Dec232010

Behind the Magic ~ The Etiquette of Proper Introductions in Victorian Times

And now, look at this! A proper blog! I know, you thought it would never happen.

 

 

And on Christmas Eve! I’ll catch you all, my sweetie darlings, on the flip side of the holidays. I’m off on my annual retreat from the madness.

 

The Etiquette of Proper Introductions in Victorian Times

There are all sorts of rules for introductions in Victorian society, Gentle Reader. Basically, the person whose name you say first is the more important person, to whom the other is being made known. The inferior is introduced to the superior.

“Duke Hematol, may I introduce Dr. Caedes?”

The duke out ranks the doctor.

However, this can get very confusing because aside from rank and social standing (see the Table of Precedence or precedence of attendance) there are also other rules to abide by (see laws/rules of precedence). For example:

A younger person is introduced to an older person.
“Mr. Rabiffano, Mr. Shabumpkin would like to make your acquaintance.”

A man is introduced to a woman.
“Mrs. Tunstell, please allow me to present Mr. Bootbottle-Fipps.”

And so forth.

So what happens if you have an older woman of little or no rank and a young nobleman? Or two women, the younger of which is married to an earl and the older to a squire? Or what happens if you throw long lived immortals into the mix?

Alexia struggles with just such a situation in the fifth book, Timeless. She must introduce a young lady werewolf whose rank she knows, to an older noble vampire who holds rank (but she is not privy to the particulars). Because he is a vampire and it is his house, she gives him precedence. But she could have reversed the order, especially if she wanted to give insult to the vampire or establish her own allegiance with the werewolves.

A world of damage can be done or avoided simply by reordering an introduction.

I never go into any of this in my books, because it is mere minutia to those who are reading for plot and story. But it is one of those things that, if you know how the era works, sometimes I am having fun with the undercurrents that may result. It certainly can effect character.

So now that you know, when Timeless comes out, you may get a little extra from that particular scene. Of course, you have Heartless to get through first . . .

(I should note that precedence is not confined to the upper ranks alone: see precedence in the servant’s hall.) Also, here is a wonderful description of an American diplomat’s opinion of a true British nobleman.

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