No. 11 AREA

 Loyal Toast

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:

  • That King Charles II when on board the ROYAL CHARLES bumped his head on rising to reply to the toast;
  • 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";
  • 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 Ships of the Line it was almost impossible to stand upright between decks except between the deck-beams; in ships having a pronounced 'tumblehome’ (the narrowing of a ship's hull with greater distance above the water-line) 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 water."

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).
  • 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 (may they never meet).

Of these, only the old Saturday's toast still remains, and if the ship is at sea. After the loyal toast, the mess president gives the traditional toast and then calls on the youngest member
of the mess present to reply to the toast.

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