Thursday, 30 June 2011

Manners Maketh Man

william of wykehamThis was the motto of William of Wykeham, who died just over 600 years ago. He was Bishop of Winchester, and founder of both Winchester College, and New College, Oxford. I learned this motto from Miss Holdforth- my teacher in 1963 . Every Friday, she had us laboriously copying out various mottoes and maxims, in our best copper-plate handwriting, to give us practice at all the loops and hooks of that script.


I thought about her today – a brilliant teacher from whom we learned so much more than just reading, writing and ‘rithmetic. She taught us about behaviour, and thinking of others.

I thought of her example of kindness and courtesy as I was reading about the email sent from Carolyn Bourne [60] to her future daughter in law, Heidi Withers [29] She was generally condemning the girl for her bad manners. Heidi showed her friends, and now it has gone viral – eliciting comments in the press all round the world!


You can read all the details on the BBC website here and here. I can’t help feeling there have been displays of bad manners all round. Maybe Heidi wasn’t the model daughter-in-law she was hoping for – but that doesn’t excuse Carolyn’s incredibly critical words – and has the situation been helped by the way Heidi has shared it with us all?

Is this going to help put the marriage on a firm footing? Heidi and Freddie have been ‘an item’ for a number of years – but this is not at all helpful as the basis of a solid relationship for the young couple. Maybe Freddie’s relationship with step-mum isn’t that good either [I notice he is wisely staying silent about it all] Has she already sent him sniffy emails, do you think, saying how uncouth she finds Heidi?

I want to say to Carolyn  [altho I realise she’s step-mum not mum]

Get real, woman! EVERY mother at some point* feels that there is NOBODY who is good enough to be the girlfriend/boyfriend/partner/spouse of their child. But at 29, your child is adult enough to know what sort of person they want to share their life with. So let them get on with it. YOU should not expect others to be just like you, YOU aren’t perfect either! Hurtful emails do not help anyone. Just try and be a little more thoughtful in future.

I want to say to Heidi

Marriage is a WONDERFUL arrangement, given by God, bringing joy to the couple, stability to families, and strength to society. But it is incredibly HARD WORK sometimes. Remember it is FREDDIE you are marrying, not his stepmum, or the rest of his family. Be loyal to him, and keep any family disharmony to yourselves, don’t make it public. Just try and be a little more thoughtful in future.

I just feel the whole business is incredibly sad – and it may all end in tears…

split cake

[*personal disclaimer – I got over this feeling quite a while ago! I am grateful that my girls have grown up in a home where they’ve had a brilliant loving Dad, and they’re are wise enough to recognise which qualities to look for in a relationship, and I hope and pray that when they are my age, they’ll be as happy we are]


  1. Oh, that's sad. Fear and pride prompt ugly doings, don't they?

  2. I think it's so sad that good manners have gone out of fashion.
    If someone doesn't have good manners at 29 they probably never will have so why alienate them?
    It's a shame we have to put up with bad manners from other people and that we have to pretend it's ok to avoid becoming isolated and labelled some kind of Victorian nutter.


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