Okay, this is in incredibly petty nitpick, but: if you’re writing a fantasy setting with same-sex marriage, a same-sex noble or royal couple typically would not have titles of the same rank – e.g., a prince and a prince, or two queens.
It depends on which system of ranking you use, of course (there are several), but in most systems there’s actually a rule covering this scenario: in the event that a consort’s courtesy title being of the same rank as their spouse’s would potentially create confusion over who holds the title by right and who by courtesy, the consort instead receives the next-highest title on the ladder.
So the husband of a prince would be a duke; the wife of a queen, a princess; and so forth.
(You actually see this rule in practice in the United Kingdom, albeit not in the context of a same-sex marriage; the Queen’s husband is styled a prince because if he were a king, folks might get confused about which of them was the reigning monarch.)
The only common situation where you’d expect to see, for example, two queens in the same marriage is if the reigning monarchs of two different realms married each other – and even then, you’d more likely end up with a complicated arrangement where each party is technically a princess of the other’s realm in addition to being queen of her own.
You’ve gotta keep it nice and unambiguous who’s actually in charge!
Okay, I’ve received a whole lot of asks about this post, so I’m going to cover all of the responses in one go:
1. The system described above is, admittedly, merely one of the most common. Other historically popular alternatives include:
- The consort’s courtesy title is of the same rank as their spouse’s, with “-consort” appended to it: prince and prince-consort, queen and queen-consort, etc. This is how, e.g., present-day Monaco does it.
- The consort is simply styled Lord or Lady So-and-so, and receives no specific title. I can’t think of any country that still does it this way, off the top of my head, but historically it was a thing.
(Naturally, your setting needn’t adhere to any of these, but it would be highly irregular for it to lack some mechanism for clarifying the chain of command.)
2. The reason why the consort of a prince is historically a princess even though those titles are the same rank is basically sexism. This can go a couple of ways:
- In many realms, there was no such thing as being a princess by right; the daughter of a monarch would be styled Lady So-and-so and receive no specific title, so the only way to be a princess was to marry a prince.
- In realms where women could hold titles by right, typically a masculine title was informally presumed to outrank its feminine counterpart. So, e.g., kings outrank queens, princes outrank princesses, etc.
In either case, no ambiguity exists.
(Interestingly, this suggests that in a more egalitarian setting where masculine titles are not presumed to outrank their feminine counterparts, or vice versa, you’d need to explicitly disambiguate rankings even outside the context of same-sex marriages. Food for thought!)
3. It would also be possible to have two kings or two queens in the same marriage without multiple realms being involved in the case of a true co-monarchy. However, true co-monarchies are highly irregular and, from a political standpoint, immensely complicated affairs. If you’re planning on writing one of those, be prepared to do your research!
4. The next rank down from “countess” is either “viscountess” or “baroness”, depending on which peerage system you’re using.
(Yes, that last one actually came up multiple times. Apparently there are a lot of stories about gay countesses out there!)
I’d like to argue with this, but I can’t.