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Legal Phrases

Adapted from the book "Tit-Willow or Notes and Jottings on Gilbert and Sullivan Operas" by Guy H. and Claude A. Walmisley (Privately Printed, Undated)

Alhambra del Bolero, Don. The Alhambra was the palace of the Moorish Kings at Granada, Spain, erected between 1248-1354.

Barataria. In Cervantes "Don Quixote" it was the island city of which Sancho Panza was made Governor.

Bath. The Order of the. Knights of the Bath existed from a remote period, the Order taking its name from the bath preceding the ceremony.

The Order of the Bath has a very close and early connection with the Tower of London. On the eve of Henry IV's Coronation in 1399, 46 baths, filled with warm water and draped within and without with clean sheets, were arranged round one of the large halls in the White Tower for the 46 Knights-to-be. When the ablutions were over, the King and his nobles entered.

The King then approached each aspirant, as he sat in his bath and, dipping his finger in the water, made the sign of the cross on his bare back, with these words—"You shall honour God above all things; you shall be steadfast in the Faith of Christ; you shall love the King your Sovereign Lord, and Him and his Right defend to your Power; you shall defend Maidens, Widows, and Orphans in their Rights, and shall suffer no Extortion as far as you may prevent it; and of as great Honour be this Order unto you as ever it was to any of your Progenitors, or others".

Then followed a long ceremony of robing, disrobing, spurs fitted on and removed, visits to the Chapel and all night vigil etc.

Bolero. A brisk Spanish dance in 3-4 time. Gradually the rhythm of the castanets, which were used as an accompaniment to the dance by the dancers themselves, was introduced into the music.

"Buon' giorno, signorine!" "Good day to you, young ladies!"
"Gondolieri carissimi! "O sweet gondoliers!
Siamo, contadine!" We are peasant girls!"
"Servitori umilissimi! "your most humble servants!
Per chi questi fiori— For whom are these flowers
Questi fiori bellissimi?" These most beautiful flowers?"
"Per yoi, bei signori "For you, fine sirs
0 eccellentissimi!" 0 most excellent gentlemen!"
"0 ciel!" "0 heavens above!"

Cachucha. (Spanish). An Andalusian dance, introduced to the theatre by Fanny Elssler (1810-84) the famous Austrian Ballerina, in the ballet of "Le Diable Boiteux" (1836), the music of which is in 3-4 time and closely resembles the Bolero. The dance-tune was originally sung with a guitar accompaniment.

Fanny Elssler, born in Vienna, married a rich banker and retired in 1851. She was a brilliant dancer enjoying triumphs in Paris and London and on a long American tour. Her great rivalry with the famous Italian Ballerina Taglioni (1809-84) added to the fame of both and popularized ballet at that period.

Contadine. Italian peasant. (Plural of contadino).

Contradicente. Contradicting.

Dolcefar niente. Pleasant idleness.

Fandango. A Spanish dance in triple time to a lively tune, accompanied by guitar and castanets, with violin and other instruments ad lib. It seems to have been introduced into Spain from South America, and is first mentioned at the beginning of the 18th century.

Garter, The Order of the. The highest Order of English Knighthood.  Composed of the Sovereign and certain members of the Royal Family, and 25 Knights Companions, besides foreign sovereigns and others specially chosen.

The Order was founded by Edward III about 1348. A Knight of the Garter (K.G.) encircles his escutcheon by a representation of the Garter, bearing upon it the motto of the Order, "Honi soit qui mal y pense"—"Evil be to him who evil thinks".  This is also the motto of the Crown of England.

According to tradition these words were spoken by Edward III (1327-1377) when restoring to the Countess of Salisbury her garter which had fallen at a Ball and he had picked up; but it is almost certain that Garter should be Garder, a war cry or rallying shout.

Colored old photograph of Venitian canal with gondoliers Gondolieri. Rowers of gondolas—light, flat bottomed boats with cabin amidships and high point at each end, worked by one oar at the stern. Used on Venetian canals.

Hidalgo. A title denoting a Spanish nobleman of the lower class.

Jealousy Yellow. Yellow is sometimes used in the sense of "jaundiced" "jealous" etc. The colour being regarded as a token or symbol of jealousy, envy, melancholy etc. A usage no doubt connected with the figurative notions attaching to jaundice, the skin having a yellow hue in that disease.

Jimp. Slender, graceful, scanty.

Jink. Cards. In the game of spoilfive and forty-five, to take all five tricks.

King The, on her left-hand side. In England, when a King is reigning, it has often puzzled a number of people why the Queen, when in a carriage with the King, sometimes sits on the King's right and at other times on the left.

The reason for these changes is just one of usage. It depends whether or not the Queen is taking part in a ceremony as Consort. If she is, the King takes the right seat, just as at the opening of Parliament he sits on the right-hand Throne. When a Queen is reigning she always sits on the right.

Manzanilla. And Amontillado are the two main varieties of sherry. Manzanilla, a pale wine, is made and kept at San Lucar de Barrmeda. It is claimed that it derives its particular character through being matured so near to the sea.

Matadoro. Matador. The man appointed to kill the bull in bull fights.

Morra. An Italian game in which one player guesses the number of fingers held up simultaneously by another player.

Montero. A sherry, though this particular type is seldom drunk nowadays.

Paladin. Any of the twelve Peers of Charlemagne's Court of whom Count Palatine was chief. (The Palatinate State of the old German Empire under the rule of Count Palatine of the Rhine). Also—A Knight errant and distinguished champion.

Picadoro. Picador. Mounted man with a lance in bull fights.

Plaza-Toro. Probably meant for Plaza dos Toros—the place of the bulls. i.e. A bull fight.

Quarterings. "A Castilian hidalgo of niney-five quarterings". Coats of arms marshalled on a shield to denote alliances of the family with heiresses in blood of other families. When a man marries a heiress he places her coat of arms on his shield.

Requiem. A solemn Mass, sung annually in Commemoration of the Faithful Departed on All Souls Day (2 November), and at funeral services. The Requiem takes its name from the first word of the Introit, "Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine". —"Give eternal rest to them, 0 Lord".

Rubicon, Passed the. Rubicon, now Rugone, a small river of Italy which it separates from Cisalpine Gaul. It rises in the Apennine Mountains and falls into the Adriatic Sea. By crossing it and thus transgressing the boundaries of his province Julius Caesar declared war against the Senate and Pompey and began the civil wars. Hence "pass", or "cross the Rubicon", a saying for "take a step that cannot be retraced", "burn ones boats" etc.

Small beer. Literally, weak beer. Figuratively, something of little importance.

Tartar. A native of Tartary; a group of peoples including Turks, Cossacks etc. An intractable or savage person.

Thistle, The Order of the. A Knight of the Thistle (K.T.) is the Scottish equivalent to the Knight of the Garter in England. The Order was founded in 1540, and was restored by James II in 1687, the number now limited to sixteen Scottish nobles, besides Royalty.

Knights of the Thistle are entitled to surround their arms with a plain circle of green edged with gold and bearing the motto-"Nemo me impune lacessit"—"No man provokes me with impunity".  This is also the motto of four regiments in the British Army; the 2nd Dragoons (Royal Scots Greys); Scots Guards; 21st (Royal Scots) Fusiliers, and the 42nd Foot Regiment (the "Black Watch").

Timoneer. Helmsman.

Toddy. Sap from the palmyra tree from which, when fermented, arrack is obtained. A sweetened drink of spirits and hot water.

Tuppeny. To tuck in his—a slang expression for "head".

Xeres. Now Jerez de la Frontera, a Spanish town near Cadiz, "X" in Spanish having been formerly pronounced like "sh" in English. The still white wine made from white grapes grown in the vineyards of Andalusia, the chief town being Jerez de la Frontera, was spoken of in England as Jerez-wine (Sh-erez wine), hence our word Sherry.


"A Company is in course of formation to work me." Just as a public company may be formed to work, say, a coal mine or a rubber plantation. The absurd suggestion here is that a company has been formed to work the Duke of Plaza-Toro.

Allotment. When a new public company is formed or an existing company decides to issue new capital a prospectus is sent out offering this new capital to the public, and with the prospectus is sent a form of application for shares or debentures in which anyone wishing to have shares or stock in the company agrees to take so much (say 100) of the shares or stock for which he applies; he further agrees to pay for these at certain intervals as set out in the prospectus and form of application, e.g. 25 when applying, 25 when his shares are allotted to him (called on allotment), the balance of 50 a month or so after that date.

Formerly it was the general practice for the Vendor to the Company not to join the Board until after allotment. The idea was to impress upon the public that the Board were independent of the Vendor and were acting independently of him for the Company and keeping him at arms length until the sale to the Company was completed and the shares allotted to him (for the purchase price) and to the public.

"An influential directorate has been secured." Frequently the Boards of public companies are composed of well-known business men of ability whose names will give confidence to shareholders. Occasionally directors are appointed not for their business capabilities but because their names are famous in some other sphere—sometimes because "they have a handle to their name". This latter practice is of course, not to be commended and directors of this sort are sometimes rather contemptuously alluded to as "guinea pigs"—that is they draw their guineas in the form of directors' fees but are not of much use to the Company in return.

Floated at a premium. A Company is said to be "floated" when the public have supported it by investing money in it so that it can start operations.  If the Company's 1 shares are worth 1 in the open market they are said to be at "par". "At a premium" means better than "par", i.e. 1 shares worth, say, 22/-. "Floated at a premium" means, therefore, that the Company had a good start so that immediately on its formation its shares were worth more than their "par" value.

Interim Order. An Order of a Court of justice made in the meantime (interim); e.g. an Order made that A. must not move certain pictures, which B. claims belong to him, until the case has been heard and the Court's decision given that the pictures belong to A. or to B.

"I shall myself join the Board after allotment". Join the Board. i.e. become a director of the Company.

Liquidation. "If your father should stop, it will, of course, be necessary to wind him up." If a Company is unsuccessful, and the shareholders on the advice of the directors decide to cease business, the company is "wound up" and goes into "voluntary liquidation"—that is to say, the amount of the liabilities of the company are ascertained and the assets of the company are apportioned toward the discharge of the indebtedness—the debts of the company are ascertained and, as far as possible, paid in the proper order (this is liquidation); when this has been done the company ceases to exist and is said to have been "wound up".

The Duchess makes a pun here as though the Duke was a clock which, when run down, must be "wound up".

Updated 10 December 2003