French Usages of Styles in Foreign Correspondence


The source of this information is Jean Rousset de Missy: Cérémonial diplomatique des Cours de l'Europe (The Hague, 1739), which forms vols. 4 and 5 of the supplement to Dumont's Corps Diplomatique. Parts of it are drawn from a manuscript by Sainctot Père, who was introducteur des ambassadeurs under Louis XIV. Indeed, the listing of styles used by Louis XIV below seems to date from the 1670s or early 1680s (the future James II is listed as "duke of York").

Styles used by the King

The exact manner in which a letter sent by Louis XIV to anyone was a matter of considerable care. There were several concerns: the subscription on the enveloppe, addressing the letter; the first line, where the correspondent was directly addressed; and the style used in the body of the letter to refer to the person (either an ordinary vous, 2nd person plural, or an indirect form of address such as your highness or your excellency). Even the amount of blank space between the first line of the letter and its body was subject to strict specifications.

The French king styled as "Frère" (brother), with or without the style of "Majesty" (indicated by the letter M):

  • Emperor (M)
  • king of Spain
  • the Infante of Spain, Don Juan of Austria
  • king of Hungary (M)
  • duke of Savoy
  • duke of Lorraine
  • Elector of Brandenburg (since 1656)
  • Elector of Saxony (since 1664)
  • Elector of Bavaria (since 1657)
  • Elector Palatine (since 1657)
  • Elector of Hanover
  • Elector of Cologne (since 1650s)
  • king of Poland
  • king of Denmark
  • king of Sweden (M)
  • king of Great Britain (M)
  • duke of York
  • king of Portugal (M)
The king styled as "cousin":
  • Roman dukes and princes
  • dukes of Mantua, Parma, Modena, Guastalla, Mirandola, and their agnates
  • princes and princesses of the house of Savoy
  • prince of Monaco
  • dukes and grandees of Spain
  • English dukes
  • Electors of Trier, Mainz
  • German princes
  • Austrian Archdukes
  • princes of the house of Lorraine
  • duke of Curland
  • Grand Master of the Order of Saint John
  • some cardinals (based on their family)
Among his own subjects, the king styled as "cousin":
  • princes of the blood
  • dukes-peers
  • maréchaux de France
  • Grand Maître de l'artillerie
  • Amiral de France
  • princes de La Tour d'Auvergne, Rohan, La Rochefoucauld, Albret, Foix, La Trémoïlle

Styles used by the Princes of the blood

Louis XIV was particular about the styles used by his family when addressing foreign potentates.

  • Pope: votre sainteté
  • Pope's nephew: votre Excellence
  • cardinals: votre Eminence (cardinals who were members of sovereign houses, or the houses of Savoy, Medici, Este, were styled votre Altesse)
  • papal nuncio: seigneurie illustrissime
  • Republic of Venice: as they refused to style the French princes as Altesse, the latter were forbidden to answer
  • viceroy of Sicily: votre Excellence
  • dukes of Tuscany, Mantua, Modena, Parma: votre Altesse
    (princes of these houses: no style)
  • Grand Master of Saint John: votre Altesse
  • Roman dukes: votre Excellence
  • Emperor: Sire, votre Majesté impériale
    (the princes signed: très-humble et très-obéissant serviteur; for all other sovereigns, they signed très affectionné serviteur)
  • king of Spain, king of England: Sire, votre Majesté
  • king of Portugal: no precedent was known
  • king of Poland, king of Denmark: Monsieur, votre Majesté
  • Austrian archdukes: Monsieur mon cousin, votre Altesse
  • Electors: votre Altesse
    (princes of their houses: no style)
  • dukes of Lorraine, Württemberg, Brunswick, Mecklemburg, landgrave of Hesse: votre Altesse
  • bishop of Munster: votre Altesse
  • bishops of Strasburg, Speier, Basel: votre Excellence
  • princes of the Empire: votre Excellence
  • generals of the Empire: votre Excellence
  • grandees of Spain, Portugal: votre Excellence

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François Velde

Last modified: Jun 01, 2002