After a "get-to-know-you" family visit Carolyn Bourne wrote an email to Heidi Withers, telling her she had a thing or two to learn about proper manners before she married Bourne's 29-year-old stepson, Freddie.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 7/1/2011 11:18:57 AM ET 2011-07-01T15:18:57

Carolyn Bourne is being called "momzilla" on Twitter, and now has a Facebook page — "Monster in law Carolyn Bourne needs to learn some manners" — after an email to her future daughter-in-law, criticizing her "uncouthness" and "lack of grace" went viral.

Indeed, there's a lot of tongue-wagging going on the social networks a day after the British woman's blunt email went viral on the Internet and was reprinted in British newspapers, but the story has gone worldwide and is aflame on social networking sites.

"All cheers to whoever made the email viral," posted Gertrude Groner of Australia on the "Monster in law" Facebook page. "Mothers that make rules for daughters-in law (but have no standing in opinions-in-law) should learn to shut their mouths and know that their sons are from perfect."

"The nerve of the momzilla to be," said Veronica Frayna on Twitter. "Now who's lacking of manners. The laughingstock of England."

"The mother in law email about manners is in itself rude and only meant to cause tension between the couple and the family," tweeted @kesiki.

After a "get-to-know-you" family visit apparently turned into an ordeal, Bourne wrote an email to Heidi Withers, telling her she had a thing or two to learn about proper manners before she married Bourne's 29-year-old stepson, Freddie.

The email criticized everything from Withers' table manners and sleeping habits to her parents' financial status after the young couple visited the Bourne family home in Devon, a rural county west of London.

"Your behavior on your visit to Devon during April was staggering in its uncouthness and lack of grace," Bourne wrote, according to Britain's Press Association. Bourne even said it was a pity that Freddie had fallen in love with her.

Withers then passed on the email to some friends, who passed it on to others. The email quickly sparked a debate in the press, on Twitter and on Facebook about who was right: The hypercritical mother-in-law or the future bride who offended her in-laws by specifying what foods she wouldn't eat and taking seconds without asking permission.

Edward Bourne, Freddie's father, told The Associated Press on Thursday that no one involved would comment on the matter.

But the future bride's father did surface, telling the Daily Mail newspaper that Carolyn Bourne seemed to be an unbearable snob. In fact, Alan Withers said Bourne, dubbed a "renowned horticulturist" by the Daily Mail, was a "snotty Miss Fancy Pants."

Nick Curtis, a columnist with the Evening Standard newspaper, said the contretemps has revived every stale joke on the planet about intrusive mothers-in-law.

"I sort of sided with both," he told the AP. "I'm not a parent, but I am a son-in-law, so I side with the junior partner. But I'm old enough now to believe in good manners, so I sided with the mother-in-law too."

Curtis said there was a useful lesson in this for every family.

"The moral is don't send out emails like this, and if you do receive one, don't forward it out. And be as nice to your in-laws as possible," he suggested.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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