The mother of Anne Boleyn is often referred to as “Lady Elizabeth Howard”. That’s NOT correct! Why? In those times, if your name was “Lady Elizabeth Howard”, you would have been the wife of a knight with the surname Howard. Elizabeth Boleyn’s mother, born Elizabeth Tilney, was married to Thomas Howard in 1472. At that time, she simply took on the surname Howard. In 1478, Thomas was knighted and she became known as Lady Elizabeth Howard until 1483–when Thomas began using the title, Earl of Surrey. After the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, she was again known as Lady Elizabeth Howard until 1489 when Howard became Earl of Surrey once again.
If we were in TODAY’S society, Elizabeth still would NOT have a courtesy title at birth (c.1480). Her father was a knight until 1483, when he would have started using HIS courtesy title, Earl of Surrey. At that time, she could have become “Lady Elizabeth Howard” as the daughter of an Earl, but I don’t think the practice of the courtesy title “Lady” was laid out or even practiced—or was it? However, by 1485, her father was in the Tower and she would return to Elizabeth Howard. In 1489, she could become “Lady Elizabeth Howard” again as Henry VII restored her father’s title, Earl of Surrey. But upon her marriage, she became Elizabeth Boleyn. Once her husband was knighted in 1509 (WITH Thomas Parr), she became Lady Elizabeth Boleyn.
So have we always had courtesy titles for the children of nobility or was that instituted later on? Do we even have wives of knights becoming “Lady x” in this day and age? Seems like knighthoods are scarce these days while back in the day everyone seems to have been knighted eventually.
And what of Queen Katherine Parr’s titles? Sure.
She was Lady Burgh from 1529-33. Technically, she would have been Lady Katherine Burgh. By her second marriage, she became Lady Latimer as the wife of the 3rd Baron Latimer. If you want to get technical you could call her Lady Katherine Neville, Baroness Latimer. By 1543, she became known as the Dowager Lady Latimer. She is referred to as Lady Katharine Latymer in an account of the marriage of her and King Henry VIII. In July she became Her Majesty The Queen or HM Queen Katherine. By Jan 1547, she became Katherine, the Queen Dowager or just The Dowager Queen. She technically was still the only Queen of England. Upon her marriage to Thomas Seymour, Lord Seymour of Sudeley, I believe she retained her highest honor as Queen, but was also technically Lady Seymour of Sudeley. Think of Princess Mary Tudor who retained her status as the French Queen even when she married Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. Or even Jacquetta of Luxembourg, who retained her title of Duchess of Bedford for life apparently.
So…let’s do Queen Katherine’s family titles for fun! Her great-grandmother was Alice Neville, daughter of the Earl and Countess of Salisbury. She has been incorrectly labeled as “Lady Alice Neville” at times (yes, I’ve done it!) However, I believe it’s her mother who was known as Lady Alice Neville, Countess of Salisbury. So historically, the younger Alice is known as Lady Alice FitzHugh as the wife of the 5th Baron FitzHugh. Her daughter became Lady Elizabeth Parr, as wife to Sir William of Kendal, Knt. She then became Lady Elizabeth Vaux as the first wife of Sir Nicholas, Knt. (later Baron Vaux). Her son by William, Sir Thomas, married Maud Green. After the death of Lady Elizabeth Vaux, her husband married Anne Green, sister to the new Lady Parr.