Thursday, June 20, 2013

It all started with Versailles

Etiquette has always been flexible, even from the very start. Take Versailles, for example.

When aristocrats trampled through the gardens of Versailles, the French Court of Louis XIV used etiquette - literally, little signs - to remind them to stay off the grass. When dukes and duchesses ignored these signs, the king decreed that no one go beyond the bounds of etiquette, thus giving another meaning to the word: rules to be followed. So, a word that started off meaning a label or tag became a word synonymous with prescribed behavior.

Etiquette changes with the times. It has to adapt to still be meaningful to new generations, after all. A recent visit to Versailles reminded us of how this is true. Take place settings, for example.

Behold, the splendor of tables past!

Take a closer look at the fork and spoon. That placement is very much a French presentation, not often seen in the U.S., that highlights the beautiful design work on the back of the utensils. See?

Now, fast-forward to today...this was our place setting at the Versailles gift shop lunch counter.

Quite a difference, but still completely serviceable, and it's a solid reminder of how etiquette can — and should — change with the times.

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