How to behave like a British aristocrat

British aristocrats have perfect manners, right? Of course they do. Here’s an example:

The—ahem—fourth Viscount St. Davids was hauled into court earlier in May for making threatening Facebook posts and, being an aristocrat and all, he refused to stand when he was addressed as Mr. St. Davids, insisting on Lord St. Davids.

Oh, lord.

But we haven’t gotten started yet. This is the preamble.

Irrelevant and somewhat weird photo: This is an alexander–a greenish flower that, to me, marks the beginning of the full-on (and by the way, gorgeous) Cornish spring. A friend tells me they’re edible, but I haven’t tried them. Yet.

Mr. Fourth Viscount has a name, it turns out, and it isn’t Lord, or even St. Davids, it’s Rhodri Phillipps—double L, double P, double I except the I’s don’t get to sit together because they made too much trouble in class at the beginning of the year.

I’m sure somebody with deeper roots in the country could tell me the overtones, undertones, and class meanings of the name Rhodri, not to mention of all those double letters, because nothing in this country comes without overtones, undertones and signals about class. With my shallow roots, all I’ve been able to figure out is that Rhodri’s a Welsh name and that Rhod’s (you don’t mind if I call you Rhod, do you Rhod? I don’t mind if you don’t stand. You can lie on the floor as far as I’m concerned. We’re informal around here.). I seem to have gotten sidetracked, so let’s start over. All I’ve figured out is that Rhod’s viscountery is in Wales. Which doesn’t make him Welsh, but somebody with deeper roots is going to have to tell me about that as well. To be Cornish, I’ve been told, you have to have four generations in Cornish soil, but I don’t think you get to be Welsh that easily.

In case you need to know this, you don’t pronounce the S in viscount. It’s VYE-count. Why do they use the S then? It was an alphabetical land grab back when the first dictionaries were being compiled. We’re lucky they didn’t snatch two or the rest of us would’ve had to do without in some of our words. Even as it is, Americans had to substitute Z for S is all the -ization/-isation words.

The VYE-counts had some serious power back. They got to spell things the way they wanted and got to write whatever they wanted on Facebook. Unless it was about the king, of course.

What do you mean they didn’t have Facebook back then? Of course they did. How else would they have managed?

Rhod’s family used to be mere baronets and only became viscounts in 1918. What’s more, their baronetcy only dates back to 1621. They had nothing to do with the way viscount’s spelled, which may account for all the extra letters they stuffed in the family name. It’s a kind of Napoleon thing.

So, what did this parvenu do to be hauled into court? He wrote on Facebook, “£5,000 to the first person to ‘accidentally’ run over this bloody troublesome first-generation immigrant…. If this is what we should expect from immigrants, send them back to their stinking jungles.”

Yup, in addition to being hateful and racist, that sounds like a threat to me. And no, I’m not the person he was talking about. He meant Gina Miller, an anti-Brexit campaigner whose lawsuit forced a vote in parliament on whether to trigger Brexit. In practical terms, it didn’t make a hell of a lot of difference, because Parliament dutifully pulled the trigger, but it may have established an important principle. Or may not have. I’m not at all sure.

It does seem to have upset Rhod, though. Because, after all, Miller’s (a) an immigrant, (b) a woman, and (c) of, I think, Indian heritage. Or something heritage. For the Rhods of this world, I’m guessing it doesn’t much matter what her ethnic background is as long as she has one. (The Rhods of the world, of course, don’t. They’re ethnicity-free. And right in all ways.) There are only two types of people: those like him and scum.

Or maybe that’s three: People like him; white scum who aren’t at all like him but do vaguely resemble him; and ethnically different scum, who are scummier scum than the scum who vaguely resemble him. Because he is the paragon of perfection. Because he has a title that’s not pronounced the way it’s spelled.

This is all guesswork, you understand.

But even allowing for some uncertainty, having the scum he disagrees with win a major case in court? Surely that lands us squarely in the territory of What’s the world coming to?

So, my fellow scum, how do we behave like aristocrats? We need perfect manners, of course, and we need to define perfect manners as whatever the hell we choose to do. Because if we do it, it’s perfect.

When the judge told Rhod the conditions of his bail, he laughed and mouthed “wanker.” In the most mannerly possible way.

Have you ever wondered why Britain maintains its system of aristocrats and titles and antiquated silliness? it’s because the rest of us need models of behavior that we can aspire to.


In researching this story, I naively punched “viscount in court” into Google. What did I find? A flat (that’s an apartment) for sale on Viscount Court; an old people’s home called Viscount Court; a lawyer’s office on Viscount Court; statistics about crime on Viscount Court; and an industrial estate (in the U.S., that would be an industrial park—I had to look it up because the phrase had fallen out of my vocabulary; that scares the hell out of me) called Viscount Court. So yeah, being a viscount is very classy. You leach into the geography and end up with old people’s homes and industrial parks sort of named after you. And when you’re not getting accused of crimes yourself, you can fill your time by looking up statistics for crimes committed on the sidewalks that share your title.

Sorry—not sidewalks; pavements.

73 thoughts on “How to behave like a British aristocrat

  1. Wonderful piece Ellen. I think maybe the Brits should cut off all the aristocrats’ heads, especially anyone with double Ls and double Ps in their name. I might be able to find an old guillotine over here in France and send it over. But to whom? That is the question…..

    Liked by 2 people

    • Whooo. Talk about going from zero to sixty in two seconds–no moderation there. I do worry about the double L in my first name. Are we going to count first names? My parents must’ve named me when they feeling extravagant.


    • I don’t think this particular “gentleman” is a typical British aristocrat. Yes quite a few aristocrats are wankers (unlike the judge), but this guy really is just scum – of the nasty sort you want to wash off with plenty of detergent and disinfectant.

      Liked by 2 people

      • In fairness, I expect you’re right. What struck me, though, was the arrogance that goes (or at least can go–I’ve never done a survey, and I’m sure he’s an extreme example) with having a title.


        • I think that arrogance is a trait that often goes with people who have (or think they have) power. You see it in politicians, bosses of big companies, people running prestigious institutions, people with lots of money, and yes, of course, in aristocrats.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember my first years of tourism in Britain . I like old architecture, cathedrals, castles, historiic places, so I wandered around some castles until I realized they still belonged to the local lords ( sometimes the ground of whole villages belonged to them too) . i was in my 20s and this made a very strong though unexpected emotional impact inside me, starting like “How can have they remained so delayed ?” . It’s difficult to explain but it had a deep effect, probably related to my unsaid vision of human society, improvement of society structures along millenia, improvement of human consciousness as a whole, etc… I didn’t investigate much but the inner result of this state of fact was I couldn’t visit a castle in Britain again .

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s funny how time distances us. The British hedges, in all their wildlife-friendly beauty, are a hand-me-down from the enclosure movement and all the destruction that unleashed on the population. I still love the hedges, but that doesn’t really parallel what you’re talking about–the holdovers in money and power and ownership from that time.

      What you’re saying resonates with me, but even so we’ve visited any number of the great houses–those monuments to over-the-top inequality–and they both fascinate and horrify me. Most of them, mercifully, are in the hands of the National Trust these days, although the trust does tend to take a just-short-of-worshipful approach.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The survival of centuries-old hedges had a different effect on me . In late 70s early 80s country roads of Britain were drawing totally useless curves, even in flat lands, and with all these hedges it made driving with a left-side steering wheel difficult, especially for a guy who likes driving fast and often needs to overtake others . In fact I was pesting every hour against this unaccountable nuisance until I was hit by the light : ” Hey, this particular tribe because of its particular mindset felt obliged to respect centuries-old country tracks, probably to respect individual properties” . I found that endearing in some way, I thought of this old Habeas Corpus very good idea, and my fast driver’s annoyment let some space for a certain tenderness . There are several things I love in Britain and even in British mindset, but this would need a monograph to explain in which way I separate the wheat from the chaff . .

        Liked by 1 person

      • Us plebs have sort of won, in that many of the landed-gentry have had to turn their estates and houses into theme parks for the public in order to raise the funds to keep them going. It’s the nouveau riche who have the resources and the desire to keep the plebs out – witness Madonna and husband Guy Ritchie trying to close off a public footpath that ran across their newly-purchased country estate.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Refusing to stand until properly addressed? So, “on your feet, dirt bag” is an American thing, I guess…

    I hope you realize ‘z’ that you are my authoritative source of all things British. You handle this responsibility well.

    Four generations on the soil doesn’t even let half of me be American. This is too complicated. Tell me more about that pretty plant.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I was toying with the idea of a serious answer because, you know there is a lot of crossness brought up by the racism and such expressed by this viscount…and, well, it has to happen one day…

    but maybe not today…

    If the Prince of Wales doesn’t get to be Welsh, I am fairly sure a mere newly appointed Viscount certainly doesn’t!

    I am now considering the pronunciation of Viscount in a way I have never done before…It has never even occurred to me to pronounce the S and I am sure I didn’t actually get taught how to pronounce it. Maybe it comes as standard when you get allocated British English as a language… It must do, after all if it was going to bypass anywhere in the country it would be Hull…

    The real problem with the aristocracy is that being an aristocrat doesn’t actually stop you being a twat… all you have to do is be born in the right circumstances which is hardly a good basis for example really.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Now see, that’s the Great Thing about America : no aristocrats. We have Rich People. Just be thankful Rhod (Freudian overtones there ?) didn’t fire the Judge.

    Liked by 1 person

      • No idea why. Often I am not allowed to post a comment to your site on my first try. Perhaps to test my sincerity or my editing ? Or the fact that my clan is likely to favor the next referendum in Scotland ? I don’t know how they voted the first time, but I have an inkling how the next one may go. (The McNeils of Barra already have an island, I’ve read,)

        The Alexandris look a bit like elderberry blossoms, which are tasty when dipped in batter (like a waffle batter) and fried. But then cardboard could be tasty dipped i waffle batter ad fried, so I will be interested in reading your recipes,

        Liked by 1 person

        • If the site’s filtering your politics, I promise you it’s not because I asked it to. And I have no idea how to control it. The best I can do it apologize. It may have had a referendum of its own and decided I’m not longer needed.

          I don’t have a recipe for alexanders, and they’re too far along to try them now. But sure, dip them in batter and fry them and you won’t know if they’re elderberry blossoms, alexanders, or the sports pages. If they’re a bit woody, I recommend a very American touch–maple syrup.

          Note: Don’t expect them to taste good that way.


  6. Now see, that’s the Great Thing about America : no aristocrats. We have Rich People. Just be thankful Rhod (Freudian overtones there ?) didn’t fire the Judge.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I recall the shame when, some 15 years ago (I probably should have known better) someone had to correct my pronunciation of Viscount – the name of her street. I suppose I can blame that on the fact that I am a common plebe.

    Speaking of common, how does one pronounce Rhod – as in Rod? Road? Or just plain Rude?

    And, in the inquiring minds and feedback department – how are you finding the shorter format? I’m enjoying it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think it’s Rod, but Rude would do, surely.

      So far, the shorter format seems good, but it does increase the number of comments, and with them the time I spend answering comments. The comments are the best part of blogging, but time’s a problem. Let’s give it a few weeks and see. Or a few months. Thanks for weighing in on it.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. It just goes to show that wankers and racists and misogynists – and a racist, misogynist wanker all rolled in one – can emerge from any strata of society.

    Your musings about the word Viscount made my homesick, nostalgic belly rumble. There used to be biscuits in the UK – chocolate covered cookies, I mean – called Viscounts. As a kid, we were only ever allowed them when we had company because they were a) clad in chocolate and b) had individual foil wrappers. That was what stood for the height of fancy luxury in my 1970s/80s childhood. I loved them because they were fabulous dunkers for mugs of steaming hot tea. There were orange flavoured ones and mint flavoured ones. I think they went extinct even before I left the UK but still the memory made my stomach rumble.

    All of which adds absolutely nothing to your post.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. One of your readers inspired my brilliant idea: we should mash up Viscount wotsisname and make him into biscuits to be dunked into weak tea, and ‘accidentally’ dropped in. Then we can pour the whole mess down the drain. As long as it doesn’t somehow reconstitute, it’s the perfect crime. We could work our way through the whole of the British aristohypocracy, which includes such people as *Hector Christie, who isn’t the quaint little darling that many people think he is.

    No need to thank me for adding a practical suggestion to the comments. It’s my pleasure.

    This post has the perfect balance of humour and venom.

    *His family owns Glyndebourne opera house, and he’s an arseholewho lives just a few miles from me. Yes, it’s personal.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. According to his bio on Wikipedia the viscount has failed at everything he’s ever done and hasn’t even produced an heir. A psychiatrist would probably have a field day with him.

    Much as I hate to say it, I’m with him on the form of address in court thing. However much the person who got it wrong might disagree with it, the Viscount’s legal identity is Lord St Davids, not Mr St Davids. If said person had called him Mr Phillipps, that would have been a different matter.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You’re right, but it is confusing when you’re suddenly confronted with someone who has two levels of name. A person with a bit more grace might have–never mind. A person with a bit more grace wouldn’t have gotten himself into that particular position to begin with.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m playing Devil’s advocate here, but the person who made the mistake either did it deliberately, or didn’t read the court papers, which must have been correct. Just from a legal point of view, the documents had to have contained the viscount’s correct name. Can you tell I used to work with lawyers? Yes, a better person would have corrected the person in error politely, but the incident should not have happened at all. Everyone British (mostly) knows that titles are not surnames. The Queen isn’t Mrs Queen (although I believe that George III referred to his wife in that way).

        I don’t want you to think I’m making a case here for the aristocracy. I’m not. I’m just saying that we have them and, should they appear in court, their correct legal name should be used.

        Liked by 3 people

  11. Oorff with their heads..Lolol. I havent laughed so hard while reading a blog post…EVER!
    Does that mean I dont read much, or I read boring stuff…tappingdesk, bittingnails….Hmm Dunno!
    Hey I digress…NO I ma not Scum, NEITHER ARE YOU!
    I know I am amazingly, Goegeously, Beautifuly, Magnificently, Creamy latte-choco-brown, and Yes I am an immigrant! And that VYE-count needs to be bannished to the jungles where he and his mannerless, arrogant elk belong! Howboudat! :)
    With that said, Thanks for sharing your post at the blogger’s Pit Stop. Keep em coming! 😊
    Pit Stop Crew!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I have heard that Andrew Lloyd Webber and Ben Kingsley will not answer to anything but Lord Webber and Sir Ben. How lovely. I wish we could obtain titles in America. Then again, maybe not. We have enough trouble.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Pingback: Cornish wildflowers: alexanders | Notes from the U.K.

  14. I was finding this quite amusing until you got to the bit about what this pillock actually said. I don’t share Gina Miller’s views on the EU, but I’m an old-fashioned sort who would fight for her right to express them. And I can’t stand intolerance. By the way, we’re all hybrids – though Bill Bryson did have some interesting things to say about Norfolk.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know, it does get deeply unfunny there. It’s an odd thing, writing humor. You can’t dodge around the unfunny bits–or I can’t anyway–but you do get to make fun of horrible people once in a while.

      Liked by 1 person

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