Louis XIV of France (who came to the throne in 1643 and was still ruling when Gulliver was in Brobdingnag) greatly exaggerated the complexities of etiquette in a deliberate attempt to break the power of the nobility. He encouraged them to value the small menial tasks he gave them, such as helping him dress or emptying his chamber pot. In this way, the noblemen stopped being dangerous malcontents and became instead pliant and utterly useless courtiers.
Other monarchs attempted to imitate Louis XIV as far as they could. The result was that the simple task of placing a dish of food before the monarch involved such an elaborate ritual, passing from hand to hand with flourish and ceremony, that by the time it reached the royal table the food was cold.
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