Unmasking the Bourgeoisie

Bourgeoisie Courting Rituals
A Love Story
Victor Hugo
Romantic Era
Male/Female Perspectives
Romantic View
Traditional View
Bourgeois Rituals
A Legal Contract
Realities of...
Murderous Wives
Real Life

Octave Uzanne, The French Women of the Century. High Society in 1850. (Paris Bibliotheque Historique.)

The engagement period usually lasted from three weeks to a few months long. This period of daily courtship was almost always supervised under the watchful eye of a chaperon, usually the lady's mother. A young lady was expected to show reserve in the presence of her fiancé. She must not display earnest affection or he would doubt her modesty and virtuosity. A woman was never to go anywhere alone with a gentleman without her mother's permission. She was never to go out with a gentleman late at night. In fact, it was considered extremely impolite for a gentleman to stay late at a woman's home. A gentleman could only call on a lady with her permission. When saying good night, the lady was never to go farther than the parlor door, instead, a servant would see her suitor out. In a sense, the engagment period gave rise to the courtship rituals which allowed the future bride and groom to become more acquainted.


Finding a mate for marriage is a ritual the Bourgeois embraced with care and scrutiny during nineteenth-century France. Family and friends usually are the matchmakers. Most young people meet through charity sales, sporting events, and balls. The bals blancs were debutante balls to which only the eligible men and women were invited. These balls were called blancs because young ladies, making their debut into society, dressed in white to symbolize innocence and virginity. (Perrot, 311)

The rituals of courtship really begin with the announcement of the engagement. A friend or matchmaker is usually involved as a go-between for the man who wished to marry and his future wife's parents. Once the parents of the future bride accept the proposal, the suitor officially becomes the fiancé. Before the suitor's first visit to his fiancée's home, he sends a white bouquet. He would send flowers every day till the wedding if he were wealthy. He might even send flowers to his future-mother-in-law too.

 Nicolas-Eustache Maurin Faternal Love, 1835. An angelic blonde blesses her sister's enagement. In the Romantic era, gentlemen preferred brunettes. (Paris Bibliotheque Nationale.)


Unmasking the Bourgeoisie
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