3 January 2021

Usage

The Catholic Herald refers to someone they call "Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks". 

This is incorrect. "Lord John Smith" means that John Smith is a younger son of either a Duke or a Marquis. 

If a plain Mr John Smith is made a Life Peer or even a hereditary baron, he is Lord Smith. Nothing comes between the 'Lord' and the 'Smith'.

Years ago, a politician called George Brown, being ennobled, wanted to be called 'Lord George Brown'. The authorities explained why this was impossible. A solution was discovered: he changed his surname to George-Brown, thus becoming 'Mr George George-Brown'. So, as a Life Peer, he was entitled to be called 'Lord George-Brown'. I'm afraid everybody laughed.

Lord Peter Wimsey, on the other hand, is the younger son of a Duke. So, if you were to hear him being addressed as 'Lord Wimsey', you could be pretty sure that the speaker came from some unimaginably mystical and mythical land distant far even beyond the Indies.

Rabbi Lord Sacks is a Life Peer. His father was not a Duke or a Marquis.

Currently, our constitution works rather well because retired and respected magnates ... Service chiefs ... Union chiefs ... Industrial chiefs ... Archbishops ... retired senior Cabinet Ministers ... top judges etc. etc. go into the House of Lords as Life Peers where their experience can be of service. (Rumour has it that Cormac Murphy O'Connor was very miffed when he was offered a Life Peerage only to be told by the Vatican that he was prevented by Canon Law from accepting.)

Chief Rabbis, laudably, come into this category.

Sacks ... a man of considerable distinction of whom we are very proud  ... could be referred to as

Rabbi Lord Sacks

Lord Sacks

Rabbi Sacks

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks

Jonathan Sacks

Sacks

Jonathan Lord Sacks ... and probably quite a lot of other things.

What a lot of possibilities! So why is it that people so instinctively go for the one formula which is wrong ... wrong, simply because it conveys misinformation?

 

13 comments:

PDLeck said...

They get it wrong because the meejah believe us plebs are thick. I have corresponded with 'The Times' and 'The Guardian' on several occasions to ask them why they do not do things correctly. Their consistent replies have been that people would not understand if they did it correctly. Whenever I have followed that up by enquiring how they expect people to understand when it is done incorrectly I am alsways ignored. I can only see things getting worse. What frustrates me the most is that I find, as a teacher, students are more inclined to believe the 'meejah' than an expert in the field also trained in pedagogy.

Scribe said...

Dear Father, I, too, was miffed when Cardinal Murphy O'Connor did not enter the House of Lords. I didn't know that the Vatican had told him not to; I thought it was just another eccentric quirk of His Eminence. To have a Catholic Archbishop (and a cardinal, to boot), sitting in the House of Lords would have been a wonderful thing for the Catholic religion in these isles. I would have told the 'Vatican' to mind its own business.

pdm said...

I've never quite understood why the Vatican didn't let the cardinal take his peerage. After all, in pre-Reformation times the House of Lords was largely composed of bishops (and abbots). Or is there something in Vatican II that ruled out his acceptance of it?

The main problem with British titles is that the whole system is topsy-turvy. For example, the title 'Lord Justice' is still (just about) a sign of genuine excellence, but the title 'Lord', where that indicates a life barony, now puts one amongst some, frankly, rather less than first-rate company.

On a slightly different point: I tend to think that the hereditary aristocracy started to lose their sense of purpose and self-confidence when the Church of England started to renege on the moral law 90 years ago: the aristocrats were the first to go in for habitual multiple marriage, and thus they slowly lost their sense of purpose--to set standards--and so, without really knowing why, they gradually came to feel their privileges to be unjustifiable. I reckon the aristocracy could have retained an important social role even under high taxation if only they'd preserved their adherence (at least in principle, if not necessarily always in practice) to the natural law.

Peirce said...

Rabbi Jonathan Lord Sacks?

Mark Elliott Smith said...

Sir Jonathan Henry Sacks, Baron Sacks of Aldgate, was indeed a man of great distinction and humanity.

motuproprio said...

The late Rabbi Lord Sacks

Josephus Muris Saliensis said...

To reply to your question, because they have absorbed decades of egalitarianism from our socialist bishops. Those who demand absurd and non-existent usages such as Cardinal Vincent Nichols, or Archbishop John. They are afraid of, and in denial of, hierarchy, as they are of personal rank and their own responsibility brought by it, and ultimately, one must assume, of God, the true fount of all honour.

Arthur Gallagher said...

Two things;

In Britain and Ireland, it is a Marquess. I cannot say what a marquis is.

Now, "Scribe", it IS the Vatican's business. Not because of the Pope's ultimate position as head of the Church, but because the Cardinal is the Pope's man- his vassal. So long as he is a Cardinal. And then, there is the Canon law- so long as he is a cleric, he cannot enter into politics. Besides, why should he lower himself, to sit among a raft of life peers?

Sue Sims said...

Arthur Gallagher: you're correct re. the spelling of Marquess/Marquis, but I'm not sure it's worth arguing about. Queen Victoria spelt it the French way, after all.

One should add to Fr H's original post that the younger son of an earl, as well as the other two ranks mentioned, bears the courtesy title of 'Lord'.

PDLeck said...

@Arthur Gallagher: Marquis is of course the French for marquess. According to Debrett's (1999, pp. 38-9) some newspapers use the French spelling and some Scottish marquesses prefer the spelling, 'marquis', in memory of the 'Auld Alliance'.

Ref: Debrett's Peerage Limited (1999) Debrett's Correct Form: Standard Styles of Addrees for Everyone from Peers to Presidents. London: Headline Book Publishing (ISBN-13: 978-0747223306)

vetusta ecclesia said...



The Heralds have lost the George-Brown battle: Garel-Jones,Spencer-Churchill, Alanbrooke and a good few others.I too have valiantly and unsuccessfully fought this battle on programmes, seating plans etc

Little Black Sambo said...

I half remember an enquiry to "Genuflex", Peter Simple's adviser on such matters, as to how a particular person should be addressed, in view of certain distinctions conferred, and the answer was "The Reverend Detective Sergeant - something or other" and Genuflex added, "If he should make a pilgrimage to Mecca, let me know".

vetusta ecclesia said...



Actually, Sue Sims, while the daughters of an Earl are Lady the younger sons are the Hon, as the children of Viscounts and Barons.