There was an expectation that the rich would uphold moral values for those on their estates over whom they had influence. However, some aristocratic Victorians didn't always behave according to the values of the time. Victoria's son Edward had at least 55 lovers, even after he got married. Occasionally, there would be a great scandal in the newspapers. May to July was 'the season', when the family moved to London for the social life – theatre, dances and parties. August to November was the shooting season, when lords moved to their country homes to shoot grouse or stags, and go fox-hunting. In the winter, many rich families went abroad. For the more adventurous younger adults of a richer family, there was the 'Grand Tour' of European sites and cities.
As the century wore on, the Reform Acts of 1832, 1867 and 1884 meant that the aristocracy started to lose their political power. In 1865 half the MPs came from landed backgrounds. By 1885, only a quarter came from landed backgrounds. Some girls from richer families went to boarding school. By the end of the 19th century, a small number of girls were able to go to university.The most common form of education for girls from wealthy families was to be taught by a governess. A young aristocratic lady who was eligible for marriage would 'come out' as a debutante, when she was presented to Queen Victoria. On this special occasion she wore a white dress and a headdress with three feathers.
In the 1850s and 1860s, rich ladies wore a crinoline made with layers of fabrics hung over a huge wire frame. Four women could fill a room! After 1870, the crinoline gave way to the bustle, a large bag of straw hung over the bottom to create an 'S' shape. A tiny waist as little as 30 centimetres was fashionable. Women wore a whale-bone corset laced tight. This damaged their internal organs, and explains why Victorian ladies fainted so easily. Upper-class Victorian men wore huge top hats, ascots (a kind of formal tie) and very tight trousers.