Allspice Chronicles

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Etiquette Gone Bad = Fairy Tales Gone Awry: Heidi Withers and Carolyn Bourne

By Danica Waters

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Heidi Withers who fell in love with a boy named Freddie Bourne.

Heidi Withers, image copyright / source: The Daily Mail

Freddie Bourne/ image copyright chris eades / source: The Daily

Heidi had always dreamed of getting married in a castle, and even though her parents had recently become unemployed and could not afford to bankroll her dream, Freddie and Heidi kept their hopes high.  And thus it came to be that the great hall of Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire became available for booking at a relatively reasonable price, and an October wedding was arranged.  The couple was ecstatic.

Before they were to be married, Freddie took his bride-to-be to his childhood home in the rolling hills of Devon to visit his father and his (evil?) stepmother.   Unfortunately, the visit was not the happy affair everyone had hoped for.   Alas, even though the bride-to-be seemed a sweet girl, she did not have the knowledge or etiquette-related sensibilities her future in-laws expected.  Afterwards, the evil stepmother sent a scathing e-mail to her future daughter- in- law:

“from: Carolyn Bourne
to: heidi withers
subject: your lack of manners

Here are a few examples of your lack of manners:

When you are a guest in another’s house, you do not declare what you will and will not eat – unless you are positively allergic to something.

You do not remark that you do not have enough food.

You do not start before everyone else.

You do not take additional helpings without being invited to by your host.

When a guest in another’s house, you do not lie in bed until late morning in households that rise early – you fall in line with house norms.

You should never ever insult the family you are about to join at any time and most definitely not in public. I gather you passed this off as a joke but the reaction in the pub was one of shock, not laughter.

You regularly draw attention to yourself. Perhaps you should ask yourself why. No one gets married in a castle unless they own it. It is brash, celebrity style behaviour.

I understand your parents are unable to contribute very much towards the cost of your wedding. (There is nothing wrong with that except that convention is such that one might presume they would have saved over the years for their daughters’ marriages.)

If this is the case, it would be most ladylike and gracious to lower your sights and have a modest wedding as befits both your incomes.

One could be accused of thinking that Heidi Withers must be patting herself on the back for having caught a most eligible young man. I pity Freddie.” ( Shine for Yahoo! News)

Heidi was shocked, and she forwarded the e-mail to all of her friends, who were also so shocked that they felt they must forward it to all of their friends, as well, so that they could be shocked, too.  Soon, news of the shocking e-mail spread far and wide across the land,  and it was learned by all that the e-mail also said:


“It is high time someone explained to you about good manners. Yours are obvious by their absence and I feel sorry for you.

…Your behaviour on your visit to Devon during April was staggering in its uncouthness and lack of grace.”

…If you want to be accepted by the wider Bourne family I suggest you take some guidance from experts with utmost haste. There are plenty of finishing schools around. You would be an ideal candidate for the Ladette to Lady television series. Please, for your own good, for Freddie’s sake and for your future involvement with the Bourne family, do something as soon as possible.”

The email said Miss Withers’ behaviour had been so rude that it had left the family dog, Bomber, traumatized, depressed and anxious.” (The London Telegraph)

Enraged by the attack, the clan of the bride-to-be responded in kind:


Alan Withers / image copyright swns / source:

Yesterday the father of bride-to-be Heidi Withers hit back, branding Mrs Bourne a ‘snotty Miss Fancy Pants’.

In the stinging repost, Alan Withers, 64, said the renowned horticulturist ‘has her head stuck so far up her own a*** she doesn’t know whether to speak or f**t.’” (Read more:


And thus blew the winds of war.  (No pun intended.  Really.)  Battle lines were drawn; some sided with the offended Mother-In-Law and poor Heidi was internationally blasted for what appeared to be a serious breach of etiquette on her part.  But out of the dust and turmoil that accompanies bad manners and poor reporting, it was revealed that only part of the e-mail had been widely circulated.   Indeed, it came to light that there was a whole lot more to the story, and the stepmother was, after all, the party with the greater lack of manners, for within the belly of her smouldering e-mail came the following:

It is tragic that you have diabetes. However, you aren’t the only young person in the world who is a diabetic.

I know quite a few young people who have this condition, one of whom is getting married in June. I have never heard her discuss her condition.

She quietly gets on with it. She doesn’t like being diabetic. Who would? You do not need to regale everyone with the details of your condition or use it as an excuse to draw attention to yourself. It is vulgar.

Carolyn Bourne / image copyright / source

As a diabetic of long standing you must be acutely aware of the need to prepare yourself for extraordinary eventualities, the walk to Mothecombe beach being an example.

You are experienced enough to have prepared yourself appropriately.” (




Hold on there, Bessie.  Heidi’s a diabetic? And you didn’t think to qualify whether or not she had dietary restrictions or physical limitations prior to her visit? Hmmmm….


Etiquette isn’t about being a “fancy-pants” or about giving yourself -or anyone else – an excuse to be judgmental or ‘hoity-toity’.  It’s about thoughtfulness.  If you happen to be the host/ess, it’s about making others feel welcome and comfortable no matter what.   If you happen to be the guest, it’s about respecting the host/ess and showing common sense and basic courtesy.  And always, it is best to be in-the-know about how to handle yourself in unfamiliar situations.  Alas, etiquette gone bad = fairy tales gone awry.

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Posted in Allspice Chronicles and Bad Etiquette: Heidi Withers & Carolyn Bourne and Daily Mail and Danica Waters and Etiquette Emergencies and Table Manners and Telegraph and The London Telegraph by danica on July 1st, 2011 at 11:32 am.

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