Sunday, January 7, 2018

Etiquette and a Majarajah Snubbed

Royal snobs and royal snubs –“The relationship between Queen Victoria and her handsome, young Indian attendant Abdul Karim was deemed so controversial and scandalous by her family members that, upon the monarch’s death in 1901, they scrubbed his existence from royal history ... But why was the relationship so controversial—beyond the interclass curiosity of the Queen of England confiding in a servant—that it warranted full censure? According to historians, Victoria’s family and staff members exhibited prejudice of the racial and social variety, which compounded with jealousy as Victoria became closer with Karim and afforded him privileges including traveling with her through Europe; titles; honors; prime seats at operas and banquets; a private carriage; and personal gifts.” - 

Why Was an Indian Prince Left Out of a Diplomatic Procession?

There occurred at the Foreign Office in London, the other day, even what might be called in the diplomatic world an incident. The occasion was the party given in honor of the Queen's Birthday by Lady Kimberley, wife of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The party was a very numerous one. Experts thought that never before had so many guests been collected in the spacious reception-rooms of the great building in Downing Street. The crush was tremendous. Perhaps the superior sex will form a better notion of it if I say that one well-known lady took up her position in the west gallery against the balustrade and declined to move. When asked why she would not make the grand tour about the quadrangle, she explained that her gown was trimmed with a quantity of very fine old lace, and that she did not care to sacrifice it. So there she stayed. 

As it happened, the spot she chose was near the door of the Royal supper-room, which happens also to be the point where the Royal procession is formed. This procession makes the tour which the lady with the lace gown declined to attempt. The Royalties were many on this occasion and there was a long delay at the start —longer than the number of persons to be marshaled the way they should go would explain. The Embassadors, Ministers and other distinguished persons form part of the procession. It presently became known that a question of precedence had arisen. With the Prince of Wales was the well-known Maharajah of Kuch Behar—he who was such a striking figure in London during the Queen's Jubilee. This Indian Prince, though, I believe, of no very exalted rank among the great sovereigns of the Peninsula of Hindustan, knows his value and desires it to be fully recognized by others. He signified his wish to take place in the procession next alter the English Royalties. 

The Master of Ceremonies was aware, no doubt, that the position was one to which this dusky potentate was not entitled. But he was aware also that Kuch Behar, as he is commonly called, is a favorite with the Royal family, and he thought he had better see what could be done. He approached the Russian Embassador with the remark that perhaps he would not mind if Kuch Behar walked before him. “Indeed I should mind very much,” replied M. de Staal. “Personally, I would give way with pleasure, but as representative of the Emperor of Russia, I must keep the place I am entitled to.” One or two other Embassadors were applied to with the same result—indeed, if one objected the wish of the Indian could not be carried out, and on a question of etiquette the diplomatic body stick together like wax. It ended in the procession being formed without the ornamental presence of the Maharajah of Kuch Bebar. While these negotiations were proceeding, the head of the procession remained ; halted at the place indicated above, just beiore the junction of the two galleries.

The Prince and Princess of Wales, the Duke and Duchess of Connaught, the Princess Louise and others of the family stood in a group. All at once a well-known official of the royal household, in uniform, blazing with gold lace and orders, was seen making his way to the front. As he came near a friend who was standing with his back to the wall at the side of the royalties, this official remarked, in a voice rather louder than is supposed to be suited to royal ears: “It is no easy business to get all the Royalties and Embassadors into their right places.” He was, of course, quite unaware that he had come to the head of the waiting procession and was in the midst of the royalties as he spoke. 

The Duke of Connaught turned round, laughing, and said: “Well, X, I suppose we are very much in the way, but we are doing the best we can.” The Princess of Wales, who had heard, also turned to X with a smiling face and a word of gentle pleasantry. So did one or two others. X, I must say, stood there while he made his excuses, of course, but with dignity, and without appearing to be aware that he was in danger of being led to instant execution, nor was he, nor did he suffer in the esteem of his royal masters either by his indiscretion or by his coolness. The only sufferer that evening was the Maharajah of Kuch Behar, who was left out of the Royal procession.—Correspondent New York Tribune, 1894

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

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