The advantages of a presentation are somewhat visionary. It is supposed to give one a standing socially, for according to the theory the anyone presented at Court is entitled to be presented by the Embassador of his country, at any and every other Court. But, in fact, a presentation benefits only those who do not need it, and the great mass of those presented see nothing more of royalty.
If they are never invited to the royal fetes or balls, they have little more interest in high society than they had before, and the chief benefit, so far as the masses of the presentees are concerned, is to see their names in the paper the next day, and so to be the envy of all the women who have not been presented. As a sort of social triumph it is worth striving for when that sort of distinction is deemed worth having, and for the sake of the honor women go through the tedious drill, the hours of weary waiting, the discomfort, and sometimes the humiliation, just to say they have been recognized by Majesty.
In general, even this statement is not true. So far as England is concerned, the royal receptions are in the name of the Queen, but as a rule, after the Embassadors nave been received, the Queen retires and leaves her daughter-in-law, the Princess of Wales, to do the honors, which are thereby done quite as well, and the Queen is therefore saved the discomfort, to her no doubt very great of a tedious public audience.
Those who have passed through it more than once generally concede thai a royal drawing-room is a misery to most of those concerned, and in particular to the ladies who receive the honor. It is not necessary to be among those presented, however, to share some of the benefits of a drawing-room. Persons of good character, having proper credentials and fortune enough to secure an introduction to the Lord Chamberlain, may receive tickets permitting them to stand in the corridors of the Palace and see the crowds of debutantes and their chaperones pass in and out on their way to and from the reception.
Some people say this is really the most satisfactory way of "doing" a drawing-room, but good credentials are necessary and some influence to secure even so so slight a favor as that of being permitted to stand in the passage and see the nobility and gentry go by. It is not to be supposed, however, that there is no fun at a drawing-room. There is any quantity of it, but it is all for those who have neither part, nor lot, in the exercises within. The occasion is always announced in the papers some days before, and the order is given in which the carriages are to fall in line.
The announcement never fails to attract the public, which gathers numerously, and bestows enthusiastic encouragement on the persons participating. For hours before the appointed time vehicles are slowly moving about the neighborhood in order to get ready to take a place, for the rule stands, first come first presented, and as the clock strikes there is a grand rush toward the Palace gate, and in the crush, carriages are often broken, sometimes overturned, and accidents to horses are quite frequent. The police lend their assistance to form the line, and after a carriage is in position, its occupants must wait from two to four hours until their turn comes at the Palace gate.
Meantime, the people in groups pass up and down before the carriages, and criticise their occupants with the utmost freedom. The occasion is always available also for the display of patriotism. The Prince and Princess of Wales are cheered as they go by in their gilded chariots; the Lord Mayor and High Sheriff must listen to comments on their gorgeousness, the Embassadors and public functionaries applauded or hooted, as fancy dictates. In London it is not a statutuable offense to howl at anybody, from the Prince of Wales up or down, as you choose to count, and it frequently happens that unpopular public characters have, while waiting in the streets before Buckingham Palace, an excellent opportunity to ascertain what the public think of them.
But nobody minds, and even the women who are stared at by the mob on the street, and commented upon, sometimes the reverse of respectful, take the matter very coolly. Their carriages are provided with curtains, but as a rule they seldom take the pains to draw them up. They are on exhibition, and if they do not object to the publicity, unwelcome though it sometimes is, no one else has it right to complain. — San Francisco, 1891
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