46 Etiquette Tips of the Victorian Era That Need to Make a Comeback
Sure they might have been sticklers for following the rules, but from being courted to dressing up for dinner, some Victorian mandates could be fun.
Keeping the belching to yourself
Letting out a giant burp after a meal in China and Taiwan would be seen as the highest form of compliment, but not so if you were dining in Victorian England. They would be appalled if you let out even the tiniest belch. In fact, it could mean social ruin. And don't even think about letting one rip, any form of passing gas would be beyond social redemption. These are the rude manners that are actually polite in other countries.
Call the fashion police
Crop tops and sweatpants were certainly not dinner attire back during Queen Victoria's reign. Dressing for meals remained very much a ritual for the upper class even after her death in 1901. Of course, it took some work to get ready to dine like a lady or gentleman. Like having their own personal stylists, maids and butlers would assist with everything from picking evening gowns to accessories. No maid or butler worth their salt would let their charge show up looking like a vagabond.
No need to talk (or dance) with strangers
No need to worry about being asked "What's your sign?" or having a girlfriend rescue you from unwanted suitors. A lady of class couldn't just socialize with anyone. If you caught the eye of a handsome gentleman across the ballroom it would be totally inappropriate for him to ask you for a spin around the dance floor. Only if a woman was properly introduced and the gentlemen in question met with the approval of her family would a waltz ever be considered.
Rest at ease with a chaperone on duty
Back then you didn't have to worry too much about your daughter sneaking around with the boy next door. That was big time taboo for both sexes as it could risk more than your reputation, it could socially ruin you. It was also a good way to keep Grandma busy. A gentleman and young lady would always be accompanied by a chaperone and usually that was an elderly relative. Only after marriage were man and woman allowed to frolic on their own.
No baubles needed to impress the ladies
Sorry, girls! If you were a female in the Victorian era, jewelry and fancy gifts were unacceptable overtures from that special someone. That was especially true if you weren't engaged or related. According to Victoria-era.org and etiquette expert of the 1870s – 1890s, Professor Thomas E. Hill, there were only four items a lady could accept from a gentleman without causing a stir; books, confectionery, flowers, or sheet music. Since flowers and food were perishable they left no obligation upon the lady receiving them. Perhaps books and sheet music got a pass as they occupy your mind and therefore provided distraction from thinking about a beau. Even today there are certain gifts that might send the wrong message.
Being respectable was a virtue
Discretion was taken to heart back then. Disgracing one's family with scandal was the ultimate betrayal. Of course there was gossip among the upper class and secrets. After all, even our modern day Queen Elizabeth II has had to deal with many rumors and scandal during her reign. But both women and men of station at least tried to refrain from making a spectacle of themselves. So it's unlikely you'd find any guests to be on the Housewives of Victorian England. These White House dining etiquette rules are very interesting!
No offense taken
If Facebook was a thing back in Victorian days, you'd first need a proper introduction to friend someone especially if they were of higher social ranking than you. People of lesser rank could only mingle with a higher-ranking person with his or her permission. And the person of high rank could then drop you like a hot potato. They could ignore, or "cut" the person of lower rank—in other words "unfriend" you without as much as a good-bye.
There were rules to courting a single gal
Like having her very own entourage, a single Victorian woman was rarely alone. They had to be accompanied on excursions by either family or someone older and preferably married. Courting a woman of high society had lots of rules. A gentleman would keep his distance when walking together although if your lady was about to fall in a puddle a gentleman could offer his hand to save her. There was no such thing as taking your girl for a spin around town. Not if you didn't want destroy both your reputations. A proper young lady would never ride alone in a closed carriage with a man who wasn't a relation. Here are the driving etiquette rules you forgot since drivers ed.
The art of talk
Discussing politics in the company of guests would be deemed a bad idea in any era. In the days of Queen Victoria, being adept at the art of conversation while cultivating polite manners was a talent. However, there was a distinct difference between appearing charming and appearing as a smarty-pants. Etiquette books of the era concentrated on perfecting the lilt and tone of voice versus content. Be sure to follow these etiquette tips when you are a guest in someone's home.
No Irish good-byes
Back in Victorian days an Irish good-bye would have been unheard of. Being courteous and thanking your host was expected. As was how you entered or existed any social festivity. A lady wouldn't ever leave a ballroom sans escort. And that didn't mean leaving with the cute bartender, it meant leaving with an older relative if you were single or with at least one other married woman if you were taken. For gentlemen staying around too long could be offensive as well according to The Gentlemen's Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness, 1876. "Do not be the last to leave the ball room. It is more elegant to leave early, as staying too late gives others the impression that you do not often have an invitation to a ball, and must 'make the most of it."