Fingers were once used to perform the office now assigned to forks, in the highest and most refined circles of society. — (Above) A rare "bird set" in the Chantilly pattern.
The Duchess of Beaufort, dining once at Mme. de Guise's with King Henri IV of France, extended one hand to receive His Majesty's salutation, while she dipped the fingers of the other hand into a dish to pick out what was to her taste. This incident happened in the year 1598. It demonstrates that less than three hundred years ago the fingers were still used to perform the office now assigned to forks, in the highest and most refined circles of society. At about this time, in fact, was the turning point when forks began to be used at the table as they are now.
When we reflect how nice were the ideas of that refined age on all matters of outer decency and behavior, and how strict was the etiquette of the Courts we may well wonder that the fork was so late in coming into use as a table furnishing. The ladies of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance were not less proud of a delicate, well kept hand than those of our own days, and yet they picked the meat from the platter with their slender white fingers, and in them bore it to their mouths. The fact is all the more remarkable, because the form of the fork was familiar enough, and its application to other uses was not uncommon.—J. Von Folke in Popular Science Monthly, via the Press Democrat, 1899
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