When Heidi Withers and her husband-to-be Freddie Bourne, went to meet and stay with Freddie's step-mother, she never expected it to be easy. She did not expect a vitriolic email from mother-in-law to be Carolyn Bourne, criticizing her "poor etiquette".
Mrs Bourne, a 60-year-old flower arranger, sent the email to Heidi accusing her of having "staggering uncouthness and lack of grace" and told Miss Withers, 29, that "she should attend a finishing school in utmost haste to get rid of her bad manners".
The email went on to brand her "an ideal candidate for the Ladette To Lady television series". The UK reality television programme turns ill-mannered and boozy young girls into more refined, dignified and socially acceptable ladies. Heidi was so stunned after reading the email she forwarded it to her friends and it soon went viral appearing on blogs and websites around the world.
Heidi's father Alan Withers, 64, has already fallen on the wrong side of Mrs Bourne's high expectations; he said from his home in Ledbury in south-west England, "I was surprised when I read Carolyn's email to Heidi, [she] was very upset and the two of them obviously don't see eye to eye. I met Carolyn and her husband Edward for dinner at a pub in London last year. Edward was a jovial chap but Carolyn was quite snotty. She had a look about her which made us think she thought she was better than us. Ever since that meeting we call her 'Miss Fancy-Pants'.
It's very sad what has happened but it's pointless us getting involved. I don't care if she apologises. You can't take back what has been said once it's said. Of course at the wedding we will shake hands and toast Heidi and Freddie."
Mrs Bourne's email had been sent after the young couple had spent the weekend at Mrs Bourne's five-bedroom detached home near Dawlish in Devon. The email also accused Miss Withers of acting like "a brash celebrity" and bemoaned her having a lie-in when they household gets up early for breakfast. Mrs Bourne even accuses Heidi of upsetting the family dog and embarrassing the whole family in the local pub.
Heidi still wants to marry Freddie despite his step-mother's abusive email towards her. Below is a full text of the email sent:
It is high time someone explained to you about good manners. Yours are obvious by their absence and I feel sorry for you.
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.
If you want to be accepted by the wider Bourne family I suggest you take some guidance from experts with utmost haste. There are plenty of finishing schools around.
Please, for your own good, for Freddie’s sake and for your future involvement with the Bourne family, do something as soon as possible.
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 should have hand-written a card to me. You have never written to thank me when you have stayed.
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.
According to a BBC Magazine report, Heidi Withers works as a personal assistant in London. A spokesperson for her said she was unable to comment. Mr and Mrs Bourne have also said no to any interviews.