How our betters bob up and down

I often go on about how absurd life is. It’s because I believe it’s true and that so many of the ways we behave must make God sorry he didn’t choose a different species, such as slugs or mackerel, to be the Lords of creation. I’ve no doubt every nationality has its little foibles and proofs that humans are unworthy to have dominion over Chihuahuas, wildebeests, aphids and the rest but I’d make a claim that the UK must be contenders for the gold medal in unworthiness.

This claim is sparked by a small item in yesterday’s Guardian newspaper. For those who don’t live in the UK I should explain that, to the majority of our citizens, being a Guardian reader signifies that you must be a pretentious, gay, communist, ex-hippie, muesli-eating, sandals-wearing coward.

So, over my bowl of muesli, I learned all about a document entitled the Order of Precedence of the Royal Family To Be Observed At Court. I googled it to make sure it wasn’t a belated April 1st contribution and found that, apart from the revelations in my paper, there were all sorts of other arcane aspects to who’s who and who can do what at court. (“At court” – a phrase straight out of the Theatre of the Absurd.)

Anyway, this particular piece, and I acknowledge my debt to the Guardian in reproducing its main points here, noted how the OPRFTBOAC  had been updated to take into account that someone simply called Kate Middleton had appeared in the team photos. Now some people think that, because the Queen signs edicts and laws and things ‘Elizabeth R’, she’s Mrs R. Wrong. She is, of course, Mrs Mountbatten-Windsor (we’ll leave out all the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha stuff). So when a commoner arrives, she has to know where she stands. And the gist of it all is that, despite Father Xmas having given her the title of Duchess of Cambridge, Ms Middleton has to curtsey to Eugenie and Beatrice, the daughters of the Duke and Duchess of York, one of whom was famous for a while for wearing a fascinator shaped like a pretzel. To be fair, Ms Middleton only has to curtsey if William’s not there, but still… And she has to do it whether it’s at a grand public affair or in private. This is because they’re real ‘blood princesses’ rather than arrivistes like her. She also has to curtsey to Charles Mountbatten-Windsor’s wife Camilla too, because she’s the wife of the Queen’s son and therefore ‘better’? ‘higher’? ‘more noble’? than the wife of her grandson.

We’re talking here of the people at the pinnacle of British society, a society whose lower reaches are at present in the grip of an austerity imposed by millionaires who have no idea of how the people they ‘represent’ live, so if that doesn’t earn us the gold medal for absurdity, I’ll be very interested to hear about the antics of those who beat us.

(The picture is from Wikipedia commons).


  1. Equally ghastly, I agree, Sj, but at least we’d have elected them (or not in my case). And the whole notion of bowing and curtseying is so ludicrous anyway. It’s bad enough that money negates the notion of equality without indulging in weird little ceremonies that relate to nothing at all.

    1. Yes, that’s exactly the point. What century is this anyway. Reminds me of my first trip to the deep south years ago when I was pinching myself and wondering if I was in a third world country…

  2. I hope the Germans reported it as an example of the idiocy of Brits, Yvonne. I also hope that the curtsying experiment cured the rheumatics.

  3. I always thought they had ‘little people’ (as William calls them) who argued and punched on their behalf, Sara. But you’re an investigative journalist so you obviously know better.

    1. Not only that, Donna, but people actually respect and reinforce them. I don’t know how they keep a straight face as they do so.

  4. I find it unseemly that one person is REQUIRED to curtsey (did I spell that right?) to someone else. Now, if one felt such enormous respect that one WANTED to curtsey, that’s another thing. Mostly, however, I believe respect needs to be earned. I didn’t realize it could be legislated (or whatever you call it over there) or that it was part of your blood, like DNA is.

    Just goes to show you learn something new every day.

    1. My sentiments entirely, Linda, (and curtsey/curtsy are both OK). Your comment on deference and its manifestations being part of our DNA is too near the truth. I’ve never understood why we accept so meekly the notion that the accidental conjunction of one spermatozoon and one egg produces an individual naturally ‘superior’ to the rest of his/her fellow citizens (except for any individuals previously created by spermatozoa and eggs from the same sources). I think it’s wonderful to live in an absurd world, but it shouldn’t legitimise such stark inequalities.

  5. Curtsying requires the curtsy-ee to be wearing a skirt, is that not so? Gee, I’d have a problem. But then, I’m a common-as-muck Clog, me. (With apologies to Granny and Nanny) The whole things a stupid pantomime. Complete with horse.

    1. Point of order, Ms der Rol – isn’t the curtsy-ee the one on the receiving end? (i.e. the one who’s addressed as ‘Your Majesty’ – how can anyone say that with a straight face?) I suggest that, should you ever buy a skirt, you’d be in the role of curtsy-er. And you are, of course, absolutely right – a stupid, demeaning pantomime.

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