)

While England held on to its duchy of Aquitaine, it was constantly being nibbled at the edges by the French, and subjected to confiscation by the French king as overlord, in 1294 and again in 1337. 

In 1339, arguing of his maternal descent from Philip IV of France, Edward III claimed the whole kingdom of France, possibly raising the stakes to secure what he ultimately wanted, namely sovereign ownership of Aquitaine, free from the threat of confiscation by the French overlord.

The first campaigns (notably with the capture of Calais in 1346) began in the North of France, but in 1356 Edward III was able to take advantage of internal French politics to secure the support of significant members of the Norman aristocracy, who appealed for his help.  

On July 18, 1356, Godfrey Harcourt acknowledged the "bon et playn droit que mon tressoveraigne seignor, monsieur le Roy de France et d'Engleterre a a la corone de France & duche de Normandie".  The title was used by Godfrey, but on August 1 the king sent a letter to all his officers informing them that "Godefrey de Harcourt ... nous ad promys de faire Homage et Foialte, come a son Seignur liege Roi de France et d'Engleterre, et Duc de Normandie pur touz les Terres et Possessions qu'il tient en nostre dit Duche de Normandie" (Rymer  3d ed., 3:1:332; similar letter in favor of Guillaume de Croucy, ibid. 333).  A letter of Feb 4, 1357 to Pierre Pigache,  governor of Cotentin, orders him to confiscate the estates of those who act as adversaries against "nous, notre droit et jouste querele, roi de France et duc de Normandie" (ibid. 345).

On Sept. 4, 1356, an indentured contract passed between "le tresexcellent et trespuissant prince, monsieur Edward, par la grace de Dieu, Roi de France & d'Engleterre, d'une part, et haut home et nobles, monsieur Phelip de Navarre, son cousyn, d'autre part, tesmoigne que ledit monsieur Phelip ad fait homage lige au dit Roi, come au Roi de France et duc de Normandie".  By the contract Philippe obligated himself to give homage "come a Roy de France & duc de Normandie"; Edward granted to Philippe some lands to conquer "a tenir par le dit monsieur Phelip a heritage du dit roy Edward, et de ses successours Rois de France et ducs de Normandie" with the proviso that any lands "que soient du demense du duc de Normandie, et que a la duchie appertenoient au temps du Roi Phelip le Bel" should be returned to Edward (ibid., 340).  It is curious to note that, although the ducal title is used by Philippe de Navarre, it is not used by Edward III in describing himself.  Ormrod, based on existing drafts of the indenture which did not contain the ducal title, thinks that the style was inserted at the request of Edward III, but it is not clear why. 

"Thus began a brief period during which certain public instruments emanating from the English chancery in reference to the duchy carried the unusual and highly significant royal title 'king of France and duke of  Normandy'" (Ormrod 1994, 205; the documents were first discussed by Le Patourel 1953).  As far as I can tell from the documents in Rymer, the period in question is brief indeed, lasting from July 1356 to February 1357.  One also finds occasionally, between 1356 and 1359, references to "ducatus noster Normannie", "our duchy of Normandy" (for example, letters patent creating Philippe de Navarre, comte de Longueville his lieutenant in Normandy, Oct. 20, 1356, and others Oct 28, 1359; Rymer 3d ed. 3:1:342, 452).  Of course, such usage, as under Henry V below, is consistent with the practice of French kings who used such a phrase even in the absence of any titular duke.  It therefore does not represent per se a use of the title of duke.

Edward III, however, did not try to administer or colonize Normandy, but was content to leave it prey to roving bands of pillaging and ransoming soldiers (Ormrod 1994, 208).   By the treaty of Bretigny, Edward III, in exchange for full sovereignty over Aquitaine and new territories, was to renounce his claims to the throne of France and,  inter alia, to the duchy of Normandy (Rymer 6:184; 3d ed. 3:1:489):

le Roy d'Angleterre et son Ainsne Filz, Renounceront expressement a toutes les choses qui, par ce present Traittie, ne doivent estre Baillees, ne Demourer au Roy d'Engleterre, & a toutes les Demandes qu'il fasoit au Roy de France,
Et par especial, au Nom & au Droit de la Couronne & du Royaume de France,
Et a l'Omage, Souverainete & Demeine du Duchie de Normandie, de Toureine, des Contez d'Anjou & du Maine,
Et a la Souvereinete & Hommage du Duchie de Bretaigne,
A la Souvereinete & Hommage du Conte & Paiis de Flandres,
Et a touz autres Demandes que le Roy d'Engleterre fasoit ou faire pouroit au Roy de France, pour quelconque cause que cec soit, oultre ce, & excepte que, par ce presente Traittie, doit Demourer et estre Baille au dit Roy d'Engleterre, & a ses Hoirs.
Rex Angliae & suus Primogenitus, renunciabunt expresse omnibus quae, per praesentem Tractatum, non debent Tradi, vel Remanere Regi Angliae, & omnibus Petitionibous quas ipse fecerit Regi Franciae, Et specialiter Nomini & Juri Coronae & Regni Franciae,
Et Homagiom Superioritati, & Dominio Ducatum Normanniae & Turoniae, Comitatum Andegaviae & de Mayne,
Et Superioritati & Homagio Ducatus Britanniae,
Superioriati & Homagio Comitatus & Patriae Flandriae,
Et omnibus aliis Peitionibus quas Rez Angliae Fecit, vel Facere poterit, Regi Franciae, proquacumque causa quae fuerit, ultra illud & illo Excepto quod, per hunc paresentem Tractatum, debet Remanere & Tradi dicto Regi Angliae & Haeredibus suis.

The terms of the treaty were never fulfilled, and in 1369 Edward III denounced it and resumed the royal title of France, but he did not resume his claim to Normandy.  English holdings in Normandy were reduced by 1361 to Saint-Sauveur, which was retaken by the French in 1375, and Normandy ceased to play any important role in the Hundred Years War until 1415.

Henry V (1417-20)

Anne Curry (1994) discusses at length the use of the title by Henry V from 1417 to 1419.

There is no suggestion that Henry V's conquest of Normandy was initially motivated or justified by appeal to the inheritance of William the Conqueror: "there is no specific mention of special rights to the Norman duchy in either parliamentary or concilar documents concerning the first expedition ... There is no unequivocal evidence that Henry sought to stress his ancestral claim to Normandy on the first campaign ... Whether the man in the street or even the English intellectual had given much thought to a specific Norman heritage is equally difficult to fathom."  The title only appears after the second campaign, in 1417, and its meaning is very unclear.

The earliest instance she found in which Henry V called himself duke of Normandy is dated Nov. 24, 1417, and the last being in the summer of 1419.  She cites as a source mss. 26042 in the Bibliothèque nationale,  which seems to consist of Norman enrollments .  Most of the time, however, the titles in the enrollments are abbreviated as "Rex etc"; when they are not, "Henry's style sometimes includes the ducal title, but sometimes it does not" (in particular, "most treaties of surrender name him only as king of France and England"; none of the documents published in Rymer use the ducal style).  When he did use the ducal title, "he used it alongside rather than instead of his French royal title; it is thus difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish between his exercise of authority as duke and as a claimant of the French crown",  especially since "his only real claim to Normandy stemmed from his claim to the French throne". 

Henry V refers very frequently to "ducatus noster Normanniae" (our duchy of Normandy), and does so even after the treaty of Troyes.  Indeed, in the letters appointing Thomas Montagu, earl of Salisbury, as his lieutenant on Nov 13, 1420 "locumtenentem nostrum ducatius nostri Normanniae, ac partium de Mayn, et aliarum partium nobis subjectarum infra regnum Franciae" (Rymer 10:29).  But as Anne Curry says, "The Valois kings had also used the term 'our duchy' even when ther ewas no titular duke", and before 1419 Henry V frequently used the phrase "ducatus regis", the king's duchy. 

What duchy this was, i.e., the ancient duchy of William the Conqueror or simply a duchy that was part of the kingdom of France that Henry V claimed, is also unclear, but the first hypothesis has nothing to support it: "It is not clear what duchy Henry was attempting to recreate ... It is difficult to pinpoint anything in his administration which was redolent of the ancient duchy ... both he and his administrators had a rather feeble knowledge of the Anglo-Norman ducal past." 

Ambiguity and confusion continued after 1420, because article 18 of the treaty of Troyes specified: "quand il avendra que nostredit filz, le Roy Henry, venra à la couronne de France, la duchié de Normendie, et aussi les autres et chascun lieux par lui conquis ou royaume de France, seront soubz la jurisdicion, obeissance et monarchie de ladicte couronne de France."  Thus the parts conquered by Henry V were to be reunited after his accession to the throne of France, but remain a possession of the English crown before then. 

The nature of the possession is made clear in letters patent of Mar 10, 1421 confirming a rent owned by a Parisian college on the marketplaces and mill-houses of Rouen.  The master and students of the college asserted that they had enjoyed this rent "a tempore fundationis dicti collegii in tempus quo, divina favente dextera, Ducatum nostrum Normanniae conquisimus" and Henry V confirmed their right to the rent as it was collected" "ante conquestum nostrum" (Rymer 10:71).  Normandy was his by right of conquest, not by inheritance.  There is similar language in a letter to Pandolphe, bishop of  Coutances, Apr 14, 1421: "nostrum Normanniae Ducatum et alias partes supradictas per Nos, Salvatoris Pacis, Justitiae et Aequitatis Directoris, operante gratia, conquestos", (ibid. 10:101); letters patent "universis et singulis ballivis etc nostris intra Ducatum nostrum Normanniae ac partes Conquestus nostri", 16 Dec 1421, (ibid 10:161); "ducatum nostrum Normanniae aut alia loca conquestae nostrae" (ibid., 10:216); "in tempus quo, divino Nutu, Ducatum nostrum Normanniae et alias partes in Regno Franciae Nobis subjectas, conquisivimus", (ibid., 10:219), etc; when used by someone else the phrase is "ducatus Regis Normanniae", the king's duchy of Normandy.

It's interesting that, although the phrase becomes much rarer under H6 (at least in Rymer), the earl of Warwick's appointment on July 16, 1437 was still as "locumtenentem generalem et gubernatorem totius regni nostri Franciae, ducatus et patriae Normanniae, ac aliorum terrarum et dominiorum nostrorum transmarinorum" (lieutenant general and governor of our whole kingdom of France, duchy and land of Normandy, and of our other lands and dominions beyond the seas).  As Ann Curry says, "one can argue that it was never fully part of Lancastrian royal France, nor was it kept totally separate, nor was it ever integrated with the kingdom of England".  Normandy remained in English hands until 1450.

The Channel Islands during the Hundred Years War

Edward III was referred to as duke of Normandy in homages by Norman vassals in 1356; Henry V sometimes used the title of duke of Normandy in documents relating to recently conquered Normandy from Nov. 1417 to the summer of 1419. 

Neither example has anything to do with the Channel Islands, which remained as they were since 1259, either in fee or administered by a warden or captain appointed by the king.  At no time during the period 1417-1450, when Normandy was in English hands, were the islands annexed to the duchy or administered by its officials. 

In the 14th century, the islanders did state that "they held of their king as of a duke" and that the king of  England had nothing but the status of a duke in the islands ('Dominus Rex Anglie nichil habet in Insula hic nisi statum ducis' (Assize Roll no. 1167, m. 4. r. (1331); 'Come les Isles soient de auncienete parcele de la Duche de Normendie et en tiel manere tiegnent de nostre seignur le Roi come de Duc' the Islanders argued that they need not answer to writs de quo warranto 'pur ce que ce estoit un estatut fait de novel en Engleterre que lient taunt soullemement ceux que tiegnent de nostre Seignur le Roi come tenantz de sa Corone' Petition of 1333, Havet, Cours Royales, 228-9. [cited in John H. Le Patourel 1937, 29 n2.]).  These are statements by the islanders, not by the English king, and they state that the king holds the islands as if he were duke; they do not amount to uses of the style by him.

The fact that the islands were considered both by the French and by the English as distinct from Normandy is underlined by the neutrality they enjoyed in the Hundred Years War, confirmed by a treaty between England and France in 1439 (A Brief description 1826, 110; no source given, however) and by a papal bull of 1483.  This privilege of neutrality was abolished by order in council in 1689.

The 1615 letters patent

The single example in 750 years of an English or British sovereign styling himself duke of Normandy in connection with the islands is in the text of letters patent of Aug 9, 1615.

The letters patent were registered in the registers of the Privy Council and in the Royal Court of Jersey.  They were issued to settle a dispute that had arisen between the captain of the island, Sir John Peyton (appointed by the king), and the new bailiff, John Herault, who had secured patents of reversion for the office from the king.  Peyton refused to accept Herault as the new bailiff, because his own letters patent of appointment gave him the right to choose the bailiff.  Herault claimed that the right to choose the bailiff belonged to the king.  The dispute was resolved in the predictable way, that the king reserved for himself the right to choose the bailiff, and described the clause in Peyton's letters patent as an error.  (See Le Quesne 1856 and Eagleston 1949 for more details on the dispute).

The letters patent open with the usual style of the sovereign, without any mention of Normandy. (nor does the date make any reference to anything but the reigns of France, England, Scotland, and Ireland).   The text contains four occurrences of the phrase "us, our heirs and successors", but only the last is of the form "us, our heires and successors, Kinges of this realme of Englaunde, and Dukes of Normandie".

This document was drafted in the Privy Council after a report by two privy councellors on an important dispute, so it cannot be dismissed easily.  Yet it remains the single known use of the phrase in relation to the Channel Islands, in a document whose intitulatio does not contain the ducal title.

According to Paul Matthews (1999), and in spite of the letters patent's prescription that future appointments of royal officials in Jersey by made "in the name and by the authoritie of us, our heires and successors, Kinges of this realme of Englaunde, and Dukes of Normandie, and not otherwise", there is not a single instance of such letters patent using the ducal title.  The oaths taken by these officers have never contained it.  No legislation relating to Jersey contains it.  None of the various writers on Jersey law or customs ever mention it (except in historical references to the dukes before 1204).  Only a handful of instances in local court documents of Jersey for the period 1615-17 (no doubt due to the letters patent of 1615) can be found.

It should also be noted that the letters patent of Elisabeth I granting the island of Sark to Helier de Carteret in 1565 use the phrase "our Island of Sark, situate near our Islands of Guernsey and Jersey, within our Duchy of Normandy" (it is not clear if Guernsey and Jersey were seen as part of the duchy of Normandy, or Sark itself, or both).  This, of course, is not the same as using the title of duke of Normandy, just as the phrase "in our county of X" does not mean that the Queen claims to be countess of X.  

The status of the Islands since 1259

The islands are self-governing dependencies of the British crown.  The Queen, as successor to the dukes of Normandy, is sovereign of the islands, and legislates (i.e., gives royal sanction to the laws passed by the islands's legislative bodies) through orders in council.  She has no special title in respect of the islands.

Up to and including 1260, the king of England's tenure of the islands was as a vassal of the king of France.  It is not possible to say with any certainty whether they continued to do homage in respect of the islands and, if so, up to what date.  The kings of France might arbuably have renounced their suzerainty over the islands by the treaty of Bretigny in 1360, but that treaty was denounced.

The islands have never been annexed or united to England or the United Kingdom.  They are not represented in the Parliament of the UK, and Parliament's laws do not apply unless it is explicitly said so.  They are not part of the European Union.

As a curiosity, see the judgement of the International Court of Justice (1953) in the dispute between France and the UK over the Minquiers and Ecreho(u)s.


The title of duke of Normandy was renounced by Henry III in 1259, and removed from his seal and official styles in 1260.  It was never again used in the official styles of his successors, except in a few homages by Norman vassals to Edward III in 1356, and by Henry V, occasionally, in documents concerning occupied Normandy between 1417 and 1419. Furthermore, in both instances the use of the title was indistinguishable from the English king's claim to the throne of France, and hence was unrelated to the title held until 1259.

In over 750 years, it was used once by an English sovereign to describe himself in his relation to the Channel islands.

There is no trace of its use for the past 390 years.

Loyal subjects in the Islands, just as those in Lancashire, may well toast their Queen as "Duke".  But that does not make her one, any more than the people of Vanuatu who worship the duke of Edinburgh as a god make him one.


The major primary source is
  • Thomas Rymer: Foedera, conventiones, litterae, et cujuscunque generis acta publica, inter Reges Angliae et alios quosvis imperatores, reges, pontifices ...
    London: 1704-35, A. & J. Churchill, Tomson (20 vols).
    3d edition (documents from 1066 to 1383): London, 1816-69, Commissioner on Public Records (4 vols).
Other sources: