“…they’re only a pack of cards, after all.”

Image: drawing by John Tenniel

From: An Economic History of the English Garden (2019), by Roderick Floud:

“Men had to be at their place in the gardens throughout these hours; time walking to and fro, and time taken to clean one’s tools, was not paid. Head gardeners enforced a strict dress code of shirt, waistcoat and tie and trousers, with an apron worn over the top, together with stout leather boots. This was despite the fact that under-gardeners were, wherever possible, kept out of sight of the owner and his guests; at some houses a tunnel ensured that they could not be seen on the way to work. Like servants in the house, gardeners were expected to move away from any area of the garden when the owner, or his visitors, appeared…

…Percy Thrower recalls that, even in the 1920s, ‘a head gardener of a large estate in those days was almost like the Lord of the Manor…’ Thrower remembers C.H. Cook, at Windsor, as ‘a gentleman in his own right. Dressed in black jacket, pinstripe trousers and bowler hat, he would pace through the gardens with the dignity of any Lord…monarch of all he surveyed.’ One of his tasks was to escort the king (George V) and Queen Mary, and their guests, when they visited the gardens, while the other staff were expected to stay out of sight…

…Versailles demonstrates the sophistication and power of seventeenth-century water engineering in the service of gardening. Louis XIV used more water there than was supplied to the whole of Paris…The initial supply, in the 1660s and 1670s, was gravity-fed, supplemented by pumps and windmills…Even so, it could power only a fraction of the fountains at one time and an elaborate system had to be devised to supply only the fountains near to where the king was walking, with gardeners turning some off and others on as he and his guests processed through the gardens…”

From Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), by Lewis Carroll:

CHAPTER 8

The Queen’s Croquet-Ground

“…Five and Seven said nothing, but looked at Two. Two began in a low voice, ‘Why the fact is, you see, Miss, this here ought to have been a red rose-tree, and we put a white one in by mistake; and if the Queen was to find it out, we should all have our heads cut off, you know. So you see, Miss, we’re doing our best, afore she comes, to—’ At this moment Five, who had been anxiously looking across the garden, called out ‘The Queen! The Queen!’ and the three gardeners instantly threw themselves flat upon their faces. There was a sound of many footsteps, and Alice looked round, eager to see the Queen.

First came ten soldiers carrying clubs; these were all shaped like the three gardeners, oblong and flat, with their hands and feet at the corners: next the ten courtiers; these were ornamented all over with diamonds, and walked two and two, as the soldiers did. After these came the royal children; there were ten of them, and the little dears came jumping merrily along hand in hand, in couples: they were all ornamented with hearts. Next came the guests, mostly Kings and Queens, and among them Alice recognised the White Rabbit: it was talking in a hurried nervous manner, smiling at everything that was said, and went by without noticing her. Then followed the Knave of Hearts, carrying the King’s crown on a crimson velvet cushion; and, last of all this grand procession, came THE KING AND QUEEN OF HEARTS.

Alice was rather doubtful whether she ought not to lie down on her face like the three gardeners, but she could not remember ever having heard of such a rule at processions; ‘and besides, what would be the use of a procession,’ thought she, ‘if people had all to lie down upon their faces, so that they couldn’t see it?’ So she stood still where she was, and waited.

When the procession came opposite to Alice, they all stopped and looked at her, and the Queen said severely ‘Who is this?’ She said it to the Knave of Hearts, who only bowed and smiled in reply.

‘Idiot!’ said the Queen, tossing her head impatiently; and, turning to Alice, she went on, ‘What’s your name, child?’

‘My name is Alice, so please your Majesty,’ said Alice very politely; but she added, to herself, ‘Why, they’re only a pack of cards, after all. I needn’t be afraid of them!’

‘And who are these?’ said the Queen, pointing to the three gardeners who were lying round the rosetree; for, you see, as they were lying on their faces, and the pattern on their backs was the same as the rest of the pack, she could not tell whether they were gardeners, or soldiers, or courtiers, or three of her own children…”

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