I picked up Farewell, My Queen and turned to a random page – Marie Antoinette is preparing to flee, packing her magnificent jewels and lamenting how Versailles is a “cold, damp, inhabitable” place.

My train of thought then arrived at her Austrian origin (the youngest daughter of Catherine the Great?), which brought me to the Hofburg in Vienna.

After some time, the rooms of European royal residences blend onto one another. What I do remember about the Hofburg is a single, frivolous fact: that the napkin arrangement at the royal table was a jealously guarded secret and at any one time, only two persons know how to knot fine fabric into that particular form that resembles two intertwined swans.

It does make you wonder – if we drench something unimportant with meaning and continue to do so for a long time, will it then really become significant?

Apparently so. Even napkins can be shrouded in mystery, if we try hard enough.


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