whose shilling thay are prepared to accept


Senior Member

Following is quoted from the book, <The Reality Test> by Robert Rowland Smith.

< In the year 2000, I had a meeting with British American Tobacco, at their headquarters on the Strand in London.
...In the reception area, complimentary cigarettes were put out for visitors, and in the meeting itself several BAT staff would - with neither
permission nor shame - light up.
I also remember the unease I felt: shouldn't consultants draw the line somewhere in terms of whose shilling they are prepared to accept?
As it happens, my involvement with BAT lasted no more than a few hours, so the question faded away, and my conscience was never properly tested.>

I don't get the meaning of 3rd sentence clearly, especially the underlined part.
Could you explain or rewrite it?
  • PaulQ

    Senior Member
    English - England
    In the UK, about two hundred years go, if you joined the navy (and I assume the army) you were given a shilling (a silver coin worth £0.05p but then worth a lot more in terms of what it could buy.) Once you had accepted the shilling, your recruitment into the navy was legal and you were then under the command and laws of the navy. As the navy served the king or queen, you were said to "have accepted the king's/queen's shilling" i.e. you had sworn to be loyal to the monarch whatever happened.

    So, today, "to accept/take someone's shilling" is to sell your absolute loyalty to them and do everything that they command without question. It is usually pejorative.