The Victorian era is seen as one of the most romantic periods of history. Jane Austen novels and the elaborate clothing and dancing are some of the reasons for why this period in history attracts so much romantic interest. But Victorian society had a huge number of rules for behaviour and courtship, that should be followed correctly, or face the risk of being outcast by society.
The Victorians started to prepare their daughters for courtship from the moment they were born. A Victorian girl would be groomed to learn all of the attributes and skills of an ideal wife and a perfect mother. Music, crafts and dancing were important lessons learned by young girls, as well as how to dress correctly for occasions, and a heavy emphasis was put on manners and etiquette in social situations.
When the time came for a Victorian girl to find a potential suitor, she would begin to attend dances and balls. This was known as ‘coming out’ and society would then be aware that the girl was looking for a suitor. This was the only place that she would find a prospective husband, as a young lady was never allowed to go out alone to meet a man. She would always have to have her mother’s permission, and would be escorted by an older person, usually a relative. Even when she had started dating, the couple would not be permitted to be alone during this time, and there would be no physical contact between the couple until they were married.
The lower classes followed these rules as well as the upper classes – the main difference being that instead of balls, lower class girls would meet potential suitors at church related social events. The class system was important in Victorian times, and men and women would not be permitted to marry if they were of different social classes.
Although the Victorian men wouldn’t propose with the diamond engagement rings we are familiar with today, such as these from https://www.comparethediamond.com/diamond-engagement-rings/ engagement rings were popular in Victorian times and were usually ornate and intricate pieces, often set with many precious jewels and sometimes containing a romantic saying.
Once a man and a woman had become engaged, the woman was permitted to accept gifts from her husband to be (this was not allowed before the engagement as it was considered ‘bribery’ and only perishable gifts were usually acceptable such as confectionary). When the couple were engaged to be married they would be allowed to walk together and to hold hands in public, but no more physical affection until they were married.