Manners of the Heart

Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece on socially distanced graces and proper etiquette for our new normal.
Princess Marie-Chantal with her son, Prince Aristidis-Stavros

By Donna Bulseco

None of us is born with a “kindness” gene, but learn it from our parents as we grow up. Now, in a world altered by a global pandemic, we need kindness and solid advice more than ever. Manners Begin at Breakfast: Modern Etiquette for Families (Vendome), the debut book by Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece, gives us both. As the parent of five with her husband, Pavlos, Prince of Greece, and a longtime blogger on all things children, Marie-Chantal clearly can dispense advice. “As parents, we all share the common bond of wanting to provide for our children, cooking for them and giving them structure,” says the founder and creative director of Marie-Chantal Children, an international childrenswear brand. Her concept of “educated manners” takes into account the new forms of etiquette shaped by our current health concerns. How will we greet one another now that shaking hands is taboo, for example? “A polite wave or smile is always a nice greeting,” she says. “Anything that is welcoming and shows warmth is lovely, especially during these scary times.”

This lovely parenting bible with sweet watercolor paintings by Lydia Starkey also holds fashion do’s and don’ts; when to say please and thank you; how to wait your turn when talking; and tips on social media behavior—a thorny area for parents today. “This new generation is immersed with connectivity,” Marie-Chantal says. “It’s easy to have a knee-jerk reaction and comment in a post, but when parents are teaching empathy,” that hopefully can be avoided. Another piece of advice works as self-care, too. “You have to take a deep breath and keep calm, because children learn through emotions,” she says. “Your energy needs to prevail, because they pick it all up.”

Etiquette, after all, should be “a gentle reminder,” not a set of dictatorial rules. “My mother still tells me to sit up if I slouch; it’s what parents do,” Marie-Chantal says. And today’s world demands creativity when navigating new social behavior. “There will be a period where businesses and individuals establish new norms. We should be flexible—and not offended—when not included in a small group meeting or dinner,” she says. That doesn’t mean hiding your feelings: “We should be honest with our personal comfort levels; after all, etiquette is just common courtesy. No one should be blamed if they don’t feel comfortable in a social setting.” Being caring toward others is important, she adds. “Manners of the heart matter.”