Readers of this blog will know that The Monarchist is an Old World stiff with a taste for Old World things. Stone edifices, ancient orders, historical regiments, colourful heraldry, etc - those unappreciated bits and pieces of glory and splendor that the fleeting modernist willfully ignores when not attempting to tear them down with his wrecking ball. You can add to this list the quaint Old World civility of the traditional gentlemen’s club, which as an institution has a stronger chance of survival than any of those other worthies, including the monarchy, precisely because it is not in the public sphere. Even with blow torch in hand, the modernist hasn’t the faintest prospect against the hidden pleasures of the private club.
I’m not yet a member of one of these esteemed clubs, but having been raised in an Officer's Mess and missing it, will one day hopefully find my way. In the meantime, I rely on a close personal friend who hangs out at the swanky Rideau Club, and who by reciprocal benefit, is also entitled to transitory membership in most other gentlemen clubs across the English-speaking world. The spirit of that great line from The Sound of Music applies here: "I like how the rich live. I like how I live when I'm with them".
But the truth of the matter is, for a $1,500 per year annual membership fee (more or less), you don't have to be so well-to-do to afford it. For the price of a London hotel, better to stay at the Carlton Club than fork out a hundred pounds at the Four Seasons. So long as you appreciate the old ethos of “gaming, gossip and good dress”, along with fine dining, smoking cigars, drinking port and other manly pleasures, you're well on your way. On the other hand, the blackballing tradition is still prevalent in many of the clubs, and some of the London ones are still downright impossible to get into, even if you happen to be stonkingly rich, on the not unsound pretense “that it would be better that ten unobjectionable men should be excluded than one terrible bore should be admitted” (- Garrick Club's motto):
...anyone hoping for membership must be proposed and seconded by existing members just to be placed on a waiting list. No proposal and seconding by existing members means you will not even be considered for membership – even having all the money in the world would have no sway with these establishments. Once at the top of the waiting list – which usually takes a few years – the proposal goes before a committee where there is still a very high risk that a proposed member will be blackballed and - as was proved by the Prince of Wales when he proposed a friend at Whites a few years ago - even a royal nomination does not guarantee membership. In this instance, the proposer of such a candidate is usually also expected to resign as he has failed to withdraw his ‘unsuitable’ candidate, although royalty may manage to avoid this rule!Historically, such clubs were for the aristocratic and elite, and the first establishments were founded in London. Although no longer purely a sanctum for the males of the English upper classes, very little has changed:
The original Gentlemen’s clubs were established in the St James’s area of the west end of London in the 18th century, and this is where the oldest and most blue chip clubs – Whites, Boodles, and Brooks's – can still be found today...A cursory glance at a few noteworthy clubs:
Women are still not permitted in these establishments or are only permissible through a separate entrance. Other clubs - and those probably considered by members of the aforementioned three to be second tier - still tend to be characterized by a specific constituency. Some of London’s most notable include the Garrick (authors, actors, and barristers), the Carlton (Conservative Party members), the Athenaeum (civil service, clergy, and academics), and the Beefsteak (intellectuals). More recent modern additions such as the Groucho Club, Century, and Soho House cater to a younger, more media-minded set of members. A unique aspect of the majority of the traditional clubs is that any discussion of business or trade is strictly forbidden – a rule which is usually strictly enforced.
- Forget about trying to get into Boodles, Brooke's or White's. In the latter case, the Prince of Wales or David Cameron won't let you in. Elites only.
- Athenaeum Club, London, boasted such notables as Churchill, Kipling, Palmerston, Dickens, Cecil Rhodes, Sir Walter Scott...for many years was seen to represent the peak of the public intellectual.
- The Meighen Lounge, Albany Club, Toronto. The Albany Club is one of Canada’s oldest private clubs. Founded in 1882 by Sir John A. MacDonald and named after the Duke of Albany.
- The Weld Club of Perth, Australia was established by former British military officers in 1871.
Other noteworthy clubs:
- The Carlton Club is home to members of the Conservative Party
- The Oxford and Cambridge Club, London
- Visit the rooms at the Union Club, Victoria, British Columbia
- The Reform Club, London
- The Australian Club, Melbourne
- The Garrick Club, London
- The Caledonian Club. "A little part of London that will forever remain Scottish"
- The Royal Air Force Club
- The Naval and Military Club, London
- The Savage Club, London. Clubbers are known for their drunken merriment and call each other "Brother Savage"