Networking in the Age of Sail, a Guest Post from Collins Hemingway

This post originally appeared on the Austen Authors’ blog on January 24, 2019. Enjoy! 

Unlike Army officers, members of the Royal Navy could obtain commissions without purchasing them. This difference created opportunities for the penurious sons of gentlemen like Jane Austen’s father, the Rev. George Austen. Two of his younger sons, Frank and Charles, joined the Navy when they were barely into their teens.

Getting ahead in the Navy was another matter. That required connections and an occasional greased palm. The Austens did not hesitate to use both to advance the cause of their sons.

To help Frank, Mr. Austen in 1794 wrote Warren Hastings, the former governor-general of India and godfather of Jane’s cousin Eliza. Hastings wrote to First Naval Lord Affleck. On Jane’s mother’s side, the Leighs, were two captains, Stanhope and Chamberlayne, who became rear admirals after Frank and Charles entered service. Jane’s cousin, Jane Cooper, married Captain (later Admiral) Thomas Williams, who became Charles’ patron.

Of all the relatives, the strongest connection came through Anne Mathew, the first wife of Jane’s oldest brother, James. Married to James only a few years before her death, she was the daughter of General Edward Mathew. Mathew had two nieces; each sister married a Gambier brother: James, future Lord of the Admiralty; and Samuel, Secretary of the Navy Board.

James Gambier was instrumental in Frank’s early promotions and Frank served him in several captaincies. Gambier was also called upon to help Charles. In a letter of 18-19 December 1798, Jane jokes to Cassandra that Gambier “will be delighted” to have another Austen to help. Jane adds that Charles “would be very right” to address Sir Thomas Williams as well.

A week later, Jane updates Cass to say that Gambier has replied that Charles will be transferred to a larger ship “when a proper opportunity offers & it is judged that he has taken his Turn in a small Ship.” As for Frank, Gambier says: “I can give you the assurance that his promotion is likely to take place very soon.” Later in the letter, Jane adds that Charles has told her that he has directly written Lord Spencer of the Admiralty. Spencer has now received so many applications from the Austens, Jane says, that he “might order some of our heads to be cut off.”

Just two days later, she exults at the success of the letter-writing campaign: “Frank is made.—He was yesterday raised to the Rank of Commander, & appointed to the Petterel sloop … and Lieut. Charles John Austen is removed to the Tamer frigate.”  (Jane misspells the name of the Peterel and Tamur. But the navy itself spelled the Peterel four different ways until settling on Peterel. In a later letter, when Charles is reassigned to his earlier ship Endymion under Captain Thomas, she corrects that name to Tamar.)

Through the Gambiers, the family also became connected with Lord Moira, a senior military figure and an influential companion to the future prince regent and king, George IV. Brian Southam, in his 2005 book Jane Austen and the Navy, documents the ways that Moira helped Frank.

The conventional belief is that Charles moved up largely because of Sir Thomas Williams. Stuart Bennett, however, in a 2013 Persuasions article, reveals correspondence at the Huntington Library that also ties Moira to Charles’ advancement. The letters illuminate a quid pro quo in which Henry’s bank lent Moira money in exchange for letters of support to naval authorities. In 1803-4, Moira received loans totaling at least £2,000 from Henry, with Moira’s patronage leading to Charles receiving his first command, the sloop Indian in Bermuda. Another exchange of loans for letters in 1805 attempted to obtain Frank a frigate—the most potentially lucrative ship for winning prize money—but that effort failed.

Eventually, Lord Moira and James Gambier both fell out of favor politically and ceased to be able to provide much help. Also, Moira’s inability to repay the original loans left Henry unable to lend more. His financial negligence was a major cause of Henry’s bankruptcy in 1816, which devastated the finances of the entire Austen family. Conservative Jane lost only £13; most of the £640 she had earned as a writer was invested—where else?—in safe Navy stock paying 5 percent annually.

Most of Frank’s commands involved old, slow vessels, and he didn’t make much prize money from capturing enemy ships. Typical of these was the Canopus (above, by headline), which was so slow it was the last to engage the enemy in a major battle at San Domingo in the West Indies. But once there, Frank’s broadsides dismasted two enemy ships.

Only once did Frank receive a modern ship, the Caledonia, the newest and finest in the fleet, a first-rater with 120 guns. This was the flagship of his patron, now Admiral Lord James Gambier. (On a flagship, the admiral would command the fleet while the flag captain would command the ship.) When Gambier was replaced a few months later, the new admiral took the captaincy from Frank and gave it to his son-in-law.

Jane’s letter of 18-20 April 1811 shows her alarm at his loss: “Saturday.—Frank is superseded in the Caledonia. Sir Edwd Pellew succeeds Lord Gambier … & some Captain of his, succeeds Frank; … what will he do? & where will he live?” Frank ended up in command of the seventy-four-gun Elephant, a solid warship but no prize-taker. It was his last sea command for nearly three decades.

Next month: What happens when the sailor brothers take command.

The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen, which traces love from a charming courtship through the richness and complexity of marriage and concludes with a test of the heroine’s courage and moral convictions, is now complete and available from Amazon and Jane Austen Books.

  

The Trilogy is also available as a Kindle “boxed set”:

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Posted in Austen Authors, British history, British Navy, family, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Great Britain, history, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Mansfield Park, military, Persuasion, real life tales, Regency era | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Common Practice of Primogeniture in Regency England

410f-CzGozL._SX316_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgOf late, I have been studying the laws and statutes that comprised the practice of primogeniture in Regency England. In truth, I can only work on the project for a few hours each day for some of the material is written in such legal jargon that it has me back checking the meaning of certain words and of individuals, known widely in the UK, but of which I am unaware here in the States. Therefore, I am attempting to clear my thoughts by placing them on paper. 

First, I discovered that there are few statistics available to chronicle the incidence of primogeniture as part of settlements and wills. During the period in which I am researching there were no register of settlements of land ownership, existing in the greater part of England. Scotland had such a register, but looking at them creates a conflicting estimates of settled and unsettled property. I have looked at several sources for wills, but they do not show the extent of the land bestowed. Nor can I determine with any accuracy whether they are displaying a will that aggravates or mitigates the settlements upon the eldest son. In the Regency, as far as I can tell there was no distinction in the records as to land passing by will and land passing by settlement. Even so, we can catch a glimmer of the influence of primogeniture on the social life of England. 

First, we must recall that personal property is exempt from the law of primogeniture. Nor must it be forgotten that by English law, ordinary lease holds whether they consist of lands or houses, count as personalty and are distributed as such on intestacy; whereas, money in trust for investment in land counts as realty and falls under the same rule of inheritance. Vast lease holdings were constantly included in settlements of personalty, all without any references to primogeniture. In most instances, the funds were invested equally for the benefit of all the sons and daughters, though a power was usually reserved to the parents of modifying this distribution by “appointment,” at their own discretion. Testators of small landed estates purchased with their own funds also could direct the land to be divided equally among their children. 

For members of the yeoman class or of the gentry, the ordinary practice was of primogeniture, with the inheritance going to the eldest son, but that, in accordance with the Scottish rule of legitimyounger children could be compensated, so far as possible, for their disinherison. If the land was burdened by mortgages, it could be sold and the profit divided equally among the survivors. 

Gavelkind stood in contrast to the custom of primogeniture. Gavelkind is practiced in Kent, Wales, and parts of Ireland. In gavelkind the younger children are placed on equal footing with the eldest son, either by the subdivision or by heavy charges on the tenant-right. 

Primogeniture was popular among the landed aristocracy and those who wished to be counted among their ranks. Among English squires, Scottish lairds, and the Irish gentry, primogeniture was accepted as a fundamental law to which the practice of entails, which was introduced in 1685, added substantial power. Currently in England, where so much land is in the hands of corporations or trustees for public objects, and where almost all deeds relating to land are in private custody, we cannot venture to speak with much confidence on this point. 

Large estates were generally entailed either by will or settlement. Smaller hereditary estates were also often entailed. Some land that changed hands each year did so by the governance of the law of intestacy. What we do know is that an intestate may be carried into effect by arrangement within the family, or an amicable suit in equity, without the public becoming aware of the fact, especially if those wishes should coincide with the course of descent at common law. 

Mr. Joshua Williams, a barrister at Lincoln Inn (1845) in his Principles of the Law of Real Property says, “In families where the estates are kept up from one generation to another, settlements are made every few years for this purpose; thus, in the event of a marriage, a life-estate merely is given to the husband; the wife has an allowance for pin-money during the marriage, and a rent-charge or annuity by way of jointure for her life, in case she should survive her husband. Subject to this jointure, and to the payment of such sums as may be agreed on for the portions of the daughters and the younger sons of the marriage, the eldest son who may be born of the marriage is made by the settlement tenant-in-tail. In case of his decease without issue, it is provided that the second son, and then the third, should in like manner be tenant-in-tail; and so on to the others; and in default of sons, the estate is usually given to the daughters; not successively, however, but as ‘tenants in common in tail,’ with ‘cross remainders’ in tail. By this means the estate is tied up till some tenant-in-tail attains the age of twenty-one years; when he is able, with the consent of his father, who is tenant for life, to bar the entail with all the remainders. Dominion is thus again acquired over the property, which dominion is usually exercised in a re-settlement on the next generation; and thus the property is preserved in the family. Primogeniture, therefore, as it obtains among the landed gentry of England is as custom only, and not a right; though there can be no doubt that the custom has originated in the right which was enjoyed by the eldest son, as heir to his father, in those days when estates-tail could not be barred.” 

Posted in Act of Parliament, Anglo-Saxons, British history, business, commerce, Georgian England, history, Living in the Regency, marriage customs, primogenture, Scotland, titles of aristocracy, Wales | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Special Licences in Regency Era

In 1753, the Hardwick Marriage Act passed, and Georgian couples in England and Wales could choose among three ways to marry: with the reading of the banns, by a common (sometimes referred to as an “ordinary”) licence, and by special licence.

Marriage requirements in England according to Hardwicke’s Marriage Act of 1753–

  1. a couple needed a license and the reading of the banns to marry
  2. parental consent if either was under the age of 21
  3. the ceremony must take place within a public chapel or church by authorized clergy
  4. the marriage must be performed between 8am and noon before witnesses
  5. the marriage had to be recorded in the marriage register with the signatures of both parties, the witnesses, and the minister.

Banns had been in use since the 1200s. An actual reading of the banns took place at the parish church over three consecutive Sundays (a minimum of 15 days, if one started counting on the first Sunday). They were called in the parish or parishes in which the bride and groom resided. The purpose of banns is to enable anyone to raise any canonical or civillegal impediment to the marriage, so as to prevent marriages that are invalid. Impediments vary between legal jurisdictions, but would normally include a pre-existing marriage that has been neither dissolved nor annulled, a vow of celibacy, lack of consent, or the couple’s being related within the prohibited degrees of kinship. Banns were more than likely used by the majority of the residents of a village or town. There was little or no expense involved. The couple then had ninety days to finalize the ceremony. If not done for whatever reason, the Banns would need to be called another time.

The wording of banns according to the rites of the Church of England is as follows:

  • I publish the banns of marriage between NN of (parish) and NN of (parish). This is the first / second / third time of asking. If any of you know cause or just impediment why these two persons should not be joined together in Holy Matrimony, ye are to declare it. (Book of Common Prayer 1662) 

new-or-east-kilpatrick-reference-opr-500-10.jpg

1906bannsEllen&smith.jpg

According to Louis Allen at Jane Austen’s London, “A common licence could be issued by archbishops, bishops, some archdeacons and ministers in parishes which were ‘peculiars’ (eg St Paul’s cathedral). The 1753 Act required a marriage by licence to take place in a parish where one of the spouses had been resident for at least four weeks (i.e., George Wickham in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice), but this was often ignored.

“To obtain a licence someone, usually the bridegroom, had to apply at the registry for the appropriate jurisdiction and submit an allegation which was a statement, under oath, that there were no impediments to the marriage. Usually the document included the names, ages, occupations and marital status (single or widowed) of the parties and, if one of them was a minor, it had to name the parent or guardian giving their consent. Sometimes a money bond was provided to back up the allegation.

“Allegations, bonds and the licences themselves survive quite rarely. The licence was given to the couple to hand to the clergyman who would perform the marriage and, presumably, they often did not give them back.”

By the Regency the aristocrats were more likely to marry by ordinary license to avoid the publishing of the banns for 3 Sundays  in a row. In that manner, it was easier to have a quiet family wedding in the local church. Quite a few middling sort married by common license as well to avoid vulgar comment from friends and enemies. The Hardwicke Marriage Act said all marriages by minors by license without permission were NULL and VOID from the beginning. People usually went to court (Church court)  to have this made official to avoid other legal complications.

marriage1847rob.jpg

A Special Licensc was obtained from the Archbishop of Canterbury in Doctors Commons in London. The big differences between the “special” license and the “common” license were the cost – over 20 guineas plus a £4 to £5 Stamp Duty for the paper — and that the couple could be married at any time of the day and anywhere they wanted. All the other requirements were the same. As one can imagine, only someone very wealthy with a very good reason to pay the money, and go to the trouble of traveling to London and gaining an audience with the Archbishop of Canterbury, would hassle with it. Not an easy task even if rich.

The Archbishop did not need to know the couple—or the man’s title in the peerage—although the Archbishop usually knew of the family if the man was at all connected. The Archbishop was not personally involved with the granting of special or standard licences, which were dispensed at the office in Doctors’ Commons. He did have the right to limit the granting of special licences to whomever he wished. However the grants were customarily limited to the nobility, aristocracy, Judges, high ranking clerics, barristers, etc.—those who would be thought to extend their word as their bond that the information on the form was true as to age and permission. The ones who asked for special licences did not need to name their parishes as they would have for a standard license. In the Regency one had to appear in person or have the father or legal representative do so. It has to be someone who could swear to the truth of the facts. In this case, the  most important part is that the female have valid permission for the marriage.  If the invalidity of the marriage ever came to light, the couple would need to be remarry, if they so wished.  Unfortunately, all children born during the voidable marriage would be considered illegitimate.

c74b6b4fd89117e926da80afcf26cc5b--regency-era-parental-consent.jpgEdmund_Blair_Leighton_-_Wedding_march.jpgIf the man (groom) is of an aristocratic family, a barrister, a clergyman, or otherwise of the status where he is likely to subscribe to the code that his word was his bond, he could obtain a special licence. If he wanted, the man could obtain a standard licence from the local bishop and pay the fee for a bond. It would be necessary for him to give the name of the church in which he and his prospective bride planned to marry, which was usually his parish church. The Ton customarily had two parish churches: Most had a country church and lived within the parish of St George Hanover Square in Town.

Though, obviously, more peers and their families married by special licence than did the gentry or the lower classes, in reality, there really were no more than about 300 issued in a hundred years. In other words, do not be misled by the number of dukes or the number of special licences one finds in Regency romance novels. Both were smaller in number than one could be led to believe.

All weddings, no matter where they took place, had to be recorded in the  register of the parish church in  which the  wedding takes place.  Even if a couple married by special licende at home, the marriage register was supposed to be signed by them. 

Unlike the issuance of ordinary licences, there were no allegation bonds for special licences. The archbishop limited the  disbursement of the special license to those who Gave their word—or from whom he expected to be truthful.  The standard licence required a £100 bond. The fee paid was not great, and  they never paid more unless the truth of the assertions came into question.Edmund_Blair_Leighton_-_signing_the_register.jpg

For further questions, have a look at these sites:  

Miranda Neville’s Blog: 

http://mirandaneville.blogspot.com/2016/01/what-did-special-license-look-like.html

Nancy Regency Researcher 

http://www.regencyresearcher.com/pages/marriage.html

There’s actually quite a lot of detailed info on this page, including who can issue licenses if people are from different areas of England.

https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Marriage_Allegations,_Bonds_and_Licences_in_England_and_Wales

Posted in British history, Church of England, George IV, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Jane Austen, Levirate marriage, Living in the Regency, marriage, marriage customs, marriage licenses, Regency era, Wales | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Foils of Jane Austen, Part 1, a Guest Post from C. D. Gerard

The post originally appeared on the Austen Authors’ blog on January 26, 2019. Enjoy! 

 

51UgVdrufYL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgThe question of why we love Jane Austen so much has been pondered by many a scholar and reader over the past 200 years.  But if you ask ten people this question, you will surely get ten different answers.

Some would say the plots are what they like best.  Others read and admire Austen for her wit and humor. And what about her amazing insight into romantic relationships?

I would say what makes Austen so great is her characters.  After you’ve read an Austen novel, you remember these vibrant people in the story that jump right off the page.  We remember Elizabeth Bennett’s staunch individuality, or Marianne Dashwood’s vulnerable and romantic disposition.  We think of Fanny Price’s morality, and of course, who could dismiss the all-time favorite Fitzwilliam Darcy, the broodingly handsome hero who saves the day, not only for Elizabeth, but for the entire Bennett family.

But what about the minor characters? Most people don’t even give them a second thought.  Why? Minor characters are the foundation that holds up the major players in a  story.  The are foils; put there to do a variety of things.  They make a major character look prettier, or even plainer; think of Isabella Thorpe next to Catherine Moreland in “Northanger Abbey,” or more heroic, which was George Wickham’s function in regard to Darcy.

I have always been intrigued by these characters, and who they could have been i.f they’d had a stronger voice, and went beyond mere support of the main characters.   So I decided to start developing them by giving them a story of their own.

The first one I wrote about was Mrs. Dashwood from “Sense and Sensibility” in my novel “Mrs. Dashwood Returns.”  This was because I always thought Mrs. Dashwood got what you might call “a bum rap.”

Why?  Just look at the plot.  The story begins with the tragedy of her losing her husband and her home.  She is betrayed by her stepson through his greedy and evil wife, leaving her and her daughters with very little means. Let’s face it; Fanny Dashwood makes the evil stepmother in “Cinderella” look like Mother Theresa.

Mary is forced to move from Sussex to Devonshire, and live on the kindness of a relative.  Her daughters are jilted by the men they desire.  It seems to never end as Mrs. Dashwood goes from heartbreak to heartbreak.

In the end, it is implied Mrs. Dashwood is happy with her daughter’s good fortune, but what about her life? We assume John and Fanny Dashwood go back to Norland Park and their immense wealth.  They suffer no consequence for the pain they caused.  The same goes for Mr. Willoughby.  Sure, he marries a woman he doesn’t love; but what is that to all the wealth he gains in the process? I just felt things weren’t right with the universe, if these villains were allowed to triumph. In other words, Mrs. Dashwood needed a win.

And that is where “Mrs. Dashwood Returns” begins.  Living quietly in her Devonshire cottage ten years after the weddings of her daughters, she is content, until circumstances led her back to Norland Park. There, in confronting John and Fanny, she gets the opportunity to be recognized as someone of worth.  She is able to  look back on her life and put things in prospective.  She still holds bitterness over her and her daughters travails, but finds that though kindness and forgiveness, which are part of her nature, she makes peace with those that harmed her and her family.  She also finds the love and support of a mysterious man that unexpectedly comes into her life when she thought all possibility of that kind of love was gone.

Most of all, I wished to make her into someone who was fearless; and never afraid to stand up for herself and her family.  She is a great matriarch without great wealth or titles.

I plan to examine more minor characters.  Next time, I will bring to light Thomas Bertram, oldest son of Mr. and Mrs. Bertram, and the hero of my novella, “Becoming Sir Thomas.”

Posted in Austen Authors, books, excerpt, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Guest Post, historical fiction, Industry News/Publishing, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Mansfield Park, real life tales, Regency era, Regency romance, Vagary, writing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Closer Look at “A Touch of Velvet, Book 2 of the Realm Series”

When I first began to write the Realm series, I envisioned only four books, with the possibility of one or two novellas. However, the “best laid plans” turned into an eight-book series: one for each of the seven members of the Realm, a covert operation during the Napoleonic Wars, plus, the eighth book, which brings all the elements together in a heart-wrenching conclusion. [You may read my post on A Touch of Scandal HERE or visit my website http://www.rjeffers.com for excerpts from all my books.]

A Touch of Velvet was originally slated to be book one of the series. But all writers can attest to those “nasty” minor characters which demand to be featured immediately. Therefore, I set A Touch of Velvet aside to write A Touch of Scandal. It was fine, because Eleanor Fowler of book one is the sister and cousin of the main characters in book two: Brantley Fowler and Velvet Aldridge. There is some overlap of the story line of book two with book one. I did this on purpose, for we authors never know when a reader will join a series. As a reader, I do this all the time. Recently, I read book 2 of Kate Baldwin’s “My Notorious Aunt” trilogy before I read the other two books. For one of my favorite series, Mary Balogh’s “Slightly” series, I read Rannulf’s story Slightly Wicked and then had to go back to Aidan’s story of Slightly Married. Moreover, the main event in Eleanor’s life also affects the life of her brother Brantley. It cannot be entirely ignored in book two. 

Brantley’s name comes from a young man I met at an Enterprise Rental Car outlet in Monroe, North Carolina. He told me his name was Brantley Fowler (note: the Fowlers have many roads and buildings named for them in this area). I immediately thought the name perfect for a character in a Regency-based book, so I wrote it down in my notebook and told him some day I would make him “famous.”  The name “Velvet” came from a former student, one of the most beautiful girls I ever encountered. The “Velvet” in the book does not possess the same character personality as the real the “Velvet,” but it was the former student’s image I had in my head when I wrote the character’s description.

Brantley is my Don Quixote type character. He is the one who regularly “rescues the damsel in distress.” His father is the Duke of Thornhill, an infamous rake. He found his father with one of the household maids while his mother was dying. This action drives Brantley from his home and thwarts his willingness to claim his inheritance. Like the other members of the Realm, Brantley joins the unit to “fight to demons.”

ATOVCoverRough2

Original cover of “A Touch of Velvet,” but I replaced it for two reasons: (1) the image is used on many other book covers; (2) I did a rewrite of the book.

 Velvet Aldridge is the oldest of the three Aldridge sisters, who are farmed out to different relatives when their parents are killed in suspicious carriage accident. Velvet has lived with the Fowlers since she was five years of age. She is Bran and Eleanor’s second cousin. Velvet has loved Brantley since she was twelve, but her hopes of marrying him are set aside when she learns he has married while away on the King’s business and has a young daughter. 

ATOV eBook Cover2 copy.jpgA Touch of Velvet: Book 2 of the Realm Series

After years away from England, members of the Realm return home to claim the titles and the lives they once abandoned. Each man holds on to the fleeting dream of finally knowing love. For now, all any of them can hope is the resolution of their previous difficulties before Shaheed Mir, their old enemy, finds them and exacts his revenge. Mir seeks a mysterious emerald, and he believes one of the Realm has it.

No one finds his soul mate when she is twelve and he seventeen, but Brantley Fowler, the Duke of Thornhill, always thought he had found his. The memory of Velvet Aldridge’s face was the only thing that kept him alive all those years he remained estranged from his family. Now, he has returned to Kent to claim his title and the woman he loves, but first he must obliterate the memory of his infamous father, while staving off numerous attacks from Mir’s associates.

Miss Velvet Aldridge always believed in “happily ever after.” Yet, when Brantley Fowler returns home, he has a daughter and his wife’s memory to accompany him. He promised her eight years prior that he would return to make her his wife, but Thornhill, as her guardian, only offers her a Season and a dowry. How can she make him love her? Make him her “knight in shining armor”? Regency England has never been hotter or more dangerous.

Kindle   https://www.amazon.com/Touch-Velvet-Book-Realm-ebook/dp/B008C2MQFK/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Amazon   https://www.amazon.com/Touch-Velvet-Regina-Jeffers/dp/0615651968/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

ALSO AVAILABLE TO READ FREE ON KINDLE UNLIMITED

Excerpt from A Touch of Velvet

End of Chapter Two:

Bran’s coach rolled to halt before the grandeur that was Thorn Hall. The familiarity was nearly as discomforting as was the differences in the place. Although to the eye of a stranger, everything announced the manor as that of a man of the nobility, but a swift glance over the structure told Bran that the place required some discreet repairs before the public would learn of the Hall’s decline.

He turned his head to observe his sister rushing down the entrance steps. Even from a distance Bran noted the hope crossing her features. She knew she had won, and for once Bran was glad to present her the victory. Shepherd was correct; this was his responsibility, and he had neglected it too long.

Reaching the main steps, Eleanor paused about halfway down and waited for a footman to let down the coach’s steps. Brantley unfolded his large frame from the carriage’s constraints and stepped upon Thornhill land for the first time in eight years. He turned to follow Eleanor’s gaze toward the second carriage, where his footman assisted Sonalí and Mrs. Carruthers to the ground.

The scene was everything that was family, and Bran realized how much he had missed the idea of being part of his sister’s life.

As quickly as the child’s feet touched the ground, Sonalí’s head turned to where Eleanor stood. Immediately, she was at a run, arms spread, and Eleanor scampered to greet her.

“Aunt Ella,” Sonalí laughed, “we came to find you.”

Lifting the child to her, Eleanor spun her in complete abandon. It was the perfect scene of domesticity in Bran’s opinion. His daughter required a woman’s touch, and he could think of none finer that his sister. All would work to his benefit, Bran told his worried heart.

“I never was so happy to see anyone,” Eleanor assured with a laugh Bran had long missed.

He joined the two of them at the bottom of the main steps. “You do not play fair, Ella,” he teased as he lifted her hand to his lips.

“That would be your fault, Bran. You taught me everything I know.” Their eyes met and held–a new understanding flashing between them. “Thank you,” she mouthed as she took his proffered arm.

“Welcome home, Your Grace,” Mr. Jordan executed a proper bow. “The staff will be elated.”

“Thank you, Mr. Jordan.” He handed his hat and cane to the man. “I apologize for no notice of my return. Hopefully, I will not strain your resources.”

Mr. Jordan blustered, “I assure you, Your Grace, any inconvenience is secondary to the joy of seeing you with Lady Eleanor.”

“Needless to say, I require the nursery opened, as well as the school room. This is my daughter Miss Sonalí and her caretaker Mrs. Carruthers.”

Accustomed to commanding his own staff, Bran did not falter, and it pleased him to hear the authority in his voice, even if it thought it a bit strained.

“Instantly, sir.” Jordan snapped his fingers and two maids rushed away to do Bran’s bidding. “I will have your luggage placed in the Master’s room.”

“No!” Bran’s emphatic denial rang through the hall; yet, he forced a smile to his lips and calmed his tone. “If I might, I wish to establish myself in the other wing.”

“Most assuredly, sir. Please join Lady Eleanor in the drawing room. I will send in refreshments while we prepare your rooms.”

“Thank you, Mr. Jordan.” The man bowed, whispering urgent orders to various staff members before making his exit.

“Are there cakes, Aunt Ella?” Sonalí still rested against her shoulder.

Eleanor shot a quick glance to a man, who stood red-faced and confused, and Bran followed her gaze. Horace Leighton, he thought. Bran understood the man’s look of bewilderment: All Leighton’s plans of inheriting the dukedom had suddenly vanished.

“I believe we must send for fresh cakes, darling,” Ella cooed to Sonalí in the way all women speak to children. “But know that Cook will be happy to have a child in the house. Your papa often sneaked off to the kitchen for Cook’s chocolate tarts.” Eleanor placed his daughter before her and extended her hand. “Come along. Permit me to show you your papa’s new home, Sonalí.”

At the drawing room door, Bran purposely turned to his flustering cousin. “Cousin Horton,” he called. “Forgive me. With all the excitement of seeing Eleanor and being at Thorn Hall, I did not notice you there. Are you staying with us, Horton?”

Bran knew exactly why Horton Leighton was in residence. Even if it were not obvious from what Ella had told him and what Shepherd had shared, Bran would know. In Cornwall a week ago, he sat staring at the likenesses of his mother and of the woman he once thought to be his destiny, and Bran’s carefully constructed world had changed. The miniatures were the perfect remedy for his complacency: He had made the impetuous decision to return to his past. At that moment, he sent out inquiries on the true status of what would now be his title and finished with his questioning of Shepherd.

“Well, come in, Leighton,” he ordered. “It has been a decade since I last saw you. Tell me how goes everything in Hampshire?” He ushered the man into the room ahead of him.

Away from the staff’s ears, Bran closed the door behind them. Mrs. Carruthers instinctively removed Sonalí to the far corner of the room to entertain the child while the cousins spoke in private.

“Please, everyone, have a seat.” Eleanor gestured to a cluster of chairs.

Finally seated in close proximity to one another, Leighton turned immediately on Eleanor. “You knew,” he hissed.

“Of course,” Bran broke in before Eleanor could respond. “Ella and I have corresponded over the years.” It was a lie, but one which would aid Bran’s transition. 

“Brantley and I thought it best others did not know,” Ella added.

Bran leaned back into the chair, attempting to appear nonchalant. “I argued with my father, not my sister.”

“But not ten minutes ago,” Leighton sent accusations in Eleanor’s direction, “you asked if I held word of your brother. You let me go on and on, knowing Thornhill would come to claim his title today!” Leighton’s words rose in volume.

“I thank you, Sir,” Bran snapped, “to keep your voice down. I will not subject my sister or my child to fits of anger.” Bran glanced quickly at his daughter. “Mrs. Carruthers,” he spoke gently to the woman, “the formal gardens are through those doors. Why do you not escort Sonalí on a brief walk? It would do you both well after the long journey.”

“Yes, Mr. Fowler…I mean, Your Grace.”

When the pair was safely from earshot, Bran spoke again to his cousin. “Eleanor did not know of my arrival. She has attempted on several occasions to convince me to return to Thorn Hall, but unlike others, I possess no need of the fortune or the title. I was not inclined to subject myself to this world again, but I cannot deny my child a birthright. It was her mother’s dying wish.”

Eleanor eyes met Bran’s suspiciously. No doubt she recalled him as a master of bending the truth to fit his own agenda and logic. Although he spoke half-truths, his sister agreed to what Bran said. Despite his aversion to Thorn Hall’s memories, Bran had returned home because Ella needed him, and she was obviously quite pleased.

Looking more than a bit irritated and still muttering, Leighton pushed to his feet. “If you will excuse me, I believe I will retire to my room. Needless to say, I possess correspondence to which to attend.” He offered a thick-waisted bow as Bran rose to his own feet. “Welcome home, Your Grace,” Horton mumbled.

“Thank you, Cousin.” Bran walked the man to the door. Closing it behind Leighton, he turned to his sister. “Well, Ella, did I surprise you?”

Within two heartbeats, she was in his arms, sobbing in trembling bursts of tears. “Thank God,” she repeated. “I thought all lost.”

“Shush, Ella.” Bran stroked the back of her head and kissed her cheek. “I am sorry, infinitely sorry, I left you to deal with this alone,” he whispered. “We will do what is right for you.”

She clung to him for several heart-wrenching minutes. Bran knew real regret from not returning sooner. He never considered how the dukedom could have injured his sister. At length, she stepped from his embrace. Lifting her chin in elegant grace reminiscent of his mother, Eleanor swiped the tears away with her palms. With a couple of unladylike sniffs, she recovered her composure just as the tea service arrived. “I shall find Mrs. Carruthers and Sonalí.” She looked away so the maid would not observe her tear-streaked face. “I am famished, as I suspect Sonalí will be. Surely, they did not go far.”

Bran permitted his sister her emotions without his censure. “I may not possess the fortitude to wait.”

Ella gestured to the service. “Please, it is your house now, Bran; you must not wait on anyone.”

He corrected, “It is our house, Ella.”

Eleanor gave him a quick curtsy. “Thank you for returning home, Bran. You answered my prayers in a most spectacular manner.” Then she slipped through the open door.

Bran caught up one of the plates and placed several small sandwiches and cakes upon it. He strolled around the room, observing objects he had fought so hard to forget. The draperies were new and two of the chairs, but everything else were much as he remembered it. Stately and stylish and speaking very much of his mother, Bran always liked this particular room. When he entered Thorn Hall a few moments earlier, he chose it as the first room he would enter as the new Duke of Thornhill. He needed to step into a memory before facing his future. Deep in thought of the past, he lifted one of the sandwiches to his mouth as he turned, and simultaneously Velvet Aldridge swept into the room and back into his life.

 

Posted in book excerpts, books, British history, Georgian England, historical fiction, Living in the Regency, Napoleonic Wars, reading, reading habits, Realm series, Regency romance, romance, suspense, war | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Effects of Primogeniture on Family Dynamics

51Bi-8QRTGL._SX381_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg As a writer of historical fiction set in England during the Regency era, I am constantly dealing with the ramifications of the practice and the law of primogeniture. In primogeniture, the first born legitimate son is the sole inheritor of his fathers estate and realty property. This is done is preference to daughters, younger sons, other male relations, and elder illegitimate sons. The son of a deceased elder brother inherits before a living brother by right of substitution for the deceased heir. A system of perpetual entails are achieve by entailing the property not on the mans son, but upon his grandson. But what does this practice do to the other members of the family.

First, what is the distinction between the law of primogeniture and the custom practiced within Great Britain. The custom of primogeniture is nestled in the practice of entailing land. The law of primogeniture concerns the rule governing the inheritance of property from an individual dying intestate. Ordinarily, the real estate of said individual devolves on the eldest son or heir-at-law, which is determined by the canons of descent. British history tells us soon after the Norman Conquest the right of the eldest son to inherit his fathers land moved from custom to an indefeasible right to a judicial practice during the reign of Edward IV, when the father acquired the power to disinherit his son by fraudulent actions, to Henry VIIIs Statute of Wills, where the right of testamentary bequest was partly conceded, to the period of the Restoration, which abolished feudal tenure and extended the limitations to the whole estate.

The seventeenth century saw the devolutions of settlements, which reflects modern law. Hence all realty devolved to the eldest upon a parents death intestate. Even so, personal property is dispensed by different provisions passed during the reign of Charles II and James II. These are known as the Statutes of Distribution. The personal property of an intestate is separated as such: (1) if there is no widow, the children receive the property in equal shares; (2) if there are children and a widow, the children receive two-thirds (after creditors have been repaid) and the widow one-third; (3) the eldest son still retains the real estate, but he is also entitled to his share of the personal property; (4) if there is a widow, but no children, the widow receives half; the other half goes to the mans father, if alive; if not, to his mother and siblings in equal shares; and (5) if there are no widow, children, parents or siblings, personal property goes to the next of kin, traced by definition of civil law.

220px-Sarah_Sophia_Child_Villiers,_Countess_of_Jersey_(née_Fane)_(1785-1867),_by_Alfred_Edward_Chalon.jpg Although on the surface women of the aristocracy appeared to enjoy the power of their positions, in reality, like their middle-class counterparts, they depended upon the men in their lives for their status and their financial futures. Only a very few, such as Sarah Villiers, Countess of Jersey, knew financial freedom, managing to retain the power she inherited from her mother, the only issue of Robert Child, the principal shareholder in the banking firm Child & Co. Under the terms of Childs will, not only did Lady Jersey inherit Osterley Park, but she became senior partner in the bank. At her death, Lady Jerseys personal estate was near £300,000.

However, Lady Jersey was the exception. Generally speaking, a woman depended upon her father or her husband, or in the case of spinsterhood or being a widow, her fate might rest with a brother or a cousin or some distant relative. Even family trusts and jointures did not protect a womans limited income from ending up in her husbandshands to use as the husband wished. Neither did the Married Womens Property Acts of 1870, which allowed married women to be the legal owners of the money they earned and permitted them to inherit property. In 1882, this principle was extended to all property, regardless of its source or when it was acquired.

Daughters were a financial burden on their families: gowns, fripperies, special tutors to polishtheir manners and accomplishments, as well as the drain of their portions upon the estate coffers. A daughter who did not marry or who did not takewell in society became pensioners at the loss of their parents.

Needless to say, the custom of primogeniture protected and maintained families.

Charles Neate speaks of the “familial” aspect of primogeniture. “It is a hard thing for a father to have to confess and excuse his extravagance to a son, or to justify his desire for a second wife. It is a worse thing for a son to judge his father’s excuses, or to decide naturally, as head of the family, whether it is right that his father should be allowed to marry again.” [Probyn, J. W. (Editor). Systems of Land Tenure in Various Countries: A Series of Essays Published Under the Sanction of the Cobden Club. London. Cassell, Petter, & Galpin. page 403.] The eldest son’s indefeasible right to succession weakens parental authority, especially as both the fathers and the sons age.

418DATBF3PL._SX385_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg Moreover, a widows fate is always tentative under the idea of primogeniture. A widow loses much with the death of her husband. A womans place in society is linked to her husbands position. While her son claims his late fathers role, the widow must step aside to permit the sons wife the role of mistress of the estate. Often such meant her removal to a smaller residence. In The Scarlet Tree (Macmillian, 1947, 16-17), volume two of a four-part autobiography, from Osbert Sitwell, the author describes his grandmother Lady Londesborough. (William Henry Forester Denison, 1st Earl of Londesborough married Lady Edith Frances Wilhelmina Somerset, daughter of Henry Somerset, 7th Duke of Beaufort in 1863.) Not only did the old lady lose [him], but nearly all her belongings, being obliged to pursue hereafter the dolorous manner of life decreed by tradition for an English dowager; not only were horses and carriages and grooms and gardens and houses and jewels and plate, and indeed, the whole luxurious decoration of life by which she had been so long surrounded, snatched from her at a single grab, but she also forfeited the love of the majority of those who had pretended to be her friends. She felt, I apprehended, peculiarly desolate, though as a rule she would not admit it.” 

Common law says a widow was legally entitled to a dower share or one-third of her husbands estate after his death, for under the law of primogeniture, the husband owned only the real property, not the furnishings, etc. He could designate a higher percentage in his will, but that would be the exception, not the rule. As the dowager, she would receive one-third of the income produced by the farmor the rental property of her husbands estate. This meant one-third of the rents and the income from crops grown upon the land. At the husbands death, a mortgage or outstanding debts offset the value of real estate and other property. However, the dowers share could not be sold until after the widows debt.

Under English common law, the mans widow was entitled to a share of her deceased husbands real estate. After the widows death, the husbands will determined how the real estate would be dispensed. She had no right to sell or bequeath the land to another. Depending on the income she was provided by her dower rights and the dowry, the money and goods negotiated by the brides father or guardian upon her marriage, she could live well and independent or lead her days within the world of poverty.

Nancy Regency Researcher adds, ”  One point the  source that has not been mentioned in [the information on the “dower” is the widow could not receive dower if she received anything in the marriage settlements or  the man’s will – such as a jointure of any size or any legacy whatsoever to the wife, that deprived her of her right to dower. Any settlements made in the marriage settlements  or mention in a will deprived the widow of dower. She only had a chance at dower if she was left no other income. If the successor does not set it up in a legal fashion that suits both parties, then the sheriff arranges matters and is the one to give the widow her dower.

“The rules in the city of London vary somewhat as do those in Kent or where gravelkind is practiced. The rules generally only applied where there was no will. What paraphernalia belonged to the wife and what to the estate has also caused bitter controversy. Much depended on whether the widow was the mother of the successor or not. Sometimes the furniture was declared part of the hereditary estate like the pictures and could not be sold or divided up. Barristers and solicitors have  been making their fortunes over wills and estates  ever since they were first created.”

The Real Property Commission of 1828 was issued by King George IV to inquire into the law of England respecting real property. The Commissioners regarded the English law of intestacy as far better adapted to the constitution and habits of this kingdom than the opposite law of equal partibility, which, in a few generations, would break down the aristocracy of the country, and, by the endless subdivision of the soil, must ultimately be unfavorable to agriculture, and injurious to the best interests of the State.(The SolicitorsJournal and Reporter) In other words, the Commission ruled that the land should not be divided and subdivided through generations of children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, etc., until little was left of the original estate.

Primogeniture and inheritance plays a major role in my romantic suspense novel, Angel Comes to the Devils Keep, a 2017 Finalist for the Daphne Du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. When one brother wishes to claim the earldom belonging to the elder, murder is the least of the mans transgressions.

Angel .jpgAngel Comes to the Devils Keep [Romantic Suspense]

Huntington McLaughlin, the Marquess of Malvern, wakes in a farmhouse, after a head injury, being tended by an ethereal “angel,” who claims to be his wife. However, reality is often deceptive, and Angelica Lovelace is far from innocent in Hunt’s difficulties. Yet, there is something about the woman that calls to him as no other ever has. When she attends his mother’s annual summer house party, their lives are intertwined in a series of mistaken identities, assaults, kidnappings, overlapping relations, and murders, which will either bring them together forever or tear them irretrievably apart. As Hunt attempts to right his world from problems caused by the head injury that has robbed him of parts of his memory, his best friend, the Earl of Remmington, makes it clear that he intends to claim Angelica as his wife. Hunt must decide whether to permit her to align herself with the earldom or claim the only woman who stirs his heart–and if he does the latter, can he still serve the dukedom with a hoydenish American heiress at his side?

Posted in British history, eBooks, Great Britain, history, Living in the UK, primogenture | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Age of Consent to Marry in the Regency Period

18th and 19th Century: Gretna Green - The Place for Elopements 18thcand19thc.blogspot. com

18th and 19th Century: Gretna Green – The Place for Elopements
18thcand19thc.blogspot.
com

During the Regency, despite what some authors may include within the story line, the age of consent for females was twenty-one, not twenty-five as some would lead the reader to believe. Although I do not know from where the idea of the female having a guardian until age 25, what I assume is happening is the author (and many times the reader) is confusing the idea of a female’s guardianship with the age of majority. The confusion likely comes from fathers or another person setting up a trust for a female. The trust would provide the woman a “fortune” at age 25 or when she married (if she married with the approval of the man named as guardian of her money.)  

If the woman did not have her guardian’s approval (and was less that age 21) and chose to marry, she just would not receive the money.  So age of consent was not the issue as much as age of majority. In most places it was 21. In the Danish West Indies it was 25. 

If an underage lady eloped to Gretna Green without her guardian’s consent, can the guardian have the marriage declared illegal and annulled? The answer is “No.” One could marry in Scotland at 14 without permission, so as long as the girl was 14, the marriage could not be annulled.

English males and females considered a journey to Gretna Green when permission was withheld because Scottish Law meant they required only a witness, not even a priest, and as long as they were fourteen or over then English Law accepted a marriage that was witnessed in Scotland. For the aristocratic class, there were fewer mad escapes to Scotland than the Regency romance genre would lead the reader to believe. The “Smithy” was just the first building one came across over the Scottish border, and that is how the Smithy became the place the deed was done (or generally not done), but when English Law first changed there were some ten different people all over Gretna who set themselves up to offer to be a witness to couples crossing the border.  

A book about Robert Elliot: Gretna Green Anvil Priest 1814-1840 describes his stint

as a “marriage priest” in Gretna. “Elliot was born in Northumberland, the son of a farmer. While working for a stagecoach company, he met Ann Graham, the granddaughter of Joseph Paisley. They were married in January 1811 at the village church in Gretna Green, as was considered proper; very few of the local people were married in the irregular way.

“The couple lived with Paisley, and Elliot assisted the old man with his marriage ceremonies. When Paisley died in 1814, Elliot was a natural successor and he continued the marriage trade.

“In 1842 Elliot had his memoirs published. In them he states that he performed between 4,000 and 8,000 ceremonies. He also claims that he was the only priest working in Gretna Green at that time and had been for the last thirty years. However, it had been put beyond doubt that there were at least two other priests at the time. 

Gretna Green and the Runaway Regency Bride | Shannon Donnelly's ... shannondonnelly.com

Gretna Green and the Runaway Regency Bride | Shannon Donnelly’s …
shannondonnelly.com

“The majority of Elliot’s history is taken from his memoirs in which he also gives accounts of ‘noteworthy elopements’ but it is likely that the events of some of his stories occurred before he became a Gretna Green Priest. Unfortunately the majority of his registers, and those of Paisley, were lost when Elliot’s handicapped daughter set fire to her bed one night, and burned herself to death together with the registers that were stored on the bed’s canopy.” (Visiting Gretna Green)

“He [Elliot] gives the form of service he used for celebrating marriages – which, though much abbreviated, appears to be taken almost direct from the Marriage Service of the Church of England. He also narrates several stories of runaway marriages – some of them tragic ones. The most dramatic, if I remember aright, told of the shooting of a bridegroom, immediately after the consummation of the marriage, by the father of the bride – infuriated to find that his pursuit had been in vain…. These tragic occurrences, however, would appear to be matters of the far past. Nothing of the kind was ever mentioned by Mr Linton – who succeeded Elliot as Priest – as I was informed by Mrs. Armstrong, his daughter, when I came to examine Gretna Hall Registers; which, together with copies of the marriage certificates, are in her keeping. In these Registers – which date from the year 1825, and some of which are in the handwriting of Robert Elliot appear, among many of less note, the names of a Bourbon Prince of Naples, Duke of Capua; of a Duke Sforza Cesarini, a Lord Drumlanrigh, and a Lady__Villers, a daughter of one of the Earls of Jersey. (The Scot’s Magazine. Volume 4, June-November 1888-1889, Edited by the Rev. W. W. Tulloch, B. D., Perth: S. Cowan & Co., Printers and Publishers, 1889)

The Scottish “priest” asked the couple their purpose in appearing before him and then asked the traditional question of whether the male took the female to be his wife and if the female took the male to be her husband. He also presented them with a marriage certificate and recorded the marriage in his books. Scotland had a civil register years before such a recording appeared in England. One could be married merely by going to this registrar and having him record the marriage. Quite often the man was willing to predate the entry back several months if the woman was pregnant even though it legally did not matter when the child was conceived. All that mattered was whether or not the parents were married when the child was born.

What about marrying by common license?  Did those have to be done at the local parish as well, or could they be done at any church? Also, how common were common licenses?  

Some sources lead us to believe that most aristocratic marriages were done by common license and only the lower classes had the banns read.  Is this true?

Marriage Banns were read for three consecutive Sundays. Minors wishing to marry had to provide proof of parental/guardian consent. One of the pair who was marrying had to be a resident of the parish in which they were to to be married. The banns were read in both the parish of the groom and the parish of the bride if they came from separate parishes. The curate of the parish where the vows were to take place could not conduct the ceremony without a certificate from the curate of the other parish, warranting that the banns had been duly read three times. Banns were good for three months. After that time, the process would need to be repeated. Weddings were conducted between 8 and noon only. From the first reading to the third, the time required to wait for the publishing of the banns was 15 days. Generally, people think of the period being three weeks. Theoretically, if the couple resided in the same parish and no wait was required for verifying the proper reading in another parish, they could wed on the sixteenth day. 

“I publish the Banns of marriage between [Groom’s Name] of [his local parish] and [Bride’s Name] of [her local parish]. If any of you know cause or just impediment why these two persons should not be joined together in Holy matrimony, ye are to declare it. This is the first [second, third] time of asking.” 

A Common or Ordinary Marriage License could be obtained from any bishop or archbishop. The use of the common/ordinary license meant no public announcement of the wedding was necessary. The wedding could take place with only a seven-days’ waiting period. Another name for these licenses was Bishop’s Licenses. Proof of parental or a guardian’s consent must be provided for minors under 21 years of age, as well as a sworn statement was given that there was no impediment [i.e., the couple were not related to one another in the prohibited degrees or proof of a deceased spouse if one of the pair was a widow/widower]  The name of the parish church where the ceremony would take place was required on the license. Witnesses were required, and either the groom or the bride had to have resided in the parish for at least four weeks prior to the marriage. [Do you recall this issue when Mr. Wickham married in Lydia Bennet in London in Pride and Prejudice?] The license, like the banns, was good for 3 months from date of issue. The cost of a common or ordinary license was 10 shillings to one pound. According to the parish registers, many people of the gentry and middling sort, as well as aristocrats married by common license. It seems that some felt that the ribald remarks and boisterous fun executed by some of the villagers/friends kept them from having the banns called. 

“La! You are so strange! But I must tell you how it went off. We were married, you know, at St. Clement’s, because Wickham’s lodgings were in that parish. And it was settled that we should all be there by eleven o’clock.”

A special license could only be obtained at Doctors Commons in London from the Archbishop of Canterbury or his representative. With a special license, the couple could marry at any convenient time or place, as long as the ceremony was presided over by a clergyman from the Church of England. The names of both parties were inscribed on the license, so no “surprises” as we often see in romance novels. One could not fill in the certificate AFTER the ceremony. There was also NO such thing as marriage by proxy in England at the time. An average bloke off the street (assuming he could fork over the money for a special license) could not purchase one. They were available to peers and their children, members of Parliament, Privy Councillors, baronets, knights, Westminster court judges, etc. Originally, special licenses cost 20 guineas (approximately one pound + one shilling), but the Stamp Duty imposed on the actual paper, vellum or parchment upon which the license was printed, in 1808 brought the price to £4, which increased to £5 by 1815.

Did couples need to receive special approval to marry at a local church, like St James or St. Peter’s? A couple married at their parish church unless they had a special license so they could marry at any place a clergyman would conduct the ceremony, including a drawing room in a great house or even a village green. 

Although it was legal to marry in Scotland at 14 without permission, English children needed permission until they were 21.  However, a child could be married off at age seven in England with parental permission. Supposedly this child had the right to deny the marriage at age 12. Any marriage after age 12 for girls and age 14 for boys was considered valid if done with parental permission. The number of marriages of infants decreased during the age of enlightenment until the 18th century when people started to think age 16 was too young. Also, the trend of the day was towards “nuclear families,” instead of  more communal living with many generations in the same house. Marriage statistics take in all classes of people. A peer of the realm or his wealthy heir could marry at any age, for he had the fortune to provide for his new family, as well as his widowed mother and siblings. A man of lower status had to be established in his profession or job to be able to afford a wife. In such cases, quite often the would-be bride was also working in some way to acquire money for the new home.

The fact that it was legal to marry at fourteen does not mean it was common. There are statistics that say during the early 19th Century the average age for women to marry in the British Isles was mid-twenties. As for the short life expectancy, one must look at how the statistics were developed. For example, many who passed early on did so in the first few years of infancy and childhood. If one had six children, and three passed before the age of one and the other three lived to be fifty, their average life expectancy was only twenty-five. We must remember that numbers can be manipulated to prove whatever we wish. 

Posted in British history, Gretna Green, Living in the Regency, marriage licenses, real life tales, Regency era | Tagged , , , , , , , | 23 Comments