10 Ridiculous Victorian Etiquette Rules

Engagement Etiquette
Enjoy this minor bit of merriment, folks. Once the engagement's formalized, you won't be seeing much of each other. Brand X Pictures/Stockbyte/Getty Images

According to Cassell's, when a Victorian gentleman wishes to propose, he first "ascertains the state of a lady's feelings towards himself before he makes a positive declaration of his love." He then had to seek out a blessing from the lady's father before the engagement was official.

Before he obtained this blessing, the couple had to suspend communication and "live towards each other as perfect strangers for the time" [source: Cassell]. This could be a while, as getting this blessing meant settling financial matters. A gentleman presented his own financial situation, and the family would present what fortune a lady had. A lady would generally get a portion of her fortune for her own use, and then the principal was put in a trust — the interest of which could go to the husband. Once official, if one party chose to break an engagement, the other could sue for damages [source: Pool].

Assuming it all worked out, engaged people had to behave themselves before the happy event. The lady still needed chaperones with her as she was never to go out alone with her fiancé. Furthermore, the couple mustn't retreat from a group to whisper together or do anything to "excite smiles and comments" from others [source: Cassell]. Cassell's unequivocally declares that such "absurd" behavior "is a violation of propriety." Indeed, it was considered "excessively vulgar" for an engaged woman to clasp her hand on her fiancé's arm. No wonder Victorian couples often sought short engagements.

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