19 December 2010

Imperial plurals

In my beautiful, red leather, Missale Romanum (e Typographia Haniquiana), 1840, last Saturday's festival of the Expectation of the Childbearing of the Blessed Virgin Mary is marked in the Missae Sanctorum celebrandae aliquibus in locis ex indulto Apostolico as "Pro omnibus Hispaniarum Regi subjectis" ("For all the subjects of the King of the Spains").

Am I right in suspecting that the idea of using plurals when referring to a King of a world-wide empire began with His Most Catholic Majesty? That Third Rome then cribbed it ("Autocrat of all the Russias")? And that after dear Dizzy had proclaimed his lady friend Empress of India, the people in charge of the inscriptions on our coins adopted it: "Britanniarum omnium Regina Indiae Imperatrix" ("Queen of all the Britains, Empress of India"*)? Or had the Hanoverians used it previously? Are there other examples?

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*I think I am right in recalling that the Director General of the British Museum, in his recent "History of the World in 100 Objects" series, translated it as " ... of all Britain". There's Art Historians for you. Show them the simplest piece of Latin and you can infallibly rely upon them to mistranslate it.

21 comments:

Ttony said...

"All the Spains" originally meant the several Kingdoms, starting with Castille and Aragon of which the King was Monarch. The plural form can still be used figuratively (at least by poets): "una de las dos Españas ha de helarte el corazón" (one of the two Spains will freeze your heart).

And the Russias: Great Russia, Little Russia (Ukraine), White Russia (Belarus).

But the Britains?

Enrico Dante said...

Ooh, I think I can help.

When the "Proclamation as to the Royal Style and Titles and as to the Ensigns Armorial, Standard, and Union Jack" was given out on 1.j.1801, it said:

"it was declared, That the said Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland should upon this day, being the 1st day of January, in the year of our Lord 1801, for ever after be united in One Kingdom, by the name of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland;"

the same shall be expressed in the Latin tongue by these words:—"GEORGIUS TERTIUS, Dei Gratia, Britanniarum Rex, Fidei Defensor:" GEORGE the THIRD, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith.

So, in this instance, "all the Britains" is England and Wales, Scotland, Ireland.

PG said...

There is also of course the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies

Enrico Dante said...

And "of all the gin joints".

motuproprio said...

The current style is :- "Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith ".

And in the Latin tongue :—

" Elizabeth II, Dei Gratia Britanniarum Regnorumque Suorum Ceterorum Regina, Consortionis Populorum Princeps, Fidei Defensor ".


(ROYAL PROCLAMATION reciting the altered Style and Titles of the Crown. London, 29th May, 1953)

benedictambrose said...

Surely in this context "Britanniarum" betokens "of (the) Britons", as "Regina Scotorum" is "Queen of the Scots"?

Or am I being terrifically dense?

Enrico Dante said...

Nope.

King of the Britains (rex britanniarum) is what we have here, rather than King of the Britons (rex britanniorum). "O and A and A and O", as the carol has it.

benedictambrose said...

Grazie, Signore Dante. I should have known it was better to remain silent and be thought a fool, and all that.

Cum cantibus in choro...

Enrico Dante said...

Prego, Signore Ambrogio.

Little Black Sambo said...

"King of the Britons (rex britanniorum)"
I am sure there is something wrong with that.

Albertus said...

When used before a name, Signore become Signor. Thus, Dante é un gran signore. But, Buon giorno, Signor Dante!
It seems to me that King of the Britons (Rex Brit..) would be without the second letter ''i'; perhaps there is more wrong with that than just the second ''i''... I donot find the word for ''Briton'' in my Latin dictionary.

Little Black Sambo said...

Britannicorum? Brittonorum? Britonorum?

adspector said...

Rex Brit[t]onum—King of the Britons
Rex Britanniarum—King of the Britains

adspector said...

Si erro corrige.

adspector said...

And I suppose that Rex Britannicorum would be "King of the British," but I don't like it.

Seth said...

Caesar uses the form 'Britannorum', as in Bell. Gall. 5.11, copiae Britannorum.

This form is also attested in the fourth century, a reference to the 'rex Britannorum'.

In the ninth century, there is a Welsh text entitled 'Historia Brittonum'.

There are various Classical references to the Britanniae, meaning the islands (so insulae Britanniarum)

Nebuly said...

Is not the Archbishop of Braga 'Primate of the Spains'?

asshur said...

@Ttony
Even more telling was the last political use of "All the Spains", "in both Hemispheres" as used as official title of the King in the 1812 constitution.
While yours is the more usual explanation, I have a suspicion that the plural might be a "romanizing" shorthand notation (as for the Gauls) created in one of the Renasaince Chanceries.
In the verse you cite, the plural (or more exactly the term "dos Españas") has nothing to do with it, but sadly on the bloody ideological division in the XIX-XX century here

William Tighe said...

I may be mistaken in this, but I have a recollection that it was Ivan III who adopted the title of "Tsar of all the Russias" at some point in the 1470s (although I have seen it given as "all Russia" as well).

adspector said...

Thanks, Seth—mindlessly, I had not even consulted Caesar. A Happy Christmas!

Joshua said...

As we speak of the Queen's Realms, meaning those lands of which she is the Sovereign (Australia, Belize, Canada, and sundry island groups), perhaps "of the Spains" or "of the Russias" or "of the Britains" is shorthand for a monarch ruling over several territories each with its own customs, laws, and governmental institutions - just as, in the case of a bishop with a sort of supra-metropolitical title such as "Primate of the Gauls", the fact that he has some ceremonial precedence throughout several ecclesiastical provinces is by the plural form signified?