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There is a little known fact about Scottish marriages during the Regency. If a couple had a child(ren) before they married, marriage in Scotland would make the previously illegitimate children legitimate.

 

BabiesGretna Green 3

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Here are the words used for underwear during the Regency: Underclothing, under, underdress, and linen were all general terms used for what one wore close to one’s body.
 
Until the 1830s when waistlines began to drop to approximate the natural waist, petticoats were long and as depicted in the third picture. A chemise (also called a shift) could be either long or short. It was worn next to the body under the stays.
 
Unmentionables were actually breeches or trousers. interestingly, a man’s shirt was also considered underwear. It was considered scandalous for a man to not wear something over his shirt. Shirts did not open to the waist, but had either buttons or laces that went part way down. Men could opt to wear drawers (shown below) or merely tuck their shirts under crotch.
 
shiftchemise and stayspetticoat
men's drawersshirt
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This post is by Lynne Connolly.

Marriage settlements were not part of Parliamentary law. They were decided by private contract, drawn up by a solicitor (lawyer). Usually they aimed to use the money the woman brought into the marriage to pay for her jointure on widowhood and for the dowries of her daughters in the marriage. The idea was not to cause any encroachments on the main estate, which it was important to keep intact. Her jointure was usually invested in safe things, so that it would have grown to the required amount before the marriage. This would be laid down in the settlement, which was signed shortly before the marriage, by the couple concerned, and if they were underage, by their parents or trustees. There were no legal guardians in this period, but trustees would be appointed to the estate in the event of early death, and a person, usually a lawyer or professional, appointed to administer the legacy. No interested party, i.e. nobody who could benefit from the death of the minor, could be an administrator or a sole trustee, so that means wicked uncles were excluded!

The main estate, which included lands, houses, investments, things like mineral mines, shipping lines and insurance, was sacrosanct. Spending or mortgaging would inevitably diminish the power of the title holder, and the rest of his family. Much of the estate was not owned, it was in an entail – it belonged to the title, and could not be separated from it except under specific circumstances drawn up with the Letters Patent or Letters Writ when the title was created. Many aristocrats built personal fortunes, and they could dispose of them as they wished, but the strong imperative was to build on it and keep it intact. The estate was the power base.

An heiress could bring property and money that would enhance the estate, and that was the central idea behind marriage in this period.

marriage

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Marriage was a truly life changing event for a lady during the Regency. Here are at least some of the ways life changed.

When you went for a walk you could go with just a friend, or even a gentleman who was not your husband without benefit of a maid or footman. Although, going alone in London, even Mayfair, was not well advised.

You were allowed in a closed coach alone, with a coachman with a gentleman who was not your husband or close relative.

You could wear any color you wanted.

You did not have to dance with a man just because he asked you to dance.

You could have a gentleman escort you to a ball or other event, and he didn’t have to be your husband or a close relative.

You were privy to scandalous conversations the other matrons and widows were having.

You could take a lover (although, most husbands like discretion).

You could spend time in the card room.

You could speak with a gentleman without a “proper” introduction.

You were no longer asked to show your proficiency on a musical instrument.

Unless your husband was really unreasonable, no one read your correspondence.

You were in charge of your own household and household staff (except for the butler who always worked for the master if there was one)

You could hire your own lady’s maid if you didn’t like the one your mother selected for you.

Matrons 1matrons 2matrons 4

 

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When this question was asked I thought I’d addressed the subject previously, but apparently not. During the Regency, a child was a child of the marriage as long the child was born during the marriage, and the husband did not disclaim it. That is to say the child was the husband’s lawful and legitimate child—also known in the case of sons—as the heir of his body. It wasn’t until the late 1980’s that a man could dispute the legitimacy of a child born during the marriage, and it wasn’t until the 1990s that the biological father of the child could make a legal claim to be recognized as the child’s father when the mother was married to another man at the time of the child’s birth. All of this very helpfully came about as DNA started to be used in the courts to determine paternity. Although, DNA had been around since the 1960s, courts are notoriously slow to recognize new scientific methods.

Babiesfamily

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I am going to assume this question is in regards to an unmarried lady who is not betrothed to the gentleman. This is probably not a complete list, but here goes:

A lady cannot be alone with a gentleman who is not either a very close relative (father, grandfather, brother, uncle) or guardian in a closed room or a closed carriage, or a carriage that either the lady or the gentleman is not driving.

A lady must have a chaperone of some sort (friend, maid, footman) when she is walking with a gentleman.

A lady may not speak with a gentleman if he has not been properly introduced to her.

A lady who must accept a dance offer from a gentleman if she has an open set left. If she does not, she cannot dance that set with another gentleman. Unless, of course, a gentleman strolls up and says, “My dance I believe.” Thus saving her from the man she doesn’t wish to stand up with.

A lady may not dance more than twice in one evening with a gentleman. This could get interesting as there could be as many as four entertainments in one evening.

A lady may ride in a sporting carriage with a gentleman without a chaperone to some place like the Park. She may not take off to Richmond (for example) alone with him.

She must have a groom with her when she goes horseback riding with a gentleman.

A lady may not accept jewelry or clothing from a gentleman. She may accept trifles such as flowers, poems, a fan, etc.

at a ballridingDancing 2

 

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I did address this in my post on marriage, but I’ll go into more depth based on the question I received.

There were two ways a minor could marry, with permission of her parent or guardian or fleeing to Gretna Green (one could have bans posted, but they’d probably be caught). If a minor was an orphan, he or she would most likely have a guardian. In fact, it would be very unusual for the minor not to have a guardian. A guardian was appointed by a will made by the father, or, if the mother had guardianship, by her. However, if there was no guardian, or the guardian has disappeared, then the minor would either have to wait until his or her majority (at 21 years of age), or go to Scotland to wed. The mere permission of the closest male relative would not be sufficient. The guardian would have to be appointed by either a will or a court.

gretna green 2proposal 2

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