Victorian Courtship



The Victorians romanticized love as well as tragedy. They revered courtship and love, despite their strict moral code and rules of etiquette. To gatherings, young women were chaperoned, usually by their mothers or some other married woman, to ensure nothing 'improper' occurred. Various books dictated proper etiquette; Godey's Lady's Book and Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management were popular. Balls and dances were the means by which a young girl was introduced into Society. She was expected to stay close to her chaperone until someone asked her to dance and was quickly returned to the chaperone after each dance. To dance more than three times with the same partner was considered forward and improper.

'The delight of the average hostess's heart is the well-bred man, unspoiled by conceit, who can always be depended upon to do his duty. He arrives in good time, fills his card before very long, and can be asked to dance with a plain, neglected wallflower or two without resenting it. He takes his partner duly to the refreshment-room after each dance, if she wishes to go, and provides her with whatever she wishes. Before leaving her, he sees her safe at her chaperone's side.'

-Mrs. Humphry Manners for Men (1897)

Under this strict code of etiquette, the Victorians invented new ways to play courtship. Items of apparel such as fans, gloves, and handkerchiefs were given meaning as were objects given as gift called 'love tokens' such as flowers, painted miniatures, or jewelry set with gemstones of particular significance. The diamond ring which symbolizes innocence became popular as the engagement stone during this era.

Love letters and cards allowed expression of deep emotion which society dictated was improper to be expressed otherwise. Valentine's Day was the day which allowed complete written freedom. Valentines varied from paper hearts to intricate designs of gilded lace, powdered glass, and parchment art. Books were sold containing verse to copy into customized cards for those not poetically inclined.

  Queen Victoria and her family were role models in Victorian society. Subsequently, the 'perfect marriage' became the socially acceptable goal of courtship. 

A  Lady

Never tolerates or performs rudeness, crudeness, indifference  or ignorance from or to another human being.

Always cultivates a positive attitude.

Never chews gum in public.

Never fixes her appearance (hair or make-up) in public.

Remembers; to discuss the price of anything is never in good taste.

Does not gossip.

Accepts and gives compliments graciously.

Never holds private conversations in public gatherings.

Never uses slang or bad language.

Always looks for ways to better herself; spiritually, physically and intellectually.

Thinks before she speaks, once said, never forgotten.

Ladies shall never embrace and kiss when they meet in a public place.

Has at least one reference manual regarding etiquette protocol.

A Gentleman

A gentleman is defined as:   A man of gentle birth, one entitled to bear arms, though not noble; A man of chivalrous instinct and fine feelings.

It is still expected that a gentleman stand up the first time
a lady enters a room or takes her final leave.

It is considered chivalrous  to open a door for a lady if he happens to be in reasonable proximity.  

Should never remove his coat while standing, sitting, riding, or walking with a lady.

Shall never ask a lady to dance if he has his coat removed.

Shall lift his hat and say Excuse Me when he brushes against a lady on the street.

Should always  walk on the outside when walking with one or more ladies.

Shall not hold a ladies arm, except when support is needed.

Shall remove his hat while talking to a lady.

When a gentleman is seated in a restaurant and a lady acquaintance enters and bows the gentleman should return the bow while he remains seated, if the lady stops at his table the gentleman shall rise and remain standing till she departs.






Up The Lady Rider Shopping, Women's Sport Black Victorians The Year 1904 Victorian Gentlemen Spinsterhood Women's Life Time Line The Victorian Era Victorian Courtship Queen Victoria

Courtship Pages

How Do I Love Thee?
The Fan Dance
Coming Out to Society



The following actions were considered extremely rude in the presence of company:

crossing the legs

 adjusting your hair

 winking your eyes
 laughing immoderately

 beating time with your feet and hands

 rubbing your face or hands

 shrugging up your shoulders

 placing your hand upon the person with whom you are conversing

 looking steadily at one

Victorian Courtship

Victorian dates were almost always supervised in some way. A woman was never to go anywhere alone with a gentleman without her mother's permission.

 A woman 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 woman was allowed some liberties, however. She could flirt with her fan, as this behavior was within the protocol of accepted behavior.

A single woman never addressed a gentleman without an introduction.

A single woman never walked  alone. Her chaperone was older and preferably married.

If she had progressed to the stage of courtship in which she walked out with a gentleman, they always walked apart. A gentleman could offer his hand over rough spots, the only contact he was allowed with a woman who was not his fiancée.

Proper women never rode alone in a closed carriage with a man who wasn't a relative.

She would never call upon an unmarried gentleman at his place of residence.

She couldn't receive a man at home if she was alone. Another family member had to be present in the room.

A gentlewoman never looked back after anyone in the street, or turned to stare at others at church, the opera, etc.

No impure conversations were held in front of single women.

No sexual contact was allowed before marriage. Innocence was demanded by men from girls in his class, and most especially from his future wife.

Intelligence was not encouraged, nor was any interest in politics.