Another really quick one today, as I wrap up E.S. Turner’s What the Butler Saw.
What do you do if you, as an aristocrat, have been rude to one of your members of staff or blamed them for something wrongly? How do you apologize without losing your dignity? It was a surprisingly delicate matter:
“Etiquette and justice sometimes clashed on the question of whether an employer should apologise to a servant for an unjustified rebuke. If it had to be done, it was important that it should be done with the minimum lost of dignity. The Duke of Wellington’s method was to call in the servant he had maligned, and ask him some routine question. Then, when the answer had been given, the Duke would reply in a kindly tone, ‘Thank you, I am much obliged ot you.’ The servant would understand that this meant, ‘I have done wrong. Pray forgive me”” (219-20).
This was, of course, because you never thanked servants, especially not for doing routine tasks.