Levees

Here is an amalgam of archived posts on attending a “Levee”, where one might have made an address to the king:

Those of “lower rank” who wished to attend a levee needed to be escorted by someone who could “sponsor” them, to present them to the King. Note, they also had to be able to afford to be appropriately dressed to attend. So not just anyone could turn up and gain admittance to the King. But, as is the case so often with British ceremonies, it was not so starchy an institution as some books would have you believe.

Quoting from Christopher Hibbert’s book, George III: A Personal History:

These levees…were held on Wednesdays and Fridays and when Parliament was sitting…Unless some other time was notified, Levees began at twelve o’clock. Invitations (to the levees-ed) were not required; but those who attended were required to wear court dress or uniform as were those whom they brought with them to present to the King. They were conducted to the Privy Chamber if their rank entitled them to the privilege, otherwise to the Presence Chamber, where members of the household saw to it that they were arrayed in a circle around the room…

The King having been dressed in his levee clothes by the Lord of the Bedchamber and the Groom of the Stole, proceeded to the Privy Chamber then into the Presence Chamber, all conversations ceasing at his approach.
The King them went all round the room, exchanging bows with each man in turn, addressing a few words to him, or entering into a conversation, very occasionally passing by without a word as a token of his displeasure at some social or political misdemeanour…

Ministers of the Crown, Ambassadors, members of the Royal Family and leading supporters of the Government in the House of Lords and the House of Commons were expected to attend levees regularly or to send an apology if they were unable to do so. But it was accepted that, once they had been spoken to by the King, or at least had their presence acknowledged by him, they were free to leave. Lesser people – a country gentleman, perhaps, waiting to be presented by his Member of Parliament, or the canon of a cathedral by his dean – might have to wait for as long as three hours, if the levee was well attended, before their time came.
Pages 83-4

Below is a picture drawn by Pugin and Rowlandson, published by Ackerman between 1808-1810 in The Microcosm of London, of a Drawing Room at St James’s Palace. When you view it you can clearly see that the hooped dresses so despaired of by the Persian Ambassador, (A Persian at the Court of King George, pages 137-8) were de rigeur for Court attendance by ladies despite the high-waisted dresses of the early nineteenth century being all the rage.

The book describes the room in which the Drawing Room took place as follows:
On the right are two drawing-rooms en suite: the first serves as an anti-chamber to the latter, which is called the grand council chamber. At the upper end of the room is a canopy, beneath which the King receives addresses delivered in form to the throne. In the centre of the room is suspended a large chandelier of silver gilt. The canopy of the throne was put up on account of the union of the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland, and was displayed on the first drawing room after that event, which happened to be the Queen’s birthday… it is the apartment in which their Majesties hold their Drawing rooms.

The belief is that William Lucas, Mayor of Meryton and tradesman delivered one of those ‘addresses in form’ to the King at St. James’s Palace, on behalf of the loyal people of his town.

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