A few years ago, at a Russian exhibition in London, I bought three aprons, one for myself and one each for my sons.
I wish I had bought 20.
The apron lists the rules that Catherine the Great of Russia (1729-1796) laid down for her private parties.
Many of these rules could – should – be observed today.
Rules for the behaviour of all those entering these doors
1. All ranks shall be left outside the doors, similarly hats, and particularly swords.
2. Orders of precedence and haughtiness, and anything of such like which might result from them, shall be left at the doors.
3. Be merry, but neither spoil nor break anything, nor indeed gnaw at anything.
4. Be seated, stand or walk as one best pleases, regardless of others.
5. Speak with moderation and not too loudly, so that others present have not an earache or headache.
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6. Argue without anger or passion.
7. Do not sigh or yawn, neither bore nor fatigue others.
8. One shall agree to partake of any innocent entertainment suggested by others.
9. Eat well of good things, but drink with moderation so that each should be able always to find his legs on leaving these doors.
10. All disputes must stay behind closed doors; and what goes in one ear should go out the other before departing through the doors.
If any Shall infringe the above, on the evidence of two witnesses, for any crime each guilty party shall drink a glass of cold water, ladies not excepted, and read a page from the Telemachida* outloud. Who infringes three points on one evening shall be sentenced to learn three lines from the Telemachida by heart. If any shall infringe the tenth point, he shall no longer be permitted entry.
*The “Telemachida” was a contemporary Russian poem about the adventures of Telemachus, son of Odysseus, which most contemporaries found tedious and long-winded.