Files from the National Archives (UK) on Royal Styles and Titles

This page provides an introduction and links to transcriptions of files from The National Archives (UK) concerning British royal styles and titles.

See also the page on styles and titles in the British royal family and its documentary appendix.


The sources

The files shown here were produced by two government offices: the Home Office (HO) and the Lord Chancellor's Office (LCO).

Questions of styles and titles are formally settled by the British sovereign through official documents, either letters patent or warrants.  Letters patent under the great seal, themselves, necessitate the issue of a warrant under the royal sign manual, which authorizes the chancellor to seal the letters patent.  The production of these documents necessarily involves these two offices:

  • the Home Office, because the Home Secretary, as a residual duty from the time when he was the king's secretary, prepares the warrants for signature by the sovereign
  • the Lord Chancellor, who keeps the seals, is responsible for sealing letters patent.
Furthermore, even if the documents themselves are expressions of the sovereign's will, they are drafted by officials in the Home Office and the Lord Chancellor's office.  The Home Office, again in its residual role as the king's secretary, also forwards petitions for royal licences to change arms or to bear foreign titles to the Sovereign for approval.

There are of course other archives of interest on this topic, primarily the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle, the records of the College of Arms in London (where letters patent, warrants, and royal licences are recorded).  But both repositories are open only by arrangement, whereas the National Archives are free and open to all, photography of documents is permitted, and the catalogue is easy to use. This explains why I began with the more easily accessible documents (aside from the fact that I live 3950 miles from these documents.)

The documents

The documents are identified by their reference number, which takes the general form <department> <series>/<subseries>/<piece>.  (there may or may not be a subseries). The departments are, e.g., FO (Foreign Office), HO (Home Office), LCO (Lord Chancellor's Office). 

The relevant series in HO are

  • HO 45 and 144, which contain the registered papers from the Home Office correspondence. 
  • HO 38 contains the warrant books, where copies of warrants prepared by the Home Office are kept in chronological order
  • HO 124 is a small series (67 pieces) containing the warrants for royal consents to marriages under the Royal Marriage Act from 1791 to 1980 (see the list here)
  • HO 125 is another small series (18 pieces) containing warrants and letters patent on royal styles and titles
  • HO 286 is the "Honours" series created ca. 1950, and contains some documents
  • HO 290 is the "Royal Matters" series, also beginning ca. 1950, much of it still closed to the public.
HO 38, 124, and 125 contain only the texts of letters patent and warrants.  The relevant documents have been transcribed in my collection of documents on royal styles and titles. If one wants to know more about the circumstances surrounding their drafting, one needs to consult the registered papers and the special series.

The relevant series in LCO are

  • LCO 2: registered files of the Lord Chancellor's Office (particularly those of the Crown Office in Chancery relating to proclamations: 7300 and 7301)
  • LCO 6: registered files of the Crown Office (particularly files relating to preparation for HM Sign Manual of warrants for the issue of letters patent under the great seal)

The contents of a piece

The pieces I have consulted in HO 45 and 144 typically consist of one or more files.  The first file is "generated" by a letter received by the Home Office, or else by an internal document such as a memorandum.  Further correspondence prompted by the initial letter (with officials in other departments, or with outside parties) are added to the file.  Copies of outgoing letters are kept as carbon copies on thin paper (so-called "flimsies") and they are often unsigned.  Incoming letters are either originals or signed carbon copies.  Occasionally there are other documents such as news clippings, photographs or photocopies, etc.  All items in a file are kept together by strings.

The cover of the file bears a 5 or 6-digit serial number under which the original paper was registered in the central registry, the general topic (e.g., "honours") and particular topic (e.g., "style and designation of the son of Prince Arthur of Connaught"), a summary of the original paper.  There follow the "minutes", a sequence of  mostly handwritten (occasionally typed) remarks by various Home Office employees, signed with their initials and a date.  

Further correspondance related to the topic might be included in a separate file, which will bear the same serial number as the first file (e.g. 435,256) followed by a dash and a number (e.g., 435,256/2).  Within the piece, reference might be made to an earlier file under the same serial number as "-/2" (this would refer to the 2nd file in the same piece).  Frequently, other registered files are referenced in the minutes or memos; where possible, I have tried to indicate between brackets the modern reference (the catalogue allows to search by "former reference").

It took me a while to realize the importance of the minutes, because they contain the internal deliberations of the Home Office.  The problem is that they are handwritten, and signed with initials only.  Thus, I have not systematically copied them, something I now regret.  I have also not copied every single document, because they were not all of equal interest.

Cast of Characters

I have tried to identify as many of the civil servants (Home Office, Chancellor's Office, and other ministries) and courtiers (at Buckingham Palace) who appear as senders or recipients of letters and memos, or as authors of minutes.  The list is here, drawn mainly from the Oxford DNB and the notices of appointments and obituaries in the Times.  The Home Secretary sometimes appears in the minutes (his initials preceded by "SoS").  Mostly the officials are his private secretaries (principal or assistant), the permanent under-secretary, and various assistant under-secretaries and assistant secretaries. 

Several figures stand out: Eagleston, Boyd, Austin Strutt, Ellis, people with obvious interest and knowledge in matters of peerage, style, precedence, and royal succession (Boyd, Eagleston, and Strutt served as "ceremonial secretary" or registrar of the baronetage, an official indication of their expertise within the Home Office).  They were called upon for advice in many matters, such as the series of questions raised by foreign titles (royal and otherwise) during World War I, the delicate problem of the Duke and  Duchess of Windsor's styles, etc.  Often the issues were raised by outside events or outside parties (such as the notorious Edward Iwi), but sometimes these civil servants brought them up.  These individuals would have enjoyed some of the debates on, and their expertise would certainly have been fully appreciated!  I suppose the Home Office and Lord Chancellor's Office have such experts today...

Conversely, one does not come away from reading these files with high regard for successive Garters' competence in these matters. Sir Alfred Scott-Gatty in particular managed to provide confused or erroneous information.

The items

Here are the files I have transcribed so far. Note that I have not transcribed every single document in each file.  Perhaps I will be able to add more files in the future.

Succession Questions

  • Royal Marriages Act:
      HO 45/25238: Royal Marriages Act 1772: general papers. 1947-52.
    • HO 45/8927: Consent of HM to marriage of prince royal of Hanover. 1842
    • HO 45/9841/B10982: opinion of law officers.
    • LCO 2/3371A: Marriage of Prince George William, son of the Duke of Brunswick, with Princess Sophia, Dowager Princess of Hesse. Request for The King's consent.
    • LCO 2/6352: Royal Marriages Act 1772: notes by the Lord Chancellor on proposed amendments
    • HO 44/964/B17152: Royal consent to the Marriage of H.R.H. Prince Adolphus of Teck; Descendants of the marriage of Princess Mary and the Duke of Teck do not require the Royal Consent to marry
  • HO 45/23059: succession to the throne, case of two sisters; question of posthumous issue (1930-49)

Styles and Titles in the Royal Family

See the page on styles of the members of the royal family.
  • Name of the Royal Family
    • HO 290/72: Royal Family: possible use of surname Mountbatten-Windsor
    • LCO 2/8111: Surname of the Royal Family: declaration by the Queen that she and her children shall be styled and known as the House and Family of Windsor
  • Title of Prince/HRH (general)
    • HO 144/44/86252: memorandum by the Lord Chancellor on the title of Prince (1878; old paper found in the course of preparing HO 286/50)
    • HO 286/50: The title of Prince (memo written by Sir Austin Strutt in 1954 for the S. of S.; it also appears in LCO 6/3677)
  • Title of Prince/HRH (specific cases)
    • HO 45/10723/250449: Style and Designation of the Children of H.R.H. the Duke of Brunswick (1914)
    • HO 45/18980: Prince Alastair of Connaught (1917)
    • LCO 2/7299: Titles or styles of the descendants of Queen Victoria 1905-1917
    • HO 144/1476/333045: status of Princess Mary of Cambridge (1917)
    • LCO 6/3562: HRH Duke of Windsor 1937
    • LCO 6/3559: Title of Royal Highness, Lt Sir Philip Mountbatten
    • LCO 6/3676: Title of Royal Highness, children of HRH Princess Elizabeth by her marriage to the Duke of Edinburgh
    • LCO 6/3677: Title of Prince, HRH the Duke of Edinburgh
  • HO 290/127: royal matters, title royal: duke of Lancaster
  • Tecks and Battenbergs
    • LCO 2/7300: Teck and Battenberg relinquishment of foreign titles, assumptions of surnames, grants of British titles
    • HO 144/22945: Titles, styles and precedence of members of the Royal Family: relinquishment of German titles in favour of British titles; adoption of surnames Mountbatten and Windsor; principles of entitlement to the style `Royal Highness' and the case of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (1917-48)
    • HO 144/594/B16148: Nationality and Naturalisation: Battenberg, Louis Alexander, Prince of. Certificate B321 issued 18 January 1909
    • HO 45/870/159961: Nationality: Children of Prince Louis and Prince Henry of Battenberg. 1907-9
    • HO 44/10433/B1658: Style and Title of the Duke of Teck

Foreign Titles in the UK

See the page on foreign titles in Britain.
  • HO 45/13725: list of royal licences granted for foreign titles (1922-30)
  • HO 45/25906: Status of Papal decorations in this country; Royal warrant providing for eventual abolition of use of foreign titles by British subjects (1929-51)
  • HO 45/15677: Naturalised British subjects: use of foreign titles; memoranda (1924-32)
  • HO 45/10964/383538: Revocation of Royal Licences of all German and Austrian titles held by British subjects (1919-20)
  • HO 144/3344: Nationality and Naturalisation: de Crevoisier de Vomecourt, Adrienne Marie Louise, from France. Resident in Hove. Certificate B.136 issued 11 April 1917.
  • HO 144/962/B11067: Nationality and Naturalisation: Von Erlanger, Emile Beaumont, from Germany. Resident in London. Certificate A6792 issued 31 July 1891. Alien holding a foreign title must be required to obtain Royal licence for its use, or drop the title on naturalisation, 1918.
  • HO 45/10192/358070: : John Frederick Foley, Baron de Rutsen - Royal Licence to bear and use arms. 1918
  • HO 45/19622: Honours: Other Matters: Baron of the Duchy of Saxe Coburg and Gotha: authority to use title; granted. (Boxall)
  • HO 45/8817: French title. Viscount de Visnie: use in UK refused to the de Visnie family 1844-6

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François Velde

Last modified: Sep 12, 2009