Life at the court was narrowly regulated by court etiquette. Etiquette became the means of social advancement for the court.
Louis XIV’s elaborate rules of etiquette included the following:
- People who wanted to speak to the king could not knock on his door. Instead, using the left little finger, they had to gently scratch on the door, until they were granted permission to enter. As a result, many courtiers grew that fingernail longer than the others;
- A lady never held hands or linked arms with a gentleman. Besides being in bad taste, this practice would have been impossible because a woman’s hooped skirts were so wide. Instead, she was to place her hand on top of the gentleman’s bent arm as they strolled through the gardens and chambers of Versailles. It is also mentioned that the ladies were only allowed to touch fingertips with the men.
- When a gentleman sat down, he slid his left foot in front of the other, placed his hands on the sides of the chair and gently lowered himself into the chair. There was a very practical reason for this procedure. If a gentleman sat too fast, his tight trousers might split;
- Women and men were not allowed to cross their legs in public;
- When a gentleman passed an acquaintance on the street, he was to raise his hat high off his head until the other person passed;
- A gentleman was to do no work except writing letters, giving speeches, practicing fencing, or dancing. For pleasure he engaged in hawking, archery, indoor tennis, or hunting. A gentleman would also take part in battle and would sometimes serve as a public officer, paying the soldiers;
- Ladies’ clothing did not allow them to do much besides sit and walk. However, they passed the time sewing, knitting, writing letters, painting, making their own lace, and creating their own cosmetics and perfumes.
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