Friday, 15 April 2016

Knowing One's Place: Proper Behaviour Towards Superior Nobles

In a social environment so heavily dictated by rank and according privileges it is clear that there must be rules for how to act when in the presence of a superior ranked aristocrat. These following principles are all taken from sources that might phrase things a bit differently - hence the "superior" and "inferior" which I have continued for clarity.

  • If a gentleman meets a superior outside he is not to put on his hat until the superior has done so himself or allows him to cover his head

  • If the inferior gentleman pays a visit to the superior (inside) the inferior is never to seat himself in a great armchair unless all chairs in the room are of such a type

  • If the inferior is offered precedence by the superior then it is a given that he takes it immediately. It was considered rude to halt. There is an (doubtful) anecdote of Louis XIV indicating to a gentleman that he can enter the King's carriage first but the gentleman hesitated so the King got in and left him there!

  • A superior may address the inferior with familiarity - actually it was considered rather normal - but the inferior may never use the same familiarity as it was seen as insolent

  • If a superior - or a lady - pays the inferior a visit it is good breeding to accompany them when they take leave

  • If the inferior is aware that a superior is coming to visit it he is expected to meet his visitor at the coach door and then lead him to the best room in the house. When the inferior seats himself beside the superior he must only sit in chair without arms

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