Posts Tagged 'UK'

The Protocol of Royal Investitures

Yesterday, 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.

The first time I went to Buckingham Palace was on the occasion of my father’s investiture. That was many years ago, where I was young boy and the only thing I can really remember was that the entrance to the gentleman’s lavatories was a moving wall. Investitures have changed since my father’s, as now there are considerably more celebrities that are given honours. Back when I was at the Palace, there was only one vaguely famous person, namely the radio and TV presenter David Jacobs CBE. We can mainly thank Mr. Blair for the increase of celebs at these ceremonies.

As with Sir Bruce’s ceremony, the Buckingham Palace investitures take place in the Ballroom, watched by family and friends of each recipient. Sir Bruce’s knighthood was announced in June in The Queen’s Birthday Honours List. New honours also get detailed at the start of each year in the New Year’s Honours List.

During the ceremony light music is provided by an orchestra from the Household Division as each recipient receives their honour. The dress code is smart, as one would expect. Morning dress, military uniform, lounge suits or national dress (the same as April’s Royal Wedding).

The usual royal protocol is to be followed: don’t shake Her Majesty’s hand until she puts her hand out first, and only then shake it lightly. What is interesting to note about the handshakes at investitures is that Her Majesty will extend her hand at the end of the exchange with each recipient and will usually push her hand out further at the end of the shake in order to suggest to the recipient that they should now take their leave from in front of the dais. You can see from the video of Sir Bruce’s knighthood that Her Majesty does just that. Recipients should not be offended at this – Her Majesty has around 120 people to invest.

The Queen usually converses with each of the newly honoured, but only few a very short time. Details of the conversation should remain private and it is not the done thing to then go and tell the press what was said. The same applies for any conversation with Royalty. Alas, Sir Bruce did not adhere to this etiquette during an interview with the BBC’s Sophie Rayworth – mind you, she should not have asked!

Sir Bruce is now a Knight Bachelor, which is one of the highest honours (although the lowest form of Knight but the one most usually given). During this, the recipient kneels on his right knee on the investiture stool and The Queen dubs him with a naked sword. Women are made Dames but this does not involve the sword. Contrary to popular belief, Her Majesty does not say ‘Rise, Sir Bruce’ or anything similar. Instead the recipient simply rises, then stands to the left of the stool before being invested with the insignia of the Order.

As Sir Bruce is now a Knight Bachelor he received just a badge (worn round the neck), whereas Knights of an Order of Chivalry receive a star pinned on the left side of the coat and a badge.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner
(Text adapted from original article for The Huffington Post) 

Super Servants, Super Service

The English Manner has long used the phrase ‘super-service’ when training in private households, yachts, planes and hotels.  To our minds, this means the employee reaching their utmost potential and giving 110% to their tasks, ensuring that nothing is left to chance and that the needs of every guest or household are anticipated before they even know they desire it!

Domestic service has become fashionable in the media in the past few weeks thanks to the fabulous ‘Downton Abbey’ and a revival of the old favourite, ‘Upstairs Downstairs’, and we applaud this as there is no doubt that working for others in this way has become something to be looked down upon in the eyes of the world, and is no longer recognised for what it is: a fabulous career path with the potential to travel, broaden your horizons and skill levels; and good potential rewards – and relationships -  for life.

Downton Abbey staff

The staff of ITV's hit Downton Abbey

But the tide is turning and we are getting daily enquiries for traditional training with a modern twist – for the ‘super-servant’ – a personal concierge who can multitask (women do this as a matter of course!) juggling diaries and schedules, dinner parties and driving, school runs and swimming pool maintenance, alongside purchasing property, wines and antiques and balancing portfolios of fine art with treasury bonds.

Economically it made sense for staff to live in, now they are earning so much money in these high profile roles that they often own their own homes, and without the financial need, they and their employers welcome the privacy and space afforded by shutting the front door at the end of the day, unless they can afford the mews house next door!

Days though are usually long, and often involve extensive overseas travel, constantly changing schedules, and sometimes an innate lack of understanding of any form of private life or personal ties.  These roles are not for the encumbered, they are ideal for the sophisticated with an eye for detail, with an understanding of how to enjoy the finest things in life, without crossing the line.  Both parties have to learn to keep their distance otherwise disaster strikes; nannies have always accompanied the family on outings but did not usually join dinner parties, and in a bygone era, everyone knew their place.  Most people under the age of 60 do not have any personal experience of private staff whatsoever.  As a result, our attitudes have changed, and most employers now feel uncomfortable around their staff, either over compensating by charm or, more often than not, by being standoffish and plain rude.  It is our task to educate the employer as much as the employee, and show them how to respect those who work for them and with them.  If that is achieved, high morale and retention follow.

Most staff at the highest levels now have their own assistants but the hierachy is nothing like the days of ‘Downton Abbey’ when the local villagers would vie to work in the ‘big house’ rather than in the mill, the mine or even on the land.  In London most junior domestic staff come from overseas, precisely because working for others has been regarded as the lowest of the low by we British for some years, and we are trying hard at The English Manner to educate young people to start to train for domestic service.  Many who might have taken a gap year will now miss out on a university place:  what better way to start work than to train for a secure household as a mother’s help, cook or housekeeper?  Our sister company, The Household Academy, runs regular classes for traditional training in these roles, as well as bespoke training for those who may have already begun their career but who want to make the leap to House Manager or PA, and need to acquire the extra skills and confidence to do so.

London is now home to a vast tranche of overseas wealth as well as UK based super-rich such as hedge fund managers and City bankers.  Money rules now more than ever before and with that wealth comes the need for presentable, well spoken staff who can turn their hand to any task.  Let’s put some pride back into the household and instead of allowing the plum jobs to be taken by those who have seen the opportunity from Australia, America or Italy, encourage our young people, as well as those who perhaps are leaving military service careers in early middle age, to go back to basics and train in the traditional methods of private service but with a modern twist:  money rules, and the world has to prove it can rise up to the challenge of servicing it.

Alexandra Messervy
Founder, The English Manner

The Protocol of Flags

FlagsFlags: we raise them in pride and celebration, lower them in sadness and to commemorate death, burn or destroy them in anger and protest.  There is great emotion associated with this one symbol as very aptly noted by the Chief Protocol Officer for Toronto, Canada.

For several months now, my colleague William Hanson has been urging me to write something for the blog on the subject of flags. On the face of it, this was a simple request and should not have presented any difficulties as I can fairly easily recite the generally accepted guidelines for displaying flags and have often given advice in the matter (sometimes by invitation, other times not).

However, I felt that our readers expected more than mere rote and I wanted a different slant and in the process, inadvertently opened a can of worms (a modern metaphorical extension of Pandora’s Box). My research (if that is not too grand a term) included personal observation and study on three continents and many countries and eventually led to a meeting with the Lead Ceremonials Officer for the US State Department. The USA is the only country that has statute law dealing with flying or displaying its national flag (Title 36, Chapter 1).

The display of national flags is a very sensitive issue. Done correctly, you do honour to your own flag and country and to your international visitors.  Done incorrectly and you may create ill-will and animosity and perhaps even an international incident as happened on 18 October 1992 when a US Marine Corps colour guard displayed the Canadian flag upside down at a World Series (baseball) game in the USA.  The fault wasn’t intentional nor was it through ignorance, it was a mere technical glitch and the Marine had no choice but to carry on with the ceremony.  Nevertheless, it required the intervention of the President of the United States to apologise. He requested the opportunity to make amends by sending another Marine Corps colour guard to Canada to carry the Canadian flag in the following World Series game and in an unprecedented move, requested that a Royal Canadian Mounted Police colour guard carry the American flag. All was forgiven.

It seems that a thorough knowledge of flag protocol and etiquette, combined with a certain panache, allows one to flaunt the rules and get away with it, rather like a gentleman who tweaks his dinner suit (“tuxedo” in America) with a discreetly patterned bowtie rather than the standard black barathea silk version. Knowing the rules and flaunting them with style is entirely different from blundering through in ignorance.

Amongst the new twists I have observed is a display of repeating flag patterns. This display features the repetition of the flags starting with the host country’s flag on the left, then the guest nations in alphabetical order in the host country’s language, repeated any number of times across the podium or along the line and ending with the host country.  For example, host country is the USA, guest nations are Canada and Mexico: the flags are displayed USA – Canada – Mexico, repeat, repeat, repeat – USA (the host country’s flag parenthetically enclosing the entire display any time there are five or more flags displayed). This is appropriate for decoration of a room, political briefings or announcements, diplomatic and consular events and also as a background for photo opportunities.  However, one litigator I spoke with advises against trying this set-up in a court room and then trying to explain it to the judge.

In Toronto, a colourful display of flags adjacent to the city hall features 18 flag poles arranged in three rows of six poles. No reference exists for flying flags in such a configuration and only after the designers and architects had installed the poles was the protocol office consulted.  The result is a magnificent display of the Canadian, provincial and territorial flags as well as the City of Toronto flag and multiple Canadian flags included to make up the number. The provincial flags are flown in order according to when each province joined confederation, however this is not immediately clear nor, I suggest, particularly important in this configuration. It is fully inclusive and because there is no protocol or precedent for such a display, no rules have been broken and no-one could possibly take offence.

While it is considered courteous and gracious to display an international visitor’s national flag on special occasions or during brief visits, be aware of the do’s and don’ts of flying your own national flag outside your home country, at your vacation home abroad, for example. It is correct to fly it on your own national holiday but incorrect to fly it year-round without regard or deference to the flag of your host country. Host country flags always take precedence. (I am referring to private property, not embassies or government buildings.) Never fly two national flags on the same single staff flag pole although rules exist for displaying multiple national flags on a nautical (yard-arm) pole with the gaff being the point of honour.

It is correct to raise your flags in the morning and lower them at sunset.  Flags are hoisted briskly, but lowered slowly and should never touch the ground. If flags are to be left flying overnight, it is correct to illuminate them. Soiled or tattered flags should not be displayed.  Soiled flags should be washed or dry-cleaned and tattered flags destroyed in a respectful manner – burning is suggested.  Americans, especially, are very sensitive about issues surrounding their flag and old, disused or tattered flags may be delivered to any branch of the American Legion for appropriate disposal. Americans even specify the correct way to fold their flag while other nations simply fold theirs in a neat fashion ready for next use.

Finally, “half-mast” is only an expression. When flying a flag at half-mast (on land, technically “half-staff”) it is first raised to the top of the staff and then slowly lowered a distance equal to the flag’s length (the “fly”, its longest side).  The expression half-mast originated on ships where lowering the flag by a distance equivalent to its length brought the flag to the half-way point on the mast.  It is incorrect, however, to lower the flag half-way down a flag pole although this rule is almost always observed in the breach, even on government buildings, and is so widely practised that it is commonly accepted and expected to lower the flag to the mid-point. However, purists take note.

Do you find all this interesting? Stay alert to the issues as you go about your daily routines and you will see flags from a new perspective. Do not hesitate to encourage businesses you patronise to improve their standards; banks, especially, have been guilty of continuing to fly flags well beyond their useful life.

John Robertson
Tutor, The English Manner

Oh We Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside

Holiday time is here again and it is time to pick up the bucket and spade, pack up the suitcases with clothes that won’t be worn, and load up the car to the gills… a stressful time at best, compounded by a typical summer of downpours, sea mist and cool winds.

But, this summer so far has shown that there is a glimmer of hope and temperatures have been warmer and sunnier than the last few years at least.  My family and I have just returned from the delightful Devon coastal town of ‘Chelsea on Sea’ aka Salcombe, and it struck us that a word on the etiquette of English travel might be topical.

Salcombe Panorama

The Englishman Abroad is easily spotted – very pale skin with patches caught by the sun after months of cashmere cover-ups – a battered straw panama hat and trousers somewhere just below the knee which can make the wearer look like a sack of potatoes. As one would expect in Salcombe, there were degrees of Jack Wills (its original home town) preppy chic; Abercombie & Fitch copy-cat versions and a degree of the White Stuff surf brigade, though on the wrong coast.  Not just for the teens, there were plenty of parents sporting the same looks, with additional gravitas added by Henry Lloyd and the occasional spotting of some Ralph Lauren here and there.  All this added up to a glorious technicolour of fairly smart and expensive gear, entirely in keeping with the now astronomical prices being charged for a sandwich and a latte (£8.50 for a cheese sandwich in one popular water-view pub!).

What was apparent, thankfully, was a complete lack of the popular recent look of men of certain post-teenage years wearing a singlet vest with knee length shorts – not a good look, even in the Caribbean.  We were pleased to note that not only was the trend absent, but the unthinking, rude and uncaring behaviour which seems to accompany this fashion was also absent.  People queued politely and in line for the ferries to and from East Portlemouth and South Sands; there was no pushing in the ice cream melee and guests chatted jovially at the bars.  What a marked contrast to Oxford Street yesterday in the sweltering heat, when so many tourists (more than 70% of which appeared to be European) jostled, shoved and on occasion just barged through the throng.  Doors shut in faces, hot sweaty bodies dressed more for the beach at Blackpool than one of central London’s premier shopping areas, and a great deal of what our friends in the USA term ‘jaywalking’.

Not everyone has the ability, financial or otherwise to make it to Salcombe, Rock or Cap Ferrat this year, but wherever one’s holiday and business travels take you to, do remember some common courtesy and basic good manners.  Be polite, be friendly, be patient and dress for the occasion.  And take an umbrella!

Alexandra Messervy
Founder, The English Manner

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The English Manner has some wonderful English made umbrellas and will shortly have a range of travel products available for our travellers.  Do get in touch for details, and in the meantime we are pleased to recommend some ‘must haves’ for travel this year.

Some of our best loved travel essentials include ‘Travel Pak’; a comprehensive set of anti-bacterial gel, wipes, tissues, body wash and tissues, with a fantastic added bonus of disposable loo seat covers.  Available from Amazon at around £16 rrp, and some good chemists.  We also recommend a failsafe pashmina in a neutral colour, our favourites are from Pure Cashmere and come in a range of colours with some glorious pastels and hotter shades for cooler nights.  Check out a good eye mask and ear plugs for air travel, and arm yourself with an indulgent set of bath time essentials from Jo Malone – we love the lime and basil shampoo and the grapefruit fragrance.  For cleansing, exfoliating and moisturizing, look no further than the mini La Prairie set, which comes complete with a hanging wash-bag and make up pouch, perfect for any location.

For those heading to South Devon, check out supper at Dick & Wills, a new waterside brasserie in Salcombe with a fabulous view.  Not cheap, but the best food we ate during our recent stay; and a latte at the Wardroom with or after breakfast is a treat – cheerful fast service, nicely presented home cooked food and a full frontal view.  Further afield, try the Oyster Shack at Bigbury-on-Sea and the Sloop Inn at Bantham, just beside a brilliant beach.

Fit for a King: Etiquette in the Gym

William working out in the gym

Working out with a smile

The summer is here and many people will probably want to tone up their bodies for the warmer weather. Admirable, but do remember that gyms, like everything else, have an un-written (until now) etiquette that people should follow and respect.

Here are my tips for working out politely.

Good gym kit Make sure your gym kit is clean and presentable. Men should not go bare chested either

Mirrors They are there for you to check your technique and not for preening

Music As with public transport, keep your personal music devices turned down so only you can hear them

Grunting, etc Not allowed, ever! There’s no need for others to be acutely aware that you are working out

Equipment hogging Don’t use a piece of equipment for longer than 15 minutes if there are others in the gym. There may not be a visible queue, but it’s not to say that others won’t be wanting to use your machine

Saving machines Don’t go and drape a towel over a machine you want to use next until you are ready to use it

Gym bores Don’t bore other people (inside or outside of the gym) about how well you are doing with your workout regime, or how your new diet is going. Only tell if they ask – too many people can become boorish when discussing fitness

Not a competition If the person on the machine next to you is doing a higher speed than you, do not worry that you are not as fit as them. Exercise should be taken at your own pace and not dictated by others – you can actually do yourself harm if you try to match others’ speeds

Wipe up! After use, make sure you give sweaty machines a wipe down so they are ready to be used by the next person.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

Blowing Your Own Trumpet: Vuvuzela Etiquette

‘Seventy-six trombones led the big parade
With a hundred and ten cornets close at hand.
They were followed by rows and rows of the finest virtuo-
Sos, the cream of ev’ry famous band’ (
76 Trombones from ‘The Music Man’)

Vuvuzelas

The start of the 2010 World Cup has brought a new and unexpected celebrity to the world’s attention: the vuvuzela. This South African trumpet-esque instrument is blown at matches (in England we’d have a claxon) by the spectators. It’s caused television viewers to complain, as they’ve been unable to concentrate on matches due to the din of thousands of vuvuzelas; when all blown in one constant stream they do sound like a swarm of wasps.

The argument for not banning the vuvuzelas has been that people have free will and as they are not harming anyone then why should football’s governing body, Fifa, intervene? Then of course there is the ‘when in Rome’ argument: the vuvuzelas are a native instrument to South Africa and by banning their use would be a snub to the host country.

So what to do? Utilitarianism would say that we should worry about the greatest good for the greatest number, and so the opinions of the worldwide television audience would take priority over the spectators at the stadiums, and thus the vuvuzelas be banned. However, the ‘when in Rome’ counter-argument is, in my opinion, equally as worthwhile. When we are visiting other countries we should respect their customs and cultures and not just march in and expect it to be England abroad: we have to adapt. But then of course the TV audience is not in South Africa, they are in their own homes… it’s a tough one, but the tournament only goes on for a month (I never thought that I’d ever say ‘only goes on for a month’) and so we should probably just put up with it for the time being… or do what I’m doing… and not watch any of the matches at all!

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner


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