The Lady Guide to Modern Manners: 18 May

Dear Thomas

I feel that the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will be a joyous occasion, but perhaps it will also teach us some valuable lessons in wedding etiquette. Can you advise?

Jenny Hill, Ramsgate 

Dear Jenny

Yes, first of all, don’t try to sell your Order of Service on eBay for £1,500 – as did one of the guests at Prince William and Catherine Middleton’s wedding, apparently.

Orders and decorations will be worn at Windsor, as well as hats for ladies. At non-Royal weddings, guests are often uncertain, especially regarding hats. Either find out what others are doing and form a hat- or non-hat-wearing phalanx. Or be prepared to park your hat behind a gravestone if you find you’re alone in hat-wearing.

Shoes: be sure to have shoes you can stand around in for a long day. Also, no floor-wrecking shoes. Don’t kick off footwear except under the table if there is a long cloth.

Precedence and prominence is complicated at this Royal Wedding, as at many others where the parents of those marrying are separated. There has been speculation of a novelty arrangement, whereby Meghan would be given away by her mother, Doria Ragland, with her father, Thomas Markle Snr, shut out altogether. But this is not to be. Instead, an imaginative and, as far as I know, unprecedented solution has been found: Meghan will drive with her mother to St George’s; her father will accompany her up the aisle. It is always to be hoped that estranged parents will at least speak to each other on such a day for their offspring – but so often they don’t.

Her Majesty The Queen takes precedence over everybody, of course. But when attending a wedding, as she does quite often, she graciously concedes. So it will be that an unknown American woman will enter St George’s after The Queen and be accompanied from it presumably by the Prince of Wales, with Her Majesty following behind the central bridal party. This is all as it should be and a mark of our Royal Family’s adaptability and how it has survived. As indeed is the marriage itself.

In many families there may well be one who fancies they should come above the mother of the bride, and even the bride herself, who will not bestow the grace and humility shown by Her Majesty The Queen.

However, it would be vulgar for those prominent by right to conspicuously upstage revered and senior members of the family. When Princess May, later Queen Mary, married Prince George, later George V, in 1893, May’s mother, the Duchess of Teck, drove with Queen Victoria to the service at the Chapel Royal St James’s. The Duchess was a large lady and hysterical for attention. Queen Victoria was tiny, although stout, and retiring. It made a comical picture, the diminutive Queen and the huge waving Duchess as they went by.

Please send your questions to thomas.blaikie@lady.co.uk or write to him at The Lady, 39-40 Bedford Street, London WC2E 9ER


WHAT TO DO ABOUT...Chelsea Flower Show

…and indeed all the other flower shows that populate the summer these days, such as hampton Court, Chatsworth and Tatton. Flower shows are huge. I am pleased to represent The Lady at the Press Viewing of Chelsea on Monday 21 May. I hope I will behave. Last summer at Hyde Hall RHS plant fair, another massive event, quite equivalent to a flower show, I was caught out making sneering remarks in the flower-arranging tent, as well as possibly barging the queue. So that’s a thing: don’t make disobliging comments within earshot of any stand. Or indeed at all. some people really like the cement garden ornaments or duck sculptures made of willow. And don’t barge the queue, of course, if there is one. None of these shows are society events, like Ascot or Henley, although some would like to think so. Dress is not even smart casual. People go to look at the nursery plant stands and the show gardens. And to buy (or order) plants. There’s a democracy to it, although some might balk at the entry prices. Gardening cuts across the classes… up to a point.

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