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Published : 04/Feb/2020

William Hanson Q & A - Teacups and Tiaras: A History of Etiquette (for the socially less fortunate)

In a world full of general ghastliness, best-selling author and trusted authority on matters of etiquette William Hanson is embarking on an entertaining solo mission to gentrify the nation, enlightening us with the history of customs, tastes and manners. We spoke to William ahead of his upcoming visit to Theatre Severn on Tuesday 14 April to find out a little more...

When and how did you first become interested in etiquette?

My grandmother gave me a book of etiquette one Christmas when I was 12.  Hard to believe, I know, but I was a fairly precious child and she thought it may appeal to me precocity. Which it eventually did, although not at first. Once I started to read the book, I was intrigued to learn more as it didn’t explain why we had to do the rules – only how. So, I bought more books and very quietly began educating myself further. Then when I was 17, I was asked to teach the younger years at my school basic table manners and from there it grew…

For those who don’t already know, what exactly is etiquette? 

Etiquette is a code of rules and guidelines for how a society should lead its life, politely. It can change from country to country and so what is correct in the UK may not be correct in Japan, and vice versa. I am fortunate to travel a lot for work and really enjoy learning new ways and history behind the culture from different countries. 

How do most people react when you say that you’re an etiquette expert?

It’s the same as when you meet a dentist or psychologist at a party. They either start asking for advice or they freeze and panic. There really is no need to worry – I’m human too and at social events I am definitely ‘off the clock’. Although I would be lying if I said I didn’t notice other people’s manners when I am socialising.

Why do you think that people are interested in etiquette and is it as popular now as it used to be?

Yes, I think people are fascinated. When Downton Abbey started in 2011 we were still suffering from the recession and people were able to realise that – as cliched as it is – good manners do cost nothing and perhaps with all the frantic rush to advance our careers and livelihoods we have forgotten some of the niceties that can add real value to the lives of others, and ourselves. 

What are the main rules of manners?

Good manners are self-less not self-ish: treat others how you wish to be treated.

What does your show Teacups and Tiara’s: The History of Etiquette consist of and what will people learn if they come along?

It’s a sparkling night out that will explain why we do certain things and help shine a light on the rich social history of the country.  There’s also the opportunity for me to polish up a few rougher elements of the audience too, live on stage.

Tickets for Teacups and Tiarars at Theatre Severn are on sale now and can be booked online at here, by telephone (01743 281281) and from the venue Box Office.