The Royal Navy Toast
The History and Period Ceremony
Toasting is a means of expressing good will toward others on a social occasion. It may take place at receptions, dinners, wardrooms or wetting down parties.
Toasting originated with the English custom of flavouring wine with a piece of browned and spiced toast. In 1709 Sir Richard Steels wrote of a lady whose name was supposed to flavour a wine like spiced toast. Thus evolved the notion that the individual or institution honoured with a toast would add flavour to the wine.
Today, using period traditions, the Ship's Company honour individuals and/or institutions by raising our glasses in a salute while expressing good wishes and drinking to that salute. Etiquette calls for all to participate in a toast. Even non-drinkers should at least raise the glass to their lips.
Those offering a toast should stand, raise the glass in a salute while uttering the expression of good will. Meanwhile, the individual(s) being toasted should remain seated, nod in acknowledgement, and refrain from drinking to one’s own toast. hter, they may stand, thank the others, and offer a toast in return.
The one who initiates the toasting is the host at a very formal occasion, or any guest when the occasion is very informal. The subject of the toast is always based upon the type of occasion. General toasts would be "To your health", or to "Success and happiness", while special occasions such as formal dinners ashore, captain's dinner aboard ship with distinguished guest, and general wardroom gatherings would require toasts more specific in nature, such as "The Loyal Toast" or the traditional Wardroom toast of our period, both detailed below.
BRITISH ROYAL NAVY CUSTOMS
At an official dinner given by a British military officer or official, that person rises during or after dessert to toast the King, known as the Loyal Toast, by stating "His Majesty, the King.". The guest would say, "His Majesty, King George III". These toasts are sometime followed by short speeches and toasts to the services represented at the dinner. The experienced guest is always careful to leave enough wine in his or her glass toward the end of the meal to be able to join in several toasts.
At regular mess dinners in the Royal Navy, the senior member of the mess proposes the toast, "The King," and all present in a low voice repeat, "The King" and sip the toast. If an allied country's officer is a personal dinner guest in a mess where a nightly toast to the King is drunk, the mess president might propose a toast to the sovereign of that country after the usual toast to the King. That officer would then properly reply with a toast to the Royal Navy. It should be remembered that at official State dinners, the British officer would toast, "The (president or king of the allied country)," and the senior allied officer would reply, "His Majesty, the King."
THE LOYAL TOAST
The privilege accorded to the Royal Navy of remaining seated while drinking the Sovereign's health is of long standing but obscure in origin. There are three popular beliefs about this -
(a) that King Charles II when on board the ROYAL CHARLES bumped his head on rising to reply to the toast;
(b) that King George IV when Regent, dining on board one of HM Ships said, as the officers rose to drink the King's health "Gentlemen, pray be seated, your loyalty is above suspicion";
(c) that King William IV while Duke of Clarence (Lord High Admiral) bumped his head as he stood up at dinner in one of HM Ships.
In most of the Sail of the Line it was almost impossible to stand upright between decks except between the deck-beams; furthermore, in ships having a pronounced 'thumble-home' (i.e. steeply sloping sides) anyone seated closer to the ship's side would find it difficult to stand at all.
The privilege of remaining seated does not extend to naval messes on shore, nor afloat when the National Anthem is played. If no one takes wine for the loyal toast, the mess president has his glass filled at the expense of the mess so that, through him, all the members of the mess do drink the Sovereign's health.
It has been said that the practice of drinking the loyal toast in an empty glass, or in water, was authorised by King George V out of defence to officers' pockets.
After the 1745 Rebellion, it was forbidden to use finger bowls at table if the loyal toast was to be proposed because of the Jacobite habit of passing the wine glass over the bowl beforehand - an allusion to royalty in exile "over the
TRADITIONAL WARDROOM EVENING TOASTS
The following are traditional period routine toasts drunk after dinner in wardrooms:
Sunday ............... Absent friends.
Monday ...............Our ships at sea.
Tuesday .............. Our men.
Wednesday ..........Ourselves (as no one else is likely to concern themselves with our welfare).
Thursday ............. A bloody war or a sickly season.
Friday ..................A willing foe and sea room.
Saturday ............. Sweethearts and wives (may they never meet).
Thursday's toast is clearly a reference to promotion, only then to be obtained in dead men's shoes.
Other versions are:
Sunday ............... Absent friends and those at sea. Absent friends.
Monday ..............Our native land. Queen and country.
Tuesday ..............Our mothers. Health and wealth.
Wednesday .........Ourselves. Our Swords. Old Ships (i.e. shipmates).
Thursday .............The King.
Friday ............... ..Fox hunting and old port. Ships at sea.
Saturday ..............Sweethearts and wives. Sweethearts and wives (may they never meet).
Of these, only the old Saturday's toast still remains, and if the ship is at sea. The mess president gives the toast and then calls on the youngest member of the mess present to reply to the toast; this, of course, comes after the loyal toast.
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