Caricature of the Prince of Wales from 1878– "The structure of society is such that men and women of rank think it of importance that they should be formally honored wherever they may be, not only before those who are without rank, but those persons who hold a rank inferior to their own."
It is said that when General Grant was in London recently, and went to dinner at the Prince of Wales', he was obliged to go out to the table behind the titled Nobility. English etiquette, it is declared, requires that an untitled foreigner, however eminent, should give precedence, as it is called, to Englishmen of rank. Whether this is true or not, it is certain that etiquette is carried to a great extreme in England, as in other European countries.
The structure of society is such that men and women of rank think it of importance that they should be formally honored wherever they may be, not only before those who are without rank, but those persons who hold a rank inferior to their own. This etiquette runs through nearly all phases and even all grades of English society; in the private mansion, in receptions at Court, in the army and navy, in official and Diplomatic circles, and also to some extent among the mercantile and middle classes.
At a dinner-party, for instance, the hostess on repairing to the table always claims the arm of the guest highest in rank present. A member of the Royal family always comes first: then a Duke, a Marquis, an Earl and so on. The rest of the guests go out in the order of their rank, the one of the lowest rank going out last. This rigid rule is sometimes relaxed in favor of a guest in whose special honor the dinner may be given. In such cases, the hostess leads this guest out, even before persons of a higher rank than himself; and however it may have been at the Prince of Wales’, it is probable that General Grant was usually accorded this honor when he went as the guest of an English house.
There is an official table which decides the precedence of each of the Royal family, the Nobility and the great officers of state; and this table determines how the company shall be placed on all public occasions, and in what order they shall walk or drive in processions or stage pageants. According to this “table of precedence,” the Sovereign comes first; then all her sons in order of birth; then all her daughters in the same order; then her grand-children in the same order; finally her uncles, aunts and cousins. After the Royal family, the Archbishop of Canterbury holds the highest rank of precedence; then the Lord High Chancellor; then the Archbishop of York; then Dukes, then Marquises and so on. —Youth's Companion, 1878
Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia