Monday, June 29, 2015

Notes on French Etiquette

"Bad table manners, my dear Gigi, have broken up more households than infidelity." ~ Aunt Alicia instructing Gigi on how to properly eat ortolan.

The etiquette in the best old families of France as regards young girls is very strict, says a foreign correspondent, and at 17 they begin to be seen at their mothers' "at homes," but at 18 only they make their debut in society, beginning with the opera, Lenten receptions, and what are now generally called "bals blancs." 

The French girl never has any cards of her own; when she is what they call in England "out" her name is written below her mother's. The letters addressed to her are always delivered first to her parent's hands, who passes them to her opened or unopened, as she thinks fit. 

She wears no jewels beyond one row of pearls around her neck. She rides early before the fashionable hour at the Bois, escorted by her father; her brother may take her out driving, and she is even permitted now to take the reins, a liberty which ten years ago would have stamped her as outrageously fast. French girls of almost any rank, including the bourgeoisie, never walk out alone. They marry young, presumably before 20. —  Marin Journal, 1887

Professional etiquette prevents French judges and judicial officers from riding in omnibuses. — Sausalito News, 1899
"French nobility is touchy!" say the Brits ~ Gabriel Paul Othenin de Cléron , Comte d'Haussoville

Much Bitter Comment Caused by the English Ambassador's Mistake in Precedence

PARIS— Even an ambassador must not tamper with the rules of precedence of the French' nobility, which, since there is no longer a French peerage, are based upon birth and not upon rank. Sir Francis Bertie, the British ambassador, innocently gave serious offense to the Faubourg St. Germain at an embassy dinner party. Among the guests were the Marquis de Ganay and the Comte d'Haussonville.

Thinking of the etiquette of precedence used at home, Sir Francis put the marquis in a more honorable place than the comte and thus committed an unpardonable social solecism. The ambassador's blunder was the subject of much bitter comment in the Faubourg. 

The heinousness of his offense will be at once seen when it is explained that the Marquis de Ganay, though ranking higher than the comte, is a person of yesterday, chiefly notable for his fine racing stable and his friendship with King Edward VII, while the Comte d'Haussonville is the representative of an extremely old and famous family of Lorraine, and is a member of the Academie Francaise.
French Légion d'honneur

An Usher Showed Sculptor or Honor is Worn — Rodin in Quandary on Use of French Decoration 

Paris — Although the decoration of the legion of honor was not conferred. on M. Rodin, the sculptor, by an usher at the Elysee, it was the usher who really placed it on the sculptor and showed him how to wear it. 

M. Rodin is not very, strong on decorations, and had never worn evidence of the honor conferred on him. When he accepted an invitation for dinner at the Elysee this week, some kind friend reminded him that, etiquette required him to wear the insignia of the Legion of Honor. Each friend of whom he asked advice, had a different opinion as to how the plaque was to be worn, so Rodin wrapped it in tissue paper, carried it with him and asked the chief usher to adjust it in the proper place. 

This was done just outside the door of the dining room, much to the horror of assembled guests. —San Francisco Call, 1910

Depiction of Catholic priests blessing a rail engine in Calais, France ~1848

The Frenchmen are easily the politest people in the world, and so the new regulations as to the conduct of railroad servants when the President of the republic is a passenger, will not bear heavily on them.

Every official, from the highest to the lowest, is required to doff his cap and remain bareheaded until the President leaves the station. The station-master alone is permitted to approach the door of the Presidential saloon carriage, and it is ordered that he also shall remain bareheaded while holding it open. These are only a few of the long list of points of etiquette which have taken the form at a ministerial decree. —  The Marin County Tocsin, 1896

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber is the Site Editor for Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia