Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Etiquette or Absurd Custom?

Royal tradition took a step backward, but the Queen moved forward in 2009 ~ HRH Queen Elizabeth II of England bowed down to 'health and safety' concerns. The centuries-old practice of servants and guests walking backwards when leaving the room after seeing the monarch was dropped amid health and safety concerns.

Walking Backward — An Ex-Attache Writes in His Usual Vigorous Style on an "Absurd European Custom"

Sometimes this walking backward gives rise to rather pretty and even pathetic devices on the part of those who desire to avoid accidents, such as happened to the Duke of Argyll. Thus I can recall the case of a relative, who in return for active service, was summoned with several brother officers to Buckingham Palace in order to receive from the hands of the sovereign herself, the Order of the Bath. 


He had lost his right leg in action so near to the hip joint that there was no means of wearing an artificial limb and he was consequently dependent upon his crutches. When he entered the royal presence it was noticed that he held fastened apparently to the handrest of each crutch a couple of lovely bouquets. At a third of the distance up the long room he stopped, made the regulation bow as best he could and dropped one of the bunches of flowers on the floor. Then he made his way to the Queen, tendered her the other bouquet, which she graciously accepted, received his Order of the Bath, which she herself fastened to his uniform with many a kindly word, for he had been a favorite of her husband, and then he proceeded to withdraw from her presence.

If ever there was a case in which the walking backward might have been excused, it was there, and the faces of the Queen and those around her betrayed signs of concern and anxiety lest some mishap would overtake the colonel. He, however, backed away, displaying himself some hesitation and anxiety until he reached that part of the room where he had purposely left the first bouquet on the ground. That gave him his bearings. He knew where be was then and leaving the flowers there reached the door in safety, the Queen kindly nodding and waving her hand to him in appreciation of his somewhat arduous act of homage. 


That her Majesty was moved, thereby was shown by the fact that a few days later he received from the Queen a rather unusual present, namely, a handsome carriage and a pair of horses, together with an expression of the wish that the conveyance might in some measure tend to alleviate the discomfort caused by the absence of the limb which he had lost in her service on the field of battle.  — San Francisco Call, 1897


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