When a young gentleman was freshly graduated from college, he was sent on The Grand Tour of the Continent. This journey was the last leg of a good British education, but Americans were also sent on the trip with their parents’ blessing. The Grand Tour could include a good long stay in France, preferably in Paris under the helpful care of friends of the parents, so that the young man would be invited to the proper entertainments and introduced to the right people.
The Grand Tour was not complete without a stay in Italy, (Rome being the best city to tour, but Florence or Siena or Venice would do for side trips) and always for much longer than a month or two. The young man was supposed to thoroughly investigate the glories of ancient Rome, that is the ruins, stories, museums and lore surrounding that greatest of all empires, and to become edified by the association so that he could make wise decisions whilst forming his own commercial empire at home.
Ladies also went on Grand Tours, but it was a bit daring. They always went with chaperons and were never ever left alone. They were guides and gently prodded through a maze of uplifting exhibitions and museums were prime places for the finishing touch on a young girl’s “education”.
Young ladies were not really educated back in the mid 1800’s, there were taught how to run the household, how to give a gracious party, what the iron running rules of society were and how to follow them. They were taught the social graces, how to flirt and stay within the bounds of propriety, and how to choose flattering and acceptable clothing. Sometimes they were sent to finishing schools where they were exposed to a slightly different set of social rules, and that Europeanization of the lady would be an asset in the marriage market.
The Grand Tour for ladies was frequently taken after a Season (or two or three) in London. If the young lady had not found a suitable mate, she hunted on the Continent for a lad who would do. Sometimes she fared better with an Italian count instead of a mere British baron for a husband. Sometimes, she didn’t find anyone at all who would suit, and returned home after months of searching only to find that the man she would be happiest with was right in her back yard all along. Sometimes she remained an unmarried lass.