by Ruth

The English aristocracy. Americans are crazy about it. From Downton Abbey to the latest royal wedding, so many Americans (and Brits, too, by the way) just can’t get enough of how the other half (actually, it’s a much smaller percentage) lives.

When, in preparation for this trip, I bought our National Trust memberships, the first item in the online registration form was “Title.” Now, like all Americans, I’m accustomed to seeing this drop-down list:


And occasionally:


Share my surprise when I hovered over the down-arrow icon to see—wait for it—one hundred and ninety-one options that I could have preceding my name on my little orange membership card.

Instantly curious, I scrolled down through the list, marveling at the inventiveness of the nobility when it comes to thinking up yet another way to set themselves apart (and avoid paying taxes, by the way). My choices, of course, included those more pedestrian titles listed above, and also those that, after binge-watching Downton Abbey, or if you’re following from the UK or EU, might come to your mind:


And, of course, if you’re an actor, you might be Sir or Dame.

But it also included such chewingly delicious combinations as Right Reverend Lord Bishop and Admiral of the Fleet Sir, as well as choice monikers like Reverend Prebendiary, Jonkheer, Colour SergeantSurgeon Rear Admiral, and Venerable Archdeacon. Not to mention the mysterious and enigmatic Dipl Ing.

To give you an idea of how exclusive both the nobility and those who work for them can be: One day, strolling through the gardens of a large estate, we stopped a passing man wearing the estate’s livery along with dirty Wellingtons to ask about a particular plant. “I’m sorry,” he said stiffly, “I just do the pheasants.”

To my surprise, the title Ben often chooses to refer to me (La Principessa, if you must know) was strangely missing from the National Trust’s list. I settled for Ms.