|The finger bowls for the fruit or dessert course, currently being used for Royal dinners at Buckingham Palace.|
Meal at Which the Ordinary Guest is Bound to Be Uncomfortable
Dinner is the only meal at which the royal guests are expected to appear, when the King of England sits in the center of one side of the table, as is his custom at home, says a well known writer. Etiquette used to demand that only the royalties should be provided with menus, but this custom is not invariably observed at the present time.
It is still "de rigueur" that there should be no finger bowls on the table, a custom dating from Jacobite days, when the partisans of the Stuarts used to pass their glasses across the finger bowls before drinking, which was their way of toasting "the King over the water."
Should the royal guests be in mourning, every other guest must appear in mourning of the same degree, and of course no one must dream of leaving before the royalties have retired. When the King is accompanied by the Queen the men must wear knee breeches and silk stockings, but not so when the King is alone.
Another curious item of etiquette is that neither the Queen nor the Princess of Wales must ever be entertained by a bachelor. I have never heard whether it is permissible for the King or the Prince to be entertained by a maiden lady. The King, though not liking long dinners, has a keen appreciation of what is good in eating and drinking, in other things. On at least two occasions he has bestowed the M. V. O. (Member of the Victorian Order) on his host's chef in acknowledgment af the satisfactory nature of his cooking.
This order was originated by King Edward and has frequently done duty. Doubtless it has made its recipients extremely happy, but it has come to be regarded with much amusement by the King's intimates.
On one occasion it was bestowed on the mayor of some little foreign town where his Majesty had been detained in order to listen to some tedious, though complimentary, speechifying. Speaking of the incident that same evening, the King said of the mayor: "I didn't know what to do with him, so I gave him the M. V. O." "And served him —well right!" exclaimed one of the listeners, at which his Majesty laughed as heartily as anybody. — Sausalito News, 1910
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