What "Good Breeding" Really Means [Fribble] May 10, 2000

Fribble What "Good Breeding" Really Means

By Curt Shumaker (
May 10, 2000

It was the summer of '91. I was a professional actor working at the Shakespeare Theatre of Washington. Back then we performed in the small theatre at the Folger Library. The production was King Lear and I was the Knight who kills Cornwall and then has a nice death speech before being slain by Regan. A fun part for a young actor paying his dues.

That summer Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II came to Washington for a state visit. As part of the visit she toured the Library and we gave a command performance of the "reconciliation" scene. I was in this scene, as walking scenery, and had a grand view as her Majesty sat in Lear's throne, downstage, and watched. The spin-doctors had arranged for a group of young children, cute as can be, to be seated around HRH on the stage, well-placed for a photo-op.

That's the setting; here is the story.

A small golden-haired girl had, while sitting around the Queen, unknowingly sat on the foot of Her Royal Majesty. Since I had already seen this scene 100 times or more I was entirely focused on "Lizzie II." I saw the slightest tremor as the child's bum hit her foot and came to rest. This was followed by an almost imperceptible glance at the child who, only a few hundred years ago, would have been the pronoun in "off with her head!" for daring to touch the royal ped with a common bottom.

For the next ten minutes I watched as HRH moved her foot from under the Yankee bum. She moved with the speed of a narcoleptic snail on depressants. I then knew the true meaning of the phrase, breeding shows.

There was a flaw in our heroine's plan, though. In moving her foot, she shifted her own bum. I knew the throne on which our Lear sat, and the craftsmanship of the Colonies was evident that day, my friends. On the rear right-hand sight of the seat was a protruding nail head, and the Elizabeth's own Royal Seat of Power had landed on it. Her reaction was a slight raising of the eyebrows for a microsecond and then the determination of Churchill to see it through.

The scene ended and she stood, a slight look back at the throne, thanked us, and off she went.

The End.