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,
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.)