Earlier today, Her Majesty The Queen at long last knighted Sir Bruce Forsyth at Buckingham Palace. Investitures take place throughout the year, usually around 25. Most take place at Buckingham Palace, but occasionally there are some that take place at Windsor Castle and Her Majesty’s official Scottish residence, Hollyrood Palace, in Edinburgh.
Posts Tagged ‘protocol’
It has to be said, the 29th April 2011 will be a day I do not forget – and for all the right reasons. Apart from the beauty of the pomp and circumstance of the day’s proceedings, it was the atmosphere of the nation, especially those who had travelled to London, which really got me. We rarely have national events that bring us together with such elegance and precision. One homemade banner I saw on The Mall on the Thursday evening read ‘Don’t expect the Olympics to be this good’.
I was lucky enough to be in London that week to do media engagements, as being an etiquette and protocol consultant this event was like a big birthday present crossed with exam time. Weird people like me who make it their business to examine human behavior, etiquette, customs and protocol will have noticed a few things that went wrong. Some things went wrong because there was not enough planning, some because of nerves of people concerned on the day, and others down to a few select guests’ lack of research or political motivations.
This blog post has been a long-time coming, but I have finally found time to give a brief overview of a few things that went wrong, intentionally or unintentionally. I will point out now, however, that these tiny (in most cases) mistakes may not have been visible to the ‘untrained’ eye and did not spoil the marvelous event for me in any way shape or form.
SamCam and the Wayward Wardrobe
The Prime Minister of Great Britain’s wife, Samantha Cameron, was wearing a fetching emerald green dress, which would have looked so much better with a hat. Indeed, etiquette dictates that with morning dress (one of the dress codes for the Wedding) hats are worn by the women. As the wife of the Prime Minister, and so theoretically representing the women of the country, she should have been sporting one. The argument from Downing Street was that she wore jewels (emeralds) in her hair instead. But this is still not correct form. Unfortunately, Mrs. Cameron made another error by choosing not to wear tights. With formal dress codes, women are expected to wear tights or stockings.
As a friend of Prince William, and a premier footballer, David Beckham and his wife, Victoria, were obviously invited to the wedding. Beckham turned up in morning suit, which surprised me as (truth be told) I thought he’d opt for a lounge suit. It may have been designed by Polo Ralph Lauren, but the collar was winged, which is incorrect for morning dress (but correct for White Tie – worn for very formal evening affairs: state dinners, etc). He also chose to wear his OBE, an honour given to him by The Queen a few years ago. He entered the Abbey with it hanging from his right lapel, but medals should be worn on the left lapel. HOWEVER… correct lapel or not, he shouldn’t have been wearing it at all as morning dress does not stipulate medals. Only with White Tie should medals be worn. Beckham did switch his medal to the left lapel once inside the church, but he should have removed it all together.
Mr. Middleton’s morning jacket was fastened, which is incorrect for morning dress. Buttons should remain unfastened.
To Bow or Not To Bow?
When Kate Middleton walked up the aisle of Westminster Abbey, protocol states that one curtsies or bows when you reach The Queen. Dear Kate forgot to do this when arriving. Previous Royal brides have all done this, as well as curtseying when leaving (which Kate did do). I put this down to nerves. She did have a couple of billion people watching her every move, so I think we can let her off.
The Queen’s Car Door
When Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh arrived at the Abbey, a soldier opened the car door on the road side, at the same time another soldier opened the pavement side door. The former footman was wrong as the door should never be opened onto the road (even though in this case the road was closed and car-free). Had Her Majesty, who always sits behind the driver when with her husband, got out of the car on the side of the road she’d have had to walk around the car to get to the entrance of the Abbey. All very clumsy. Although I doubt anything was done in this case to the soldier, ten years ago this would have been a very serious offence indeed.
Watch Your Step, Ma’am
When The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were getting into the carriage to take them from the Abbey back to Buckingham Palace, there should have been a footman on the roadside of said carriage to balance the carriage. There was not and as such the carriage almost tipped over as the Duke was trying to embark. No such mistake was made when the Queen and Duke arrived at the Palace; a footman promptly used a stabilizing weight to stop the carriage from tipping.
The old “two countries divided by a common language” conundrum.
I grew up in North America where dessert was the sweet course that followed the main, from the simplest home meal to the grandest restaurant. A simple meal was usually just two courses, main course and dessert; for special occasions a starter course was added (often shrimp cocktail served in a small glass dish that sat within a larger bowl of crushed ice, or just a green salad). This was the 60’s and things were much simpler then. Of course, dessert might have actually been a pudding, such as bread and butter pudding or something we called Lemon Snow, but more often “pudding” referred to a soft custardy mixture that came as a powder in Shirriff or Jell-O boxes and was cooked with milk, until the instant variety came along that needed no cooking, just mix it up and refrigerate. This was a standard and simple dessert that mothers across the continent could rely on along with its counterpart, jelly, which was synonymous with the brand name Jell-O. Sadly, kids today think Jell-O has something to do with bar shots. So, your North American audience believes that dessert follows the main course and may include any variety of sweets. These are their long-held beliefs and as we all know, best not to try to mess with people’s beliefs.
Then I moved to England where I learned that the fork is only ever held in the left hand with the tines down and that pudding and dessert are two separate courses. Of course, I would eventually learn there are times when it is alright to hold the fork in the right hand, tines up, but the rules of engagement are not for the faint-hearted. And sometimes there is only a pudding course, and sometimes we just skip to dessert. But “pudding” refers to a prepared sweet dish (boiled, steamed or baked) while “dessert” refers to the fruit course. The main course is not always followed by a sweet course, sometimes we continue with a savoury such as mushrooms on toast before we reach pudding and eventually dessert. This really confuses North Americans.
I am old and beyond insisting to my audience that there is only, ever, a single right answer to any question. Customs differ, we all travel so much. I defer to perhaps the greatest personification of the word “gentleman” known in our time, the late John Morgan, who without ceding an inch would answer Mr. Remer’s argument with the kindest of words, “How interesting.”
John G. Robertson
Protocol and Etiquette Consultant since before it was a gimmick