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In Regency England, a divorce or annulment were extremely difficult for either party to get, but especially women. Peers and peeresses had to apply to the House of Lords for a divorce. Commoners filed in court. Until 1857, peers, peeresses, and commoners, required a private bill to be passed by the Lords in order for one to be able to remarry. The process was complicated and also involved the Ecclesiastical Court. Divorce was also scandalous. Gentlemen could survive socially, but ladies rarely did.

For men, the grounds for divorce were usually adultery, including a case for criminal conversion brought against the wife’s lover. Evidence had to be given in the form of eye-witness testimony or testimony by the wife’s lover.

Women could not divorce a husband based on adultery. The only grounds for divorce was physical abuse. Sometime even grievous abuse was not enough. It was much easier for a woman to obtain a separation with maintenance. The other issue with a woman leaving her husband was any children. Men had the right to the children, and unless the children were at risk, a woman frequently had to leave her children behind. Some mothers never saw their children again.

Annulment: Marriages could be annulled based on the consanguinity, the closeness of the relationship between the parties. For example, during the Regency it was not allowed for a man to marry his deceased wife’s sister (it did happen, but not among the aristocracy because it could be challenged), failure to be able to have marital relations, underage marriage performed by a license, and mental unfitness. There are two notable cases involving failure to be able to perform sexual congress (remember consummation of the marriage was not necessary in England). The first is a woman whose hymen was so thick it would require a surgical procedure to enable to her engage in marital relations and she refused to have the procedure. The second case was a gentleman who could not preform. After the annulment, he went on to remarry and had several children. One of the lords remarked that they ought not to have given him the annulment, whereupon another said that just because he couldn’t preform with one woman didn’t mean another might not have success.

This was a quick overview. If you’re interested in more information I recommend the following post by Nancy Myer. http://www.regencyresearcher.com/pages/marriagedis.html

Crim con

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During the Regency once a gentleman asked for a lady’s hand and she accepted, he was stuck. There was no way he could honorably jilt her without ruining her reputation. Why? Because if he broke the engagement, it was presumed that she was not of good character.

The lady, however, could break a betrothal for any number of reasons without ruining either of their reputations. The main reason used was that she discovered they would not suit. The only time jilting a gentleman could cause a scandal is if it happened very close to the wedding date. Still, that wouldn’t last long.

There have been some very funny scenes in books that revolve around gentlemen attempting to convince a lady to break a betrothal. Two that come immediately to mind are The Grand Sophy and The Bath Tangle, both by the great Georgette Heyer.

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The Royal Mail Coach

The Mail was probably the fastest way to travel the long routes between London and other major cities such as York and Edinburgh.

Beginning in 1789, the mail coach was built to a design approved by the Post Office and originally operated by an independent contractor to carry long-distance mail. By the Regency, the Post Office had their own vehicles. The coach had a place in the back for an armed guard. There was room for only four passengers inside the coach. No one was allowed to share the coachman’s seat, although, passengers could sit on top. This, however, could be hazardous to one’s health. There is at least one account of a passenger arriving frozen to death. Passengers were taken at a premium fare, costing between 2-5 pence a mile. The coaches averaged 7 to 8 miles per hour in summer and about 5 miles per hour in winter. By 1840, the roads had improved so much that speeds of 10 miles per hour were common.

Travel on the mail coach was always at night when there was much less traffic on the roads. The coaches kept a strict schedule, and except for quick changes of horses, it stopped only for the collection and delivery of the mail. Crack post boys prided themselves on how fast they could change the teams. When you hear about passengers being forced to drink scalding hot tea or not being able to finish a meal, it is when they were traveling on a mail coach. By the 1820’s, after many of the major roads had been improved, the mail coach could make the run from London to Edinburgh in twenty-seven hours, much faster than by private coach or stage coach.

Royal mail coachRoyal mail coach2

Mail coach routes from London

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Stagecoaches (not to be confused with Mail Coaches) were used widely around the country as a fairly inexpensive way of travel. The name derives from the “stages” or routes they traveled. Unlike the mail coach, stagecoaches crisscrossed the country. The coach made between 5-7 miles an hour, changing horses every 2-3 hours. Passengers could depart the coach at any point and take another stagecoach traveling in the direction they wished to go. Unless the coach was an express between two large cities, stagecoaches stopped at night. The companies’ owners used their own horses posted along the route. The coach traveled in segments or “stages,” thus the name. Inns servicing stagecoaches were called staging or coaching inns. This is where a passenger could have a meal, freshen up, or spend the night before traveling on.

Travel by stagecoach was not without its problems. People were usually stuffed into the coaches. In the event of difficulties, such as going up a steep hill or the coach becoming stuck in mud or snow, passengers were expected to get out and walk or help get the coach moving again. There were also highway men, and young men who’d bribe a coachman to allow them to drive, thus placing the other passengers in danger.

According to History UK “The Regency period saw great improvements in coach design and road construction, leading to greater speed and comfort for passengers. For example, in 1750 it took around 2 days to travel from Cambridge to London, but by 1820 the journey time had been slashed to under 7 hours. This was the golden age of the stagecoach. Coaches now travelled at around 12 miles per hour, with four coaches per route, two going in each direction with two spare coaches in case of a breakdown.”

Bath Stagecoach Map.


Bath Stagecoach


Fully loaded stagecoach

Full Stage coach

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Post Chaises (or Yellow Bounders)

For those who wished to travel some distance but didn’t want to lower themselves to taking a stage coach or the mail coach, there were post chaises, often called yellow bounders for their distinctive yellow color, for hire. They usually had only one bench and a window in the front. Sort of like a traveling chariot.

Post chaises were pulled by either a team or a pair and were designed for a postilion to ride the horses (one for a pair and two for a team) so there was no need for a coachman. They weren’t cheap. When hiring a yellow bounder one paid one shilling and six pence (roughly 2.50 British Pounds at a time when on could live in a large house with servants for 1000 British Pounds a year) a mile for a pair of horses, double that for four horses. Not only that, but the postilion only went so far before he and his horses returned to their home coaching inn. Therefore, once you reached the end of his route, you had to hire more horses.

Yellow Bounder 3Yellow Bounder 1

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Hackney Coaches.

If one had to get around Town and couldn’t afford to either keep a town coach or hire one for the Season, hackney coaches (or cabs) were the answer.

Hackney’s had been around since the early 17th century and an owner had to be licenses to operate the coach.

Almost all hackney started out as private town coaches that had been purchased used. They were generally pulled by a pair of horses. Many hackney owners had three horses so that they could be rotated, and so that the owner had a spare horse in the event one horse was injured or died.

By the early 19th century there were over 1000 hackney coaches operating in the London area.

By the mid-1830’s the Handsome cab was invented and began replacing the older hackney coaches.

Much has been made in modern romances of the lack of cleanliness in Hackneys. I am going to hazard a guess that the condition of the coach depended upon which part of London the owner was operating.

If you want to know more, here is an interesting article on hackneys. http://www.georgianindex.net/transportationLondon/Hackney_Coach.html

The first image is of a hackney. The second is a Handsome cab.

Hackney carriage 1

Handsome coach

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Barouche carriages were known for their elegance and expense. These four-wheeled vehicles had a cabriolet top light construction. They were only suitable for good weather in the spring, summer, and early autumn. The carriage was built to be driven by a coachman. As you can see from the images, the sides were low enabling the inhabitants to see and be seen.

Barouche 1


barouche 2




The barouche was generally used in Town. If driven in the country the roads would have to be very good.

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