Excellency is a honorific style given to certain members of an organization or state.


It is sometimes misinterpreted as a title of office in itself, but in fact it is an honorific which goes with and is used before various such 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/Her Excellency"; in direct address, "Your Excellency", or, less formally, simply "Excellency".

In many states, this form is used for:

Statesmen and diplomacy

Commonwealth usage

The form "Excellency" has never been used to refer to, or address any monarch of any Commonwealth country where a sovereign is or was head of state. The mistaken belief that it can or should be used may arise from confusion due to errors of protocol in other countries or at the United Nations; however, in Commonwealth Realms, on documents such as Acts of Parliament, reference may be made to the monarch's "Most Excellent Majesty" as the source of the Act's authority, although this, of course, is not a style attached to the monarch.

The style "Excellency" is generally accorded to the current holders of the following offices:

United States usage

In the United States, the form "Excellency" was commonly used for George Washington during his Presidency, 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 ..." However, in many foreign countries and in United Nations protocol the President of the United States is usually referred to as "His Excellency." 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 the six states of New England, governors have retained the honorific "Excellency," following traditional British colonial practice, though it is rarely used. They are: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine. All of these states were among the original Thirteen Colonies, either as colonies in their own right, or (in the case of Vermont and Maine) as parts of other colonies. Five of the other original colonies, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, and Georgia also use the form "Excellency" in referring to their governors. The State of South Carolina legally provides for the Governor to be referred to as "Excellency"; the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the State of North Carolina do not. The term is used frequently in the State of Georgia on the Governors letterhead, the text of executive orders, any document requiring his signature and when in formal settings. Nevertheless, "Excellency" is used frequently when introducing the Governor of Pennsylvania, the Governor of Virginia and the Governor of North Carolina at formal events.

Other governors are sometimes addressed as "excellency" at public events. This is a traditional practice that is not at all incorrect, but it is less common, and is the product of custom and courtesy rather than of legislation.

Though ambassadors are traditionally accorded the title elsewhere (see below), the U.S. government does not use "excellency" for its diplomatic corps, preferring "the honorable" instead.

China usage

In the People's Republic of China, the form "Excellency" is commonly used to refer to the President or the Premier. For example, Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao are referred to as "His Excellency".

Other countries

In most republican nations, the president is formally called "His/Her Excellency" and the initials "HE" are often presented in front of their name in formal documents, however, the simpler form "Mr./Madam President" remains the most common means of address for day-to-day conversation.

If a republic has a prime minister, he or she is often addressed as "Excellency" as well. If the nation is a constitutional monarchy, however, rules vary. Many European monarchies do not specifically give this form of address to their prime ministers, while most of the monarchies of Asia do.

International diplomacy

In various international organizations, notably the UN and its agencies, "Excellency" is used as a generic form of address for all 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 (like Ambassador) - or the lower Head of Government level.

In recent years, some international organizations, such as the OSCE, 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.

Other uses


In Spain and some other countries, high ranking noblemen titles of nobility (of Peerage rank in British terms), enjoy styling as "His/Her Excellency".

Ecclesiastical use

In the Roman Catholic Church, it is customary in many countries to use this style with Archbishops or Bishops (more formally, "His", or "Your", "Most Reverend Excellency"). The title of Eminence (or, more formally, "His", or "Your", "Most Reverend Eminence") is reserved to cardinals. This is also the official usage, both ecclesiastical and diplomatic, and is the practice followed in the United States and Canada.

However in the United Kingdom and most Commonwealth or former Commonwealth countries, it is more customary to follow the British tradition, as usual in the Anglican churches, where an Archbishop is addressed as "Your Grace" and a bishop as "My Lord".

Other secular excellencies

Excellency can also be attached to an honorary quality, notably in an order of knighthood; e.g. in the empire of Brazil, it was attached to the highest classes, each time styled Grand Cross, of all three imperial orders: Imperial Order of Dom 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.

See also

Sources and references


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