The rules of funeral etiquette of the French court

After death, all are equal ... But no! This dictum was refuted by the French back in the 18th century, when they were the first to think of mourning etiquette.

A commoner could, of course, grieve in heart, but in high society, grief was regulated by decrees on clothing. At first, confusion reigned around the external manifestations of mourning. In knightly times, as far as we know from the legends about the knight Lancelot, the knights smeared their shields with black, cut their hair and beards short, even cut off the sock of their stockings, so that all ten toes on their toes bulged sadly into the white light. The ladies wore their dresses inside out and cut their horses' tails short. But all this was not obligatory, and the period of mourning was not limited.

The evolving life of the French court established, refined and systematized the rules of mourning. One generalizing work informs the descendants of the details of the order leading to the salvation of the soul. It was published in 1765 under the title "Ordre chronologique des deuils de cour" ("Rules of court mourning in chronological order").

First of all, he introduces us to the concept of "great mourning". It should be worn after the death of parents, grandparents, spouse, brother. His entire period was divided into three parts: woolen, silk and petit deuil.

After the death of the parents, woolen mourning lasted three months, during this period the rules prescribed simple woven clothes and the simplest accessories to it.

After 3 months, for the next 6 weeks, it was allowed to wear a black silk dress with black jewelry, in the last six weeks the gloom of strictly mourning was softened by a black and white combination of small mourning, these clothes could be made of any finely crafted material, diamond jewelry could be worn to it.

After the death of the rest of the relatives, the rules of mourning were simplified, only one black and one white periods were required.

The custom defined the duration of mourning as follows:

  • spouse - 1 year 6 months,
  • parent - 6 months,
  • parent of parent - 4, 5 months,
  • brother, sister - 6 weeks,
  • uncle, aunt - 3 weeks,
  • cousins ​​- 15 days,
  • nephews - 8 days.

The charter lists down to the smallest detail, in what segments of what time frame, from what and to what date, what clothes and what accessories should be worn. Unfortunately, we cannot do justice to such detailed development here - it would have to go too deep into history for that.

The picky modern reader is more likely to be interested in how the days were counted in those cases when half of the period of mourning had to be worn in black, half in white, and the whole period consisted of an odd number of days? The question was solved simply: most of the term was given to black. For example, with a 15-day mourning period, the black period extended for 8 days, with 7 days for the white one.

So, the charter was based on strictly formal principles. On one condition, he still left a gap for the manifestation of feelings, namely: if the mourning relative received an inheritance from the deceased. So, for example, after the death of a brother, the period of mourning was only 6 weeks, but if the surviving brother was expecting an inheritance, then the rules obliged him to express the sadness of the soul with a mourning cloak for 6 months.

In any case, those who had departed into another world could be calm - the charter made sure that even after death they were given the honors due to rank.