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  • Writer's pictureElsie King

Regency Era - Expectations of a young lady.

Finding a suitable husband for their daughter was the prime objective for upper-class families in the Regency era. Upward mobility was much more important than romance. A daughter was an asset and could elevate the family into higher echelons of society, and many marriages were conducted as a business strategy. A romantic attachment was a rarity.

In the 19th century the old order of power and wealth was being challenged by traders, colonialist and industrialists. It was a battle royal. The ton, the top one to two hundred titled landowners had the political power and were determined to hang onto it. Only people with land could vote and the House of Lords was, well, full of Lords. Parliament tended to cater for the needs of the elite. The new rich, often referred to as Nabobs, could buy estates and town houses, build palaces, hire servants but they were looked down on because their fortune came from "trade" and they had no political power to sway things their way.

Being called Lord and Lady Something was the pinnacle of success for the new rich. Some were lucky enough to win the regard of the Prince Regent and be declared a Baronet or Knight, but there were far more rich men than titles and most of them wanted a title.

Marrying your daughters to a Lord was the next best thing and luckily many Lords had the proclivity to live beyond their means and need large injections of cash in order to maintain their lifestyle or stay out of debtor's prison. This gave aspiring nabobs the perfect opportunity to buy into the aristocracy by providing a suitable wife with a very large dowery.

My novel, A Suitable Bride is all about the desperation and drama involved in finding a rich wife for an impoverished Earl. The competition is fierce as daughters are thrust forward to gain a title, prestige and power for her family. This trope provides wonderful plots for Romance writers but the reality for young women bartered off for a title was often not romantic, or even kind, but it was expected of young women to marry well.

Cheers Elsie King © 2023

Painting: Anna's camelia 2021 © L.C.Wong

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