Mother-In-Law’s E-mail Rant to ‘Bad Mannered’ Bride Goes Viral

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With her scathing e-mail on etiquette now circling the globe, stepmother Carolyn Bourne may soon be the world’s most famous monster-in-law.

Bourne, 60, wrote to her future daughter-in-law Heidi Withers after the bride-to-be spent a weekend at the family’s home in Devon in April. In the e-mail, Bourne criticizes Withers for her “lack of grace” and calls her “an ideal candidate for the Ladette to Lady television series,” which sends foul-mouthed young women to finishing school. “It is high time someone explained to you about good manners,” she writes. “Yours are obvious by their absence and I feel sorry for you.”

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She goes on to describe Withers’ visit as “staggering in its uncouthness,” and suggests the 29-year-old, who works as a personal assistant in London, is a gold digger with tastes far above her station. “I understand your parents are unable to contribute very much towards the cost of your wedding,” writes Bourne, who lives in a five-bedroom, $800,000 home. “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.”

A shocked Withers forwarded the character assassination to a group of girlfriends, who then passed it along to their nearest and dearest. By June 30 excerpts from the e-mail had been broadcast on Britain’s biggest morning news programs, appeared in most of the national newspapers, and been posted on websites from England to India to Australia. (The Sun published its take under the amusing headline “The Mrs. Bourne Ultimatum.”) More than a few online posts dubbed Bourne—a championship flower grower—as the “mother-in-law from hell.” Freddie Bourne, the groom, has refused to comment.

Excerpts from the e-mail:

From: Carolyn Bourne
To: Heidi Withers
Subject: Your lack of manners

“If you want to be accepted by the wider Bourne family, I suggest you take some guidance from experts with utmost haste.”

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”

(via Telegraph)

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William Lee Adams is a writer-reporter at TIME’s London bureau. Find him on Twitter at @willyleeadams. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.