As always there is a continued fascination with the titled classes in England and why not? There is so much literature—including fairytales—about a commoner marrying someone of class. It has become engrained in the culture of London. And anytime there is a Royal Wedding or the birth of a Royal Baby there is always so much pomp and circumstance about their ties to the crown and what order they are in it cannot be denied. Many Londoners do their best to dismiss the idea of the social class system but it is definitely alive and well in many other’s minds.
Interestingly enough, unlike other countries around the globe, social class has nothing to do with money or wealth. Just because someone is wealthy does not mean that one can migrate across classes and better themselves by position.
Lords and Ladies
Having a title in England, while it might seem glamourous, does not mean you are automatically a member of the upper classes. No, the upper classes remain a closed society which is all but impossible to gain entry to unless you are born into the system. In traditional English society, the upper classes were those who had titles or landed gentry.
The upper classes have a completely unique way of raising their children and the entire social structure is a bit of a class in and of itself. One of the most distinctive features is where their children are educated. Interestingly enough, it does not matter how high their level of education is as much as what institution of learning was attended. A nanny raises most of the upper-class children at home before they are sent to a proper prestigious prep schools prior to attending one of the outstanding public schools such as Harrow, Charterhouse, Eton, and Winchester. For girls there is the impressive Cheltenham Ladies College. All of the schools listed are the equivalent of Ivy League prep schools of the United States such as Trinity School in Manhattan, St Paul’s in New Hampshire, and Lawrenceville.
There are other educational avenues available as well. Many upper-class children go on to attend universities such as Oxford and Cambridge. It is also considered very common for members of the Royal family and those titled to spend a number of years in the Armed Forces to attend the officer’s training at Sandhurst Military Academy.
It is incredibly important to remember when meeting or dealing with upper classes and royalty is there are specific and rigid social structures in place and they do not take kindly to interlopers. While there may be rules, those in the upper classes will definitely go out of their way to make others comfortable in social situations such as parties and other charitable events. While the idea of upper classes and titled royals may be a slowly dying breed, it is in part what gives London a bit of charm. Just think of meeting a royal? Oh, the stories you would have to tell.
And should you get the distinction of meeting the Queen, do not address her until she addresses you first. You are required to address her as ‘Your Majesty’ the first time you meet her but after that you may refer to her as ‘Ma’am’. Also forget the curtsey if you are not a British citizen.
Lunching At a Gentlemen’s Club
Now, don’t start grinning reading the title of this section. It’s not that kind of gentleman’s club. The term has different meanings in different parts of the world. When the term is used in London it does not accompany snickers and leering looks. Rather the term Gentleman’s club is nothing like that in London.
Gentlemen’s Clubs date back to the 18th century when several private, member’s only clubs opened in London. As one might suspect, they were set up mostly by the gentry and upper-class members of society. They wanted a place where they could gather and say what they wanted and do what they wanted without regard to societal norms or tidings. Until recently, women were not allowed in the clubs, though they have been slowly loosening their gender rules to allow women to join. They are now quite popular with upper middle class, drawing membership from many business men who enjoy to relax away from the city and the business world. It is truly meant to be a haven, a place where they could go to unwind. In most of the clubs, talk of business or carrying out business is strictly frowned upon. In some, there are bans on mobile phones and laptops on the premises.
Upper Class Only
Originally London clubs such as Boodles or White’s were opened for only titled gentlemen of the era. While on the face of it, they were ultra-respectable establishments, there was a good amount of gambling and gaming occurring behind closed doors. Why is this important? Because gambling was illegal at that time at public establishments. Because they were a private club, they could get away with it and it bolstered membership in these clubs and prompted the building of more than 500 other clubs in London.
While it might seem a bit like a gym membership, it is in fact not at all. Even today, membership only comes by a member vouching for the applicant and their ‘gentlemanly status’. For membership into some of the most exclusive clubs have waiting lists which stress for years. Even if the membership comes before the board, it can be denied.
While being a member of one of these established clubs in London used to mean that business dealings could happen behind closed doors to benefit members only. In today’s business world, those types of connections are not as important as results. Even so, in today’s London business deals still go on between members though less so. Most people are looking to join are doing so for a status lift. The modern clubs are less rigid and operate more as a business center than a true Gentlemen’s Club as the days of old.