Friday, March 17, 2017

Etiquette and Condolences

After Otto von Bismarck's death, the task of opening telegrams and attending to those which, according to etiquette, needed to receive immediate answers, continued from morning until night.

Even when in mourning, the etiquette regarding the condolences from potentates and statesmen in every part of the world, must be followed.

FRIEDRICHSRUHE, Aug. 2.— Prince Bismarck's coffin was closed down yesterday between 7 and 8 o'clock in the presence of the Imperial Chancellor, who left Friedrichsruhe immediately afterward. It was originally intended that the consecration einsegnung, as the Germans call the funeral service, should take place this morning, but it was deferred until 6 in the evening out of deference to the Emperor, who expressed a wish to be present and could not arrive before. 

The whole family, headed by Prince Herbert, assembled in the small, bare death chamber this morning and partook of the Holy Sacrament. The black coffin, of unusually large dimensions, with eight massive silver-plated handles, rested on trestles and occupied exactly the same spot as that on which stood the bed on which the Prince died, the head of the coffin, as was pointed out to me, being almost within touch of the bell rope which the Prince used when summoning his attendants. 

The task of opening telegrams and attending to those which, according to etiquette, must receive immediate answer, still continues from morning until night and keeps Count Rantzau, Count Wilhelm and Prince Herbert continually occupied. I noticed on the table one layer of opened telegrams about a foot high from every Prussian Prince and Princess and almost all the German federal sovereigns. Emperor Francis Joseph, the King and Queen of Italy, the English and Russian courts and over 100 European statesman also telegraphed condolences. — New York Herald, 1898

Do letters of condolence need to be acknowledged?

If you receive commercial sympathy cards simply signed with a name, no. Otherwise, generally yes. Most funeral establishments or crematoria furnish notecard-size thank-you notes...

 Time-honored rituals of death ease us through the unthinkable. Much of what we do during these times is almost rote. Everyone knows how difficult a death is. No, these notes are not original or memorable. They simply serve the purpose of letting the recipient know that you received and appreciated their card. Again, if anyone stands out particularly, make a note to write them later, when you can.

When should acknowledgements be sent out?

Nobody will expect you to do this for some time, so don’t worry if you can’t get yourself to your writing place for weeks or months, but some people deserve a personal reply. — From

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