My 19th-century blogger, Frances Williams Wynn, is today finding her close study of a collection of European royalty seriously disappointing. She reports:
At Oxford it seemed to me that there was a great want of dignity of manner among the assembled grandees. Even the dandy Alexander seemed to want it; though he was much better than any of his compeers, excepting, perhaps, our own king when he happened to be in good humour, which was not always the case during his visit to Oxford. As to the King of Prussia, he looked as stupid and as vulgar as I believe be really is. When complimented, he never could look otherwise than embarrasse de sa personne, bored to death, and could not even make a tolerably gentleman-like bow.
She's surprised and rather horrified that the Russian party cannot understand Latin and Greek:
It did not at that time occur to me as possible that these sovereigns might not understand one syllable of the elegant classical orations made in compliment to them. I have since heard from Dr. Crichton—a Scotch physician belonging to the household of the Empress dowager, who accompanied one of her grandsons, the brother of Alexander—that neither this young prince nor any one of a numerous suite, excepting one man, understood a word of Latin or Greek.
The way she writes this makes me wonder if she could. The Latin, perhaps is a distinct possibility, the Greek less so.
It seems Miss Williams Wynn wasn't the only one less than impressed:
The monarch was invited to Guildhall, at which 700 guests gathered. Italian singers did their best to charm the distinguished guests and the dinner was served on gold plates. Suddenly the Russian Grand Duchess Catherine abruptly asked that the Italians be silent, she detested music! Alexander was hard of hearing and didn't understand the embarrassed murmurs all around him. Her demand threw the company into great confusion and the monarch couldn't wait to leave this country that was so proper, cold and stiff.