A Courtier’s Guide To Social Media

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to provide some useful, practical content on this blog and limit the number of frivolous posts. I mean, how many times can you harp on dying fruit in Dutch still life painting? Who needs that? So, in this post I will address a topic that has not been given the attention it merits, namely, the best ways a courtier can use social media to gain the favor of the ladies, the prince, and his fellow members of court. The internet is a rough place for a man of such breeding and refinement, and he needs to be equipped with the right tools to handle the haters who try to bring down his stocking-ed parade.

That Castiglione did a nice job with his little manual, but the conversation format is a bit dated and, quite frankly, disorganized. In the interest of brevity, so you don’t have to wander through endless conversations to get to the point, I’ve put together eight tips that every courtier can apply to his daily rounds through the snake pit.

Album of Tournaments and Parades in Nuremberg, late 16th century; Albers Necklace and Briar Collar by Jaclyn Mayer
Handmade items to buy: (clockwise) Ring by Katri Saarinen; Cufflinks by The Fox and Fig; Laptop Bag by Lola Falk; Necklace by Sarah Safavi; Cufflinks by Emiko Oye; Studs by Rosina Beech; Pendant by Rachel McKnight; Tote by Studio Plan D

1. Don’t give too much away: The biggest mistake courtiers make when they first start using social media to shape their reputation is neglecting to establish a filter for the line between their real life and online presence. They start posting pictures on Instagram of every duck they shoot and every dinner they have with the Prince. A far more effective approach would be to cultivate the art of suggestion by giving your followers a taste of your life and allow them to imagine a greater reality behind your online output. All the most successful courtiers retain an element of mystery and their secret is this: let the imagination of others do the work for you.

2. Post with the Prince in mind: Before you tweet how vulgar the Prince’s mistress looks today, or complain about the number of riding sessions you have to attend, think to yourself: would the Prince be happy when he sees this? Let me remind you that entire careers are ruined by one careless tweet or one misplaced like. Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want your greatest enemy to catch and share with the Prince in a private moment.

3. Use sponsorship sparingly: We know that the Venetian silk producer who gives you free shirts is great at what he does, but when we see that little phrase “sponsored by” at the bottom of your blog posts, it always leaves a slightly sour taste in our mouth. Keep your sponsors happy but don’t let your personality become a collection of different brands.

4. Master the effortless selfie: Try hard at not trying hard. Yes, I know it’s difficult, but remember that no one is born a courtier and don’t let those noble-borns convince you otherwise. Some of the sloppiest behavior oozes from the most pristine lineages. It’s almost impossible to define sprezzatura (if everyone could master it, it wouldn’t be so sought after, now would it?), but as a general rule of thumb, look at formal court portraiture and do the opposite.

Album of Tournaments and Parades in Nuremberg, late 16th century; Physichromie by Carlos Cruz-Diez; Square Brooch by Jesus Rafael Soto
Handmade items to buy: (clockwise) Ring by Leander D’Ambrosia; Scarf by Ayelet Iontef; Ring by Stacey; Bag by The Cul de Sac; Ring by Alex de Haro; Necklace by Indie Lab; Earrings by Bob Borter; Wrist Warmers by Liza Kolesnik

5. Create your own court: I know you’ve daydreamed about being the Prince. That will never happen but think of your followers and subscribers as your courtiers. It’s an international court, the up-and-coming English gentlemen mingling with the old Italians. With that in mind, consider the kind of courtiers you want to attract and embody those qualities yourself.

6. Don’t engage in arguments: Just as the Prince would never get involved in the petty problems of his courtiers, don’t become entangled in Twitter wars or Instagram disputes. It’s not worth it. You will only betray your cool exterior, which, as you know, is the most serious blow to any courtier’s reputation. Make it a rule never to respond except in the most polite and detached of tones.

7. Choose your channels wisely: You may think that you’re good at hunting, wrestling, riding, singing, playing the viola, and reciting ancient poetry, and you may very well be. But don’t rush to find a way to display all of your talents online unless you are certain that the majority of your fellow courtiers will not laugh at you behind your back. There’s nothing worse than watching a video of someone attempting the smooth, gliding motions of the basse dance but looking like a flailing octopus.

8. Never let your guard down: Chances are, right now, one of the nastier courtiers is hiding behind a marble column with his or her camera phone, waiting for you to blow your nose the wrong way. Don’t give them the chance to catch you in a compromising situation, or you’ll end up being #overheardatcourt rather than the one doing the overhearing. You need to graft grace and good manners into your being, unless, of course, you prefer to leave court and go back to the dirty city merchants.