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10 Ridiculous Victorian Etiquette Rules


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Presentation at Court
But is your train exactly 3 yards long? Guildhall Library & Art Gallery/Heritage Images/Getty Images
But is your train exactly 3 yards long? Guildhall Library & Art Gallery/Heritage Images/Getty Images

When a girl was presented at court, in the eyes of the Victorians, she transformed from being underage and off-limits to suddenly being marriageable.

Young ladies were presented several times a year in St. James's palace. But they weren't the only ones who had to make an entrance: Young men were also presented several times a year in "levees," hosted either by the queen or the Prince of Wales.

Strict rules outlined the costume for presentation at court. Men wore knee breeches and buckle shoes and wielded a sword. Ladies had to wear feathers in their hair high enough for the queen to see, and the train on their dress needed to measure 3 yards (2.74 meters) long exactly. And although the Victorians have a reputation for modesty, the required dress for presentation left a lady's neck and much of her shoulders bare.

Ladies had to carry their trains on their left arm while waiting in the palace for their presentations. Several lords-in-waiting were at hand to lay out a lady's train and pass along her card to announce her to Queen Victoria. After entering, she kissed the queen's hand (or the queen kissed her forehead if she were a peeress or daughter of a peer). She then needed to wait for a page to place her train on her left arm again before she somehow managed to elegantly exit the room without turning her back to the queen.

The young men's presentation was similar: A man, once announced, would bend down on one knee and hold out his right hand to the queen. The queen would lay her hand on his and he would kiss it [source: King].

Now, after being presented at court, young Victorians could finally get down to the business of finding a mate.


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