PDA

View Full Version : Age of Engagement/Marriage in 1800s?



Metaphor
07-14-2008, 11:04 PM
I'm in the very early stages of planning a historical WIP at the moment. It's going to be a regency romance, so set in the early 1800s, and I am completely stuck on the MCs' ages. It will be YA, so I want the characters to be fairly young. Unfortunately, my google-fu has failed me.

So, my question is, would it have been at all normal for a 16-year-old girl and a twenty-year-old young man to be engaged at that time? Both are from well-off families. As far as I can work out, these ages would be alright, but as my knowledge of this particular area is mainly restricted to Jane Austen novels (I can't find anything on google!!!), I'd love some kind of confirmation.

Thanks in advance. Cookies if you can help. Chocolate chip too :D

Poppy

DeleyanLee
07-14-2008, 11:46 PM
The book you want is What Jane Austin Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool.

Everything you'd possibly need to know for such a book in enjoyable bites.

Jersey Chick
07-14-2008, 11:49 PM
There's also The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the Regency/Victorian Era

I don't have this one, but I have a few of the other Writer's Guides and they're usually pretty helpful.

pdr
07-15-2008, 06:13 AM
16 would be a little young, Usually the girls were 17 or 18 when they were allowed to put up their hair and let down their skirts and 'come out' at their own first ball.

ideagirl
07-15-2008, 06:27 AM
16 would be a little young, Usually the girls were 17 or 18 when they were allowed to put up their hair and let down their skirts and 'come out' at their own first ball.

I agree. 20 seems young for the man, too--didn't young men usually have to wait until they'd at least begun to make something of themselves (started a good career...)? How would a 20-year-old support her? I'm assuming we're talking about upper class people, but even a seriously upper-crust man would probably still have to be given an income by his father (or perhaps mother, if she came from a wealthy family), and I'd be surprised if they did that as early as 20. The age difference between husbands and wives was a good deal bigger than it is now. I'm not saying he has to be 40, but maybe 25?

Of course I could be totally wrong, so I second the What Jane Austen Ate book recommendation...

waylander
07-15-2008, 01:05 PM
I agree; 20 seems young for the man if we're talking about families with money and reputation. For the working class that age range would work. Wouldn't a young man from a good family have a commision bought for him in a fashionable regiment at that age?

Mandy-Jane
07-15-2008, 01:41 PM
This is one of my favourite websites. Very useful:


http://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/social-customs-and-the-regency-world/

It has links to everything you could ever want to know abour social life during the Regency period.

Metaphor
07-15-2008, 06:00 PM
Thank you to every one for the recommendations of books (I'm going to try to check them out from the library,) and for the link, you're right - it has everything!!!

Okay, it seems that the general conscensus is that they're both too young. I've been doing more research, and eventually found a couple of websites which actually said the age at which girls came out rather than just saying they came out when they were young! One said 16-17, and the other said 17, so I'm going to bump her age up to seventeen. I also think I'm going to give her a sixteen-year-old sister, who will have just come out. Hopefully that won't be making it too implausible. After all, Lydia from Jane Austen's P&P came out at 15.

As for the hero, I understand what you are all saying that he must be older. His family are landed gentry, and as he is the older son he will inherit his father's estate. Problem is, try as I might, I can't find out where the elder son normally lived as a married man prior to the death of his father. It seems that younger sons were normally bought a comission in the army, or entered the clergy or were given a living which was previously owned by their father, but he is the eldest! I think I am going to up his age to twenty-four.

The problem is, there is so much information out there and it is so easy to just get completely lost in all the delicious facts, so never get on to the actual work you need to do :P

Thank you all for your help - I really appreciate it :D

Poppy

waylander
07-15-2008, 06:22 PM
As for the hero, I understand what you are all saying that he must be older. His family are landed gentry, and as he is the older son he will inherit his father's estate. Problem is, try as I might, I can't find out where the elder son normally lived as a married man prior to the death of his father. It seems that younger sons were normally bought a comission in the army, or entered the clergy or were given a living which was previously owned by their father, but he is the eldest! I think I am going to up his age to twenty-four.


From what I recall of reading Georgette Heyer there seem to be 2 possibilities for the elder son - one is the army for a few years then he resigns his commission to come and run the estate, the other is for him to live up in town and do the season, hanging out with the other young bloods gambling and socialising. University (Oxford or Cambridge) is also a possibility

pdr
07-16-2008, 04:29 AM
usually lived with his father. Their home was large enough! He was expected to learn about managing the estate. He might have a gentleman's occupation or follow an interest: sports, books, tea, snuff, perfume, literary or musical endeavours.

He would have a flat, or rooms in his family's town house, in London.

If he was in his early twenties he probably had a group of friend from his school and university days, and they would be allowed by their families to racket around London getting a little town bronze and learning to tell a sharp from a flat! Around 25 they were expected to grow up and take an interest in their inheritance.