Archive for the ‘Precedence Q&A’ Category

If a former secretary of defense (and spouse) and a sitting governor (and spouse) are to be in a receiving line, what is the order of the receiving line? The event is a formal luncheon hosted by a couple. The former secretary of defense is attending with his wife. The governor is attending with her husband. HELP!
             — IR

Dear IR,
A current governor has higher precedence than a former secretary, especially if the governor is in his own state. If the spouses are going to be in the receiving line, a spouse typically stands next to their official spouse, though they have nor formal precedence themselves.
So the order would be: the host, the hostess (spouse of the host), governor, the governor’s spouse, the former secretary, then the former secretary’s spouse.
I include a precedence list in my book if this sort of thing comes up often!
      — Robert Hickey


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A quick question – we are a non-profit organizing an annual awards luncheon. Traditionally we recognize elected officials in the audience (this year our Congressman and several city council members and county commissioners) from the podium. This year a State Representative will also offer keynote remarks. The question is – would protocol dictate the other elected officials are recognized before the State Rep is introduced and speaks, or vice versa, or does the order matter as long as all are recognized?  Thank you!
— Brian Hancock

Dear Mr. Hancock:
       If you are asking when to recognize members of the audience, ….. it should be done by a master of ceremonies before the keynote speaker is introduced and invited to the podium.
And the keynote speaker (an anyone else who gets the mike) should be instructed not to re-acknowledge the distinguished guests again. It distracts from their message, is not necessary, and irritates everyone in the audience!
The top guest is acknowledged first, then go down the list in precedence order.
If you can get hold of a copy of my book I provide the correct phrasing to use for introducing by name every type of official you mention. Just look up the “office” in the index and I include the form right after how to write their place cards.
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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We have an upcoming event next week at which both of our current U. S. Senators will be speaking as will one of our former U. S. Senators, a long-serving senator who retired last year.  What is the proper way to differentiate between the current senators and retired senator in the printed program that will be made available to those attending that day?  Is the situation different if a senator or member of congress is defeated in an election instead of retiring?
This event, sponsored by the University, will be held at our local Air Force Base, so we have political, military, and academic protocol issues coming together at one event.  We want to get things right.
— North Dakota Chairman

Dear Dear Mr. Chairman:
The forms of address for current and retired senators is the same … so in the program you should differentiate between them with a modifying statement after their name:

The Honorable Full Name
Senator for North Dakota

The Honorable Full Name
Senator for North Dakota, 1990-2006

Precedence of current senators is the one elected first is first.  Precedence of a former is with, but after any current.
Former senators …. retired or defeated … continue to use the same forms of address. Exception is a senator who was removed from office: he or she would no longer be addressed as The Honorable.
I cover all this in my book if this sort of thing comes up often.
Just in case you haven’t, that local Air Force Base you mention has a Protocol Officer with whom you should be coordinating all this.
I don’t know who is the current head of protocol at Ellsworth AFB, but plenty of USAF Protocol Officers are grads of The Protocol School of Washington, so it’s likely they use my book.
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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A protocol question about the wedding of William and Catherine. In the photos of the British Royals entering Westminster Abbey — Prince Charles had Camilla on his left, but the Prince Philip had the Queen on his right. 
Why is there a difference?
        — Ivan Franceus

Dear Ivan:
First consider let’s mention “right’ and “left in photos: when you are in the picture what is“on your right” is “on the left” as we view the photo.

The place of honor is on the left as you look at a photographed couple. Think of bridal photos you have seen, Typically men escort women on their right … in the place of honor.  So when you look at the photo the man is on the RIGHT.   So in a photo the person on the LEFT of the photo is in the place of honor.

But in royalty there is precedence to consider.

         * Charles outranks Camilla, so he is in the #1 spot, she is in the #2 spot. Charles is on the left, Camilla on the right. That puts Charles on Camilla’s right and Camilla on Charles’s left. That reflects the correct precedence of their personal ranks

         * The Queen outranks Prince Phillip, so she is in the #1 spot and he in the #2.

Look at this next photo down where the  Queen is with a gentleman: Why is the Queen in the #2 spot?  The Queen as host of the President of the French Republic in the UK. She has placed him on her right … since he is the guest of honor.

        Look at this next photo: The Queen is back in the #1 spot?  Here, Her Majesty is the guest of the President of the United States in Washington, DC … The President has placed her on his right since Her Majesty is his guest of honor.

And another interesting example:

After the wedding the Queen placed herself in the center, put Kate’s mother on her right(her place of honor) and Camilla on her left (a lesser spot) to honor Kate’s mother AT THAT MOMENT. 

Putting Kate’s mother in an honored position (higher than Camilla who technically has higher precedence) was not in precedence order based on their titles, but it reflected the Queen’s view of the situational application of precedence of the moment.

And it was a lovely gesture and shows what a pro the Queen clearly is.

         – Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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Just a quick question in regards to military order of precedence, I understand that the retired officer follows the active duty officer of the same rank, but for introductions for a retirement ceremony script, does a Major General (ret) get introduced first or after the active duty Colonels?
— Michael S., USAF

Dear Steven:
Introductions are done in precedence order and I include a copy of the US precedence list in my book’s chapter on “Precedence” for just this sort of query.
The way the precedence list is worded is: VIP Code 5, #43, Two-star military: Major general, rear admiral, by seniority. Retired officers by rank with, but after active officers.
Colonels and captains are VIP Code 7, #47 …. so they come after all those in #43.

– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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Do you know if the First Lady carries a DV Code?  If so, where can I find this in print?  I tried to Google this information and of course I was directed to your book “Honor & Respect” which I will be purchasing today.
— Steven @ The Pentagon

Dear Steven:
The First Lady [spouse of the POTUS] does not have a DV Code since she does not appear on any precedence list.
However she is accorded the courtesies due her spouse … especially when she is there as First Lady & representative of The President. She get’s the courtesies of the POTUS even when she is mixed with office-holders who are actually on the precedence list.
So, while she does not have a Distinguished Visitor Code (DV Code) …. give her a very good seat!
This is typical for spouses who have a significant hostess functionality in the social aspects of some very high offices such as president, governor, or president of a university.
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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What is the proper way to address two married members of the military when one is active duty and one is retired and they are the same rank on official correspondence? I couldn’ find the answer on your site.
— Tish

Dear Tish:
The rule of precedence is that personnel are grouped by rank … and active is before retired.
The way it’s phrased on the precedence list I include in my book (page 127) is for, say O-8’s:
43.    Two-star military: Major general, rear admirals, by seniority.
Retired officers by rank by after active duty officers

I don’t try and answer everything on the site …. I have a chapter in my book on precedence and joint forms of address if this sort of thing comes up often.
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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