Marriage

Annulments: 99 Problems, But A Wife Ain’t One

After reading Regina Jeffer’s blog post about the rules of marriage in Regency England last week, I started thinking about ways to dissolve a marriage (I know, ever the optimist, aren’t I?) during the period.

Marriages of convenience show up in romance novels of all types, usually with the understanding that the couple can part ways after their union is no longer useful.  In Regency romances, I’ve seen a lot of marriages dictated by a will (as in “you must marry by a certain age/time frame or you will lose your inheritance”), and marriage to one person to escape marrying another (often a “my father wants me to marry this horrible, old man, and I don’t want to” sort of thing, though sometimes it’s a prospective groom who is being hounded to marry a woman of his family’s choosing).  They always say, “We can get an annulment later.”

Of course, they don’t–they fall in love and decide to stay married.  But while they’re falling in love, the newly wed couple is usually trying to preserve a situation where an annulment could be granted.  And while annulments are certainly possible during the Regency, they were only obtainable under certain circumstances.

–>Fraud: a participant in the wedding used a fake name or anything short of his/her full legal name (including all titles) OR a promise was made in the marriage contract that cannot be kept.  Though, in the case of a misused name—say a nobleman forgot to include one of his multitude of titles on the register—the presiding authority can decline to issue the annulment and simply correct the register.

–> Incompetence: a participant in the wedding was under 21 (a legal minor) and did not have consent of his/her legal guardian (your father, if he was still alive) OR insanity (which tainted the entire family–if one of you is insane, what about the rest?)

–>Impotence: the physical incapability of a man to have intercourse, not the abstinence from it.  Doctors became involved, and, according to Allison Lane, the use of very skilled courtesans!  (Mary Jo Putney’s The Bargain—previously title The Would-Be Widow—does a pretty good job with this, and though her method does not match what Allison has described, it’s a logical process…minus the courtesans 😉

Divorce was even more difficult, a long process that involved civil courts, ecclesiastical courts, and the House of Lords.  It was very messy, very public, and very expensive.  A divorced man’s reputation was basically trashed, though he might be able to find some acceptance somewhere (the hero of Laura Lee Guhrke’s And Then He Kissed Her—the inspiration for the name of this blog [though I haven’t finished the book yet!]—is divorced at the start of the story).  A divorced woman was pretty much cast out of society, ruined beyond repair.

For more details and examples, check out Allison Lane’s Common Regency Errors page.  She has some great information on inheritance of properties and titles, and a wonderful section about forms of address for titled nobles and their families.

Regency

What is the Regency?

When I first started working on my novel, I was intelligent enough to ask a good friend of mine (who is an excellent writer in her own right and a British subject to boot) if she would please, please, please be my beta reader.  I let her know that the story was set during the Regency era, and asked how much she knew about that period of time.  She replied that she knew there was a Regency era in British history, but that was all.

That, of course, is not a slight on her intelligence (because I secretly think she’s smarter than me), but it occurred to me that a lot of people might not know much about the period beyond the shirtless man on the cover of the historical romance they saw at the bookstore.  It also occurred to me that an introduction to the period would make a good introduction to this blog, but there are a lot of great articles already out there.  So rather than rehash what’s already been said, I’ve included links to some of the best articles I’ve found so far to get you started.

The teacher in me is yelling “No, no! It’s not a credible source!” but Wikipedia has a good article on the British Regency, complete with a timeline, lists of important people, places, and publications.  There are also some nice images for the visual learners among us—the Frost Fair  picture reminds me of a pack of ice fishing shanties.

Greenwood’s 1827 map of London  has been a big asset to me, both as a read and a writer.  Click on any part of it to zoom in, then click again to zoom in further.

Here’s a beautiful website dedicated to the 95th Rifles, formed in 1803 as the first regiment to use rifles instead of the less accurate muskets.  They saw a lot of action during the Peninsular/Napoleonic Wars.

Regency Romance novelist Candice Hern  has compiled a wonderful timeline running from 1788 through 1820 that gives more detail than the one listed in the Wikipedia article.  Political events, literary milestones, musical accomplishments, theater history, and social developments of the extended Regency can be found here in chronological order, color coded by category.

This is a nice article by Michelle Jean Hoppe  that talks about the London Season.  I like it because it’s not too long, but it’s well written and gives you enough detail to be worth reading.

These are just a few of the websites I’ve frequented.  What other good websites are out there for the Regency period?  What are your favorites?