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Mother-in-law lays down rules of engagement – for all to see

  • @adamsherwin10

The wedding was already going to be difficult. It now promises to be excruciating for all concerned. A bride-to-be has received a very public etiquette lesson after an email from her future mother-in-law, attacking her "uncouthness" and "lack of manners", went viral over the internet.

Heidi Withers, 29, a London PA, was sent the email by Carolyn Bourne, the stepmother of her fiancé, Freddie Bourne, also 29 and a businessman, after she visited her future in-laws in Devon. In the withering message, Mrs Bourne, 60, a championship-winning flower breeder, said: "It is high time someone explained to you about good manners. Yours are obvious by their absence and I feel sorry for you."

The email, which listed examples of Ms Withers' "lack of grace" and "insulting" behaviour, was forwarded by its startled recipient to a few of her close friends. They forwarded it to a few of theirs, and it has now arrived in the inbox of thousands of others.

Mrs Bourne, a renowned breeder of pinks and dianthus flowers who runs the Whetman Pinks nursery, described her future daughter-in-law as "an ideal candidate for the Ladette to Lady television series." She continued: "Unfortunately for Freddie, he has fallen in love with you and Freddie being Freddie, I gather it is not easy to reason with him or yet encourage him to consider how he might be able to help you.

"It may just be possible to get through to you though. I do hope so. Your behaviour on your visit to Devon during April was staggering in its uncouthness and lack of grace. Unfortunately, this was not the first example of bad manners I have experienced from you."

The email catalogued Ms Withers' failings during the Devon trip, including her fussiness over her food, sleeping in late and insulting the family to others in a pub. "I pity Freddie," Mrs Bourne concluded.

A friend of hers told The Independent: "She's a lovely person , calm, charming, always smiling. As the mother of teenage children myself, I can only imagine that this situation has driven her to distraction."

The Bourne ultimatum: The email that went viral

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