Charming Imperial Clubbing
The Viennese hand kiss - a chivalrous practice by the "gentlemen of the old school" ... a genuine legacy of erstwhile court etiquette
The Viennese hand kiss
was, and still is today, the best way to commence a conversation with a lady, which however - if it is not to turn into a faux pas - can only be learnt by doing; it is a chivalrous practice by "gentlemen of the old school" in the same way as dancing the "Viennese waltz" or clinking glasses, and when tasting exquisite wines "trying" them with ones nose.
Modern gentlemen may familiarise themselves anew with this world-famous Viennese hand kiss during a visit to the "Emperor Franz Joseph Hat Museum" as the most charming Viennese custom and may also try it for themselves.
... a genuine legacy of erstwhile court etiquette
The hand kiss as a deferential greeting of a lady by a gentleman was adopted from Spanish court etiquette at the end of the 16th century by the Viennese court and certainly became the most civilized and flattering custom in Vienna.
According to records, the hand kiss was always an expression of the deepest admiration and respect, on the one hand, but also an expression of "inclusion in the inner circle" and of acceptance, on the other hand.
Maria Theresa also kept up this tradition with her subjects. It is thus documented in the chronicle of the Piarist monastery that the pupils of the former "Löwenburg Seminary", which was accommodated in the monastery building located above the restaurant as the "Theresian Military Academy", were taken to the imperial audience in the Imperial Palace by carriages and were admitted to kiss the hand of the Empress.
Both in the chivalrous "Cercle diplomatique" - the "clubbing" of former days - and at the "rendezvous" of the officers and the upper classes of bourgeois society in the cosy atmosphere of the restaurant of the monastery cellar, the ladies attempted to outdo one another by showing off their sumptuous, luxurious hats, while the men applied themselves to the charming etiquette, namely the "kiss on the hand" when coming and going and gallantly vied for the favour of the ladies.
In common parlance, however, it is said with a wink that the form of this kiss which is placed on the hand was originally a result of the elaborate hats and wide dresses worn by the ladies - because they "did not allow sufficiently close contact"!