I once heard a story about Sir Walter Raleigh that goes like this: One day Sir Walt was hanging around on the street, as English aristocrat/poet/explorer-types were wont to do, when Queen Elizabeth herself appeared. The queen was so busy resenting her late father for beheading her mother, reversing her crazy sister’s religious policies, and avoiding marriage that she failed to notice her entourage was rapidly approaching a giant mud puddle directly in front of Sir Walt. (Actually, I think the puddle was the size of a man’s cloak, and maybe even smaller. It definitely wasn’t the end of the world, is what I’m saying.)
When she finally noticed the squishy antagonist, she slowed down and paused, probably mentally berating herself for not wearing her royal wellies. In that brief moment of hesitation, Walt whipped off his brand-spanking-new cloak and laid it across the mud so the queen didn’t have to soil her shoes. Queen Elizabeth looked at him regally, crossed the puddle via cloak, and went on with her day. I like to imagine that she rolled her eyes when she was past him because it was the 16th century and she was stepping in way worse stuff than smallish puddles all the time, but apparently the gesture floored her and after that, Sir Walter Raleigh was a favorite in her court.
I bought an etiquette book last weekend because I’m kind of punk rock.
T.S. Eliot once said, “It’s not wise to violate the rules until you know how to observe them.”