2012: Queen Elizabeth II has, for the second time in a decade, updated the strict (and convoluted) Order of Precedence, the set of rules that governs the royal family’s presentations to one another. Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (better known as Kate Middleton), must curtsey to “blood princesses” unless her husband is present, in which case they must curtsey to her Past updates to the Order of Precedence are rumored to have sparked discord within the royal clan. The Telegraph reports:
When the Order was last updated, after Prince Charles’s second marriage, in 2005, the Countess of Wessex was reported to be upset that she now had to curtsy to Camilla. “She didn’t like it one bit,” a senior courtier was quoted as saying. The Earl of Wessex’s wife had previously been the second-highest ranking woman in the Royal family because neither of the Queen’s other sons, Charles and Prince Andrew, were married.
However, after Charles remarried, the Queen changed the Order of Precedence “on blood principles” so that neither Princess Anne nor Princess Alexandra, the granddaughter of George V, would have to curtsy to Camilla when her husband was not present.
1770: Marie-Antoinette, newly married to the Dauphin of France (the future Louis XVI), was faced, upon her arrival at court, with the challenge of how to behave towards the mistress of the King, the Comtesse du Barry. A forced encounter at a dinner party is recounted in The Life of Marie Antoinette:
At seven o’clock in the evening Marie Antoinette arrived at La Muette. There the king awaited her, and with him the Comte de Provence, the Comte d’Artois, Madame Clotilde, and also, alas!, that miserable woman at whose feet Louis XV dishonored the most beautiful crown in existence, and who had elicited from his culpable condescension permission to sup with the dauphiness. The young princess was profoundly hurt: her proud purity revolted against the impure contact which the despotic weakness of the old king imposed on her; but she had sufficient self-control to give no outward sign of her secret displeasure. After supper one of the courtiers who lay in wait for her inexperience asked her how she had found the Comtesse du Barry. She discerned the trap, and answered simply, “Charming.”
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