Dos and Don'ts in Photos
Point de Vue, November 9, 2005
Do kiss the hand of ladies
In the photo above Paul Newman greets Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, with the classical baise-main [kissing of the hand] at a charity dinner in Rosemont, Illinois, in late 2005. It is good for us Americans to see that this is not an obsolete practice of olden times, but is an act of courtesy that is increasingly applied today.
To kiss the hand of a lady implies that she is noble, that the gentleman respects her, and is putting himself at her service. It is a remnant of the feudal ceremony of vassalage in which a knight swore fealty and payed homage to his King or Queen.
The kissing of the hand as a formal gesture is normally used to pay respect to prestigious married ladies. Kissing the hand of a single young lady has romantic connotations that make the act fall out of the ceremonial domain, and as such is not recommended. Neither should a gentleman go about kissing the hand of every married lady in the room. He should bestow the gallantry only on the particular lady to whom a special homage is due.
Gentlemen, do try it. Be sure that the ladies will be flattered.
Posted April 30, 2008
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Nobility and Accessibility: Keys to Catholic Charity
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