Picture: From the Sir Charles Grandiose Archives

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2 February, 1996

One's spouse and oneself have been at a loss as to how to distract our ward, young Penelope Windsor-Smythe (now eighty-fourth in line to the throne, thanks to the fortunate demise of a bronchially deficient second cousin four times removed, of the Blythe-Smythes of Brompton), from thoughts of her common blacksmith suitor. Yet our lives have had to go on. One's many readers--often a rowdy lot but always remembering to crook their pinkie at the tea table (one hopes)--know that such are the exquisite pressures of being wealthy, titled, and well-turned-out.

This week, two competing invitations have tickled our collective fancies. First comes a charming request for our family to join in a private viewing of some Roman Artifacts recently uncovered in a frost heave on the grounds of the estate of Eunice, Duchess of Crabbe. Secondly, the Royal Winchester Equestrian Gymkhana is to be held this week. Our family has chosen to 'split the bill', so to speak. One will bear the sole responsibility of viewing the artifacts in the illustrious presence of the Duchess of Crabbe (and all her life support paraphernalia). One cannot claim much joy in this division of duties. While one is always pleased to mingle with the local dignitaries, especially those of Crabbe House, one wearies slightly of the superior and patrician airs that the Duchess has given herself over the matter. Why, from the way in which she ceaselessly natters from behind her oxygen mask of the historical import of these shards, one would think that the Roman Pottery had shot from her own fundament, full-blown, as a fortunate byproduct of her Prune and Fibre Regimen.

The indefatiguable Lady Felicia, on the other gloved hand, will escort our ward to the gymkhana. We have hopes that this event will turn our ward's thoughts from her infatuation with her plow-horse of a blacksmith, to thoughts of Thoroughbred Mounts. Indeed, one's wife and oneself have concocted a cunning plan to woo the lass's thoughts away from her 'mash' on a commoner to a gentle love sublime, if not an eventual arranged marriage, with young Percival Prudehomme--a great-nephew of none other than Eunice, Duchess of Crabbe.

Unlike his more illustrious relative, young 'Percy' prefers the constant companionship of a lawn tennis partner to an inflatable rubber doughnut, and quite impressively managed to complete the third form at Eton before his over-concerned mother abruptly pulled him from that school for private tutoring at home. (In one's own day, had one suffered two breaks in the arm and a broken collarbone in a surprise sheet-trundling, one would have carried on manfully and not mentioned the pain. But one blames the meddling mother, not the boy, in this particular case.)

One encountered 'Percy' on the Crabbe House grounds at the first inspection of the alleged treasure trove exposed by the frost heave. At first one was not impressed with his conversational skills. When one inquired into his health, the lad replied, 'Smashing!' And when one inquired into the state of health of his parents, he once more replied, 'Smashing!'

One was prepared to thrash the youth when the Lady Felicia inquired if 'Percy' might be interested in meeting one's royal ward and he replied, inevitably, 'Smashing!'. But upon reflection, one suspects that young Percy's one-word vocabulary is one word more than the Blacksmith of Bath possesses. Perhaps the lad lacks the rough-hewn handsome masculinity of the Blacksmith, but after consideration, one has decided that 'Percy's' eyes are not so very miniscule behind his bafflingly thick spectacles. And one does not so much notice the spots on his face, in the dusk, from a distance.

Hoping for a positive development, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Picture: The Dress Sense Alone Should Tip One OffClyde writes:

Dear Sir Charles:

Forgive me for being an ignorant American. A newcomer to our neighborhood is claiming to be a member of the British aristocracy; to wit, an Earl. But Sir Charles, I cannot begin to describe how physically repellant the fellow is. His clothing is worn and often tattered. His skin is oily and his breath foul. His accent is at best questionable, and his teeth . . . well, I've seen orthodontists spot themselves when he walks into a room. And none of us have a clue what he does for a living. How can I tell if he's the genuine article?

Clyde in The Big Apple

Sir Charles replies:


Let us examine the evidence at hand. Poor hygiene. Eccentric taste in dress. No visible means of support. Why it would seem that an immediate member of the British royal family must have taken up residence in your neighbourhood! One recommends locking up all one's daughters. And sheep.

With a stern reminder that there are certain things one cannot forgive, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

One passes the quill one's e'er serene-wife, the Lady Felicia.

Lady M-----. writes:

My husband, ordinarily a man of sense, lately has been insisting I adopt the bustle in my everyday mode of dress. At first I thought he joked with me, but upon reflection I recalled that my husband lacks any sense of humour whatsoever.

Lady Felicia, whatever am I to do? Shall I submit to my husband's whim and adopt this ridiculous appendage whilst others of my set attend social functions in sleek, smart sheaths? Do help me, do!

Lady M----.

The Lady Felicia replies:

My Dear Lady M----.,

While one is not normally known to encourage a wife to confront her husband on petty manners, in this instance one suggests most strongly that one's correspondent put her foot down instantly, and squash her spouse's request. From experience one can see where this fashion whim will inexorably lead.

Allow one to elucidate. First, one's spouse requests his wife to wear a bustle. Then he requests the addition of a girdle. Then he requests that the girdle be tightened ever so slightly. Then he requests that his wife change her habits in shoes. Then he makes inquiries into the state of her pinafores, and the next thing one knows, the spouse is asking to borrow one's foundation garments! (Oh, for experimentation purposes only, he will claim!) And we all know where that will lead.

'Tis not a path for the weak-willed, my dear. And because of an endangered species whatnot it has taken one several months and no little outlay to replace one's stretched whale-bone bodices!

Slightly ruffled, one remains
Lady Felicia Grandiose

The Lady Felicia passes the quill to the young Penelope Windsor-Smythe, who has been pining for blacksmiths when she ought to be attending to the duties befitting one who is now eighty-fourth in line for the throne.

Curious writes:

Dear Penelope Windsor-Smythe,

What's up with you being eighty-somethingth in line for the throne? Is this really, like, a big deal? I mean, do you really expect eighty-odd people to die and make you queen? (Literally?) I mean, what's so hot about it?

Curious George

Young Penelope Windsor-Smythe replies:

(One has been gently reminded by one's kind wardens that to neglect one's correspondence is not meet for one who is now eighty-fourth in line for the British throne. Hence, as politesse dictates, one dutifully replies to one's inquiries--despite despair, despite anguish, despite a heart that beats remorselessly for a fruit forbidden oneself, once within grasp, but now cruelly out of reach!--selflessly hoping, as always, to be of some aid to one's readers.)

Dear Curious George,

What is so "hot" about being eighty-fourth in line for the British throne? Nothing, one replies. Nothing At All. It is an obsolete institution, steeped in the mire of antiquity, well in need of realizing that class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat. Why, when one recollects that the Lord B----., who is seventy-second in line for the throne, was permitted to marry his son's governess without so much as a peep from his family! O workers of the world, unite! One has nothing to lose, but one's chains!

One remains, however, eighty-fourth in line,
Penelope Windsor-Smythe

Picture: She Has Not Mastered the Curling Iron

Bad Hair Year! writes:

Dear Penelope:

I never should have trusted Mummy or Mr. Raphael. Now I have the absolute worst perm in town. What do I do?

Bad Hair Year!

Young Penelope Windsor-Smythe replies:

Gentle Reader,

How one sympathizes with you! There is nothing more terrifying than an afternoon's hairdressing gone awry, especially when one has functions that very evening to attend. One notes, however, that you mentioned certain words of import, namely, Mummy, Mr Raphael and trusted. One advocates employing this basic vocabulary to your advantage--with the resulting funds banked a la Suisse.

Alternatively, one recommends a sensible hat with a wide brim.

Anxious as to the result, one remains,
Penelope Windsor-Smythe

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