The stereotype of the anally retentive chamberlain mechanically following a ritual timetable reminds me of Sourdust in Mervyn Peake’s Titus Groan, cleaving to clockwork rituals in cycles of days, months, years and centuries.  Here Simon Winder notes that even Austro-Hungarian emperors could get caught up in the immutably grinding cogs and wheels of protocol. 

What a bore, perhaps being an emperor isn’t what it’s made out to be. 

Emperors could be in danger of becoming trapped in this machinery.  From an anally retentive chamberlain’s point of view the court performed like some brocade-trimmed orrery, with the annual sequences of religious festivals evenly rotating round and intersecting with the saily sequences of meals, prayers, audiences and council meetings.

For a great sampling of Winder’s triologisms, and a quote-packed tribute to his earlier book on Germany, see our bestellar review.


Source: Simon Winder, Danubia: A personal history of Habsburg Europe (London: Picador, 2013), p. 165


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