The Regency Separation – Guest post by Lily Dalton

I get really excited about debut authors and their books — so much promise and freshness and hope, you know? — so I was thrilled to invite Lily Dalton, author of the new release Never Desire a Duketo come on the blog to talk about things.  And yes, I really was that vague.

Cover image, Never Desire a Duke by Lily Dalton

Take it away, Lily!

Hello there! Thank you for having me here on Reading with Analysis to talk about my debut release, Never Desire a Duke. The book opens with a married couple, Vane and Sophia, the Duke and Duchess of Claxton. Although they enjoyed a happy and passionate first year of marriage, they have become hopelessly estranged in the aftermath of a heartbreaking tragedy. Things are so frigid between them that Sophia can’t imagine continuing on as they are, let alone ever allowing the duke to touch her again. So she makes the difficult decision to ask him for a separation.

Why not a divorce, you ask? In the Regency, a man could submit to Parliament for a divorce by proving that his wife had committed adultery. I have no doubt that numerous wives fell on the proverbial sword and accepted the title of adulteress and the associated scandal that came along with it, just to escape marriage to an odious man, but Sophia would never falsely confess to such a thing. Even if she had, the powers that be thoroughly investigated all allegations and circumstances to be certain the couple hadn’t conspired to manufacture facts so that they could obtain a divorce.

As for women in the Regency, it was nearly impossible for them to obtain a divorce. And when I say impossible, I mean impossible. Really, the only cause under which she could obtain one would be to show “extreme cruelty” which was exceedingly difficult to substantiate, or to prove that her husband was involved in “incest”, which meant flagrantly having an affair with her sister. What if he was neglectful or abusive? It wasn’t enough. If he committed adultery a hundred times? They must remain married. If he went wildly insane? He remained her husband. In a ten year period, there were only 3-4 divorces granted to women and only under the worst of circumstances.

However, for a miserable upper class couple, a separation was always within reach. There were very public separations that resulted in great scandals because details were filed with the courts, and everyone got to hear their dirty laundry and the financial demands being made by both sides. More popular, though, were private separations. Private separations could range from an agreement to continue to live under the same roof, while sleeping behind locked doors, to a more drastic drawing up of documents to specify separate residences, custody of the children, the division of property and payment of alimony. What I enjoyed learning was that women, under these circumstances, could inflict all sorts of terrible punishments on their awful husbands. By my research, the key to this was having the support of one’s influential family, and more importantly, a male member of the family to champion her, which my character Sophia’s loving grandfather, Lord Wolverton, would do without question.

Along those lines, I really enjoyed reading instances where the wives, in their legal maneuverings, could truly string their husbands up by the…er…cojones (if you don’t know Spanish, do a quick Google search!) to obtain the beneficial outcome they wanted. The upper classes rarely married for love, but instead for financial benefit, power and connection. In many circumstances, when the woman had brought a large amount of wealth or source of income into the marriage, it served the man well to woo his wife back, to improve his own circumstances. As such, there are many instances of couples separating, only to reconcile, and then perhaps separate again. Likewise, if a woman felt the financial promises made in a private agreement were not being upheld, she might threaten her husband with a formal petition to the courts and the public embarrassment of having his sins aired publicly for all of society to see.

If you’re interested in reading further, I’d enthusiastically suggest Broken Lives: Separation and Divorce in England 1660-1857, and Road to Divorce: England 1530-1987, both written by Lawrence Stone. More specific to the Regency period, I particularly found interesting the years-long saga of George and Emily Westmeath, two ill behaved people who spent decades tormenting each other. Mutual seduction! Scheming! Blackmail! Their relationship had it all.

I hope this post has been interesting to your readers, and again, thank you so much for having me!

Thank you, Lily!  I bet George and Emily Westmeath made more than a few dinner parties spectacularly awkward in their day.  (Is it weird that I kind of want to see those shenanigans, were time travel not an issue?)

Anyway, Never Desire a Duke was released on Sept. 24, 2013 as an e-book and mass-market paperback by Forever,   For more information about the book, click on the cover image above to visit its page on Goodreads.  If you’re curious about this Lily Dalton person, and I think you ought to be, please check her out on Facebook or Twitter (or Goodreads).  Or you could be traditional and check out her website.

Lily Dalton grew up as an Army brat, moving from place to place. Her first stop after relocating was always the local library, where she could hang out with familiar friends: Books! Lily has an English degree from Texas A & M University and after graduation worked as a legal assistant in the fields of accident reconstruction and litigation. She now lives in Houston, Texas, with her family. When she isn’t at work on her next manuscript, she spends her time trying out new recipes, cheering on her favorite Texas football teams and collecting old dishes, vintage linens and other fine “junque” from thrift stores and flea markets.