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Female ‘My Lord’

08 January 2016

Write, if you have any questions that you would like answered, or to add to the answers that are given below.


When the Rt Revd Rachel Treweek was introduced into the House of Lords, she took her oath as the Lord Bishop of Gloucester. Does this mean that the more formal style for addressing a woman bishop, in a letter or in speech, is “My Lord”?

I would draw attention to another practice in the House of Lords. During debates, women members, be they bishops or not, always preface their contributions by referring to “Your Lordships’ House”; and, notwithstanding the gender of the current Speaker of the Lords, protocol requires that she be known and addressed as “Lord Speaker”.

I am able to say with some degree of authority, as a Freeman of the Guild of Mace-Bearers, practising Toastmaster, and former Sergeant at Mace to the Lord Mayors of Leeds, that female holders of the civic office were and continue to be addressed as “My Lord Mayor”. Other examples in our municipalities where the masculine trumps the feminine are “Mr Alderman” and “Mr Councillor”.

These usages, of course, predate the recent appointment of women to high public office in Church and State, and should, perhaps, be seen as referring to the office held, as opposed to the office-holder.

Richard T. Strudwick, Leeds


Is there a handy guide on public speaking and voice projection, likely to be useful for persons taking part in leading services?

Yes. As a former lecturer in voice production and speech, with international phonetics, who before the age of 40 realised he was teaching the wrong subject, and was called to faith and ordained, I would suggest searching for copies of Voice Production and Speech and Speech Practice by Greta Colson (Museum Press), and Speak for Yourself by A. and D. Price (Allman & Son).

But reading is not enough. I suggest that for six months at least, your Daily Office, morning and evening, should be spoken aloud, as if you were attempting to communicate with a person sitting at least ten feet from you.

Add to that communicating aloud and face to face with a trusted friend, who is ready to criticise your communication skills gently once a week during those six months. Be lively in your practice, even though this may feel excessive in the first instance. Try to achieve a new and vital communication habit. Be aware that it is your body that you are using, that good and positive breath control is essential for producing any sound. And pray that your efforts to improve will be successful. Good luck!

(The Revd) Robert Varty
Diocese in Europe (France/Monaco)


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