In part one of our blog we saw an immediate change in Victorian Britain compare to the country ruled by William IV. Modesty and restraint were now the order of the day as the queen led by example. The British Empire was growing at a phenomenal pace and the young queen was determined that it would do so correctly. Back at home in Victorian Britain attitudes were changing. Social, economic and cultural attitudes were far different than to Georgian ones and class divisions were also changing. We start part two of our blog looking at the new division of classes.
Division of Classes
Victorian Britain brought with it a new demographic as far as class division was concerned. The wealth of the British Empire brought new opportunities for the working man, and new and exciting jobs were created in industries that previously did not exist. The first division was money class, old money versus new. It was understood that actual wealth was immaterial compared to to family history and one’s land holding. There are many instances of wealthy American’s buying land and estates in Britain, however they were not welcomed into the upper-classes of Victorian Britain.
This class division was also operating in the workplace, a well-paid and skillful laborer was not considered the social equal of say an office shipping clerk who may only be earning a fraction of the money. The profession of a clerk was perceived as far higher than a skilled artisan.
Victorian Britain brought a deepening class division to the populace, but all the time the middle-classes grew and grew. Britain at the time was booming and the demand for goods and products forced the middle classes into well paid laboring jobs. One of the biggest areas of growth in labor was in service. As wealth was increasing there was a need for more servants. A staggering fact is that by the turn of the century nearly 30% of all women under twenty were servants and worked in service.
The Importance of Etiquette
Manners and etiquette were most cherished by Victorian society, and the importance of one’s reputation was valued highly almost above everything else. It was of critical importance that members of the family upheld their reputation in public. Appropriate etiquette was observed at all times, no more so than in public where certain ways to behave and conform were set out in stone. Not only were manners considered socially important, they amplified Christian beliefs and promoted goodwill.
The working-class were not expected to observe these strict rules of manners to the same extent. But if you were of the middle or working-classes how you went about wooing your loved one was under strict scrutiny. Young ladies were rarely left alone with suitors or any young gentleman for that matter. If a Victorian man showed interest in any lady, then marriage better be at the forefront of his mind. Dating was a matter for supervised visits, this could be done under the close eye of a chaperon or by taking a walk in a large group.
It is quite amazing that young middle-class Victorians ever got to have children. But it shows that such a strict moralistic stance did benefit a society that at the time ruled a great part of the world. Victorian Britain lead the world in many ideas, ideals and ways to behave, and not all of it was wrong.