Monday, January 1, 2018

Reagan’s Royal Etiquette Blunder

The late, Harold Brooks-Baker, an American authority on British nobility who was a sought-after commentator on the doings -- serious, scandalous or merely ridiculous -- of the British royal family, was at one time managing director of Debrett’s. He published in 1978 a tongue-in-cheek, bestselling guide to The English Gentleman, who “does not drive a Rolls-Royce unless it is very old and smells of dogs”, and always “speaks to the engineer before a train trip because of an old belief that he owns the railroad.”

“Princess David?” No, a royal blunder! Charles and Diana may be casual about etiquette, but not their names!

President Reagan made a double gaffe at a White House dinner by first calling his guest “Princess David” and then “Princess Diane,” a royal genealogist said Sunday in London. Reagan erred by not using her official title, the Princess of Wales, and when he tried to correct himself he got it wrong again by muddling Diana's name. “It's like calling Queen Elizabeth II ‘Libby’ or something like that,” said Harold Brooks-Baker, publishing director of Burke's Peerage, one of the bibles of British bluebloods. While the Princess is popularly referred to in the news media as Princess Diana, her official title is the Princess of Wales, which is what she is called at all official functions. Brooks-Baker said he blamed Reagan's speechwriter and the British and American protocol experts who were given advance copies of the speech for the breach of royal etiquette not the President. “He's not to know, but his advisers are to know,” Brooks-Baker told The Associated Press. “It's no wonder the Prince of Wales looked somewhat downcast after the president proposed the toast.” 

The gaffes came while Reagan was making a toast at a White House dinner Saturday night attended by show business celebrities such as Clint Eastwood, John Travolta and Neil Diamond. While millions of Americans watching the Prince and Princess of Wales on television might not notice, Brooks-Baker said the two are changing royal etiquette. “Right at the top is the fact that they behave as equals. It is no longer prince and consort ... or Queen and Consort, as it is still with the Queen and Prince Philip,” he said. “More often than not, on this tour, we have seen the Princess of Wales taking the lead. Then, there are the public displays of affection. Never, previously, would royal couples dream of kissing in public, as the Prince has kissed the Princess.” 

On their Washington trip, Brooks-Baker said, the royal couple are keeping to the “royal, and upper class, tradition of separate bedrooms, though never before would there have been photographs of royal sleeping arrangements as there have been recently, ostensibly to publicize English design. Royalty should never be used for advertising.” He said the choice of Palm Beach for the couple's next stop also surprised many Americans, especially the poor and homeless. “Palm Beach is a symbol of the thoughtless, vulgar, nouveau riche, careless of the plight of others,” the U.S.-born Brooks-Baker said. “It is like asking the Pope to go to Sodom and Gomorrah.”  — (By Edith M.Lederer, AP) San Bernardino Sun, 1985

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