Author Topic: The phrase "a commoner"... isn't this rude?  (Read 12000 times)

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Blithe

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Re: The phrase "a commoner"... isn't this rude?
« Reply #30 on: April 29, 2011, 05:47:41 PM »
Okay, I'm from the US, but have did do a fair bit of research on this when I was in school.

From memory:

I the British system, if you are not a Royal (I'm not certain exactly how that's determined once you get past the Monarch's immediate family) or the holder of a title in the peerage you are a commoner.   So Lady Diana Spencer was a commoner, "Lady" was just a courtesy title because her father was an earl.  I believe that this also extends to spouses of nobles.  So while the wife of an earl is referred to as a countess and typically referred to as Lady Title or the Countess of Title, she is still a commoner.

For Example:

Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon was the youngest daughter of  Claude George Bowes-Lyon and Cecilia Cavendish-Bentinck.

When she was born her father used the title Lord Glamis, as he was the eldest son of an earl.  He was technically a commoner but permitted to use one of his father's lesser titles as a courtesy.  His wife was known as Lady Glamis.  At birth Elizabeth was known as The Hon Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, and yes she was a commoner even though her grandfather was an earl.

When The Hon Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon was three, her father's father died.  Her father became the Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, he was now a nobleman.  Her mother became known as the Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne, she was still a commoner.  Her eldest brother become Lord Glamis, he was still a commoner.  Elizabeth herself became Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, she was still a commoner.

Then when Lady Elizabeth was 22, she married Prince Albert, the Duke of York.  She then became the Duchess of York and was no longer a commoner, but a royal.  Her children were at birth Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) and Princess Margaret.

When Prince Albert became King George VI, the Duchess of York became Queen Elizabeth, the queen consort.  She did not get a numeral because she was not the monarch.

Nanny Ogg

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Re: The phrase "a commoner"... isn't this rude?
« Reply #31 on: April 29, 2011, 06:10:38 PM »
Nanny Ogg, I have learned a lot from your post (for one thing, I would like to try Pimms). (Your sister's party sounds awesome BTW.)

The only thing I don't get is... isn't classism always bad?

Or do you mean that it's classist in the sense that it pointedly indicates someone's class, but that there is no negativity associated with someone's class.

Thank you, the party was awesome indeed!

As for whether classism is bad, I'm not sure really- I wouldn't say it is always bad because it doesnt necessarily determine anything in your life (well, overtly anyway - I would not say that the UK is a meritocracy at all levels). No one would say "sorry, you cant be a doctor, you're working class", for example, which is greatly different from other class based societies such as the caste system as you do have a shot at social mobility. However, by being middle class you may have better opportunities available to you (eg public schooling over the local comprehensive, meeting the 'right' people, parents more aware of how to help you achieve your goal), so it is self fulfilling in that respect, and probably not that different from US society?

I guess me and my sister are good examples of class society and social mobility - I am from a working class background, as my dad is a skilled tradesman. However, I'm moving towards the middle classes as a business owner. My boyfriend has always been firmly middle class. My sister however has remained working class (skilled trade), but is going out with someone she met at university who is very upper middle class.

It's all very confusing, and I have to say that between the socially excluded (aka "the underclass") and people in the upper echelons of society, the rest of us just rub shoulders and get on with things.

Sorry if I'm rambling, I'm bit of a sociology geek.



Sharnita

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Re: The phrase "a commoner"... isn't this rude?
« Reply #32 on: April 29, 2011, 06:27:30 PM »
I don't find it any more classist than having a monarch in the first place.  Creating one designation kinda defaults the other. 

Tia2

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Re: The phrase "a commoner"... isn't this rude?
« Reply #33 on: April 29, 2011, 07:47:56 PM »
I the British system, if you are not a Royal (I'm not certain exactly how that's determined once you get past the Monarch's immediate family) or the holder of a title in the peerage you are a commoner.   So Lady Diana Spencer was a commoner, "Lady" was just a courtesy title because her father was an earl.  I believe that this also extends to spouses of nobles.  So while the wife of an earl is referred to as a countess and typically referred to as Lady Title or the Countess of Title, she is still a commoner.



In practice, though, the immediate family of a member of the peerage are not seen as being commoners.

Of course, in the UK, having a title does not make you an aristocrat and not having one does not necessarily make you a commoner.

The obvious examples are Zara and Peter Phillips.  They are the grandchildren of the Queen but have no titles.   Going the other way, Sir Alan Sugar may have a title but he isn't upper class.  The same goes for Margaret Thatcher - she was given a hereditary title when she retired as Prime Minister, but nobody would say that made her upper class.

The Middletons will never be upper class (upper middle class maybe) no matter how much money they have.

In day to day life, this is mostly irrelevant.

Nurvingiel

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Re: The phrase "a commoner"... isn't this rude?
« Reply #34 on: April 30, 2011, 12:42:44 AM »
Nanny Ogg, I found your post interesting. I am not a sociology buff by any stretch but I do think it's interesting.

I don't find it any more classist than having a monarch in the first place.  Creating one designation kinda defaults the other. 
Good point. I just don't see the need to point out that a non-titled person isn't in the upper class. Isn't it obvious? <-- I'm actually asking that because I think it is, but I could be wrong. It seems from preceding posts that someone with a title could be

Also, upper-class = royals, peers etc. and middle/working/underclass = commoners?
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TychaBrahe

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Re: The phrase "a commoner"... isn't this rude?
« Reply #35 on: April 30, 2011, 12:51:37 AM »
Wallis Simpson was a divorcee. Edward could not keep his right to rule if he married her.

There was a time when a divorced person could not be in the presence of the monarch.  That lasted into Elizabeth's reign, if I remember correctly. 

Obviously they changed it sometime before her children got divorced.
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katycoo

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Re: The phrase "a commoner"... isn't this rude?
« Reply #36 on: April 30, 2011, 01:48:26 AM »
US here - The thing that confuses me is that I thought Kate was from a noble family with titles, etc., just like Lady Di was.  So...that means by definition, she wouldn't be a commoner, right?  Am I misunderstanding that? 

Diana was from aristocracy - family with titles.  Catherine is from wealth, but not aristocracy.

Twik

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Re: The phrase "a commoner"... isn't this rude?
« Reply #37 on: April 30, 2011, 02:43:08 AM »
It would be rude, if being a common person was a bad thing.

Since it's not, I wouldn't consider it rude.
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Nanny Ogg

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Re: The phrase "a commoner"... isn't this rude?
« Reply #38 on: April 30, 2011, 03:12:39 AM »
This might explain things, not sure if Pulp made it across the Atlantic. Super famous song, usually on the playlist at weddings and stuff. Definitely one of my faves, but it is from 1995, and looks it!

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2psqy_pulp-common-people_music



Larrabee

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Re: The phrase "a commoner"... isn't this rude?
« Reply #39 on: April 30, 2011, 04:00:14 AM »
Some of us Brits do find it offensive to hear people described as the 'underclass', that is rude in my opinion.

Milash

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Re: The phrase "a commoner"... isn't this rude?
« Reply #40 on: April 30, 2011, 04:23:33 AM »

Actually Richard Woodville was earld'd in 1448, Elizabeth and Edward IV were married in 1464. I think the whole scandal back in the day was that they married in secret, like her mother and father did apparently. Her parents also got fined because they married in secret so they must have been a bit higher up
.
Elizabeth Woodville was the daughter of an Earl, and the widow of a knight (which at minimum would have made her a Lady).  I believe she was referred to as "the widow Lady Grey" at some point.

Apparently she was still a commoner, hence the scandal at the time. I'm loath to use wiki as a source but I don't want to get up and find the source in one of my history books on the princes in the tower. But she had the title of Lady so I can't figure out why she was considered a commoner.  ???

Wiki: As the daughter of Richard Woodville, 1st Earl Rivers, she was the first commoner to marry an English sovereign.

I think Rivers may have gotten Earl'd after his daughter married the king. Edited to add: I also think Elizabeth was Lady Elizabeth, at least in part, because she was a knight's widow rather nthan because of her parentage.

Ah that makes sense, thanks.  :)

Gyburc

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Re: The phrase "a commoner"... isn't this rude?
« Reply #41 on: April 30, 2011, 05:27:10 AM »
Just chiming in quickly from a linguist's point of view. In modern UK English, to be 'a commoner' means not to be of the nobility, and has no negative connotations, since most of the people who use the term 'commoner' are in fact commoners themselves!

To be 'common' on the other hand does have negative connotations, but they are not usually based on your class. One working-class woman might say of another that she is 'common', meaning vulgar, tasteless and loud. It's a fairly old-fashioned term nowadays, but my grandmother would definitely have used it.

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Gyburc

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Re: The phrase "a commoner"... isn't this rude?
« Reply #42 on: April 30, 2011, 05:28:23 AM »
Just to add - DH is reading over my shoulder and says that Victoria (Posh) Beckham could be described as a 'common commoner'.  ;D

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Tia2

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Re: The phrase "a commoner"... isn't this rude?
« Reply #43 on: April 30, 2011, 06:50:53 AM »
Nanny Ogg, I found your post interesting. I am not a sociology buff by any stretch but I do think it's interesting.

I don't find it any more classist than having a monarch in the first place.  Creating one designation kinda defaults the other. 
Good point. I just don't see the need to point out that a non-titled person isn't in the upper class. Isn't it obvious? <-- I'm actually asking that because I think it is, but I could be wrong. It seems from preceding posts that someone with a title could be

Also, upper-class = royals, peers etc. and middle/working/underclass = commoners?

Since only the eldest son inherits the title, a substantial portion of the upper class don't have titles.  If they are the grandchild of a titled person, they won't even have a courtesy title.  They are still upper class.  Equally, some middle/working class people may be given titles.  That doesn't make them upper class.  There was at least one Princess at the Abbey escorted by her son who was a plain 'Mr.' (Princess Alexandra).

jilly

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Re: The phrase "a commoner"... isn't this rude?
« Reply #44 on: April 30, 2011, 07:05:06 AM »
http://www.channel4.com/programmes/kate-and-william-romance-and-the-royals/4od

another etiquettehell Brit here. The link is for a really interesting program showing since the middle ages which royals in the UK have married for love not social / political arrangements.

One royal ancestor is a governess turned mistress turned wife of a prince. Her father was a servant in the royal household as was her first husband. Though they were clearly wealthy enough to educate her as she couldn't have been a governess otherwise she was still a commoner. She was also named Catherine and this was back in the 14th century.

Isn't history fascinating  :)