In the Victorian era, marriage was not as romanticized or fairytale-like as depicted in many novels of the time. On the contrary, love actually played a very minor role in the majority of matrimonies that took place. An engagement was entered into as one would approach a business deal, and there were some generally accepted rules and guidelines to follow.
* It was illegal to marry your deceased wife’s sister. You could marry first cousins, but attitudes changed towards the end of the 19th century, and this became frowned upon.
* Victorians were encouraged to marry within the same class (remember the views on social mobility!). They could marry up, but to marry down meant marrying beneath yourself (Soames).
* A woman entering into the institute of marriage had to be equipped with a dowry. The husband-to-be had to prove that he could support his new bride in the lifestyle she was accustomed to.
* An unmarried woman could inherit money and property after she reached the age of 21, but once married, all control would revert to her husband. A woman could not have a will for her own personal possessions; since the control was in her husband’s power, he could distribute her property in any way he likes, even to his illegitimate children (if he has any).
* Women married because they had a lack of options; they were not formerly educated, and were only instructed in domestic duties. They needed someone to support them, and were encouraged to marry and have children ("The Rules of Marriage").
* Marriage was a carefully contemplated subject for a woman; since she would lose control over any possessions once married, it was not somethin...
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...and helped to strengthen the family line, divorce was neither economically or socially practical. It would guarantee the family losing some of its strength and influence by giving up property and wealth.
“Marriage and Divorce in Victorian England.” Charlotte's Web: A Hypertext on Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre.
"The Rules of Marriage in the Victorian Era.”
Soames, Enoch. “Marriage in the Victorian Era.” The Charlock’s Shade. 18 February 2004.
Wells, Richard A. “Manners Culture and Dress of the Best American Society.” King, Richardson, & Co. Publishers. Springfield, MA. 1893.
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