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Can someone please explain the meaning of:

Punctuality is the politeness of kings.

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3 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

This article explains it rather well:

Kings (especially before the [French] revolution) didn’t need to be punctual. They could show up when they wanted. Afterall, people would wait for them. But [King Louis XVIII of France, to whom the quote is often attributed] suggests that one way a king can show respect for other people is to meet them at the appointed time. If this is true for kings, it certainly is true for you and me. [emphasis added]

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Rintaun is right, but what Jeff wrote shouldn't be forgotten: a monarch has no other way to be polite. It's not merely that he doesn't have to hold doors for others, say "please" and "thank you", stand when someone enters the room, take off his hat, he cannot do such things. Much of etiquette consists of self-humbling; a monarch cannot humble himself without humbling his country. Being on time, however, is a possibility. –  Malvolio Jun 26 '11 at 19:21
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@Malvolio: As you indicate, both the actual Answers are 'correct'. But I find your clarification of the significance of the statement far more enlightening. Thank you for telling me something interesting that I mightn't otherwise have fully grokked. –  FumbleFingers Jun 27 '11 at 3:02
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I could not find any explanation, just attributions to Louis XVIII, but my educated guess is this: Kings are not beholden to do much in the way of politeness (open doors, wait for others to be seated, etc.). However, to be punctual, treating other people's time as valuable as his own, is one way that a king can show politeness.

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Being punctual is one of the most important qualities for a king as he has no other way to show politeness as in standing up to greet his subjects. Kings should be punctual to show that they want to be polite to everyone present at the court, be it the poorest of the poor man. If a great king can be punctual, so can you and me. After all a stitch in time saves nine.

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protected by RegDwigнt Sep 21 '13 at 17:08

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