...what, one may ask, are "pages" - underage gofers - doing in Washington, in 2006, to prick the desires of dirty old congressmen and senators with their fresh young faces and limbs? Partly it's the American addiction to Old Europe's lifestyle - the same nostalgia that came up with "valet parking". Everyone's a monseigneur when you go to the local steakerie. The great republic likes the odd aristocratic frill.
Originally pagehood was the lowest rung on the steps of knighthood. At puberty, if you cut the mustard (and were prepared to cut a few throats when required), you made it to squire.
In Washington's seat of power, the page programme was devised by Daniel Webster, in 1829. He believed this touch of medieval chivalry would dignify the House. Pages - boys and (since 1971) girls - are selected from American high schools as a reward for high merit. The programme, one suspects, will not be around for much longer. It doesn't seem to dignify the place any more.
Having underage boys at the beck and call of powerful men was always risky. Probably it was at the round table of King Arthur - but then there was no www.thesmokinggun.com (smoking-lance?) to embarrass any naughty knight.
The Guardian 10/9/2006