An etiquette conundrum – Either this screen shot shows that the t.v. series “Victoria” is historically inaccurate, as she is not wearing her gloves (a breach of etiquette, but Queen Victoria’s poor etiquette was well known and expected for the television show) or this is a historically inaccurate portrayal of a Royal state banquet. And what on earth is that crumpled napkin doing on the table? – “The Queen never removes her gloves during dinner, except at state banquets. This is a singular piece of etiquette, and one would think that it would be exactly the reverse. Her gloves are new, of white kid, embroidered with black, never worn but once, and become, after using, the perquisites of the Ladies-in-Waiting.”
Peeps at the Tables Where Things Are Served in State
The strict ceremonial of dinners of Queen Victoria has not changed since her assumption of the throne. A quarter of an hour before the time fixed for the repast —generally 8 o'clock—all the party invited to dine with the Queen meet in the Grand Salon and form themselves into a half circle about the door where she is expected to enter. The Queen, on entering, makes a beautiful courtesy (for which she is reknowned), then bows to the gentlemen, and gives her hand to the ladies, who courtesy deeply. She then goes in first to the table, accompanied generally by one of her sons. If any Imperial or Royal person is present, he sits at her right hand. But even in the case of General Grant she placed the Princess Beatrice between them.
The Queen never removes her gloves during dinner, except at state banquets. This is a singular piece of etiquette, and one would think that it would be exactly the reverse. Her gloves are new, of white kid, embroidered with black, never worn but once, and become, after using, the perquisites of the Ladies-in-Waiting. The Queen has a small but beautiful hand. As soon as she has finished a certain “plat” everyone else stops eating of it, as when she finishes her fish everyone else stops eating fish, etc... After she has spoken to her guests on either side, conversation may become general, but in a subdued tone, always deferring to the sovereign. Sir Arthur Helps, who was her Private Secretary, used to tell an amusing anecdote of being snubbed by her for telling a rather funny story down the table, among the Ladies-in-Waiting, to relieve the monotony of a dreary dinner, when the Queen remarked: “What is it? We are not amused.” She has, however, a love for fun, and sometimes laughs heartily.
The dinners at the Quirinal Palace in Italy are far more simple as to etiquette. The same formality is observed in the entrance of the King and Queen, but the conversation is more general and the Queen does not wear her gloves. She converses in English fluently. The King only speaks Italian and French, so the conversation is generally in those two languages. French, of course, is supposed to be a universal language. The dinners of Germany are not long, but they are formal and tedious, and the cooking does not commend itself to all tastes. The perfection of a dinner is found in London, generally at the house of Ambassadors, who combine the Excellencies of all nations with the follies of none. After asking the consent of the ladies present, the Italian and Turkish embassies allow the smoking of cigarettes between the salad and dessert. This fashion prevails in France and Russia, ladies smoking quite freely as men.
The dinners of the Czar and the richer Russian Princes are models of their kind. It was the Russians who invented the idea of serving the dishes all from the outside; hence a service à la Russe, which prevents the tablecloth from being smeared with gravy and other greasy substances. The choice porcelain and glass, the gold and silver, beautiful ornaments— these are the wonder of all travelers who visit Russia. The old fashion has returned again of a sort of elevated tray, or little table in the middle of the table, on which are placed the choice silver jugs, ornamented pieces, and the flowers, fruits, candied fruits — indeed, the ornamental pieces of the dinner. This sort of tray, to be at its best, should be of inlaid wood, bound in silver, and of the time of Louis Quinze. A real antique of this kind is highly prized in France, England and Italy. For the breakfast-table a rotating round china standard, in two parts for the jam, honey, butter, powdered sugar, potted meats, etc., and other belongings of a breakfast, is almost universal in England.— Harpers Bazar, 1887
Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia