Monday, 28 May 2012

Napoleon and etiquette

Sunday was spent mostly in the garden with friends, ringing in every hour as Pimm's o’clock. And then, brains melting in the sun, we started talking about etiquette. 


My friend, let’s call him Dave (sorry, no anonymity here buddy), remarked quite wistfully that he’d love to go back to the days of doffing hats and spreading jackets in puddles for ladies to step on. Personally, I suspect he probably wouldn’t follow through with the jacket scenario but his wife was looking suitably impressed so I decided to keep quiet.

Someone else said they always tried to walk on the roadside if accompanying their wife or another woman. I hope what they meant by ‘another woman’ was other family member and not what is normally inferred from ‘other woman’ but as I said, there was alcohol involved and tongues were loose (goodness, that sounds even worse, sorry!) 

Anyway, the good taste of etiquette, chivalry and feminism were all discussed and the world put to rights as can only be done by baked brains pickled in Pimm's.  

While most of the conversation is a bit hazy I do remember this interesting titbit about why in the UK we drive on the left-hand side of the road and not in mainland Europe. Basically it’s all got to do with jousting knights and Napoleon.

Jousting knights, for instance, would mostly carry their lances in their right hands (the majority being right-handed, sorry lefties). Similarly, sword bearers were sure to walk on the left so that the right-hand sword arm was between them and any potentially dangerous strangers they might be walking past. 

jousting knight

Then Napoleon came along and because he was left-handed, made his armies march on the right thereby keeping his sword arm between him and any opponent. This practice then spread throughout mainland Europe.

Any countries part of the British Empire remained left-hand side drivers while any French colonies were imposed upon to drive on the right. 

And that, ladies and gentleman, is why it’s such a blimmin faff to drive on the 'wrong' side of the road when you travel just a few miles across to the continent. Now you know.


  1. Great fact. In terms of male chivalry, i am keen to teach my boys the basics as it makes them into gentleman.

  2. It is one of those random pieces of trivia but one I quite liked! Happy to hear you are bringing up gentlemen. Nothing more attractive than a courteous man.

  3. You had me at the first Napoleon! Lovely post and fascinating titbit! x

    1. Thanks GaP. Not the kind of fact driving instructors tend to impart ;)