Sunday, April 26, 2015

Etiquette and Royal Manners

Prince Albert, Prince of Wales, later who became King Edward VII of England 
If fine manners are naturally associated with rank, the supposition would be that the higher the rank the finer the manners. It would then follow that the guest of honor, who is also the stranger, would take precedence of all others. It is therefore bewildering to learn that when the Prince of Wales recently gave a dinner to General Grant the distinguished visitor brought up the rear of the procession to the dining-room.  We are but boors in etiquette; yet if the Prince of Wales had been the guest of honor of the President of the United States he would not have been permitted to close the march to dinner; and he would have proceeded, not as Prince, but as guest; for it would be equally true of untitled Mr. Bright or Mr. Gladstone as of a Prince. 
General Grant, who later became the 18th President of the United States
Courtesy is a poor thing if it cannot dispense, upon due occasion with the rigidity of the ceremonial forms. It is rumored that the American minister in England was long absorbed in the task of arranging General Grant's invitations, so that he should not be apparently insulted by being treated at entertainments given in his honor with less consideration than any other guest. This is hardly credible to an unsophisticated American, because he cannot comprehend either an English gentleman should offer or an American gentleman accept such a situation. The rules of really good society, whether titled or untitled, are everywhere the same in regard to certain essential points, and it is a pity if they are violated in the house of Prince.  To invite an untitled man into titled company, upon an occasion of pure ceremony, where titles determine precedence, is to invite him to go behind. If a Prince gives a dinner in honor of an untitled guest, he is bound to honor him chiefly, and invites the company merely to help him render the honor.
The Prince of Wales entertained General Grant at Marlborough House
If, therefore, it be true that the Prince of Wales gave a dinner specially to General Grant and permitted the greater part of the company to proceed him to the table, General Grant should quietly have left the house, and all the more if, as is constantly said, etiquette and forms are real things to European society. For if that be so, the significance of the situation was that an American without a title, however illustrious, however honored at home, and the especial guest of the occasion, is not to be recognized as the equal of titled people.  Probably, if the story be true, General Grant was not troubled; but if English gentlemen are required by etiquette to acquiesce in so flagrant a discourtesy they're greatly to be pitied.— Harpers Magazine, August, 1877 

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