Monday, 18 March 2013

Being a Gentleman

Titles could be bought - and often were - at extremely high prices. But what did it take to be a gentleman at the French court? Well, obviously you had to follow certain rules laid down by the strictest etiquette.

First of all, if you (as a good gentleman) passed someone you knew on the street, you were expected to raise your hat above your head - and keep it there till the other person had walked by!

And since gentlemen had to follow fashion they often wore silk trousers and frocks. So, every time a man at court wanted to sit down he had to slid the left foot in front of the right and grab - elegantly though - the arms of the chair. Then you could lower yourself down into the chair and relax. Mainly this had not much to do with etiquette but were for practical reasons. The problem was that if he sat down too fast his silk trousers might break! Imagine the scandal if a count or a duke had to walk through the halls with his behind on display!

A gentleman with respect for himself was not to do anything else but: Write letters, practice fencing or dancing and give speeches. If he wanted to enjoy himself it was socially acceptable for him to engage in hawking, archery, indoor tennis and - the royal favourite - hunting. And if war broke out he was expected to either partake in the battle or pay the soldiers who did. Easy to see how he was exhausted ..

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