Thursday, March 10, 2016

Wilhelm's Changes in Etiquette

 A great deal of the solemn etiquette of the ordinary court life has been done away with, the staff reduced in several ways, and there have even been economies in the kitchen. The officers of the guard have to put up with beer instead of champagne!


Wilhelm At Home:
His Private Life Is Simple but Nevertheless Extravagant 


Not that the German Emperor would be common-place anywhere. His mysterious outbursts of rage, his officially contradicted illness or illnesses, and his genius for self-advertisement would bring him into notice wherever he was. But, though we hear so much about his life for show in public, few people know how simple his private life is. 

But it is a fact that a great deal of the solemn etiquette of the ordinary court life has been done away with, the staff reduced in several ways, and there have even been economies in the kitchen. The officers of the guard have to put up with beer instead of champagne. It is true the menu at the Emperor's table must be in German now, not French, but the aristocracy generally have not followed suit. 

There are things even a German Emperor cannot do. But anyone who sees the royal palace, knows that the stories of extravagance are true. Restoring it was the work of three months, and everything that the best of science and art, and the taxpayers' money could do, was done. Those three months turned out a palace that eclipses in splendor almost any other in the world. 

The apartments that the present Emperor uses are those between the "Pillar hall" and the "Star hall," or "Star chamber," whichever we would call it in English, only in this case the stars are in the ceiling. But perhaps the most magnificent is the front hall, the Treppen halle, which faces the Palace square. 

A view can be had without opening the doors, for they are each of one immense pane of glass, and even in the daytime the white and gray marble covering the walls is effective. At night it is a marvelous sight, the electric light flooding the hall, the marble balustrades and the red carpet on the marble steps. You pass down these, betwen colossal mirrors on either hand, and the Star hall is directly in front. It is here the regimental colors are used as ornaments for the walls, on a background of red damask. 

The panelling is done in rich rococo work. The Emperor's and Empress' private apartments are near the Pillar hall, which also faces the Palace square. There are a private entrance and a public one, for deputations and so on. One gets as good an idea of the general extravagance from the Emperor's workshop, or study, as anywhere else. 

True, there are the writing table, the leathercovered furniture and tho book shelves, but the ceiling is in splendid white-and-gold rococo work—done in Frederick the Great's time—and improvements have been made in the same style and color. 

The walls are in dark olive and gold brocade. The Empress' private rooms are also very fine. Her reception room has more of the immense mirrors, and the walls are panelled in greenish-gray marble. Yet she herself is the ordinary German hausfrau, and is what she has been from her girlhood—a nonenity. 

All these apartments have been lying unused for many years—since the time of Friedrich Wilhelm III, in fact. The court life in public resembles that of most other countries: the dinner is the most noticeable difference. It lasts barely three-quarters of an hour; courses come and go like lightning, and, as at Napoleon's table, a man who gives too much time to talking may find himself extremely hungry when it is over. 

One of the great entertainments is the time-honored ball at the end of the carnival, where as many as 1200 guests have been invited. The waltz is the principal dance, and the minuet was lately introduced. The Emperor and Empress just join in one quadrille, but the ball is for them more of a big reception; they make their rounds of the guests in the "White Hall" before dancing begins.—Westminster Gazette, 1897


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