Wednesday 22 August 2007

Loyal Toasts - the heart and stomach of a lord but not a duke

As a traditionalist Young Fogey is a firm believer in toasts -- dinners can never have too many. Loyal Toasting traditions are of particular interest. For example, the lawyers of Lincoln's Inn and the Officers of the Royal Navy famously remain seated during the Loyal Toast (although, as a sign of their distinction, officers of the Royal Yacht stand). Swan Uppers toast "The Queen, Seigneur of the Swans" whilst standing with skill in their boats on the river. I often hear mention of the regional loyal toasts of the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, two of these enjoyable and romantic toasts, both of which ascribe masculine qualities to Our Sovereign Lady, have little basis in fact.

"The Queen, The Duke of Lancaster" is the traditional Loyal Toast of the ancient County of Lancaster and is still heard in Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside. Unfortunately, as the title of "Duke of Lancaster" merged with the Crown in 1413, this charming toast is a little bit of nonsense. The Queen may hold and receive income from the physical Duchy of Lancaster but she is certainly not the Duke of Lancaster (a fact which has escaped the editors of Royal Insight); there has been no such person for six centuries.

It is impossible for the Sovereign to hold a peerage title. The absurdity arising from such a scenario would have included the right of the Sovereign to a seat in the Lords (before the recent removal of most of the hereditary peers); furthermore, at his/her coronation, the Sovereign if he/she were the senior peer of that degree, would be required to swear allegiance to his/herself and place his/her own hand between his/her own hands (!).

A peerage ceases to exist when it merges with the Crown. In 1936 the Duke of York became King George VI and his peerage merged with the Crown. Similarly, the title of Duke of Lancaster, which had been created in 1362, merged with the Crown in September 1399 upon Henry IV's accession. The fact that the dukedom merged with the Crown is substantiated by the fact that it was necessary to create a Charter in October 1399 to confer the title of "Duke of Lancaster" on  Henry IV's son. However this title similarly merged with the Crown upon Henry V's accession to the throne in 1413. The title was never recreated. Furthermore, were there a Dukedom and were The Queen able to hold a peerage title Her Majesty would be "Duchess" rather than "Duke" of Lancaster. Possession of a duchy does not automatically make one a duke.

The Queen is known as "Duke of Normandy" in Jersey, where the historic, and unofficial, Loyal Toast is to "La Reine, notre Duc" or "The Queen, Our Duke" (tradition dictates that this is only used when the gathering is composed entirely of Islanders). Again, as appealing as this tradition is, it also lacks any legal support as the Queen is not the Duke of Normandy (another fact that has been missed by Royal Insight). Henry III relinquished the title to Louis IX on 20 May 1259 as part of the the Treaty of Paris. The Channel Islanders (and other monarchists) may like the title but it has been extinct for 7.5 centuries.

Fortunately, for historical reasons, The Queen remains "Lord of Mann" and thus the Loyal Toast on the Isle of Mann "The Queen, Lord of Mann" is true, accurate and quite wonderful.


trinitylaw said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
trinitylaw said...

Rafe, your logic as to why the Sovereign cannot be a peer while Sovereign is impeccable, but rather puzzlingly the official Royal Family website states that "The Queen also has other titles by which she is known in different parts of Britain. In the Isle of Man, she is Lord of Man; in the Channel Islands, she is Duke of Normandy; and in the land of the Duchy of Lancaster, she is Duke of Lancaster." (see

Can you throw any further light on this issue?

(Presumably, by virtue of her marriage, she also remains Duchess of Edinburgh, although this a title by marriage rather than a peerage in her own right)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this interesting post! I've long wondered about precisely these things, it's been quite confusing to read what they say on Royal Insight and also in official texts on the website of the British monarchy. Have you ever sent them email or regular mail to ask them to correct these things? That would be a good idea, and interesting to see what their answer would be.

Brian said...

I am just wondering if the Royal Family website states these titles, as de facto titles, seeing that; that is what the local people refer to Her Majesty. The way I read it, they are not claiming they are de jure titles said...

Dear Cato, Sofia and Brian,

Thank you for your posts. Unfortunately the official web page is wrong on this matter as is "Royal Insight", the on-line magazine of Although one is inclined to accept the official web page as a definitive and reliable source one must realise that material is probably uploaded here without the same degree of scrutiny that one would expect elsewhere. I can state this as I know that is not the first error that has appeared.

For example, in the August 2004 issue of Royal Insight two questions ("Who was the last Princess of Wales before Diana?" and "How are HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh related") were both answered incorrectly on the web page.

Sofia, a notice of the error was been sent to the webmaster over two years ago however no response was received.

Cato, The Queen is Lord of Mann (Dominus Manniae) because this style is not a peerage title but rests upon the Isle of Mann's status as an autonomous Crown dependency.

Brian, there is no reference to de facto or de jure as far as I can see; and I am not certain that such a distinction is of any validity in this case since I doubt whether one can successfully argue that the Queen is the de facto Duke of Normandy or Duke of Lancaster solely because she is styled as such by a small group of people.

The fact remains that the title of "Duke of Normandy" was a French title which the English king formally renounced and removed from his official styles and titles 750 years ago.

The title of "Duke of Lancaster" is a peerage title which merged with the Crown several hundred years ago and has never been re-created. said...


I neglected to state that you presume correctly. The Queen is indeed Duchess of Edinburgh but this title was acquired by marriage (which rests upon the common law) and she is not a duchess in her own right.


Brian said...

I have just done some quick look around the internet, and wikipedia.

In 1259, Henry III of England recognised the legality of French possession of mainland Normandy under the Treaty of Paris.

But English monarchs, and their British successors, continued to use the title Duke of Normandy in reference to the Channel Islands (except for Chausey), which are now days Crown dependencies of the British Crown, (though not part of the United Kingdom).

I can also find in regards to the Dukedom of Lancaster George V approved the ongoing use of the title. Thus the use of the title as a toast has therefore been approved for at least the last 100 years. said...

Dear Brian,

Thank you for your post. I am familiar with the two Wikipedia pages. Unfortunately Wikipedia is neither reliable nor authoritative as a source and is prone to error. That being said, the Wikipedia entry dealing with the Duke of Lancaster does state quite clearly that "the Dukedom became extinct after Henry VI". As you have stated, the article then states that "George V approved the on going use of the title".

I can find no evidence of any such approval however whether or not George V approved such use is of no direct relevance to the legality of the issue. When he was corrected on the matter George VI once stated "I have always thought I was the Duke of Lancaster... and I intend to go on thinking I am the Duke of Lancaster." However neither George VI's opinion nor George V's approval are able to alter a legal impossibility. I do not claim that our Sovereign and earlier Sovereigns have never been styled "Duke of Lancaster". They clearly have been styled as such. I am merely pointing out that this style has no basis in fact or law. The Sovereign cannot change this by simply wishing it so.

The Buckhurst Peerage case long ago settled this - "The Duchy of
Cornwall is held by the Prince of Wales for the time being - the Prince of Wales becomes the sovereign of the country - becoming the sovereign of the country, it is impossible that he can hold any other dignity. The fountain and source of all dignities cannot hold a dignity himself. The dignity, therefore, as a dignity to be held by the sovereign terminates, not by virtue of any provision in its creation but from the absolute incapacity of the sovereign to hold a dignity."

The Complete Peerage, volume VII, p. 402, note g, states: "The county of Lancaster that became a Palatinate. the rights of which reverted to the Crown at the duke's death, but were by Edward III conferred on his son John of Gaunt and Duke of Lancaster. By succssion they devolved on Henry, son of John of Gaunt and, on his accession to the throne as Henry IVm nerged in the Crown, and have
so remained; the common law jurisdiction of the Palatinate was extinguished by the Judicature Act 36-37 Victoria. The Duchy of Lancaster included the Palatinate."

It continues on p. 418: "Henry, styled "of Monmouth" s. and h. of Henry IV... on 23 Oct 1399 he was declared Duke of Aquitaine in Parl., and on 10 November
following Duke of Lancaster and it was ordered that he should bear the titles of Prince of Wales, Duke of Aquitaine, Lancaster and Cornwall and Earl of Chester and that the Dukedom of Lancaster should be to him and his heirs, dissevered from the Crown of England. He ascended to the throne 21 Mar. 1412/13 as Henry V, when all his honours merged in the Crown." Then, in note c. "The Dukedom of Lancaster, which has never again been conferred, would have been an appropriate title for Prince Albert Victor, as h[eir] ap[pparent] of the Prince of Wales (Edward VII) and after his death for Prince George (George V)."

Therefore whilst the Sovereign and her advisers may continue to believe that he or she is the Duke of Lancaster and whilst certain web pages and institutions/regions may style the Sovereign as such (none of which I deny) this does not mean that the Sovereign IS the Duke of Lancaster. It remains a pleasant fiction.

For greater analysis I refer you to the web-page of my colleague Francois Velde:

For greater analysis of the fiction that is the style of "Duke of Lancaster" I also refer you to his website:

The above referenced essays will provide learned examination of the two titles in far greater detail than I can provide in this comment section.

Kind regards,


Brian said...

I submit to your superior knowledge in this matter :)

I was never doubting your post, as I to agree with it. However personally, I think it is quite cool that certain people use different titles for Her Majesty (even if those titles have no place in fact)

Thanks Young Fogey.

Anonymous said...


The Queen is Lord of Man not Mann as it is the Isle of Man. said...

Dear Richard,

I'm sorry to correct your correction but whilst the correct spelling is indeed "Isle of Man" (this was merely a typo) the proper spelling for the head of state of the Isle of Man is correctly "Lord of Mann" (much as the sovereign was formerly the "King of Mann"). In Latin: Dominus Manniae. These days one does see the increasing use of "Lord of Man" but "Lord of Mann" remains the preferred spelling. For example, the Isle of Man post office issues "Lord of Mann" stamps.

Anonymous said...

While I defer to Rafe as an expert and recognize the legal reality regarding the regional Loyal Toasts, I think they express living tradition and important cultural reality we should encourage, albeit always clarifying distinction between law and custom.

One knows the Queen is not a Peer or Lord, Her Majesty is the Sovereign. Yet it is wonderful to know that the actual people living within these lands have the living memory that there was a Duke and that now the Monarch holds the Duchy. For 600 years, generation to generation has proudly handed on this memory and celebrated their special connection to the Monarch. What a wonderful expression of living tradition! It makes it obvious that the people and the land is connected to the Crown and the institutions of the Monarchy in dynamic ways which too many in today's big cities and ivory towers ignore or forget.

The fact that the legal reality ceased hundreds of years ago makes this tradition all the more impressive and convincing as a proof of the living relationship between Crown and Country. Also, I'd suggest a Toast is more cultural rather than legal, expressing loyalty, affection, and principles.