Saturday, September 24, 2016

Etiquette and Royal Rituals

Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh at the opening of Parliament in 1952

Elizabeth and Consort Chafe At Rituals Of the Royal Court

LONDON (UP) Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh, as young folks might be expected to do, are chaffing a bit these days at the stupendous ritual and custom that hedges them around in the Royal Court. Wise courtiers say nothing and wait for the irritation to subside, as they know it will in the course of time. It always has. Modernization of Court proceedings is always in progress but it moves slowly. There are certain to be changes during the anticipated long reign of Elizabeth II, but nothing as dramatic as some of the sensational press are now demanding.

For one thing, it is obvious that pressure on the Queen, if the buffering army of functionaries were removed or cut radically, would be greater than it is under the present system. Thus, cutting away too much red tape would expose the Queen to the very evil from which her self-appointed saviors seek to rescue her. The Court of St. James is a very old Court, and, in a county where tradition is venerated as nowhere else, there is a reluctance to drop customs for any reason whatsoever. It is quite true that there are servants in the Royal households who have servants to wait upon them. But it has always been that way, and despite the unionization of the Palace help, there might be considerable unrest if this were changed.

It comes down to a question of whether the nation wants a Court or doesn't want one. And Elizabeth is known to love the pomp, the panoply, the ceremonial which blazes about the British throne. The Royal household is an immense establishment. There are eleven private secretaries and assistants to the sovereign. There are 23 officials in the privy purse, treasury and Royal charities office. There are 36 Royal chaplains. There are 20 physicians and surgeons and a special coroner. And many others. Before Queen Mary’s time there were even greater numbers of royal Courtiers, but the redoubtable old lady—as other Queens before her—chopped away a few of the jobs. And her grand-daughter, will doubtless whittle away a few more.

By Court etiquette, Elizabeth must not do anything directly. She can give orders to her private secretary, to her ladies of the bed-chamber or ladies in waiting, to her principal advisers and these, in turn, relay her orders to the lower echelons. This has irked the Duke of Edinburgh more than any single rule of the palaces, and he has broken it more than once by strolling down corridors asking the desired information or giving orders in person. Queen Elizabeth is expected to shorten the chain of command down the line from the throne as her contribution to the streamlining of etiquette.

Another windmill at which the critics are tilting is the strict procedure for public engagements. The newspapers contend that the Queen should not be tied up a year ahead to visits such as the one to New Zealand. The implication is that these things ought to be spun-of-the-moment affairs quickly accomplished by plane instead of great processions by sea with public interest drummed up over a period of time, this is a rather naive approach. 

New Zealand will invest a fortune in the Queen's visit and it may well be the event of the year there. Security has to be considered. Shops will get ready for extra business. New Zealanders from out-country may want to arrange to be at the points visited by the Queen. She will open playgrounds, lay cornerstones, attend ceremonials, make speeches. — The Edinburgh Courier, 1953

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