Leading article: Class struggle

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O tempora, o mores! What is the British aristocracy coming to? For decades the publisher, Debrett's, has made guides for the well-born that dispense advice on important topics, such as how to address obscure members of the peerage and the correct way to eat soup. Its Etiquette and Modern Manners has been a rock of civility set in an uncivilised sea.

But now something unspeakable has occurred. Debrett's has "modernised". Its new guide, entitled Etiquette for Girls, may sound traditional enough. But its subject matter plumbs the very depths of 21st-century vulgarity. It includes sections on how to conduct one-night stands, how to cheat on your husband. Even how to sunbathe topless. This is, needless to say, not the sort of thing on which delicate young ladies of a noble bearing ought to be getting advice.

Not that the aristocracy is unacquainted with risqué behaviour, of course. But in the past they have always had the good manners to keep quiet about it so as not to set a bad example to social inferiors.

We fear Debrett's has sold out. The blue-blooded classes need a new guru. Someone who will not defer to the grubby forces of modern life, but who is prepared to do things properly. Someone willing, for example, to demand several boiled eggs in descending order of hardness every breakfast. Someone unembarrassed to have their toothpaste applied to the brush by a valet.

But where will such a champion - someone who encapsulates the good breeding and fastidiousness that has made the British aristocracy so respected and admired the world over - be found?

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