"Your Excellency"

  1. What is the origin of this title?

  2. Who is entitled to be addressed by this title?

  3. Is it proper to address Arafat as “His Excellency”?

It is purely a title of respect, called for by etiquette, and insofar as I can find out not legally required in any jurisdiction whatsoever. I don’t know its origins, and will leave that question for others.

It appears to be appropriately used of:
[li]Heads of State not referenced by another formal title (as Her Majesty the Queen, Mr. President, etc.)[/li][li]Persons in viceregal status, notably Governors-General of Commonwealth nations preserving the British Crown as their official Head of State[/li][li]High Commissioners, in the Commonwealth[/li][li]Governors[/li][li]Ambassadors[/li][li]Catholic Archbishops and Bishops, interchangeably with “Your Grace” – but apparently not Anglican or Orthodox archbishops and bishops[/li][/ol]

So it would depend on whether you personally or officially deemed Mr. Arafat to be a “head of state” for the Palestinian nation whether you applied the term to him. (Note that this would be true across the board – before the late war in Afghanistan, was the legal head of the Northern Alliance which held 15% or so of Afghanistan a proper “head of state” deserving the title?)

I just discovered a point 7 for my list – Ministers of State in Saudi-Arabia who are not entitled to “Royal Highness” for their status as part of the Ibn-Saud royal house take “Your Excellency.”

And, LOL, if you should ever end up on the planet Arrakis, Marquises, Counts, and Viscounts and their wives are to be addressed as “Your Excellency” :cool:

Thankyou Polycarp

Well, I’m not 100% sure iof what you meant about Anglican archbishops, but I wrote a letter a couple of years back to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the read in several online resources that the proper form of address was: “His Grace, the Rt. Rev. George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury” and that the letter should open with “Your Grace,” or “Your Excellency,” (pointless note: George Carey is no longer Archbishop of Canterbury). Maybe this applies just to the Archbishop of Canterbury given his primus inter pares status?

Nitpick for clarification: George Carey is, gratia Deo, now retired from his primatial see, and Rowan Williams (whose name on SDMB should bring RTFirefly running) is now the Archbishop of Canterbury.

British Anglican bishops and archbishops do indeed take “Your Grace” as the proper salutation. What I meant by that line, and I see now how unclear it was, is that “Your Excellency” and “Your Grace” are interchangeably used as salutations for Catholic archbishops and bishops, but “Your Excellency” is not appropriate for Anglican bishops. yBeayf or somebody will have to address the question of the proper salutation for Orthodox bishops; all I can say is “Hey, Bish!” is slightly too breezy! :wink:

While we’re on the subject, the proper degree of “Reverendness” for bishops and related critters might be worth listing:

“The Reverend A-- B–” is appropriate for all Protestant pastors, elders, and similar clergy, for priests in the Anglican, Orthodox, and Catholic churches, and for Methodist bishops, who are elders in an episcopal office, not separately ordained to the position. (I do not know what is correct for a Lutheran bishop; one of our Lutherans will have to fill that in.)

“The Venerable A-- B–” is the proper form to address a letter to an Archdeacon, should you ever have occasion to write to one.

“The Very Reverend A-- B–” is used for writing to Deans in the ecclesiastical sense. This will be the senior clergyman of a cathedral or of a deanery or district (being a subdivision of a diocese).

“The Right Reverend A-- B–” is used for Anglican bishops only.

“The Most Reverend A-- B–” is the form used for Archbishops in all churches that have them, and for all Catholic bishops. The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the U.S.A. also are addressed in this form, since they are functioning as archbishops but not so titled.

I believe that “His Eminence A–, Cardinal B–” is the only proper form for writing to Cardinals, though I welcome correction from a Catholic who happens to know otherwise.

OED says that it goes back in English to ca.1325. It is more definitely found in a 1532 cite.

Almost certainly from Latin excellentia=superiority, excellence. The earlier useage probably meant ‘high rank’ while the 1532 cite was definitely as a title of honor.

In the United Church of Canada, if the Moderator is ordained clergy (he/she doesn’t have to be), he/she is “Right Reverend…”. Past moderators, if ordained, are “Very Reverend…”. See

During his time as President of the International Olympic Committee, Juan Antonio
Samaranch was always referred to as “His Excellency.” The current President of the IOC, Jacques Rogge, does not use this title.

(I personally think the use of the title speaks volumes about the unjustified sense of self-importance possessed by Juan Antonio Samaranch. The fact that others played along with the charade leads me to other conclusions, which do not belong in GQ.)

That’s because Samaranch was an ambassador, which meets requirement #5 of Polycarp’s post. Of course, he’s still pompous because I believe that the protocol isn’t extended for your whole freakin’ lifetime… because he was a diplomat under FRANCISCO FRANCO!

Somebody once told me that Samaranch is a titled nobleman. They get the “Your Excellency”, too.

Emperors are “Your Imperial Majesty”.
Kings are “Your Majesty”.

Their progeny are
Imperial Highness,
Royal Highness,
Serene Highness,
depending on which throne, and how closely they are related.

In Britain, dukes are “Your Grace”, other nobles are “Your Lordship”.

On the continent, most nobles are “Your Excellency”.

The Governor of Virginia is formally referred to as “His Excellency, the Governor of Virginia/the Commonwealth.” This is usually done when he is invited to speak before the Legislature or when he is introduced for his State of the Commonwealth address.

And in checking to see if my memory was correct, it appears that New Hampshire, Massachussetts and South Carolina have written into their laws that the Governor is to use Excellency as a title. Other states use it merely as a courtesy (to the extent they use it at all.)

Sounds like something you’d hear from “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Journey” :wink:

Just for further clarification, it should be noted that as of today (7/21/04) Franco remains dead. :wink:

Oh, sure, Polycarp, take all the easy stuff. Every style guide tells you haw to address a letter to those people, but what do I say if I meet an Archdeacon, and am not properly introduced? Do I say, “Thank you, Archdeacon Luxury-Yacht, for that insightful sermon on the theological significance of pickled beets. I never thought of it that way before,” or do I say, “Pardon me, Your Venerability, which way to the john?”

Dear Mr. Smithee,

The most efficacious way to resolve your nice little protocol problem is to go to the guide to Forms of Address published for your convenience by the Protocol Office of Her Majesty’s Government of Saskatchewan. Therein you shall find more forms of address than you ever thought possible.

The Guide addresses your specific inquiry at p. 13, viz.:

If I can be of any further assistance, I remain, dear Sir,
Your humble servant,

N. Piper, Esq.

Orthodox Archbishops, Bishops and Metropolitans are addressed as Your Eminence or Your Grace (I am Greek Orthodox).

Only if you’re a grandee, which Samaranch, although a marqués, isn’t.

Actually, Samaranch only served as an ambassador when Franco was still dead. His appointment as ambassador to the Soviet Union, which marked the reopening of diplomatic relations between the two countries, was part of the move to normalize Spain’s relations with the rest of the world in the post-Franco period. The (extensive) evidence for his support for Franco relates to what he had been doing before then.

In the United States, no set form has found acceptance. In practice, I think I’d be likely to hear something like “Bishop John.” (Of course, we’ve been calling them bishops for rather a short time, so this may be an interim period of confusion. Or, alternatively, a practice developed when Americans aren’t likely to take titles seriously.) The other most pertinent context would be Sweden, which has had Lutheran bishops since the Reformation; I don’t know what the practice is there.