Pix & notes: How to sit on a throne

Like many middle-aged people, my knees are going pear-shaped. So I went to see Dr. Barbara Bergin, a highly recommended orthopedic surgeon in my area. Among other talents, she’s written a novel called Endings, about a peripatetic physician. But that’s another story. 

Bergin has seen a lot of knees, male and female. She has noticed a strong tendency for women to develop problems like “patellar malalignment and chondromalacia, greater trochanteric bursitis, piriformis syndrome, and gluteal tendonitis, iliotibial band syndrome, posterior tibialis tendonitis ane even peroneal neuritis and plantar fascitis, since they’re not really due to biomechanical stresses, but are related to the way we sit.” (Taken straight from the doctor’s website, to exercise your Latin skills.)

In short, women’s knees are screwed up because of the way we sit. Women are trained to sit with knees together with ankles crossed or with legs crossed, poses properly demonstrated by the US Congresswomen shown here. (Click the picture to go to the original page with their names.)

But it wasn’t always this way! One of the things I love about this doctor is that she looks beyond the pathological, putting down her instruments to forage in the wider world. Her S.L.A.M. page shows a portrait of Queen Victoria on her throne, her knees clearly well apart underneath her long dress.

And therein lies the problem. You can’t sit like that in a modern short skirt without displaying your lady parts in a way that would make most of us very uncomfortable. On the other hand, many modern women wear pants as often as not and could therefore presumably spare their knees by relaxing that posture.

Part those royal knees

Monarchs spread their knees; that’s all there is to it. Granted, I’ve only spent 30 minutes grazing images, but I can’t find any monarchs with their knees together between Ancient Egypt and the twentieth century. I treat you to a survey of the knees-apart vs knees-together issue, ending of course with Francis Bacon and his aunt, Lady Russell, whose self-designed funeral monument put this in my head in the first place.

ancient egypt
Note the short skirt and the sheer fabrics.
Her Majesty Elizabeth II and family


The princess could spread those knees with perfect modesty, if she wanted to, but you don’t get to be a princess by sitting like a man!

emperor gojong, Yi haeung
Portrait of Emperor Gojong, Yi Haeung wearing Tongcheonggwan and Gangsapo. Portrait painted by Yi Hancheol and Yu Sook.
pere donokoromo II
HRM Pere Donokoromo II, The Pere of Isaba Kingdom 2012
Queen Victoria
Queen Victoria, comfortable in her role
Charles II
Charles II, demonstrating the full S.L.A.M. posture
Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon, as he used to sit on the dais as Lord Chancellor, listening to cases.
Lady Elizabeth Russell
Lady Elizabeth Russell, sitting like a person who owns herself. That skull probably represents the neighbors she bested in aggressive land acquisitions.

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