Excellency is an honorific style given to certain high-level officers of a sovereign state, officials of an international organization, or members of an aristocracy. Once entitled to the title "Excellency", the holder usually retains the right to that courtesy throughout his or her lifetime, although in some cases the title is attached to a particular office, and is held only for the duration of that office.
Generally people addressed as Excellency are heads of state, heads of government, governors, ambassadors, certain ecclesiastics, royalty, and others holding equivalent rank (e.g., heads of international organizations).
It is sometimes misinterpreted as a title of office in itself, but in fact is an honorific that precedes various titles (such as Mr. President, and so on), both in speech and in writing. In reference to such an official, it takes the form His or Her Excellency; in direct address, Your Excellency, or, less formally, simply Excellency.
The abbreviation HE is often used instead of His/Her Excellency; alternatively it may stand for His/Her Eminence.
Heads of state and government
If a republic has a separate head of government, that official is almost always addressed as Excellency as well. If the nation is a monarchy, however, the customs may vary. For example, in the case of Australia, all ambassadors, high commissioners, state governors and the governor-general and their spouses are entitled to the use of Excellency.
In various international organizations, notably the UN and its agencies, Excellency is used as a generic form of address for all republican heads of state and heads of government. It is often granted to the organization's head as well, and to those chiefs of UN diplomatic missions, such as Resident Coordinators (who are the designated representatives of the Secretary-General), who are accredited at the Head of State level (like an Ambassador), or at the lower Head of Government level.
In recent years, some international organizations, such as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, or the European Union, have designated their Permanent Representatives in third countries as Ambassadors, although they do not represent sovereign entities. This is now largely accepted, and because these Ambassadors rank after the UN representative in the orders of precedence of representatives of international organizations, the UN coming naturally first as pre-eminent, the UN Resident Coordinators are now also commonly but informally referred to in diplomatic circles as ambassadors, although the UN itself does not refer to them in this way.
Judges of the International Court of Justice are also called Your Excellency.
In some monarchies the husbands, wives, or children, of a royal prince or princess, who do not possess a princely title themselves, may be entitled to the style. For example, in Spain spouses or children of a born infante or infanta are addressed as Excellency, if not accorded a higher style.
Also, former members of a royal house or family, who did have a royal title but forfeited it, may be awarded the style afterwards. Examples are former husbands or wives of a royal prince or princess, including Alexandra, Countess of Frederiksborg, following her divorce from Prince Joachim of Denmark. Likewise, Count Carl Johan Bernadotte of Wisborg, who lost his succession rights to the Swedish throne and discontinued use of his royal titles in 1946 when he married the commoner Elin Kerstin Margaretha Wijkmark, was accorded the style.
In some emirates (e.g., Kuwait or Qatar), only the Emir, heir apparent and prime minister are called His Highness. Their children are styled with the lower treatment of His/Her Excellency (unless they possess a higher honorific).
In Spain members of the high nobility, holding the dignity of grandee, are addressed as The Most Excellent Lord/Lady.
In Denmark, some counts (lensgrever), historically those related by blood or marriage to the monarch, who have entered a morganatic marriage or otherwise left the Royal Family have the right to be styled as Your Excellency, e.g., the Counts of Danneskiold-Samsøe, some of the counts of Rosenborg and the Countess of Frederiksborg (ad personam).
Excellency can also attach to a prestigious quality, notably in an order of knighthood. For example, in the Empire of Brazil, it was attached to the highest classes, each time called Grand Cross, of all three imperial orders: Imperial Order of Pedro I, Imperial Order of the Southern Cross (in this case, also enjoying the military honours of a Lieutenant general) and Order of the Rose.
In modern days, Knights Collar and Knights Grand Cross of the Spanish Orders of Chivalry, like the Order of Charles III, Order of Isabella the Catholic, Order of Civil Merit, Order of Alfonso X the Wise, Royal Order of Sports Merit, Civil Order of Health, as well as recipients of the Grand Cross of Military, Naval, and Aeronautical Merit are addressed as such. Furthermore, Knights Grand Cross of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great and the Order of St. Sylvester of the Holy See, Knights of the Order of the Golden Fleece, and Knights Grand Cross of several other orders of high prestige, are often addressed as Excellency.
By a decree of the Sacred Congregation of Ceremonial of 31 December 1930 the Holy See granted bishops of the Roman Catholic Church the title of Most Reverend Excellency (Latin, Excellentia Reverendissima). In the years following the First World War, the ambassadorial title of Excellency, previously given to nuncios, had already begun to be used by other Catholic bishops. The adjective Most Reverend was intended to distinguish the religious title from that of Excellency given to civil officials.
The instruction Ut sive sollicite of the Holy See's Secretariat of State, dated 28 March 1969, made the addition of Most Reverend optional, sanctioning what had been (except possibly for the beginnings of letters and the like) always the practice.
According to the letter of the decree of 31 December 1930, titular patriarchs too were to be addressed with the title of (Most Reverend) Excellency, but in practice the Holy See continued to address them with the title of Beatitude, which was formally sanctioned for them with the motu proprio Cleri sanctitati of 2 June 1957.
Cardinals, even those who were bishops, continued to use the title of Eminence.
In some English-speaking countries, the honorific of Excellency does not apply to bishops other than the nuncio. In English law, Anglican archbishops are granted the title of Grace (Your Grace, His Grace, as for a duke), and bishops are granted the title of Lordship. The same titles are extended by courtesy to their Catholic counterparts, and continue in use in most countries that are or have been members of the Commonwealth. An exception is former British East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania).
In 1991, the Brazilian Presidential Office issued a composition manual to establish the appropriate usage of the Portuguese language for all government agencies. The manual states that the title of Excelência (Excellency) is the proper form used to address the President and Vice President, all members of Parliament and judges, among other officials.
Commonwealth of Nations
Within the Commonwealth of Nations, the following officials usually use the style His or Her Excellency:
- The Commonwealth Secretary-General;
- Presidents of Commonwealth republics;
- Governors and Governors-General, and the spouses of Governors-General;
- Commonwealth High Commissioners;
- Foreign ambassadors;
- Foreign dignitaries who are entitled to the style in their own countries.
While reference may be made to the Queen's Most Excellent Majesty, the style Excellency is not used with reference to the Queen.
The President of India and governors of Indian states are addressed as His/Her Excellency, a custom dating from the British Raj wherein the Viceroy and the Governors of Provinces were addressed as such.
However newer protocol rules approved will discontinue "colonial era" styles of His (or Her) Excellency. The same release states that in Hindi (which is the other language in which official communications are released in the Central Government of India in its capacity of Rājabhāśhā: Officiating language) the style Rāshtrapati Mahoday (राष्ट्रपति महोदय, Sir/Honourable President) shall replace the erstwhile Mahāmahim(महामहिम). The newer style will be Honourable.
The corresponding changes in releases from the President's Secretariat shall be from Mahāmahim to Rāshtrapatiji. The release also talks about the styles of other dignitaries, like Governors. "Hon'ble" will be used before the titles "President" and "Governor", while the traditional honorifics Shri or Smt. (Shrimati) should precede the name.
However, "Excellency" will continue to be used, only for interaction of leaders with foreign dignitaries and foreign dignitaries with our leaders as is customary international practice.
The President of Ireland is addressed as Your Excellency or in the Irish language, a Shoilse. Alternatively, one may address the president simply as President or in the Irish language a Uachtaráin.
The President of Kenya is addressed as "His/Her Excellency".
The Governors of the counties and diplomats are also addressed as "His/Her Excellency".
The President of Myanmar, State Counsellor of Myanmar, Vice-Presidents of Myanmar, Speaker of Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, Speaker of the House of Nationalities, Speaker of the House of Representatives of Myanmar, Governor of the Central Bank of Myanmar, members of the Cabinet of Myanmar, Chief Minister of States and Regions, mayors and ambassadors are addressed as "His/Her Excellency".
The President (Filipino: Ang Pangulo; Spanish and colloquially: Presidente) is addressed in English as "Your Excellency" and "Sir" or "Ma'am" thereafter, and is referred to "His/Her Excellency". The President can also less formally be addressed as "Mister/Madame President". In Filipino, the President may be referred to with the more formal title of "Ang Mahál na Pangulo", with "mahál" connoting greatness and high social importance.[nb 1]
The incumbent President, Rodrigo Duterte, has expressed dislike for the traditional title. After assuming office in June 2016, he ordered that the title, along with all honorifics, be dropped from official communications, events, and materials but instead, he be addressed only as "Mayor" since people are already used to calling him as such due to Duterte being the longest-serving Mayor of Davao City and that his cabinet officials only be addressed as "Secretary". Other government officials followed suit by abandoning use of "The Honorable".
All other local and national government officials are styled "The Honorable"; both titles, however, may be glossed in Filipino as Ang Kagalang-galang. In its November 2016 issue, the Philippine edition of Esquire magazine ran an article on Vice President Leni Robredo with the title "Her Excellency". This usage of the title earned mixed reactions from the public, spurring criticism from her opponents as well as supporters of President Duterte.
The President of Somalia is addressed as "His/Her Excellency” or “Jaale".
The President of South Africa is addressed as "His/Her Excellency" if in a formal context.
The President of Sri Lanka is addressed as His/Her Excellency. Alternatively, one may address the president simply as Mr. President.
The Swedish language title and forms of address are Hans/Hennes Excellens (His/Her Excellency) and Ers Excellens (Your Excellency).
During most of the 20th century in Sweden, only three officials (other than foreign ambassadors in Sweden and Swedish ambassadors at their post) were granted to the style of Excellency: the Prime Minister, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Marshal of the Realm (the highest ranking courtier). They were indeed collectively referred to as "the three excellencies" (Swedish: de tre excellenserna) In the 1970s it fell out of custom in Sweden to address the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs as such, although they continue to be addressed as such in United Nations protocol and in other diplomatic writing. Prior to the 19th century, a Lord of the Realm (Swedish: En af Rikets Herrar) and a Riksråd were also entitled to the style as Excellency.
The Prime Minister of Thailand, Deputy Prime Ministers, other cabinet members, governors and ambassadors are addressed as "His/Her Excellency".
The President of Turkey is addressed as "His/Her Excellency".
In the United States, the form Excellency was commonly used for George Washington during his service as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and later when President of the United States, but it began to fall out of use with his successor, and today has been replaced in direct address with the simple Mr. President or the Honorable. Diplomatic correspondence to President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War, as during the Trent Affair, for instance, frequently referred to him as His Excellency. In many foreign countries and in United Nations protocol, the President and the secretary of state are usually referred to as His Excellency.
In several of the former Thirteen Colonies, the form Excellency was used for the governor. These include Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Virginia. West Virginia likewise adopted the title His/Her Excellency from its parent state. The term was formerly used in Georgia on the state governor's letterhead, the text of executive orders, any document that requires the governor's signature, and informal settings. However, it is no longer in use. The Governor of Michigan is traditionally afforded the courtesy title, though it has fallen out of use in recent years.
Other governors are sometimes addressed as Excellency at public events. This is a traditional practice that, though it is less common, is the product of custom and courtesy rather than of legislation.
Though U.S. ambassadors are traditionally accorded the style elsewhere, the U.S. government does not use Excellency for its own chiefs of missions, preferring Honorable instead.