|The levée was originally a daily moment of intimacy and accessibility to a monarch or sovereign. It started out as a royal custom, but in America, it later came to refer to a reception by the King’s representatives and, even later, by the President.|
What is Required for a Royal Levée
Miseries of a Debutante in Her Presentation at Court
Miseries of a Debutante in Her Presentation at Court
Rigid Rules Prescribed for Her Conduct—Annoyances to Which Those Seeking the Honor Are Subjected
The principal feature of fashionable life in a Monarchical country is the presentation at Court,without which no society belle considers any season properly finished, and which indeed is considered to be both the beginning and the crowning honor of society life.
This being the case, it is not remarkable that among people who live in a country where a Court is the center of society, there should exist a marked anxiety to be presented at Court. This feeling takes most definite form in England, and the desire for the honor has spread so far that even Americans, both gentlemen and ladies, have on many occasions manifested an eagerness to be "presented." Hardly consonant with the simplicity of republican institutions, says a writer in the St. Louis Globe - Democrat.
The honor of presentation at Court, however, is accorded to very few, and those of the most "select classes." Embassadors and Ministers have the right to be presented, and would feel insulted if they were not. The Nobility and landed gentry of England also, in some degree, consider Court presentation as a sort of right, the honor in their cases having acquired a sort of hereditary standing.
Cabinet Ministers, officers of the army and navy, officials in the highest grades of the civil service are also presented, together with foreigners of distinction who have been introduced by their Embassador. Men of prominence in the learned and scientific pursuits are sometimes presented as a special favor, though they do not usually seek the honor, which in their case is somewhat doubtful.
With merchants and manufacturers, the list of those who make an appearance at Court may be said to close, and of these last two classes the number presented in Court ceremonials is small. The strictest care is taken to exclude anything which savors of the shop, hence no retail merchant, however great his wealth, however respectable his standing, may anticipate the honor of appearing in the presence of the Queen.
Instances sometimes happen of men of all these classes placing an exceedingly high value upon the honor, and when its bestowal was doubtful, making special effort to secure it. But men as a rule, value acourt appearance very lightly. Not so their wives and daughters. What to a man is a trifling occurrence, an empty honor, to be received without gratitude and forgotten with expedition, becomes to a woman the event of her life, and the amount of scheming, of planning among the ladies desirous of a presentation, would be deemed incredible were it not known to be a fact.
The wives and daughters of men entitled to appear at court are also accorded that honor, and, as a rule, prize it so much more highly that the attendance of ladies always far exceeds that of men. Ladies seeking presentation may be divided into two classes, those who enjoy the honor as a sot of right by reason of their birth or relationship and those who seek it as an honor. The former experience no difficulty whatever in obtaining access to the charmed circle which surrounds the Queen.
When a young girl of Noble or gentle birth attains the proper age she is presented by her mother or by her aunt, or by some other female relative having the right to appear. She is then said to make her debut, or in England parlance "to come out." But for all other persons, including visiting Americans, a presentation at Court is a matter of difficulty. The person desiring to be presented must have proper instructions, good associations, considerable wealth— a very important factor— and must find a social godmother willing to assume the responsibility of her introduction.
The obliging chaperon may sometimes assume the charge from friendly regard, but, if Dame Rumor be correct, more than one godmother has taken the responsibility of introducing an American for the sake of the American dollar, and more than one American lady is currently reported to have paid a handsome sum to an English Dame whose rank was exalted, but whose pocket-book was lank, for the honor of being taken to Court. Such things come high, but some people think them cheap at any price.
Having secured a social godmother, application for appearance at Court is made to the Lord Chamberlain, sometimes many weeks or even months beforehand, and the applicant then awaits her turn. When it comes, her name with other,s is presented several days before the ceremony to the Queen, who rigidly strikes off any she may deem unworthy of the honor. With regard to this point, the present sovereign of Great Britain is relentless, and many a lady whose lot was not cast among the privileged classes, or whose character had been breathed upon, has at the last moment been disappointed in her expectations.
Long before the name of the candidate has been passed on, the ambitious aspirant has placed herself under the tuition of a mistress of etiquette. This is a necessary preliminary, for the etiquette of a Queen's Court is as rigid as were the laws of the Medes and Persians. Custom prescribes the behavior of the person introduced down to the minutest detail; the manner of her entrance and exit, the number of courtesies she shall make, the manner in which she shall manage her train, how she shall hold her fan, and every other apparently unimportant particular is prescribed with the most wearisome minuteness. — San Francisco, 1891
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