What pronoun is used in French when talking to a king or a queen? Here is a quote from Cendrillon:

"Votre Majesté ne manque-t-elle pas un peu... de patience?" réplique le Grand Duc.

Why does the Grand Duke use ELLE and not IL talking to the king? And is it possible to use VOUS to address the monarch, e.g. Votre Majesté, ne manquez-vous pas un peu... de patience?

  • Sure , I did. Here are a few sentences from dictionaries and media which made me think about the sentence from Cenrillon: Comme vous voulez, votre Majesté. Que voulez-vous dire au juste, Majesté? Ce fut un plaisir de vous rencontrer, aussi, Votre Majesté. Majesté, pourriez-vous nous faire part de vos vues sur ...... Majesté, je vous remercie pour cette décoration que je mérite vraiment. Votre Majesté, c'est un grand honneur pour moi de vous donne la parole devant le Parlement européen. The examples contain the pronoun VOUS, not ELLE.
    – Val
    Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 12:37
  • 1
    Your last sentence is missing a comma: Your majesty, don't you[...] and not Your majesty don't you [...] With the comma, it becomes obvious that it is a direct address to someone, requiring 2d person (same grammar rule in French, English and many languages). Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 7:13

2 Answers 2


Gender is always based on the grammatical subject, not real-world gender. In this case the subject of the sentence is majesté, which is feminine. The sentence is framed in the third person with the majesté as the subject, not second-person (there is no vous).

Compare this to English:

(A) Your Majesty has an appointment at seven.
(B) Your Majesty have an appointment at seven.

Which would you say? I'd say (A). Here, as in French, the subject is the noun "majesty", not the pronoun "you", so the verb agrees in third-person singular.

In case it's not the syntax but the grammatical mismatch that makes it difficult, here's another example of the latter. In the introduction to Le Petit prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry keeps using elle for the person he's dedicating the book to:

Je demande pardon aux enfants d'avoir dédié ce livre à une grande personne. J'ai une excuse sérieuse : cette grande personne est le meilleur ami que j'ai au monde. J'ai une autre excuse : cette grande personne peut tout comprendre, même les livres pour enfants. J'ai une troisième excuse : cette grande personne habite la France où elle a faim et froid. Elle a besoin d'être consolée. Si toutes ces excuses ne suffisent pas, je veux bien dédier ce livre à l'enfant qu'a été autrefois cette grande personne. Toutes les grandes personnes ont d'abord été des enfants. (Mais peu d'entre elles s'en souviennent.) Je corrige donc ma dédicace :

But then we found out said person is Léon (m) Werth, when he was a little boy:


Why? Because Léon (m) is une grande personne (f), a grown-up.

Exercise: Why is it correct to say « Le mot reine est féminin » without an extra e on the end of féminin ?

The word 'mot' is a masculine noun. It doesn't matter that the real-world thing described by reine, a queen, is a feminine person.

  • 1
    I understand the crux of the question to be about protocol, so these might interesting to mention : fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/Votre_Majest%C3%A9 and btb.termiumplus.gc.ca/tpv2guides/guides/clefsfp/…
    – None
    Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 12:50
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    @None That second one is particularly helpful since it shows that you can even just use majesté or altesse without the determiner. OP should note that these could only be used (I think) in the vocative: « Majesté, je vous prie de ... »
    – Luke Sawczak
    Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 12:55
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    Point de vue ( "a weekly focused on royalty, its scope being to report the latest happy and princely news") might be interesting as well. I have this article in mind : pointdevue.fr/royal/royaume-uni/…
    – None
    Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 12:58
  • I appreciate everybody's help. And my special thanks to Luke.
    – Val
    Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 14:16

In an interrogative sentence, when the subject is a noun, a pronoun is added after the verb, pronoun gender being in accordance with that of the subject :

Paul part. ==> Paul part-il ?
Votre Majesté ne manque pas de patience. ==> Votre Majesté ne manque-t-elle pas de patience ?

In the above sentence "Votre Majesté" is the subject of the verb and the pronoun "elle" (duplication of the subject) was simply added for the correctness of the interrogative sentence.

If "Votre majesté" is used to apostrophy the king, the following is perfectly correct :

Votre Majesté, ne manquez-vous pas un peu... de patience ? Note the comma after "Majesté".

In this sentence, the first part "Votre majesté" is optional, "ne manquez-vous pas un peu... de patience ?" is in itself totallly correct.

  • Thank you so much, Graffito. Now, it's clear.
    – Val
    Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 17:03

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