Montaigne's Essays/Book I/Chapter XIII

Essays by Michel de Montaigne, translated by John Florio
The Thirteenth Chapter: Of Ceremonies in the enterview of Kings

There is no subject so vaine, that deserveth not a place in this rapsodie. It were a notable discourtesie unto our common rules, both towards an equa ll, but more toward a great person, not to meete with you in your house, if he have once warned you that he will come: And Margaret Queene of Navarre, was wont to say to this purpose, 'That it was a kinde of incivilitie in a gentleman, to depart from his house, as the fashion is, to meet with him that is comming to him, how worthy soever he be: and that it more agreeth with civilitie and respect, to stay for him at home, and there to entertain him: except it were for feare the stranger should misse his way: and that it sufficeth to companie and wait upon him, when he is going away again.' As for me, I oftentimes forget these vaine offices; as one that endevoureth to abolish all maner of ceremonies in my house. Some will bee offended at it, what can I doe withall? I had rather offend a stranger once, than my selfe everie day; for it were a continuall subjection. To what end doe men avoid the servitude of Courts, and entertaine the same in their owne houses? Moreover it is a common rule in all assemblies, that hee who is the meaner man, commeth first to the place appointed, forsomuch as it belongs to the better man to be staid-for and waited upon by the other. Neverthelesse we saw that at the enterview, prepared at Merceilles betweene Pope Clement the seventh, and Francis the first, King of France, the King having appointed all necessarie preparation, went him-selfe out of the Towne, and gave the Pope two or three dayes leasure, to make his entrie into it, and to refresh himselfe, before he would come to meet him there. Likewise at the meeting of the said Pope with the Emperour at Bologna, the Emperour gave the Pope advantage and leasure to be first there, and afterward came himselfe. It is (say they) an ordinarie ceremonie at enter-parlies betweene such Princes, that the better man should ever come first to the place appointed yea before him in whose countrey the assembly is and they take it in this sence, tha t it is, because this complement should testifie, he is the better man, whom the meaner goeth to seeke, and that hee sueth unto him. Not onely each countrey, but every Citie, yea, and every vocation hath his owne particular decorum I have very carefully beene brought up in mine infancie, and have lived in verie good company, because I would not bee ignorant of the good maners of our countrey of France, and I am perswaded I might keepe a schoole of them. I love to follow them, but not so cowardly, as my life remaine thereby in subjection. They have some painfull formes in them, which if a man forget by discretion, and not by errour, hee shall no whit bee disgraced. I have often seene men proove unmanerly by too much maners, and importunate by over-much courtesie. The knowledge of entertainment is otherwise a profitable knowledge. It is, as grace and beautie are, the reconciler of the first accoastings of society and familiarity: and by consequence, it openeth the entrance to instruct us by the example of others, and to exploit and produce our example, if it have any instructing or communicable thing in it.