I’ll admit I haven’t exhausted my resources, but all my initial searching has come up short on this.

I need information on various Western customs of formal dining etiquette, particularly regarding where various people sit at the table. Does the guest of honor always sit at the host’s right? Why? I’m interested in this in an historical sense–I’m not throwing a dinner party myself, but I’m working with a highly structured society in my novel and they definitely have rules about this sort of thing. I’d love it if this was everyday etiquette, too, not necessarily high royalty stuff. I’m dealing with a noble household, but they’re essentially having a family dinner with an important guest at their country estate – at some point I’ll need to know about royal feasts, but right now it’s a bit more mundane.

So, if you know of any resources (either online or not–I’m within easy reach of four different major universities, so I can probably find almost any book with a little work) that might shed some light on this, I’d be extremely grateful.

And I’m also especially interested in anything I can find out about the reasoning behind the customs–why exactly is the lady generally seated to the left of her escort? I’m sure there was a reason at some point, but I don’t know what it is. And what if the husband is the guest of honor (and thus would be seated directly on the host’s right) but his wife is with him (and should be seated directly to the husband’s left)?

Any resources that investigate this aspect of the historical etiquette craze (it doesn’t need to be specifically focused on dining) would be greatly appreciated as well.