Social Success: Ballroom Etiquette for the Aspiring Regency Lady

There is nothing quite as wonderful as a ball. And, with the marriage market as competitive as it is, it is imperative that the aspiring young lady makes full use of this opportunity, in order to secure an advantageous marriage.

So, should you find yourself at a ball on the lookout for your very own Mr Darcy/Mr Knightly/Captain Wentworth (delete as appropriate), here are a series of handy hints to help you get ahead in the cut-throat world of the Regency ballroom:

  • If in doubt, wear white.
  • Never dance more than two dances with the same gentleman in a row.
  • Remember that the waltz is considered rather risqué – dance at your discretion.
  • Never ask a man to dance; it is for him to do the asking.
  • If asked to dance by an unwanted gentleman, you are at liberty to decline. However, once you have declined one partner, it would be unspeakably rude to accept another. If you say no, you will not be able to dance at all.
  • You may not leave a dance until it is finished. So, however intolerable your partner may be, you must smile and bear it. (So, please bear this in mind when considering the previous point).
  • Should there be a shortage of gentleman, ladies may dance together, but only when they have been given permission.
  • If invited to play or sing, do so with amiability and modesty. Know when to relinquish the instrument and your audience!
  • We will not even discuss the topic of drunken behaviour…

Of course, these handy hints are a light-hearted way of looking at the etiquette of previous eras. However, it is important to remember that this etiquette ruled not only her daily life, but a young lady’s future. A slip, a faux pas, a lapse in judgement or an ill-timed remark could seriously injure her future prospects. The rich and the famous could get away with far more than a young woman of the gentry and middle classes. While Mr Darcy made famous the remark, ‘My good opinion, once lost, is lost forever’, this could equally be applied to a young woman who found herself censured by Society.

Once judged, she was judged forever.

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