The Various Periods of Mourning for relatives have within the last few years been materially shortened, and the change generally accepted; but as some still prefer to adhere to the longest periods prescribed by custom, in the present chapter both periods are given, and it entirely depends upon individual feeling and circumstances which of the two periods is observed.
The time-honoured custom of wearing crape has greatly declined, and with the exception of widows, many do not wear it at all, while others wear it as a trimming only. A slighter change has also taken place in favour of half-mourning colours, which are now more worn than black and white during the half-mourning period.
Court Mourning when enjoined is imperative, the orders respecting which are minutely given from the Lord Chamberlain's office and published in the official Gazette; but these orders only apply to persons connected with the Court, or to persons attending Courts, Levées, State Balls, State Concerts, etc. When the order for general mourning is given on the death of any member of the Royal Family, the order applies to all, although it is optional whether the general public comply with it or not.
The Longest Period for a Widow's Mourning is two years. The shorter period is eighteen months. Formerly crape was worn for one year and nine months; for the first twelve months the dress was entirely covered with crape. The newer fashion in widows' mourning is to wear crape as a trimming only, and to discontinue its wear after six or eight months, while some few widows do not wear it at all during their mourning, it being optional wear.
Half-Mourning in the longer period commences after a year and nine months, and is worn for three months. In the shorter period half-mourning may commence after fifteen months, and be continued for three months. The period for wearing the widow's cap and veil is a year and a day. The veil may be crêpe lisse or chiffon in place of crape. It is now the fashion for young widows to wear the cap as a head-dress only, while others do not wear it at all. Lawn cuffs and collars are worn during the first year, or for six months only, or not at all. After the first year white neckbands and white strings to the bonnet may be worn. Also hats in place of bonnets. Further touches of white may follow during the next three months. After a year gold ornaments may be worn; diamonds earlier.
Widowers should wear mourning for one year; they usually enter society after three months.
For a Parent the period of mourning is twelve months; ten months black, two months half-mourning, or eight months black and four months half-mourning. The black may be relieved with touches of white after three months. Crape is optional; many prefer not to wear it at all, others as a trimming. Diamonds—earrings, brooches, etc.—before gold, at the end of three months.
For a Son or Daughter the period of mourning is identical with the foregoing.
For very Young Children or Infants the mourning is frequently shortened by half this period, or even to three months.
For a Stepmother.—The period of mourning depends upon whether the stepdaughters reside at home or not, or whether their father has been long married, or whether their father's second wife has filled the place of mother to them, in which case the period of mourning would be for twelve months, otherwise the period is six months—four months black relieved with touches of white after two months, followed by two months half-mourning.
For a Brother or Sister the longest period of mourning is six months, the shortest period four months. During the longest period, viz. six months, black should be worn for five months, with a little white after two months, half-mourning for one month. After one month diamonds, pins, and brooches, etc.; gold after two months. During the shortest period, viz. four months, black should be worn for two months, half-mourning two months.
For a Sister-in-law or a Brother-in-law the period of mourning was formerly the same as for a brother or sister, but the four months' period is now the one usually chosen.
For a Grandparent the longest period of mourning is six months, the shortest four months. During the longest period black should be worn for three months, relieved with white after six weeks, half-mourning for three months; diamonds after one month, gold after six weeks or two months. During the shortest period black should be worn for two months, half-mourning for two months. The custom of wearing crape may now be said to have gone out of fashion as regards etiquette, black being considered adequate mourning, save in the case of widows. The former crape periods were six months for parents and children, three months for brothers and sisters, three months for grandparents.
For an Uncle or Aunt the longest period of mourning is three months, the shortest period six weeks. During the longest period black (no crape) should be worn for two months, half-mourning one month. During the shortest period black for three weeks, half-mourning for three weeks; diamonds after three weeks.
For a Nephew or Niece the periods of mourning are identical with the foregoing.
For an Uncle or Aunt by Marriage the period is six weeks black, or three weeks black and three weeks half-mourning.
For a Great Uncle or Aunt the longest period is two months, the shortest one month. During the longest period black for one month, half-mourning for one month. During the shortest period black for one month.
For a First Cousin the longest period is six weeks, the shortest one month. During the longest period black for three weeks, half-mourning for three weeks. During the shortest period black for one month.
For a Second Cousin three weeks black. Mourning for a second cousin is not obligatory, but quite optional, and often not worn.
For a Husband's Relations the periods of mourning chosen are invariably the shorter ones.
For a Daughter-in-law or Son-in-law the periods are now shortened to six months; four months black and two months half-mourning, or three months black and three months half-mourning.
For the Parents of a Son-in-law or Daughter-in-law the period is one month, black.
For the Parents of a First Wife a second wife should wear mourning for one month, black relieved with white.
For a Brother or Sister of a First Wife a second wife should wear mourning for three weeks, but this is not obligatory, and depends upon the intimacy existing between the two families.
Much Latitude is allowed to Men with regard to the foregoing periods of mourning.
A Hat-band should be worn during the whole of each period, but it is not imperative to wear suits of black longer than half the periods given, save in the case of widowers.
Servants' Mourning.—It is customary to give servants mourning on the death of the head of the house, which should be worn during the period the members of the family are in mourning. Mourning given to servants on the death of a son or daughter is quite an optional matter.
Seclusion from Society.—The question as to how soon persons in mourning should or should not re-enter society is in some measure an open one, and is also influenced by the rules that govern the actual period of mourning adopted.
A Widow is not expected to enter into Society under three months, and during that time she should neither accept invitations nor issue them. Her visiting should be confined to her relations and intimate friends. After three months she should commence gradually to enter into society, but balls and dances should be avoided during the first year.
For a Daughter mourning for a Parent the period of seclusion is six weeks as far as general society is concerned; but invitations to balls and dances should not be accepted until after six months.
For a Parent mourning for a Son or Daughter the period of seclusion is the same as is that of a daughter for a parent.
For a Brother or Sister the period of seclusion is three weeks.
For Grandparents the period of seclusion is from a fortnight to three weeks.
For an Uncle or Aunt the period is a fortnight to three weeks.
For all Other Periods of Mourning seclusion from society is not considered requisite.
When Persons in Mourning intend entering again into society, they should leave cards on their friends and acquaintances as an intimation that they are equal to paying and receiving calls.
When Cards of Inquiry have been left, viz. visiting cards with "To inquire after Mrs. A——" written on the top on right-hand corner of the cards, they should be returned by cards with "Thanks for kind inquiries" written upon them. Until this intimation has been given, society does not venture to intrude upon the seclusion of those in mourning. Relations and intimate friends are exempt from this received rule.
Funerals.—When a death occurs in a family, as soon as the day and hour for the funeral are fixed, a member of the family should write to those relatives and friends it is desired should follow, and should ask them to attend, unless the date, time, and place of the funeral, and the train by which to travel to the cemetery, are mentioned in the newspaper, together with the announcement of the death.
It is a Mistake to suppose that Friends will offer to attend a funeral, even if they are aware of the date fixed, as they are naturally in doubt as to whether the mourners are to include the members of the family only, or whether friends are to be included also.
In the Country, when a Doctor has attended a family for some years, it is usual to invite him to attend the funeral of one of its members. In town this is seldom done, unless a medical man is the intimate friend of the family. In the country the clergyman of the parish reads the funeral service, but in town, when the funeral takes place at Kensal Green, Brookwood Cemetery, or elsewhere, a [p.249]friend of the family is usually asked to officiate; in which case it is necessary to make an early application at the office of the cemetery for the use of the chapel at a particular hour.
It is customary for Ladies to attend the funeral of a relative if disposed to do so, in which case they wear their usual mourning attire, and follow in their own carriages.
The Doctor's Certificate as to the cause of death is of primary importance, and should be obtained at the earliest possible moment.
Memorial Cards should not be sent on the death of a relative, being quite out of date as regards fashion and custom.
Wreaths and Crosses of white flowers are very generally sent by relatives and friends to a house of mourning the day of the funeral, unless "No flowers, by request" follows the announcement of the death. When the funeral takes place before two o'clock, the friends should be invited to luncheon. When it takes place in the afternoon, they should be asked to return to the house for tea or light refreshment.
Manners and Rules of Good Society, Or, Solecisms to be Avoided by a Member of the Aristocracy. London: Frederick Warne, 1888.
Created 20 January 2015