Thursday, June 18, 2015

Etiquette, Versailles and Louis XIV

"The King's Cutlets — In Olden Times the Company Had to Salute Them"
The revival of a somewhat minute system of etiquette in the German court, and particularly in the adoption of rules for the settlement of the numerous questions of precedence which have come up in connection with the extended journeys of Emperor William II, have led some of the European journals to remind their readers that any modern monarch must be at a great disadvantage in setting up a system of court etiquette, as compared with the kings of two or three centuries ago.

Precedence ruled in all things at the court of Louis XIV at Versailles. Even the King's morning toilet was made In the presence of the courtiers, who were continually arriving. As the King put on his outer garments these were handed to him by the noblemen of the highest rank in attendance.
The story is told that as the King was putting on his waistcoat one morning it was handed to him by a Count, but before the Count had passed the garment to the King a Duke came in. This made it necessary for the Count to hand the waistcoat at once to the Duke, as it would have been against etiquette for a person of lower rank to pass the garment. And as it must be handed with bare hands, the King had to wait while the Duke removed his gloves. When this operation was performed, and the Duke was about to advance with the waistcoat, the door again opened, and a royal Prince of a younger branch of the family entered.
The Duke, of course, at once presented the waistcoat to the newcomer, as he was of higher rank. But the Prince was also gloved, and when he had performed the somewhat tedious operation of ungloving there arrived another Prince, who happened to be of the elder branch. So the unfortunate King had to wait once more, and, as the room was cold, it is recorded that he took a violent chill. 
At King Louis' dinner, when the cook brought in the meat for the royal plate, he was attended by armed soldiers and preceded by a herald, shouting, "Gentlemen, the King's viands." Whereupon all the company uncovered, and the sentinels saluted, the roast chicken or the royal mutton cutlets.
When the King was about to drink a chamberlain announced the fact at the top of his voice, and two functionaries, whose duty it was to taste the wine or water in order to prove that it had not been poisoned, stepped forward, poured out a little and drank it off. Then the King drank. The great mass of royal formalities and points of etiquette disappeared with the last century, but the rules of precedence are still very strictly observed in royal courts.— News from Philadelphia, 1895

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Moderator for Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia