Forms of Address in Tudor England

The most tangible manifestation of the relative positions of people in society was their manners. It was the mark of a good upbringing, among both the high and low born, that one showed all the proper marks of deference and respect (referred to as "dutie"). The first of these forms of dutie was the form of address.

Thee/Thou: the familiar second person singular. Used with good friends, children, social inferiors and animals, with the possible exception of horses, depending of course on the pedigree of the horse. Also used to address God.

It fell gradually out of fashion through the 17th Century, perhaps out of a notion that flaunting social differences was in bad taste. It could still be seen between family and lovers through the 18th Century but by the 19th Century it was only seen in out of the way places like Yorkshire, or among Quakers, to whom everyone was a "friend".

formal second person singular, for mere acquaintances, strangers and social superiors. The formal second person plural is "Ye".

a respectful term used in a wide variety of contexts. It is roughly equivalent to the modern word "Mister", and was generally used for gentlemen, professional men and substantial citizens as a title "Master John Smith". It could be used, respectfully, with either or both the first and last names. It could be used, without the name appended, in the familiar context of a servant addressing his master, but could also be used in the context of a person of lower rank addressing a superior, such as a shopkeeper to a well-born customer. It would be used as a collective address to a large group "Good my masters", and was an appropriate honorific before a title of office, such as "Master Secretary" for the Secretary of State. The female form is "Mistress", which in most contexts did not have the sexual meaning it does today.

Your Honor/Your Worship: An all purpose form of address for all men of higher status than oneself. Particularly appropriate for justices of the Peace and the like. A standard form of address for a knight.

another all purpose form of address for all men of higher status and a formal form of address for equals. Also a title for knights, with "Sir" followed by the first name (e.g. "Sir Thomas") since, as a custom, it predates the time when everyone had a last name. Also customarily used with priests in a manner identical to that used with knights. The female form is Madame in address, though the title is "Lady" as in "Lady Jane". "Lady" could also be a formal and respectful address, in the manner of Sir or Madame.

My Lord/My Lady:
The form of address for any noble or "lord of the Church" such as a Bishop. NOT appropriate for a knight. Other forms include "Lord", "Lady" or Your Lordship/Your Ladyship. As a title, it is followed not by the given name, but by the place of which the person is lord or lady - "Lord Burghley" was actually named William Cecil, but he was the Baron Burghley.

Your Grace: appropriate for a male or female noble of the rank of Duke or higher. Also appropriate and common for members of the direct royal line, to include the Queen.

Your Highness:
correct for any member of the direct royal line to include the Queen. In current usage, it is only for princes and princesses, but in the 16th Century, it was used more promiscuously.

Your Majesty: Only appropriate for the Monarch

My liege: By the 16th Century, it was an obsolete form, used only the theater and some ceremonies. It refers not to a social difference but to a specific Feudal relationship, and as such, while it was usually reserved for the Monarch, was also suitable for other "liege lords" to whom one owed a bond of fealty.

Your Excellency:
appropriate for a holder of a high office, such as the Lord General.

a form of address for a child or a man of lesser rank, such as a servant or the pot boy in a tavern. It means "little sir". A rough female equivalent is "Wench". It is not a term of respect and when addressed to a man by a woman, a way of putting him down.

to a man of position, the first name of any peasant, servant etc "Sirrah, Jack, Ho!".

a polite and respectful form of address for a man who is entitled to no other (i.e. a peasant). The female form is "Goodwife".

a friendly appellation for any low born woman over forty or so. "Good morrow Mother Bombie".