United Kingdom order of precedence

The Order of precedence in the United Kingdom is different in each of its four constituent member nations. See:

* Order of precedence in England and Wales
* Order of precedence in Scotland
* Order of precedence in Northern Ireland

Separate orders exist for males and females. Precedence was a matter of great weight at least up until the Second World War, but it is a much less significant aspect of British life in modern times.

Determination of precedence

The Order of Precedence is determined by various methods. The Precedence Act (which technically applies only to determine seating in the House of Lords Chamber) and the Acts of Union with Scotland and Ireland generally set precedence for members of the nobility. The statutes of the various Orders of Chivalry set precedence for their members. In other cases, precedence may be decided by the sovereign's order, by a Royal Warrant of Precedence, by letters patent, by Acts of Parliament, or by custom.

ource of precedence

One may acquire precedence for various reasons. Firstly, one may be an office-holder. Secondly, one may be of a particular degree such as duke. Thirdly, in the case of women, one may be the wife of a title-holder. (Note that wives acquire precedence due to their husbands, but husbands do not gain any special precedence due to their wives). Finally, one may be the son or daughter of a title-holder. One does not gain precedence as a daughter of a lady, unless that lady is a member of the Royal Family or a peeress in her own right. Furthermore, if a daughter of a peer marries a commoner, then she retains her precedence as a daughter of a peer. However, if she marries a peer, then her precedence is based on her husband's status, and not on her father's.

British royal family

The sovereign, whether a king or queen, is first in the order of precedence. If the sovereign is male, then his wife, the queen consort, is first in the order of precedence for women. The reverse, however, is not always true. There is no solid law of precedence for a prince consort, so he is usually specially granted precedence above all other males by letters patent.

The order of precedence for males royal is:
# The king (or prince consort)
# The sovereign's sons
# The sovereign's sons' sons
# The sovereign's brothers
# The sovereign's father's brothers
# The sovereign's brothers' sons
# The sovereign's father's brothers' sons

The order of precedence for female members of the royal family is:
# The queen (regnant or consort)
# Queens dowager (most recent first)
# The sovereign's daughters-in-law
# The sovereign's daughters
# The sovereign's sons' daughters-in-law
# The sovereign's sons' daughters
# The sovereign's sisters-in-law
# The sovereign's sisters
# The sovereign's father's sisters-in-law
# The sovereign's father's sisters
# The sovereign's brothers' daughters-in-law
# The sovereign's brothers' daughters
# The sovereign's father's brothers' daughters-in-law
# The sovereign's father's brothers' daughters

Current practice

*The Queen recently changed the order of precedence for private occasions, putting the Duchess of Cornwall fourth in the order of precedence, after herself, Princess Anne, and Princess Alexandra, contrary to the usual position of the heir's consort. [http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=351948&in_page_id=1770&in_a_source=&ct=5] The Queen has stated that this was done because Anne and Alexandra are princesses of the blood royal ("i.e.", royal by birth), and to reinforce Camilla's status as a royal duchess and not a princess. The Duchess of Cornwall continues to rank second in the order of precedence at official occasions, such as state dinners.

*The Court Circular also lists Prince William of Wales above his uncles, Andrew, Duke of York, and Edward, Earl of Wessex, suggesting he takes precedence over them.


In England and Wales, the Archbishop of Canterbury is the highest in precedence following the royal family. Then come the Lord Chancellor and the Archbishop of York. Next come certain officers: the prime minister, the Lord President of the Privy Council, the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Lord Speaker of the House of Lords (since July 2006), the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales (since Nov. 2007) and the Lord Privy Seal.

The precedence of other officers—the Lord Great Chamberlain, Earl Marshal, Lord Steward, and Lord Chamberlain—is based on the degree of their peerage. These officers rank above all other peers of their rank. Thus, if the Lord Steward were a duke, he would outrank other dukes; and if a marquess, would outrank other marquesses; and so forth. The precedence of the Master of the Horse is linked directly to that of the Lord Chamberlain, for the Master follows immediately after the Lord Chamberlain. However, if the Master is of a higher degree of peerage than the Lord Chamberlain, he would rank among his fellow peers of that degree, and not below the Lord Chamberlain.

In Scotland, the officers of state are different. The Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland and the Keeper of the Privy Seal of Scotland, if they are peers, rank after the Lord Speaker of the House of Lords. If not, they rank after younger sons of dukes. The Hereditary High Constable of Scotland and the Master of the Household in Scotland rank above dukes. If the Keepers of the Seals are peers, then the Keepers precede the High Constable and Master.


Nobles rank in the following order: dukes, marquesses, earls, viscounts, and barons. Within each degree, peers rank according to the seniority of the creation of their peerages, but peers of England (created prior to 1707) precede peers of Scotland (prior to 1707), who together precede peers of Great Britain (prior to 1801), who together precede peers of Ireland (prior to 1801), who together precede peers of Ireland or of the United Kingdom (after 1801). However, the rules regarding the country of peerage apply only within particular ranks; an earl of the United Kingdom, for instance, would outrank a viscount of England, but not an earl of England.

Wives of peers rank along with peeresses in their own right according to the ancientcy of the peerage (subject to the rules regarding countries mentioned above), whether it is the ancientcy of the peeress' own peerage or of her husband's peerage. However, a dowager peeress (the wife of a former holder of that title and usually an ancestress of the present title-holder) would always precede the present peeress. Thus, the Dowager Duchess of X would come before the present Duchess of X.


As has been noted, the Archbishop of Canterbury is the highest non-royal, and the Archbishop of York is the third-highest. Bishops of the Church of England rank immediately above barons. First come the bishops of London, Durham, and Winchester, followed by the other diocesan bishops in order of seniority, and then the suffragan bishops in order of seniority.See the list of spiritual peers for the most senior 21 diocesan bishops ordered by seniority.

In Scotland, the national church, the Church of Scotland, has neither archbishops nor bishops. The Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland ranks immediately below the sovereign or consort (depending on their respective genders), but only when the General Assembly is in session. The Moderator of the General Assembly, regardless of whether it is in session or not, ranks immediately after the Lord Chancellor.

In Northern Ireland, due to sensitivities regarding the conflict between Catholics and Protestants, no distinction is made between Catholic and Anglican archbishops and bishops. The archbishops of Armagh and Dublin, whether of the Catholic Church or of the Anglican Church of Ireland, all rank above the Lord Chancellor, in the order of seniority. Bishops rank above barons, as in England and Wales.

Baronets and knights

The three highest orders of chivalry in England and Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, are the Orders of the Garter, the Thistle, and St. Patrick, respectively. Knights of these orders precede baronets. After the baronets come the members of all the other orders of chivalry in the following order of their ranks: Knight or Dame Grand Cross, Knight or Dame Commander, Commander or Companion, Lieutenant or Officer, and Member. For individual members with equivalent ranks but of different orders, precedence is accorded based on the seniority of the orders of chivalry: the Order of the Bath, the Order of the Star of India, the Order of St. Michael and St. George, the Order of the Indian Empire, the Royal Victorian Order, and the Order of the British Empire. For equivalent ranks and orders, those appointed earlier precede those appointed later.

Wives of Knights of the Garter, Knights of the Thistle, Knights of St. Patrick, Knights Grand Cross, Knights Commanders, and Commanders or Companions receive precedence based on their husbands' positions. Wives of individuals of a certain rank follow in precedence after female holders of the same rank. Thus, wives of Knights Grand Cross follow Dames Grand Cross.

Wives of baronets go immediately above all Dames Grand Cross, but are below (though not immediately below) Ladies and Wives of Knights of the Garter, the Thistle, and St. Patrick. Baronets' widows follow rules similar to dowager peeresses; a widow of a previous baronet comes immediately before the wife of the present baronet.

ee also

*Line of succession to the British Throne
*Forms of address in the United Kingdom


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