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Jun 27 2012

Down on your knee

Time out for a laugh. Important stuff is afoot.

The Duchess of Cambridge may be the future queen, but she has discovered that there are several women in the Royal family to whom she must show reverence. Mandrake hears that the Queen has updated the Order of Precedence in the Royal Household to take into account the Duke of Cambridge’s wife.

The new rules of Court make it clear that the former Kate Middleton, when she is not accompanied by Prince William, must curtsy to the “blood princesses”, the Princess Royal, Princess Alexandra, and the daughters of the Duke of York, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie.

When William is with her, Kate does not need to bend the knee to either of them, but she must curtsy to the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.

So that’s how they spend their time! Trying to keep track of all these duchesses, and of who curtsies to which on what occasion wearing what while holding what and please remember not to fart.

A document is said to have been circulated privately in the Royal Household, clarifying Kate’s status. When the Order was last updated, after Prince Charles’s second marriage, in 2005, the Countess of Wessex was reported to be upset that she now had to curtsy to Camilla. “She didn’t like it one bit,” a senior courtier was quoted as saying.

The Earl of Wessex’s wife had previously been the second-highest ranking woman in the Royal family because neither of the Queen’s other sons, Charles and Prince Andrew, were married.

However, after Charles remarried, the Queen changed the Order of Precedence “on blood principles” so that neither Princess Anne nor Princess Alexandra, the granddaughter of George V, would have to curtsy to Camilla when her husband was not present.

Well I should hope so! It would be a nightmare if Princess Alexandra (who??) had to curtsy to that fraffl Camilla person. It’s sad that the Countess of Wessex (who??) is upset, but I’m sure a nice outing to Harrods food hall will put that right.

 

56 comments

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  1. 1
    Brian M

    I don’t have the link and Google failed, but there is actually a blog from a a Californian who thinks we need a monarchy. LOL

  2. 2
    kimrottman

    The best part is that they’re exempted from curtsying or not based on whether a man is present.

  3. 3
    Ophelia Benson

    Well I think it’s a matter of “princes of the blood” rather than mannitude. I expect the fraffly common little man married to “the princess royal” also has to bow and scrape unless he’s with his very own “princess of the blood.”

  4. 4
    Caravelle

    Wow. That sounds completely appropriate for a certain kind of fantasy or historical fiction novel. I find it hard to imagine a real person today living by those rules, and the most incredible thing is there are. And they aren’t aliens or anything ! I mean, I’m sure there are a few people like me at St Andrews university, and if I’d been there at the right time I might know Kate personally and everything o_O

    (I can’t help imagining that between themselves they’re actually like “yeah we’re all family here we won’t curtsy to each other, that would just be stupid but if so why keep the rules in the first place…)

  5. 5
    Ahab

    Ugh. This silly, medieval nonsense needs to go. Royalty and the pomp associated with them do not belong in the 21st century.

  6. 6
    Ophelia Benson

    You’re supposed to laugh.

  7. 7
    James

    And they aren’t aliens or anything !

    David Icke would like a word with you.

  8. 8
    Aubergine

    One must ask what the punishment is for a failure to curtsey when required.

  9. 9
    Ophelia Benson

    Exile to a horrid little semi in Ealing.

  10. 10
    Ophelia Benson

    With an aspidistra in the window!

  11. 11
    Lyanna

    Actually, Ophelia@3, he doesn’t. His status doesn’t change with his marriage. Married princesses-of-the-blood keep their own rank but don’t give it to their husbands. So either he has to bow and scrape all the time to someone or not at all, I believe.

    Women married to blood-princes take on their husband’s rank, and the rank doesn’t vanish the second he leaves the room, which is why it’s weird that Kate has to curtsy to these blood-princess who are below William. It’s a snub, telling her that he has to be constantly present to validate her importance or else she gets demoted.

    The stupidest part of all this is how women look when they curtsy. They look off-balance and their legs look all twisted up. See here, for example. It’s awkward and demeaning and sexist, because men don’t have to physically lower themselves, they can just bow their heads but otherwise stand straight up.

    @Caravelle: They claim to actually do it in private! Which is bizarre.

  12. 12
    latsot

    Gah, we are so shit to cling onto this nonsense. How embarrassing!

    Our government is currently trying to reform the House of Lords so that we actually get to *elect* those people who have a fairly important say in what laws we have.

    Most people seem to be *against* the idea and think we should continue to have the great-great-great-great grandchildren of random people and others that the queen or government have decided they happen to like deciding how our country should be run.

    Honestly, we (barely) win against Americans on embarrassing creationist nonsense, but we definitely lose the high ground with the monarchy.

  13. 13
    davidmc

    Hopefully, we can get rid of the house of Lords, propotional representation, will allow a few BNP and UKIP cranks, but hopefully that will be offset by loosing 26 bishops gaining some greens and perhaps an athiest or two

  14. 14
    latsot

    I didn’t mean to derail the topic. I just meant to point out some further idiocy related to the crazy entitlement of royals and their influence on British society.

    I’m sorry I inadvertently encouraged anyone to tediously describe their personal view of how they’d like UK politics to look.

    I should know better by now.

  15. 15
    Ophelia Benson

    Aw don’t be mean to David from Manchester.

    Anyway this isn’t what you’d call a strict or rigorous type of thread.

  16. 16
    Ophelia Benson

    Lyanna – ah! Of course, I should have known. The man’s magic is strong enough to make the woman magic, but the woman’s is too weak to make the man magic.

  17. 17
    kimrottman

    Lyanna already addressed this but I was thinking the same thing. For example, Queen Elizabeth’s husband is the Prince Consort while, on the other hand, the wife of the King is traditionally known as the Queen Consort. They did issue a thinger when Charles married Camilla stating that she will be the Princess Consort when Charles becomes King but I believe that is specific to Camilla because of it being a 2nd marriage for both of them and probably won’t apply to William and Kate.

  18. 18
    machintelligence

    Since we are into this for laughs, here is a blog commenting on the Christian patriarchy Vision Forum’s photoshop modification of a classic painting: http://rethinkingvisionforum.wordpress.com/2011/09/10/vision-forum-sleeping-beauty-and-the-five-question/
    This resulted in the hilarious rephotoshopping of the CD cover:
    http://img405.imageshack.us/img405/3890/mrl5qko8.jpg
    Enjoy!

  19. 19
    thomascromwell

    What utter nonsense and yet our PM, fool that he is, wants to promote the monarchy in Canada. Next we will have to have a list of precedence for bowing and scraping to the superior gods of the cabinet. The monarchy and the families should be put aside and made to work for a living; does anyone really believe that these people are better than anyone else just because of their birth? Religion and monarchy go together and should go away together.

  20. 20
    martincohen

    I like to dance, and when the dance is over and I am supposed to bow, sometimes I curtsey. It usually gets a laugh. I have gotten pretty good at curtseying from either side. Never know when this might come in handy – maybe at a Dance Apocalypse.

  21. 21
    Beauzeaux

    “A document is said to have been circulated ”

    Don’t believe everything you read. I’d think a skeptic would adhere to that.

  22. 22
    Ophelia Benson

    A document is circulated to have been said?

  23. 23
    Chris Lawson

    thomascromwell, it’s not just birth — it’s also who you marry.

  24. 24
    Tim Harris

    One Thomas Cromwell got his head chopped off, as I recall…

  25. 25
    Vijen

    This is just an amusing fossil hierarchy. I live in a country (South Korea) where everyone still has to know in every social situation who is higher or lower, just to use the language correctly. So if I start chatting with, say, a taxi driver who looks about my age, we first have to establish who is older. If he’s even one day older, then I have to use respectful word endings, and he uses different ones. Of course you’ve already guessed how this plays out between men and women…

  26. 26
    Nathaniel

    I remember reading an article on high schools saying that the horrible social environment there is due to a lack of constructive ways of earning status. In the “real world” you can earn status by making or doing something cool, improving people’s lives. In high school, those possibilities are very limited, meaning status becomes a zero-sum game and the best way to raise yours is to push other people down. It sounds like the royal family could use something to do.

  27. 27
    mikee

    Can’t some smart cookie hack these royal protocols (surely they are computerized in this day and age) and mix them up a bit.
    They may have people bowing and scraping to them but I think it must be miserable being royalty. It would drive me nuts to my days filled with superficial rituals and suchlike.
    Thank goodness in NZ we don’t have too much to do with them, even if we are still a part of the commonwealth.

  28. 28
    Brigadista

    So it’s clearly true, as the apologists for maintaining the monarchy have been arguing, that the queen has modernised the family and they are now really in touch with the “ordinary folk”. I mean, I know just how difficult it is, when my brother’s children come and stay, trying to work out whether my daughter should call them sir and ma’am or use the full “your royal highness”. It just makes me want to scream, “TOSH”!

  29. 29
    Walton

    Well I should hope so! It would be a nightmare if Princess Alexandra (who??)

    To give her her full title: HRH Princess Alexandra, the Honourable Lady Ogilvy,* is the Queen’s first cousin. She is the daughter of the late Prince George, Duke of Kent, who was the Queen’s uncle.** Here are some pictures of her, from the “Mad Hattery” blog (which is a wonderful blog, if you’re ever looking for pictures of royalty wearing hats).

    (*Her title at birth was HRH Princess Alexandra of Kent. She married the Honourable Angus Ogilvy, a commoner, who was later knighted and became the Honourable Sir Angus Ogilvy.)

    (**An interesting man. Prince George was bisexual, and is alleged, perhaps apocryphally, to have had an affair with Noel Coward. Sadly, the Prince died in a plane crash in 1943.)

    It’s sad that the Countess of Wessex (who??) is upset, but I’m sure a nice outing to Harrods food hall will put that right.

    HRH The Countess of Wessex (née Sophie Rhys Jones) is the wife of HRH Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, who is the Queen’s youngest son.

    Well I think it’s a matter of “princes of the blood” rather than mannitude. I expect the fraffly common little man married to “the princess royal” also has to bow and scrape unless he’s with his very own “princess of the blood.”

    Vice-Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence, husband of HRH The Princess Royal, is a commoner with no royal rank or title, and has no place of his own in the order of precedence*. However, Burke’s Peerage says that he “derives no official position in the table of precedence from his wife, but in practice if he were attending a function with her he would be assigned a precedence commensurate with hers.”

    The general rule is that wives derive precedence from their husbands, but not vice versa. There are some exceptions to this rule, though – for instance, the Queen issued a royal warrant in 1952 directing that Prince Philip should have precedence immediately after her.

    (*Well, I suppose that’s not strictly true – Sir Tim is a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order and is entitled to the precedence attaching to that rank, but that would put him a lot lower in the order of precedence.)

    For anyone who cares, the full order of precedence for England and Wales – there are separate orders for Scotland and Northern Ireland – can be found here.

    ===

    Women married to blood-princes take on their husband’s rank,

    True. Traditionally, the wife of a titled man takes on her husband’s title. So the wife of HRH The Duke of Cambridge is HRH The Duchess of Cambridge; the wife of HRH Prince Michael of Kent is HRH Princess Michael of Kent; the wife of Lord Frederick Windsor is Lady Frederick Windsor. And so on. She also gets a place in the order of precedence commensurate with her husband’s.

    Interestingly, it doesn’t work in reverse; the husband of a titled woman doesn’t automatically take on his wife’s title or precedence. So, as noted above, Princess Anne’s husband, Sir Timothy Laurence, remains a commoner, and has no royal title and no place in the order of precedence. Though men who marry royal women are sometimes given titles of their own; Prince Philip was created Duke of Edinburgh when he married the future Queen, for instance, and Princess Margaret’s husband was created Earl of Snowdon.

    ===

    I like the monarchy, personally. As you can probably tell. But maybe I’m weird.

  30. 30
    Walton

    Hopefully, we can get rid of the house of Lords, propotional representation, will allow a few BNP and UKIP cranks, but hopefully that will be offset by loosing 26 bishops gaining some greens and perhaps an athiest or two

    Because another chamber full of party political hacks will be so much of an improvement. *sigh*

    At least the House of Lords, at present, has some non-party-political life peers with actual professional expertise in various fields, who can actually bring knowledge and experience to bear on discussing legislation. The quality of debate is currently enormously higher than in the Commons. If it becomes an elected chamber, those benefits will be utterly destroyed.

    (And no, I’m not in favour of keeping the bishops. I’d also stop the creation of new party-political life peerages, and have all life peers chosen by the House of Lords Appointments Commission.)

    ===

    Why we should keep the monarchy:

    *The Queen does her job far better than almost any elected president. In parliamentary republics, the job of president typically goes to a retired political hack. I can think of a few good presidents in parliamentary republics (Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese, for instance), but they’re the exception rather than the rule. I’d certainly rather have the Queen as my head of state than Christian Wulff!

    *There are benefits to having a truly apolitical head of state, who owes allegiance to no political party and to no special interests. This can never be achieved in a republic, where the president is inevitably a political figure who has to stand for election.

    *The monarchy actually costs the taxpayer nothing. Since George III’s time, every monarch has voluntarily paid the revenues from the hereditary properties of the Crown, known as the “Crown Estate”, into the Treasury. This means that the Queen pays the Treasury about £210 million a year. This enormously outweighs the amount of public funding that the Queen receives (which was formerly fixed at £7.9 million a year, a payment known as the Civil List; from last year, this has been replaced with a new “Sovereign Support Grant”, which will be a percentage of the revenues from the Crown Estate).

    *Most importantly… why do republicans care so much? The monarchy harms no one, oppresses no one, and causes no social ills. There are much more important priorities to focus on. Even if you disapprove of hereditary privilege in principle (which I can understand), focusing on the monarchy seems disproportionate. What about overpaid bankers and CEOs, who are doing far more actual harm?

  31. 31
    avh1

    Walton is being more than a bit disingenuous here. The house of Lords does have some genuine experts, and on occasion has revised legislation in a positive way. It is *also* full of ‘retired political hacks’, people appointed by the government of the day for services to party accounts and bishops who think they are the sole source of moral authority in the place. It also has pointless debates full of political point-scoring, tribalistic voting blocks and substantial numbers of lords who never turn up to debate or vote.

  32. 32
    OurSally

    Well it goes with the job and she presumably read the small print. The future queen does seem to have a head on her shoulders and is the one person who may be willing and able to change the whole nonsense. Don’t hold your breath, though.

  33. 33
    Dave

    I think we should keep the UK monarchy because it’s old-fashioned. But then I’m an historian. I also suspect that when Charlie inherits he will try to bring it ‘up to date’, and in the process destroy most of its lingering prestige. After that, if we’re lucky, we’ll get something Scandinavian with Will and Kate. If we’re not, we’ll just end up with a pointless fag-end of a ceremonial presidency like Germany, and nothing for the tourists to see…

  34. 34
    Walton

    The house of Lords does have some genuine experts, and on occasion has revised legislation in a positive way. It is *also* full of ‘retired political hacks’, people appointed by the government of the day for services to party accounts and bishops who think they are the sole source of moral authority in the place.

    That’s why I said…

    At least the House of Lords, at present, has some non-party-political life peers with actual professional expertise in various fields, who can actually bring knowledge and experience to bear on discussing legislation.

    Emphasis added.

    The House of Lords is far from perfect. But its few redeeming features would be utterly destroyed were it to be replaced with an elected chamber. (Look at how appalling the quality of “debate” in the Commons is, and how the government is able to ram through legislation by relying on the party whip system. Do we really want another chamber of that kind?)

  35. 35
    Jessie

    Walton
    Without a monarchy, the money from the Crown Estates would still go to the Treasury but we would save the cost of the monarchy. In addition, Buckingham Palace and other crown properties could be open all year round, bringing in extra revenue.

    I’d like to see an elected president, perhaps Stephen Fry. It doesn’t have to be a politician.

    Republicans care because this outmoded system perpetuates the acceptance of privilege by accident of birth and the whole idea of some people being better than others. I’m perfectly capable of disliking the monarchy as well as bankers and overpaid CEOs. It isn’t an either/or matter.

  36. 36
    ewanmacdonald

    In fairness, Harrods’ food hall is awesome.

  37. 37
    Brigadista

    and nothing for the tourists to see…

    What, like Vienna, or St Petersburg, or Venice, for example?

  38. 38
    Godless Heathen

    I think we should keep the UK monarchy because it’s old-fashioned.

    That’s not a good reason to keep anything. Particularly because it perpetuates inequality.

  39. 39
    Ophelia Benson

    @ 25 – holy crap. Tell me more!

  40. 40
    Ophelia Benson

    Walton @ 29

    Uh…I didn’t really want to know who P’ss Whatever is. When I said “who?” – that was rhetorical. It wasn’t a real question.

  41. 41
    Ophelia Benson

    Ewan – I know, I love the Food Hall.

  42. 42
    Robert

    I know more about the British royal family than any three people I know, and this taught me even more.

    FWIW, I have long respected ER II (or is that E II R?). She had to watch her father age and die young from the strain of being King through WWII, because her uncle, ah, did what he did.
    Then, she goes through all the drama her eldest son put the family through. Best scenario I can think of is for Charles to either predecease her or voluntarily remove himself from succession, so we don’t have an interregnum between Elizabeth and William.

    Also, it occurs to me – in the last two hundred years, two sovereigns (Victoria and Elizabeth) account for one hundred and twenty of those. George IV, William IV, Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII, George VI collectively account for the other eighty.

  43. 43
    Walton

    Walton @ 29

    Uh…I didn’t really want to know who P’ss Whatever is. When I said “who?” – that was rhetorical. It wasn’t a real question.

    Oh, that’s a shame. They’re really very interesting people. (Whatever you think of the monarchy, the history of the Royal Family can be a fascinating topic.)

  44. 44
    Ophelia Benson

    Oh come on, no they’re not. They’re perfectly ordinary! They seem interesting only because of the expensive clothes and the ceremony. They’re extremely mediocre in every way. The trouble with Charles is that he thinks he isn’t.

    That’s not to say that I don’t take some guilty interest in the soap opera aspects of their history, but as for “really very interesting people” – please.

  45. 45
    Walton

    Republicans care because this outmoded system perpetuates the acceptance of privilege by accident of birth and the whole idea of some people being better than others.

    King, eh? And how’d you get that, then? By exploiting the workers. By ‘anging on to outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the economic and social differences in our society.

    (Or something like that.)

  46. 46
    Walton

    Ophelia: Oh, I don’t know. To take one example, Marie Christine Anna Agnes Hedwig Ida Baronin von Reibnitz has been called many things – not all of them entirely complimentary – but it would take a leap of imagination to call her “perfectly ordinary”.

  47. 47
    Timothy (TRiG)

    I tend to agree with Stephen Fry’s thoughts on the monarchy: yes, it’s a silly and outmoded system, but if we actually want to tackle inequality, there are much more important things to worry about. Access to education, for a start.

    Ireland ended its association with the British Crown in 1948. John A. Costello gave a rather good speech in the Dáil at the time, about what the monarchy meant and why Ireland was choosing to drop it.

    … this measure is not designed nor was it conceived in any spirit of hostility to the British people or to the institution of the British Crown. Least of all is there any notion of hostility to the person who now occupies the throne in England, who has carried out his duties with efficiency and dignity, whose illness we regret and whose recovery we hope will be speedy.

    TRiG.

  48. 48
    Ophelia Benson

    I’m not worrying about it, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to grovel to them or pretend they’re Special. They’re not special.

  49. 49
    Robert

    When I try to imagine life as a British royal – one of the ones who do it full time, not like the Duke of Gloucester – it reminds me of a story I read about Elvis Presley.

    No, really. The story goes that during Presley’s stay at the International in Las Vegas, in 1969, a bellhop was delivering something to his suite. Presley muttered something about wanting to be a bellhop for just a couple of hours. Startled, the man asked him, ‘what the hell for? You’re Elvis Presley!’ Presley replied, ‘if I was, I could go down and walk through the lobby.’ Which, being Elvis Presley, he could most certainly not do. QEII has probably not had a single unscripted, unplanned day since her coronation, and she has certainly never been able to walk down the street unnoticed. I would not care for such a life, even with the castles and such.

  50. 50
    Ophelia Benson

    Exactly. Walking down the street unnoticed is my chief form of recreation – which is one reason I was so intensely annoyed by the guy who shouted at me for not smiling while I was doing it, last year. Being watched all the time would drive me stark staring mad.

  51. 51
    Vijen

    @Ophelia: re the influence of Confucianism on Korean language and society:
    There are 3 main “speech styles”, and if you use the wrong one it is normally understood as an insult. There is also an special particle that must be used, when appropriate, to show respect for the subject of a sentence, and pronouns can be regular or humble. There are even special verbs and nouns used for basic activities of social superiors (eat, sleep; person, house; etc). They never use names, except for small children, and address each other upward mostly using terms like “older sister” or “grandmother”, and downward mostly using functional terms like “assistant”, “student”, etc.
    Koreans are generally careful to appear considerate toward foreigners, so in practice it’s not usually a problem for me, (and anyway I’m an older man!) But amongst themselves it’s taken very seriously. Young men can afford to bend the rules a bit, except with much older men, but young women have to show respect to everybody except children, or they will certainly be shouted at, as a minimum response. And many poorer old women will routinely defer to any young man in a suit. Many men also assume privilege by, for example, pushing in front of women in a line.
    Most Koreans treat it as a fact of life, utterly inviolable, and many have trouble adjusting to Western social patterns, e.g. girls studying abroad are reluctant to ask questions of an male professor. If you press them, the more intelligent and sensitive Koreans will pretend it’s just about grammar, but it seems to me that they could move towards a single speech style, and drop all the other crap, without losing anything important – except that it would get up the noses of a lot of pretentious old gits.

  52. 52
    Walton

    Without a monarchy, the money from the Crown Estates would still go to the Treasury but we would save the cost of the monarchy.

    But you’d have to pay the cost of the new President’s salary, accommodation, transport, security, personal staff… not to mention the cost of staging a nationwide election every few years.

    I’d like to see an elected president, perhaps Stephen Fry. It doesn’t have to be a politician.

    But it would be a politician. Firstly, because the post of president in a parliamentary republic almost always goes to a party political hack. Secondly, because in any case, whatever their previous career, someone who stands for election, campaigns and is elected is, by definition, a politician. This is a major advantage of hereditary monarchy (and of other arbitrary systems, such as selecting officeholders by lot). I’d argue that the people best suited to holding public office are those who didn’t choose it and don’t want it; those who want the trappings of power should never be trusted with it.

    ===

    Being watched all the time would drive me stark staring mad.

    Oh, I feel the same way. I’d hate to be royalty myself. The constant media attention would be incredibly stressful. Which is partly why I have so much appreciation for the work that they do.

  53. 53
    avh1

    @34
    For whatever it’s worth I don’t think that the current plans for a change being suggested by the coalition are a good idea. But you seemed to be suggesting in your comment that 1) you prefer the House of Lords over the Commons because it isn’t full of politicians and 2) that it is one the whole more virtuous. The second of those points is at least arguable (the first is clearly nonsense), but you gave the impression that this was simply beyond debate.

    Also the things you denigrate the House of Commons for (being a professional political class and the poor behaviour) are certainly there. But the problem with your particular brand of cynicism (if you’d be so good as to say that they are all as bad as each other and call me naïve for thinking improvement is possible I’ll have completed my cynical bingo card ;)) is that it ignores the possibility of an improvement and it lets these people you despise so much off the hook. After all we can’t expect any better from them, can we?

  54. 54
    Ophelia Benson

    Vijen – wow. I think Japan is like that too, yes? Full of obligatory linguistic markers of hierarchy? But the source wouldn’t be Confucianism there, I assume.

    That really makes me cringe.

  55. 55
    Timothy (TRiG)

    In other related news, more equality might come to the honours system. Currently, if you are a married man, when you get a title, your wife gets one too. If you are a woman, or are in a civil partnership (or both) your partner does not get a title. That may change.

    TRiG.

  56. 56
    Godless Heathen

    Well, I guess it’s better than not making the honours system equal…

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