Each Other with Kisses - When Kissing was Illegal
We English folk are at least as fond of kissing as are the natives of any other country. Only, while we keep this form of salutation almost entirely for women and children, on the Continent of Europe the ceremonious kiss is commonly exchanged between men.
And yet in the Middle Ages we were the greatest kissing nation in the world. Four centuries ago a man kissed his partner at the beginning and end of each dance, and also when he met a lady of his acquaintance or took leave of her.
This habit delighted foreigners who visited our shores. The Dutchman, Erasmus, who is said to stand as "the supreme type of commonsense applied to human affairs," and who visited England early in the sixteenth century, remarks, in a letter to a friend, that the English kissing was a custom " never sufficiently to be praised." And Aeneas Sylvius, speaking of the Scots women of his day, declares that they .gave their kisses more readily than the Italian women gave their hands.
Alas, those pleasant days are over. The Puritan of Cromwell's time killed the custom of universal kissing, and the kiss ceremonious is nearly dead in our own country.
Why William IV. Objected
Here and there you find that an old kissing custom still survives. The best known is the ancient Hock Tide custom at Hungerford, in Berkshire. In accordance with a charter granted by John o' Gaunt, tething or "tutty " men are chosen, whose duty includes a call at every house, the collection of a small toll from the men, and of a kiss from each of the women.
In France and Germany, indeed, almost everywhere upon the Continent, men exchange kisses upon meeting after any considerable interval, and the etiquette of ceremonious kissing needs to be thoroughly understood by all in any high position. Royalties especially always embrace at meeting or parting, and at a Royal wedding, or any similar ceremonial, the number of kisses to be given or received is exactly graduated by the rank of the giver or recipient. The Kaiser, for instance, would receive four kisses, while his son, the Crown Prince, would have to be satisfied with two. Kissing is a custom of unknown but immense antiquity, yet one which, oddly enough, was never universal. It is quite unknown among the aborigines of Australia and of New Guinea, and also among the Patagonians, and even such comparatively advanced races as the Maoris of New Zealand and the Eskimo.
In Iceland the men always kiss one another on meeting, but men rarely kiss women. A Finnish woman regards a kiss upon the lips as an unpardonable insult. Even when offered by an ardent lover it is considered a most heinous breach of etiquette.
Bayard Taylor says that a Finnish matron hearing that kissing on the lips was common in England, declared that if her husband dared do such a thing she would give him a box on the ear he would feel for a month.
While the seventeenth century Puritans put an end to our kissing customs, they never went to such lengths as did their cousins of New England.
At a Court held at New Haven in May, 1660, Jacobeth Murline and Sarah Tuttee were prosecuted for " setting down on a chest together, his arms about her waiste, and her arme upon his shoulder, and continuing in that sinful posture about half an hour, in which time he kyssed her, and she kyssed him, or they kissed one another, as the witnesses testified."
Captain Kemble, who came back from a voyage of three years to Boston in the year 1665, was put in the stocks for twenty-four hours on the day of his arrival. His offence was " unseemly behaviour, in that he did publickly kiss his wife on the doorstep of his house on the Sabbath Day."
Comparatively recently there was a revival of these absurd old " Blue " laws. In the year 1891 a student of Yale University was sentenced to fifteen days' imprisonment for kissing his sweetheart in a Boston restaurant. And the girl suffered a similar penalty.
By "Madge" (Mrs. Humphry)
The first Courts of his present Majesty's reign have been conducted on exactly the same principles as those of King Edward VII. There are, however, some differences in detail. The invitations are for an hour earlier than those in the preceding reign - namely, 9.30 p.m.
Simple and almost trifling as the difference in the hour appears to be at first sight, it has already effected a considerable change in the hours of the great world. Dinner invitations are now sent out for 7.30, which means that the meal itself commences at a quarter to eight. This is in considerable contrast to the 8.45 and 9 o'clock dinners to which society has become accustomed. The change is all in favour of health, and even more with the lowly individuals who were kept from their natural rest by the very late hours of Court functions in the last reign. It will also certainly have its effect on theatres, most of which now begin at 8.30. There is a whole army of hard workers which would be immensely relieved if their day's labour could close an hour earlier than is at present necessitated by the late opening of theatres.
The young girl making her first bow to Royalty has not the series of curtseys to perform which proved such an obstacle to self-possession and grace of bearing at Queen Victoria's drawing-rooms. Her train being taken from her arm and spread for her at the entrance to the Throne Room, she passes along towards the dais, where the King and Queen are seated, each bestowing upon her a bow and smile as her name is announced. With one deep curtsey the affair is ended, and her place is taken by the next on the list.
It is a mistake to suppose that their Majesties stand during presentations of their own subjects. They always do so when presentations are made by any member of the Legations - this is their courteous manner of ceremoniously acknowledging them as guests. With English, Irish, Scotch, Welsh, Indian and Colonial ladies the case is different. They are in the presence of their Sovereigns, and the latter receive them as such.
The first Court of each season is always diplomatic and official, but there are plenty of other persons invited. 'at the first Court of the present reign several brides and debutantes were present, though many newspapers had announced that only ladies belonging to the Embassies and wives and daughters of those holding official positions at Buckingham Palace would attend.
Punctuality is always politic in every matter connected with our Royal Family. It is respectful. But on the occasion of a Court, to be late flusters the debutante, and also incurs the polite contempt, unspoken but not unfelt, of the officials whose business it is to see that everything works with perfect order. It is etiquette for all who are invited to be present before the hour on the invitation-cards, and those to be presented are assembled in the corridor leading to the magnificent ballroom. The entrance of one flushed and hurried-looking individual is observed by all present, and their looks of inquiry cannot aid her disappearing self-possession.
Under the large domed dais and canopy the King and Queen sit well forward, alone, other members of the Royal Family behind them just a pace or two. At the sides are several ladies and gentlemen in attendance.
Husbands and fathers in attendance on ladies going to Court all wear uniform or Court dress or official dress, adding to the brilliant colour of the scene. Ministers in their heavy gold-embroidered coats, and the splendid uniforms of the Court officials, are other colour items in the show.
The servants in the refreshment-rooms wear gorgeous crimson and gold liveries, and they are numerous enough not only to meet, but to forestall every wish of the visitors.
A Tasteful Palace
The etiquette is that no one shall leave the Throne Room until their Majesties have passed through it on their way to their private apartments, where they always have supper on Court nights, but the ladies presented pass directly out of the Throne Room into the corridors, some of them proceeding without delay to the supper-room, though many linger to listen to the lovely music discoursed by the King's band, and look at the beautiful articles of bric-a-brac and the splendid pictures that adorn the corridors. The Palace, which was so simple and old-fashioned in Queen Victoria's time, is now a dream of soft colour, and a museum of beautiful objects, skilfully and artistically arranged.
No girl need feel any sense of shyness or embarrassment, for, at the very first symptom of anything of the kind, or at a single doubtful movement on her part, an official seems to spring up at her elbow in order to direct her.