Friday, June 5, 2015

19th C. Etiquette at Spain's Royal Court


We find in a late number of Noah's Sunday Times an editorial upon the manners of the Court of Spain, and the particular code of morals of the present day. There is undoubtedly more licentiousness in that Court than in those of all the other foreign potentates put together. Yet Spain seems, at the present time, to remain comparatively tranquil under the reign of the youthful Queen, and be perfectly satisfied with the present regime. We copy a portion of the article:
                                                    
Queen Isabella II of Spain. She ruled from 1833 to 1868. Isabella's reign was a troubled and chaotic chapter in Spain's history. It was marked by coups, scandals and civil wars, which ended with a successful revolution against the Spanish monarchy.

There is probably no monarchy in Europe which keeps up the stiff, antiquated etiquette of royalty equal to the Spanish Court. Everything is done by rule, by usanca, as it is called, and it unites the sober dignity of the Moors with the imperial pride which distinguished the reign of Charles V., and Ferdinand and Isabella. Poverty has not abated an inch in the steady etiquette of that court, but it is now in great danger of being overturned, if not utterly destroyed, by that hoyden, the young Queen of Spain. She cannot possibly carry out old forms, and therefore discards them altogether. They say of the young Queen, that, although she likes gossip herself, she is indifferent to all gossip about herself. She gives herself up to the noisiest pleasures with childish ardor, and seems to take delight in teasing the solemn nullity of a husband whom she was required to marry. 
                                     
Cravats à la Lord Byron, replaced the stiff uniform, or formal black coat, white cravat, and white vest of "Spanishdom"

When her ministers wish to talk to her about public affairs, she bids them, with girlish petulence, to consult her mother, and that it is she who manages those kind of things. She orders dancing every night in the gardens, prohibits all kinds of illumination, and the moment she arrives gives herself up to laughter and dancing of the most energetic character. She tires out the strongest limbed, and then looks round with the most reckless merriment. Half an hour afterward she seats herself, and eats and drinks with the same vigor as she dances, and that at some rustic table under the trees. From these balls ancient Spanish etiquette has fled affrighted.
                                            
A young girl and her duenna, or chaperon         

Nankeen gabines, summer frock coats, cravats a la Byron, replace the stiff uniform, or formal black coat, white cravat, and white vest of Spanishdom. With utter contempt for all etiquette, her youthful majesty, whenever her partner is young, handsome, and amusing, does not scruple to walk off alone with him in the sylvan solitudes. Paquo, (Frank,) for so she calls her husband, used to fret and worry at first, but has got used to it, and is become plethoric and indifferent. She laughs at the remonstrances of her elderly friends, even when they hint that her crown is in danger; and it is this fact which induces people to speak of abdication.
                                               
Isabella's Royal Coat of Arms

The little queen is no doubt a jolly rollocking girl, full of buoyancy of spirits and happiness, as all Spanish girls are who are not kept down by priests and duennas. She is, however, in danger, for if she had the ability to assist in conducting public affairs, she might romp with impunity after business hours; but she is like one of our school girls at 3 o'clock, rushing out of the school room into the candy shop, with shouts of ringing laughter. If it is said that this dynasty of sovereigns that is, mother and daughter — with no special regard for morality, cannot long be sustained in Spain, we answer that the people, who are loyal, are exceedingly indifferent about the conduct of royalty and nobility at court. 


They never meddle with interdicted subjects. There are no single females more virtuous than those of Spain, and none married who are so indifferent to its solemn obligations. In every respectable house there is a fat, jolly padre, who takes the head of the table, and all the children look like him. The husband, a kind, affectionate, good, indifferent fellow, in too sensible to take any notice of an event so very common and domestic in Spain — a kind of common law or usanca. The common, uneducated people, however, are more vigilant in this respect than the higher orders and do not generally submit to these matrimonial innovations.- From The Daily Alta California, 1849


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