Category: Law & Government
This latest article from Cheryl Bolen is about the sadder side of marriage, divorce. Though not a common event during the Regency, it was not completely impossible. But the process was slow and tedious and the options available to a couple were very different than the options open to most of us today.
What happened when a Regency marriage fell apart …
A cross-post from The Regency Redingote:
The phrase "marriage lines" is listed in the entry for marriage in the Oxford English Dictionary Online (paid subscription required). The phrase is characterized as a colloquial term for a marriage certificate, expecially that held by a bride. The first documented use of this phrase in print was in The Times on 25 March 1818.
As "marriage lines" is considered a colloquialism, it is not surprising that it is not found in written or printed form until 1818. In fact, it is a mark of its pervasiveness in the language by this time that it did find its way into print. A colloquialism is, by definition, an expression which is not typically used in formal speech or writing. But it is a common part of informal speech, the daily conversation of regular people. So, it is clear that "marriage lines" was used in daily speech by ordinary people for many years before its first appearance in The Times in 1818.
"Marriage lines" is also an idiom, as it seems quite clear it is peculiar to the English speakers of the British Isles. There is no evidence this phrase was commonly used by the populations of any of the countries of the European Continent, or even in America or Canada, except by native British speakers.
So what is the origin of this charming expression for a marriage certificate? And why were the "marriage lines" so important to the women who possessed them?
Are you planning a big wedding scene in your next Regency novel, the bride in a brand-new white wedding gown and veil, a flock of bridesmaids in matching gowns, and a church-ful of guests throwing rose petals as the happy couple leaves the church? You may want to re-think all of that after you read the article Cheryl Bolen has for us today.
How couples really courted and married in Regency days …
In Proper Conduct, Shannon Donnelly’s heroine spends a good deal of time worrying about money that is not there, particular after her father spends nearly 1,000 pounds on a horse.
Not an excessive sum to someone such as the Prince Regent, whose racing stud farm cost him 30,000 pounds a year.
But all these numbers seemed to need a bit of perspective.
Postage costs in Regency Context
The cost of postage had risen in 1784 as the Chancellor of the Exchequer explained that the increases would be on the mail instead of a tax on coal. The income from letters was used to boost the funds of the Government, and the prices were raised again in 1797, 1801, 1805 and 1812.
During the wars against France (1793-1815) the income was regarded as a tax levied to help the war effort, but once Napoleon had been defeated, there was a backlash of feeling against the high rates. By this time, it was often hard to decide if it was worth sending a letter at all: the cost of a letter could be as much as a day’s wages for a working man. It became a matter of importance to get around the cost in one way or another. For instance it was cheaper to send a letter from London to Scotland by the coastal shipping – 8 pence instead of by road which cost 13½ pence (1sh.1½d).
Because the recipient usually paid the cost of the delivery, it was possible to arrange to send an empty letter (or one with an agreed error in the name or address) – so that the recipient would know the handwriting, realize that all was well with the sender, so refuse to accept it, and not have to pay.
To give some idea of comparative costs:
- in 1825 on a suggested budget of £250 a year given by Mrs Rundell in her New System of Domestic Economy for ‘a gentleman, his lady, three children and a Maid-Servant’, where food took £2.11.7d a week or £134.2.4d a year, the biggest single item was
- 10s 6d a week for butcher’s meat (18 lbs at 7d a pound, or about ½ lb each day), followed by
- 7s for beer and other liquors
- 6s for bread
- 3s 6d for 3½ lb butter
- 3s 6d for fish
- 3s for sugar (4½ lb at 8d a lb) and
- 2s 6d for tea (5 ozs at 8s a pound)
- two pounds of candles cost 1s 2d a week in 1825
- coal and wood 3s 9d
- rent and taxes were allowed at only £25 a year
- clothes (for 5) £36
- the maid £16
- the education of 3 children £10.10s.
There were small margins for recreation, medical expenses and savings, but although the family probably had more than enough food in total, it devoted only 3d each week a week to milk (2 pints) and 6d each to fruit and vegetables.
However, on an income of £1000 per annum the budget is quite different! Now there is an establishment of 10, for besides the same-sized family there is a cook, a housemaid, a nursery-maid, a coachman and a footman, whose combined wages are £87 a year ; there is also a ‘Chariot, Coach, Phaeton or other four-wheel carriage, and a pair of horses’, costing £65-17s a year in keep. The family consumes 52½ lb of meat a week – a daily allowance of ¾ lb for each person – there is now a guinea a week for drink, and ¾ lb of butter for each person. The smallest items are still fruit and vegetables (9d per person per week) and eggs and milk (4½d per week).
Taken from John Burnett, A History of the Cost of Living (Penguin Books, 1969)
Mrs Dashwood – in trying to dissuade her husband from giving his mother and sisters any money at all, points out that they will be so well off, they will need nothing.
… Altogether, they will have five hundred a year amongst them, and what on earth can four women want for more than that? They will live so cheap! Their housekeeping will be nothing at all. They will have no carriage, no horses, and hardly any servants; they will keep no company, and can have no expenses of any kind!
Only conceive how comfortable they will be! Five hundred a year! I am sure I cannot imagine how they will spend half of it
But, if, in addition to feeding/clothing the four ladies of the house, they would have to provide living quarters/food/uniform for the house servant, and if they grew their own food, they would have to employ a gardener – more outlay. Allowing for the fact that they would probably make their own clothes, they would still have to buy the materials. It would not be luxurious living by any standards.
So, it does seem as though the parsimonious Mrs John Dashwood could have convinced herself that her four indigent in-laws could manage with no financial help from their brother.
Free Franks: Some markings used for the Parliamentary Franking System in the U.K.
( Re-posted with the permission of our friends at earsathome.com)
The origin of the Franking System was a decree of the Council of State in 1652, by which correspondence to and from Members of Parliament and of certain State Officials was permitted to pass free through the post. The system lasted till January 10 1840, when the Uniform Penny Postage was introduced.
Abuses soon arose, and regulations were made at various times, about the number and weight of ‘FREE’ letters, the time and place of posting and the method and form of addressing them. In the early days of the system, the written word ‘FRANK’ or ‘FREE’, accompanied by the seal and sometimes the name of the person entitled to the privilege was all that appeared on the letter.
[The items used as illustrations are from our own collection but barely scratch the surface of a complicated study.]
|Manuscript “Free Geo. Bird?”at bottom left of cover.This entire is dated inside ‘Carmarthen March ye 10th 1760′ and despite its age the letter is perfectly legible and is as easily read as the address on the front. In it, the sender, John Rogers mentions a chirograph”.In the centre of the front is the two line ‘ CARMAR THEN’ stamp.
On the reverse is a Bishop Mark of 14 MR.
The London Office Stamps
|In the late 1780′s, more decorative types of ‘FREE’ marks began to be used.The initials which were incorporated into the marks were those of the surnames of the various Inspectors of Franks.
This piece is franked by Lord Grenville and dated July 2nd 1792.
|Detail of stamp|
|In 1791 three ring date stamps with initials were brought into use.This piece is dated AP 4 96 and has the initial ‘C’|
|At the beginning of 1800, a type of mark was introduced which showed ‘FREE’ on a crown and contained within a single rim. This mark, with some variations, remained in use until 1807.||This front bears a manuscript”London march twenty first 1800″ and is franked by Lord Inchiquin.|
|This entire has a single rim crowned circle free dated 6 De 6 1831 but the manuscript date reads “Selkirk Octoberthree 1831″.There is no apparent reason for this and it does not appear to have been detected.||In 1832, a mark was introduced for use on letters received on Sunday and posted on Sunday at the Chief and Branch Offices, consisting of a circle surrounded by arcs or scollops. There are many varieties of this mark, differing in size and the number of arcs. The use of these marks continued into the 1860′s.|
|The ‘additional’ stamp for each duty had a cross, differing in size and shape, below the date.||
There are varieties of the crowned circlemarks with the letter ‘O’ or ‘E’ below the date
This front shows an example of the ‘E’ type. The letter was addressed to Oxford Street, London, but was redirected to Dorking, which explains the use of the two free stamps. It has been suggested that the ‘E’ type was used on letters that arrived in London by train in the early afternoon.
|This piece franked by “Will” and dated May eighteen 1834 in manuscript, has the “SUNDAY” mark dated May 18 and with the curved figures in the year. The inner circle is 21mm, and it has 22 arcs around it. The single rim, crowned circle Free mark was applied on May 19th 1834.|
Some Dublin Office Stamps
|The mark shown on this piece was introduced in 1819. This example is dated 29 JU 29 1825. The type appears to have been in use until 1831.||A completely different shape was introduced in 1815 and remained in use till 1831.|
In 1832 a new type was introduced consisting of a two-ring date stamp with date symbols in the centre, FREE and DUBLIN in the outer band separated by two stars. This type is listed by Lovegrove as being in use from 1832-1835.
|Time coded stamps were in use from 1835-1840. The mark consisted of a crowned circle containing date symbols with code letter ‘M’ at the bottom for ‘Morning’. This piece is dated 29 AU 29 and the part manuscript at the top reads ‘twenty eight 1835′.|
|This front is as the previous mark but with the code ‘E’ at the bottom, for ‘Evening’.||This piece makes one wonder how on earth it was delivered. It was redirected twice as is seen by the three addresses and the three ‘FREE’ marks. Other marks on the front are the mileage mark of ‘STIRLING 20 MAR 1826 431 — E’ and Glasgow mark ‘G MAR 20M 1826′ plus a receiving stamp.Good luck to the Postman!|
SOURCE. Much of the information regarding these marks was taken from J. W. Lovegrove, Herewith my Frank, (KB Printers Ltd. 15a Alma Road, Bournemouth). The book runs to 100 pages of highly detailed information and illustrations and shows how incredibly complex the whole story was.
Read more about this at - Postal Information