This morning I began thinking about hereditary titles when the British Royal family grew by one. I heard more than one talking head saying that it was so 21st Century for the line of succession to have been changed so that daughters of Kings and male heirs would inherit ahead of sons born after them. I think it is wonderful that
Prince William the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have another son and that all are well. As an American I hadn’t noticed that William’s title had changed when he married. I guess a married man cannot be a prince. Or maybe it is just gracious, Kate as a non-noble can never be a princess.
But, as ever, I am totally bemused by the continuance of the whole nobility concept in the Western Society in this century.
Ascribed and Achieved
Inheritance of status versus achievement of status is probably the most basic distinction in types of status in society. Inheriting status has all the pitfalls of inheriting money. It goes to the kids, but the kids may be undeserving of the perks that wealth brings; they may be idiots just as royals can have mental illness as did King George III. Getting rid of Royalty, as did the French and Russians, does not get rid of ascribed status. Any time concentration of wealth is allowed within families, the status accorded those who are wealthy becomes ascribed for their children.
Achieved status accumulates within a person’s lifetime due to personal achievements such as education, individual wealth, heroic deeds, business or social achievements, and the like. Respect may be offered to a person with achieved status, but just because you are a CEO, or a pastor does mean that you will be accorded respect.
Some people with ascribed status also have achieved status.
Titular (Title without Authority)
Titular refers to titles that have no authority. Few lordts and ladies have any authority given to them just because they carry a title. The phrase, “in name only” describes a titular situation.
Title of Nobility Clause (U.S. Constitution)
The U.S. has a thing about not allowing nobility to ever arise in this country. The founders had quite enough of birth being the limiting factor on how an individual can succeed and move about in society.
The Title of Nobility Clause is a provision in Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution. It is also called the Emoluments Clause. The framers of the U.S. Constitution were quite serious about setting up a Representative Democracy in which ascribed titles of nobility would have no place and be prohibited from developing.
No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.
Article I, section 10, clause 1 also called the Contract Clause of the Constitution reinforces the Title of Nobility Clause for the States. The framers were quite serious about the whole no nobility thing.
No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.
Titles of Gender Identity
The type of title I think about most often is that of a gender identifying title. Why the deuce is there any reason to have someone’s gender or marital status embedded within a title? Mr., Mrs., and Miss are so 19th Century, anyway they are in my view. But then I kept my given family name when I married and I tend to be an iconoclast. Ms. is okay I guess, but why is it necessary to have male and female titles. I know of no one using Mx.as has been introduced to replace both Mr. and Ms., but what is the point in that? Why use a title at all?
Maybe I am missing something, but this whole title thing seems like something out of the far past.