How to Prepare for the Ordeal
When a girl knows she is to be presented, her first duty, and that of her parents, is to see she is properly and fully prepared. Lessons are given by every big teacher of dancing, and a Court debutante is taught and rehearsed in every action and step, from the time she enters the Royal presence until she passes out presented.
Sometimes it is thought that a few hints from friends who have been presented will be sufficient ; sometimes a little desultory practice of curtseying - not real Court curtseys, either - is indulged in at home. But many a debutante enters the Throne Room without having attempted to curtsey, walk along, and curtsey again, with the regulation gracefully towards the exit of the Throne Room
Fig. 3. After her second curtsey, which is made to the Queen, the debutante should rise into the position illustrated, and move train sweeping behind her, and the regulation bouquet held in her right hand !
At some recent Courts it was remarked by many ladies connected with the Court that the difference between those who knew and those who did not know was amazing. I can only beg any likely-to-be-presented girls to go and learn exactly what to do.
The first thing is to learn how to curtsey.
In the first place, a Court curtsey is much lower than an ordinary curtsey, and quite different to the curtsey in a minuet or gavotte, where the front foot is extended.
A Court curtsey is always made on the right foot. The learner should practise standing with her feet slightly apart, then move the left foot sideways and a little forward. Next draw it gradually round with a circular movement till it is behind the right foot, but not touching it, and resting on the toe only.
Then bend both knees, sinking gradually towards the ground, and bending the head slightly forward. The greater part of the weight is on the right foot when bending down, and is transferred to the left foot on rising.
This is done slowly when the learner has bent down as far as possible. The body draws back a little towards the left foot, which bears all the weight, so that the right foot is perfectly free to start a second curtsey or to walk on.
This curtsey should be practised carefully and slowly till it can be made without jerks either when sinking or rising. And the learner must be careful not to stoop forward from the waist when doing it, but only to incline her head gracefully as her knees bend.
The illustrations show a pupil taking a presentation lesson, with other assistants standing " for their Majesties and the Chamberlain.
The learner enters the Throne Room (after somebody else on the actual day),
U and walks slowly but steadily towards the centre of the room, where the King and Queen sit on a raised dais. Almost as the debutante before her is curtseying she hands her card, with her left hand, to the Chamberlain, who is shortly to call out her name (see Fig. i). Her bouquet is held in the right hand, and her train sweeps behind her, having been spread out by pages at the door.
One of the strictest rules in presentation is that nobody shall stand still. The distance between each lady is so judged that everyone is moving all the time with slow, sliding steps. Even if there seems a wait the debutante must continue moving with tiny steps. Having presented her card, the learner moves on, and by the time her name is called she stands facing her Sovereign. Then she makes a Court curtsey exactly as described above, her train sweeping behind her, and her bouquet resting beyond her right knee (see Fig. 2, which shows position at lowest point in curtsey).
Rising slowly from her obeisance to the King, the learner takes a long sliding step on her right foot, draws the left across it (in front), and steps out again on the right. These three steps, which are so smooth as to be almost invisible, carry her along until she stands facing the Queen. A second curtsey is then made (see Fig. 3, which illustrates the position of train, bouquet, and body just at the conclusion of the second curtsey).
Having completed both curtseys, the learner moves on gracefully, her train still spread out behind her. As she nears the open doors of the exit she turns her left shoulder back, and extends her left arm, looking towards the throne as she does so.
Fig. 4. When the debutante reaches the exit door of the Throne
Room, she should turn and extend her left arm for a page (the figure on the right) to place her train over it
A page gathers up the voluminous folds of her train and drops them skilfully over her extended arm. Unless the arm is extended and the learner turns this action is very ugly and often bungled. Fig. 4 shows the position with the train just thrown over the learner's arm. Holding it in that manner she turns again, and passes out of the Royal presence.
The management of the train is always the chief factor in presentation lessons. The four photographs accompanying this article show the train in every position - on entering, on curtseying, and on leaving. Pupils should wear an improvised train and carry a bouquet, so that they may be quite accustomed to both. At one time debutantes had to make no fewer than seven curtseys consecutively, and then leave the presence walking backwards. This is no longer required, and the general effect is much more graceful in consequence.
Presentation at Court is certainly an ordeal, but it is quite the most enjoyable and memorable ordeal of a woman's social life. The moment when the debutante stands outside the Throne Room, having her train spread out by pages, catching just a dazzling - and terrifying - glimpse of the brilliant scene of which she will soon form part, is certainly nerve-racking. But to the girl who is well prepared, presentation at Court need hold no terrors beyond a certain natural timidity. It is an honour. And the girl who knows exactly what to do, and how to do it, should have no fear of blundering in the presence of her Sovereign.
Let me, finally, abjure every debutante to practise a Court curtsey as often as possible. For that is the test, in passing through the Throne Room ; and on the excellence and grace of her obeisance depends a debutante's success.