When the Queen is away from London in the summer, she opens the state rooms of Buckingham Palace to the public. Of course, Buckingham Palace is much more recent than Elizabeth’s day, but it’s one of the very few working palaces left in the world, so it was a fascinating glimpse into that world. I am sure the formality must have increased a great deal since Tudor times. In the dining room, the polished table can seat around 40, and there are rulers to mark off precisely the spacing between place settings, and all the things within the place setting—the outer knives and forks, and so on. I can’t imagine an Elizabethan table, even a state one, set to such protocol. Portraits of ancestors—most of them life sized—loomed on the walls. In some ways it must be a crushing burden. Or do you just get used to it? Or, even, learn to ignore it?
The build up of layers of perfection, protocol, and preciseness must imbue the eventual encounter with Her Majesty almost overwhelming, which is, presumably, the point. Yet, like Elizabeth the First, this Elizabeth is also known for being good at chatting with people and for a common touch. However, her ‘handlers’ probably don’t let her out as much as Elizabeth Tudor.