Friday, July 15, 2016

Trying Etiquette for Debutantes

The Princess of Wales Receiving American Girls for the Queen, at the Queen's Drawing-Room

To Meet the Queen 
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How Our American Girls Are Presented

Among the many social functions found in London the one of special interest, to the feminine visitor at least, is in the Queen's drawing-room, and judging from the ever-increasing number of Americans presented at Court on these occasions, the approach of spring must be a signal for almost as much of a flutter on our side of the Atlantic as that which disturbs the peace of the English fireside. It creates a stir throughout the country, compared to which that almost national event in England, the spring cleaning, fades into insignificance. 

While from a social point of view, the drawing-rooms are great events, the chief benefit derived from them is the impetus they give to the trades of the dressmakers, the florists, caterers and photographers, and the Queen is largely influenced by this consideration in the number she holds during the season. Not content with tremblingly entering the presence of the sovereign once, a great many English women go through the ceremony a number of times, being re-presented "on their marriage," "on their husband's promotion," etc... From ten in the morning until evening on a drawing-room day one meets carriages containing white gowned and plumed women rolling to and from Buckingham Palace. 

Every house from which some one is going to be presented is marked by a carpet extending from the front door to the carriage, each side of which is lined with open eyed and mouthed people waiting to see madame sail forth in all the glory of her presentation gown. There are numbers of country people who come to London just to get a glimpse of all the fuss and feathers and who, while the carriages wait in line, sometimes for hours, before reaching the palace, pass from carriage to carriage, peering in at the proud and happy occupants, who regard this as part of the performance. Even when the palace door is at last reached there another wait follows in the ante-room, but there at least one can admire or pick to pieces the gowns of the other women and exchange confidences about the conditions of one's nerves with one's friends. 

The most difficult time in connection with the presentation, is the management of the Court train, and even after the drilling which every one goes through before the eventful day, one must feel some misgivings at the last moment. One is inclined to ask if the time, worry and expense which a presentation entails are worth the very few moments of the actual ceremony. 

One is announced, enters, bows to the Queen and other royalties, advances to kiss the Queen's hand, and backs out. It is generally conceded that those few moments are very trying ones, and many amusing stories are told, though of course the most amusing ones are attributed to Americans. 

One is to the effect that an American of great freshness and beauty made so pleasing an impression on the Queen that her Majesty impulsively leaned forward and kissed her. Our compatriot, either from surprise or ignorance of Court etiquette, returned the salute with great gusto! Another American girl in an agony of nervousness, seeing the Queen's hand extended, instead of kissing it, shook it and murmured confusedly, "How do you do?"  — San Francisco Call, 1899

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